Friday, January 30, 2015

What it's like to ride the subway (a blog post written on the subway)


A while back, when I conducted a reader survey, many of you mentioned that you would like to see more posts about my experiences as a New Yorker. It's funny, while I love this city and I have been known to gush about it from time to time, I think that in my third year of living here, it's finally all started to feel much more normal to me, more commonplace. The commute, the array of characters, the towering buildings -- it all seems a little less like Disneyworld and a little more like...home.

And I suppose, because of this veil of normalcy that has sort of taken over my New York life, it's tempting to take this place for granted. In some ways, I guess I've forgotten that those whose daily lives are not filled with things like bodega cats, building supers, and Metrocards actually want to know what it's like to live here. I certainly did. That's why I moved here.

So all of that to say, thanks for letting me know that you want to hear more about New York because, honestly girl, I love talking about it. It helps me recapture the magic of what it is to live in this place.

So today, let's talk about something which has really lost some magic for me over time: the subway.

As I write this, I am on the B train. This is what I look like right now: 


I just felt a twinge of embarrassment taking that photo because I know my tendency to judge people who take selfies on the train. I'm now looking around to determine if anyone saw me to do that. The guy sitting across from me is throwing some shade, but whatever. He is eating a giant, smelly burrito, which is a cardinal sin of the Metro Transit Authority, so he has no room to judge. 

Right now, my train is sitting with the doors open at Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. The automated intercom voice just said "Stand clear of the closing doors," which was followed by a sort of ding-dong sound. This disembodied voice has become so much a part of my commute that I honestly never notice him anymore, but whenever I have visitors, they tend to make fun of it a lot. He sometimes says other things about giving your seat to the elderly or not using a crowded train as an opportunity to grope people. He's probably a really good guy, but I stopped hearing what he had to say after my first month here. 

I enjoy the B train in particular for a few reasons. Unlike most newer trains, the B has seats that are perpendicular to the others, so you can actually have a conversation with a friend without craning your neck. I also love being able to sit directly by a window, to lean my temple against it while I go over the Manhattan bridge. 

Going over the bridge is always, without fail, the best part of my subway ride. The feeling of coming out of that tunnel is similar to coming up for air after holding your breath under water. No matter what the weather is like (today it's a bit overcast), the view from the Manhattan bridge is, in a word, redeeming. It feels like a fresh start as the train ascends over the East River and you get to peer into Brooklyn office spaces and imagine what it must be like to work so close to the subway tracks. 

video
The view coming out of Brooklyn

And then you cross over into Manhattan and it suddenly feels like you are riding The Magic School Bus. You know that episode where everyone -- Ms. Frizzle, her students, and the bus all shrink down to microscopic proportions to explore the human body? It's like that. That's because New York is like this living, breathing creature in so many ways. You always hear descriptions like that in the movies, and though it seems like this trite metaphor, it really rings true when you live here. New York has a pulse. It's alive.

video
The view going into Manhattan

Right now, I'm almost at my stop. An older woman is sitting next to me. She's sitting a bit closer than I would ordinarily like, but today it's cold, and her closeness is weirdly comforting. This is one of those eerily quiet trains. Everyone is either sleeping or looking at their phones or allowing their eyes to wander towards the various ads overhead. My favorite ad right now is the one for Nanobraces. It doesn't include any pictures, but it does have a truly terrifying title: Did you know that crooked teeth can HOLD YOU BACK?!

I just got off at 34th street. Shuffling around the terminal, I can't help but notice how quiet everyone is today. Standing in line on the escalator, pushing through the gate, walking up the stairs -- no one is making a sound, except for the one guy who just asked me if I could swipe my Metrocard to let him through. I pretended like I didn't hear him. Are you judging me?

------

Anyway, I wrote all of that in a Note on my phone, and now I'm in a coffee shop putting this whole rambling mess together. Hopefully it gave you an insight into what it's like to be a jaded New Yorker riding the subway. And actually, I wasn't that jaded, was I? I suppose really digesting your surroundings and noticing the little things helps you to appreciate them. Who knew?

Are you a subway rider?
If not, how do you primarily travel around the place you live?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Day 1 of Juno: The Snowpocalypse

My husband using a flip flip to remove snow from our windshield because we are terrible at winter.

