When planning my first trip to New York, I was a 20-year-old novice traveller. I bought a guide book. I looked up all the restaurants and clubs I wanted to try and mapped out which day we'd go to the Statue of Liberty and which afternoons had the cheapest Broadway matinees. I even toted the bulky travel bible around in my purse.

Since then, I've gotten lazy. Now I book a ticket and show up.

I knew nothing about Baltimore before I stepped off the bus last weekend. I haven't even been able to sit through a full episode of The Wire. Luckily, I didn't need to. I had the best tour guide a culturally inquisitive drunk could ask for: a historical performance artist.

My friend Megan let me in on a few fun facts about Baltimore while I was there. Such as:

1. Marble isn't just for mausoleums. In Baltimore, it's for the working class.

Back at the turn of the 19th Century, women who lived in row houses such as these would come out on Saturday mornings and wash their marble steps. Surely, it was an excuse to gossip. Megan tries to recreate this type of community building below.

2. Natty Boh (proper name: National Bohemian) is the city's official beer.

In the 60s, Natty and PBR breweries employed much of this blue collar city, which sparked quite a feud between beer drinkers. Eventually, Natty won. Today, signs, billboards and paraphernalia stores remain at every turn. No one seems to mind that the beer is now brewed in Milwaukee.

3. These things are cool.

Megan couldn't tell me how these Hispanic rickshaws came about, just that she read in the paper recently that they weren't doing very well because people prefer their produce stationary and from a grocery store. However, she thinks the publicity may've helped because she's seen more of these on the streets as of late. This is assuming anyone else still reads the paper.

4. Finally, ethnicities do their best to blend in Baltimore. For example:

Welcome to the "Salsapolkalooza" festival (That's right salsa and polka dancing all under one tent!)

A quinceanera store...

...that doubles as 70s bridal boutique
(P.S. We got caught in a thunderstorm.)

And a bagel shop that sells sushi and bulgogi. It also plays "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and uses a string of stale bagels as window decoration.



read a few weeks ago that romance novelist Nora Roberts had just one rule when it came to writing: 

Ass in the chair. 

I completely agree. That is why not much writing gets done in my apartment. 

I cannot sit still. My right hand and the fridge door are like magnets, my bladder seems to pester me constantly, I step out for impromptu jogs and I take hour-long phone calls. The other day, I even hand-washed some winter clothes. 

However, now that I have to rewrite the 100 pages of thesis I lost in the epic hard drive catastrophe (R.I.P. thousands of Word docs, music files and photos), plus the 60 or so more pages I was planning to add, all by mid-September, I have no choice. Ass. Needs. To. Be. In. Chair. 

So today I was up bright and early (5:30 to be exact) and I ran, showered and arrived at the neighborhood coffee shop by 9. (Public spaces guarantee a better Ass In Chair success rate. I'm too self conscious to peruse the cafe's fridge and frequent their bathroom.)

By 11 a.m., so far I have: 

Eaten: 1 bran muffin (could give me an excuse to get up and use the bathroom later)
Drank: 1 pot of green tea 
Chewed: 4 pieces of gum
Emailed: 2 people
Texted: 2 people
Commented on: 3 photos and 2 walls on Facebook
Searched for: 2 story ideas and the PSU fall class schedule to see if I really can graduate next term, because if not, why am putting myself through this torture
Written: 2 pages of thesis and one blog post

Updates to come.

UPDATE: 1:47 p.m.
Eaten: 1 weird, package of tofu crab cake thingies
Drank: 1/2 a large iced coffee
Commented on: 1 FB post
Emailed: 1 story idea to editor
Texted: 3 people (apparently everyone likes distraction on Fridays)
Breaked for bathroom: 2 times (and no, it has nothing to do with the bran muffin, in case your wondering)
Written: 5 pages of thesis (lots of blanks to fill in, but hey, pages are pages) 

UPDATE: 4 p.m.
Eaten: 1 peanut butter chocolate chip cookie with sea salt (sweet + salty = bliss)
Drank: last 1/2 of large iced coffee
Written: 7 pages of thesis (I do best at deadlines; I wrote five of those jibberish-filled pages in the last hour, knowing I gotta leave for work at 5)
Effed off on: 1 laptop application - Photo booth 

What too much caffeine looks like. 

What the best tasting cookie in the world looks like.



This is the most picturesque thing I saw at an art opening last night.

I was too busy hitting up the open bar on the rooftop to see any of the exhibits downstairs. Oops.


Urban people believe camping is more about a state of mind than it is about "roughing it." The rules and constituents are flexible, but you usually have a car, a tent, close proximity to a running toilet, the intention of getting back to nature and the inclination to regress to your spoiled ways. 

This last weekend in the Catskills, two and half hours outside of NYC, this is how I incorporated both my earthy and urban tendencies: 

Things I Like To Do Outdoors (Plus This Weekend's Highs and Lows)... 

1. Hike

High: See above.
Runner up: Bypassing my boyfriend, Mr. Fit-and-Trim Eagle Scout, on the steepest stretch of a 2,000-foot elevation gain. 
Low: Dirtying the seat of my stretch pants as I scooted down the cliff near this waterfall. 

2. Drink 
High: Opening a beer bottle with a giant stone. 
Low: No High Life in the liquor store.

3. Sit around a fire  
High: Watching Jiffy Pop catch on fire and then disintegrate like little critters into the ashes. 
Low: Not getting to eat any of the Jiffy Pop.

Things I Like To Do "In Town" (Or Things That Make Me a Townie)... 

1. Drive to and from the foot of the hike 
High: Taking off my dirty shoes, putting my feet on the dashboard and singing to Danzig. 
Low: Having packed only one pair of socks and putting the same dirty pair back on for another hike. 
2. Have people serve me food and drinks 
High: For once, not being the oldest people in the bar. In fact, in the village of Pheoncia, NY, a two-block stretch of five antique stores, we may've been the youngest. 
Low: A place that serves spaghetti and meatballs and curly fries can't make a stiff drink. 

3. Peruse the antique stores
High: Too many. The complete discography of Toto, the taxidermied mink and ammo window display, oil paintings of dolls, dolls that look like oil paintings.
Low: The Wren's Nest, which sold wolf tee shirts and staffs topped with crystals and little metal bulls, always seemed to be closed. 



I like cushy seats and audible conversations so I don't see as many live music as I used to. However, I did go to two shows recently. 

Because its been over 15 years since I started going to concerts, everything that was in style back then (like floral babydoll dresses and baggy plaid) is back in style again, and all the things that never go out of style like pubescent body odor, jackass heckling and testosterone were also still in tact. 

However, when comparing my then (i.e. my concert-going youth in Hawaii, a random stew of whatever 90s punk, ska and alternative acts made their way to an island) to my now (the free, all ages Man Man concert I went to the other day at East River Park on a much larger island called Manhattan), a few things stand out: 

The Pit 
Similarities: Somehow there's always a cloud of dust above the pit, like Pigpen in Peanuts, regardless if people are moshing in dirt or on pavement like they're doing here. 

Differences: In Hawaii, a lot of times moshers were grunts so these bulky Navy guys with crew cuts and steel-toe boots had a lot more aggression to get out than gawky emo kids wearing shirts that say "Broke is the new black." 

The "Music Moves Me