If you are a reader of this blog, then you know me for being the winsome, glasses-wearing, Brooklyn-dwelling woman that I am. Well, right now, as you may already know, my Brooklyn dwelling is under attack: an attack of snow.

That's right, folks. We've got a blizzy on our hands ("blizzy", by the way, is how I am choosing to say "blizzard" at this present moment. Don't question it). Right now, all of New York City is covered in this inexplicable, menacing white powder, and it seems to be accumulating at an alarming rate. If I had to provide a metaphor for this phenomenon, I'd say that this town is being puked on by a ghost. A super mean, super vindictive ghost.

And this ghost has a name: Juno. That's what they are calling this storm. But this Juno is not some sardonic, pregnant teenager. No, no. She is not Ellen Page wearing a fake stomach. She is not the cheese to my macaroni. She is not honest to blog. (By the way, are we all up on our Juno references?)

She is a blizzy, and she is the worst.

Except, actually...she's not really the worst. Truth be told, I've had a pretty baller day surrounded by crazy ol' Juno. I've spent a good majority of my time indoors wearing garments that resemble compression socks (and on second thought, they may actually be compression socks, who knows). I've watched several episodes of Friends. I secretly took pictures of my husband while he napped. It was kind of a perfect day. So perfect, in fact, that I managed to score the last bag of coffee from my local coffee shop after we realized that we were out.


And in fact, much like movie-Juno, I think I'm ready to ride this thing out to full-term. We've got enough food to last us the week, if we need to. This morning, Daniel and I made it our mission to collect the appropriate supplies. I had it in my mind to go to Trader Joe's because, duh, cookie butter. While we were getting ready for the day, I mentioned to Daniel that I expected it to be pretty crowded. "I may have to throw some bows," I said, joking, of course.

But when we drove up to Trader Joe's, I realized I had totally underestimated how seriously people were taking this storm. There was a line around the block of yuppy moms and guys with beards and freezing kids with scooters. It turns out that in order to get our food supplies from Trader Joe's, I would have to do something far worse than elbow a yoga instructor: I'd have to wait in a line. In the snow. What the hell were those weirdoes thinking?

So we said screw that, and we went to a grocery store in our neighborhood that was relatively crowdless. We followed that up with a trip to the hardware store to buy an ice scraper and some ear plugs (our walls are thin, and I don't want the sounds of blizzard romance to interrupt my Doctor Who marathon). After that, we went to the liquor store, and when I went to purchase my two bottles of wine, the guy at the register said, "That's it?" Once again, I was reminded how ill-equipped I am for a storm of this magnitude.

Once we got home, it was chill city. The hubs and I caught up on SNL, and he took a much-deserved nap. Daniel's been sick for the past week, and when he talks it sounds like his voice is trying to get through the seven layers of the Mucus Forest in his face.

Sick Daniel. For the record, I said, "Make a sick face."
Needless to say, I was glad that he finally got a chance to rest. It gave me an opportunity to follow all of the #Blizzardof2015 activity on Twitter. In case you weren't around today, everyone on the Internet has been collectively losing their minds as a result of this potentially historic storm.

But it wasn't just those with access to Twitter. In fact, my cat, Frasier, has been freaking the geek out all day. It's like he knows something is amiss. He can sense it, and the result is pure madness. One minute he's snuggling so close that it feels like he's trying to burrow into my thigh, the next minute he's darting under every piece of furniture he can, and the next he's staring out the window with a vacant expression that suggests he's receiving transmissions from his home planet.


So anyway, to be clear, I am doing just fine. We've still got power. I'm wearing fleece-lined leggings and clutching a glass of wine. Daniel and I are about to have a dance party, probably. So far, Juno has been kind of a blast. And honest to blog, she's actually really pretty.


Are you also experiencing the effects of Juno?
Or are you somewhere warm and wonderful?
Give me a shout in the comments!

Oh, and before I go: Mom, I promise I'm fine. I'm sure you're worried that I'm going to wander out into the eye of this blizzard (do blizzards have eyes?), but I'm not. I promise I'm staying inside. After all, being inside is one of my favorite states of being. Also, I have warm socks on, I swear. Oh, and sorry for all of those Juno references that you probably didn't get. It's a really good movie. It's not on Netflix, though. Sorry.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Misconceptions about people from Australia [Guest Post]

Did you know, that starting tomorrow, those of us in the northeastern part of the United States are going to be plagued with a snowstorm of epic, potentially historic proportions? Yeah, I'm not super looking forward to that. And in fact, I say we just pretend like it's not even actually happening. To help distract us from our impending doom, let's shift our focus instead to a part of the world that presently has a far friendlier forecast: Australia.

Cue Karrine from Momentary Reality. She's an Australian blogger, and she's here today to tell us all about her native land. Specifically, she wants to correct some of the misguided assumptions people sometimes have about life down under. Here's Karrine:



Hey everyone! My name’s Karrine and I've dropped by today from my blog Momentary Reality to address a few of the misconceptions people have about Australians (and thanks so much to Christy for allowing me to do so!) . I should mention first up that, yes, I am indeed an Aussie and that I have traveled the world enough to have been asked about or had commented on all of the misconceptions listed below. Even just this past Christmas my sister had her American boyfriend come and stay with my family and it was especially interesting to hear his perspective, expectations and notions of what his first Aussie summer would entail.

Ok, onto the misconceptions (as interpreted by me, of course)…

#1 - We all love vegemite.

[Editor's note: If you're unfamiliar, vegemite is a popular yeast-based, vegetable spread]

Ick! I cannot stand vegemite. I do not eat it on my toast every morning. I do not pack it in my luggage to take on overseas trips. I do not crave its (very, very, ridiculously) salty flavour. In fact, I do not think about vegemite at all, because I do not eat it… EVER!

#2 - We ride kangaroos to school.


I don’t even know where to start with this one. Have you seen a picture of an average kangaroo? And how exactly do you propose that thing shall carry my weight!?




Look, here’s the deal. If you come to Australia expecting to see Kangaroos absolutely everywhere, think again. You’ll be hard pressed to find a kangaroo anywhere near Sydney (besides the zoo). However, in the small coastal town I live in (about a 6 hour drive south of Sydney) we do have plenty of Roos out roaming the streets and eating the grass in the backyard. Have I ever touched a kangaroo? No. They are not pets, they are wild animals. They remind me a lot of the deer I saw whilst in America, as we spend most our time just trying to avoid hitting them with our cars. Also, some of us eat Kangaroos. Yes, they are part of our national emblem, but the meat tastes good and is one of the healthiest meats to consume. I don’t eat it often but I do eat it.

#3 - We all live at the beach (and it’s always hot and sunny there).


I am one lucky Aussie who did grow up at the beach and my parents currently live in a great house with a perfect view of the ocean.But, for most of the year, I live in our nation’s capital Canberra (tell me you knew it wasn’t Sydney, please!?!). We live in all different areas here in Oz, coastal, rural, desert and even snow in winter. Australia is so often portrayed as sunshine and bikini weather but we DO get winter. If you’re expecting year round Summer be sure to head to the north of Queensland for year round heat.

#4 - We are all tanned, blonde, Miranda Kerr-esque goddesses.


Now I think about it this misconception is probably more England-based than American. You see, we have these two long running soap operas that Australia is particularly well known for in England. ‘Neighbours’ and particularly ‘Home and Away’ portray Australia as having endless sunshine and there being no need to own a jumper (aka a sweatshirt), as well as suggesting that every female ever born in this country was genetically blessed with an olive complexion, blonde hair and a fit bod. Just like the rest of the world, Australians are all different. Luckily, differences are what make life exciting.




#5 - We say the phrase “Throw a shrimp on the barbie”


Prawns. We call them Prawns. I have never used the word Shrimp in my life, so please don’t ever let me hear you use this phrase in a terrible Aussie accent ever again!

Thanks, Karrine, for spreading the word about these hilariously common misconceptions about people from Australia! To follow Karrine, you can do so HERE

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Pros and Cons of Working From Home


In my adult life, I have worked in all sorts of professional environments. Small creative spaces, large corporate offices with views of the Manhattan skyline, cubicles, people's living rooms, expansive outdoor properties, live television studios, Anthropologie dressing rooms -- I've been everywhere, man. But over the last year, as a freelance writer, my office has been my apartment. Just like any job, the place where I work has its pros and cons. I get asked a lot about what my experience is like, so for inquiring minds, here are some of my favorite and least favorite things about working from the same place where I take showers and drool in my sleep.

PRO: I've got a fantastic commute.

At my last office job, I worked in Chelsea all the way over on 11th avenue. Every day, I would walk several avenue blocks from the subway, way past the Highline, with the wind off of the Hudson River whipping my face until it felt positively raw. For those of you who are non-New Yorkers, just know this: it was a far walk, and it was no secret that I hated it. Now I take about twenty steps from my bed in the morning, and I am literally in my office. It never gets old.

CON: I have to be intentional about being active.

When I first moved to NYC, it felt relatively easy to stay in shape. Again, my commute was substantial and I was always running around at work, so I got a lot of exercise without even thinking about it. Working from home, though, is a totally different animal. I could easily turn into a lifeless pile of mush if I stopped being deliberate about keeping my body moving. Considering I run a blog called Avoiding Atrophy, I feel like that would be a bad idea.

PRO: I don't have to deal with awkward office culture.

One thing you need to know about me: I hate small talk. So much. I genuinely wish it was socially acceptable to ask, "Oh hey, what's your deepest, darkest secret?" within minutes of meeting someone, but alas, it's not. And as everyone knows, offices are a hotbed for all of the worst kinds of small talk: conversations about the weather, the slowness of the Keurig machine, the malfunctioning air conditioning, what you majored in, how your weekend was -- BLUH! That is like my personal hell. I do not miss these superficial encounters even a little bit.

CON: It can be isolating.

Okay, maybe sometimes I miss those superficial encounters, actually. As an introvert, I often revel in being by myself. Seriously, whenever I think of my "happy place", I always picture me sitting alone by a window just writing in my journal and eating a crepe (is that weird?). But even with my aggressive form of introversion, there are times where I crave human interaction during my work day. It's this realization that led me to make "collaboration" my word of the year. Working from home doesn't have to mean working in a vacuum.


PRO: I can work anywhere.

So yes, working from home is one way to describe what I do, but I actually spend a good deal of my time away from my apartment. Usually, you can find me at a coffee shop, fighting off the urge to buy a second butter scone as I write the next great American novel. JK, I write emails, but still, I enjoy changing up my workspace and exploring NYC through these unique venues. I'm lucky to live near some of the best coffee shops in the city. Maybe I'm biased, but whatevs.

CON: Working in coffee shops can get expensive.

While the idea of writing at a coffee shop has a sort of romantic appeal, it can also get expensive. Sure, there are libraries and other spots to work that don't require the purchase of a latte, but honestly...I just like working at coffee shops. If that means that I pay $3 a day to do so, then so be it. But yeah, I know that it's a little ridiculous, but just like...shut up, okay?

PRO: I can set my own schedule.

This is by far my favorite part about working from home. I am the type of person who gets really drained by the typical 9 - 5 work schedule, so I feel fortunate to be able to craft my own timeline for the day. I get asked about my daily routine A LOT, and I'll definitely write a post about that in the future, but honestly, it changes all the time. There are consistent creative spikes in my day where I am able to be far more productive. Usually 4 - 10 PM is a good time for me to be doing my actual writing, while the fragile morning hours are better suited for answering emails, doing research, and drinking warm lemon water because, believe it or not, I actually do make some good choices every now and then.

CON: It can be difficult to set boundaries between work and family.

Since my husband is usually done with his work day at 6 PM, it's kind of unfortunate that I tend to be in my creative zone just as he's getting home. In general, since my home and my workplace are the same space, it can be really tough to know when it's time to stop. Any time could be work time. Any time could be play time. So when I'm working, I'm dreaming about play, and when I'm playing, I'm stressing about work. I'll get better about it, I promise. Or I won't, and I'll just live the rest of my life with this mildly sick feeling in my stomach. It's manageable though.

PRO: My cat is my coworker.

I mean, look at this guy!


CON: My cat is my coworker.

I mean, look at this guy...



What are some pros and cons about your work environment?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

In search of a work of art

Via ebay

I am in search of an oil painting featuring a lady looking demure and bold and just absolutely awesome. Do you have one to spare?

Allow me to explain...

Recently, while zoning out on Instagram, I stumbled upon a brilliant collaboration between the incomparable Jen Gotch (founder & creator of ban.do) and the good people at Chairish. They were hosting a live auction of some phenomenal vintage finds, including a strawberry cookie jar, a giant lighter, and the most delightful goat-shaped bottle opener I've ever seen. 

Now, I don't know if you know this about me, but I'm a sucker for vintage paraphernalia. If I were to describe my perfect day, a huge part of it would include rummaging through old bottles, postcards, and stale-smelling clothing at a well-curated antique shop. It's something I do a lot. A lot, a lot. 

So naturally, a virtual vintage experience on Instagram was intriguing to me. The way it worked was that they would post a picture of an item, and the first person to comment with #sold got dibs. Obviously, everything was moving wildly fast, so I had the hashtag copied and ready to paste just in case I fell in love with something. And, friends, I did.

Via Instagram @chairishco
That's Jen Gotch (with RYAN GOSLING LEGGINGS OHMYGODWHAT CAN I HAVE THEM) holding the artwork of my dreams. When this picture went up, my brain exploded. I fell in love with the woman in this painting. Her white hair, her confident smirk, her ambiguous nakedness -- she just seemed perfect to me. I hesitated for a second, though, because the price seemed a little steep ($158), and in that wretched moment, someone with better decision-making skills commented and stole her from me. Not to be dramatic, but my world basically crumbled. 

Ever since this exquisite sighting, I've been on the hunt for something similar. I can't really explain it. Something about seeing this picture just flipped a switch in me. I am now fixated on finding an oil portrait of a woman who exudes her same level of strength, confidence, and unabashed femininity. I guess I want her to be my spirit animal. I want to hang her in my office and look up at her for inspiration while I'm working. And I want to name her. Maybe something like Delores. Then when a friend comes to visit me, I want to say something like, "Have you met Delores?" and then I'll laugh and laugh with a strange twinkle in my eyes. And as my friend starts to slowly back away from this scene, I want to continue laughing, more maniacally than ever, until they finally exit. And then it's just me and Dolores again, and I give her a bit of a wink, and I keep on working.

I don't know, I haven't thought everything through. But here's what I've come up with so far by googling woman + oil + portrait (by the way, if you plan on searching those same terms, you are going to see a TON of boobs. Of all shapes a sizes. You have been warned.):

Via ebay
Via etsy
Via etsy
Via etsy
Via etsy
Via etsy

To be clear, I'd be happy to hang any of these portraits up in my office and call them Delores. Maybe I'll curate a collection over time. Again, I haven't thought it through.

Anyway...

Have you ever been on an obsessive hunt for a particular item?
Tell me about it so I won't feel crazy!

Also, P.S. If you buy any of these portraits out from under me, I guess that's your prerogative. But if it's on ebay, just know that I'm willing to engage in a pretty intense bidding war. So...yeah.

Q&A | Simple Chronicles of Me

It's Tuesday, folks, and everyone knows that Tuesday is a great day to fall in love with a new blogger. Duh. That being said, I'm so pleased to introduce you to Toyota at Simple Chronicles of Me! She's yet another blogger from the UK, and today she's here on Avoiding Atrophy to talk about the important things of life -- things like inspiration, friendship, and of course, Nutella. Here's Toyota:




1. What inspired you to start Simple Chronicles of Me?

I've always loved writing but what actually inspired Simple Chronicles of Me was being rejected by a boy. It just made me think that life was too short to spend time living for the what could have been and as I had always wanted to write a blog then why shouldn't I so I blundered in blissfully unaware of how much hard work blogging is but I love it!

2. What are some of your favorite things to share with your readers?

I share quite a large range of stuff and sometimes I'm sure people must just think "too much information woman!!!" so I'm not sure if I can pick a favourite but I love sharing book reviews as I love reading

3. What/who inspires you (in life, or as a blogger, or both)?

Mulan, my mumma and Nutella - strong, independent, sassy, delicious (oh wait that's just Nutella)

4. If you had to pick two recent posts that truly represent the Simple Chronicles of Me spirit, which posts would you choose and why?

I'd pick my Organisation Plan post as this really represents what I want my 2015 to be about and hopefully inspires someone else to get organised. I would also pick my post about The Reasons I Love Winter as 1) it includes a picture of me as a cute kid and 2) it reminds me to be less negative!!

5. When you aren't blogging, what might we find you doing?

When I'm not blogging I am generally working (massive workaholic!!) and I'm now starting an Open University degree so that doesn't leave me much time for anything other than sleeping but I also love to read, watch movies, take pictures, drink fruit cider and chat to my besties.

Comments have been disabled for this post, but if you'd like to say hey to Toyota, you can do so HERE

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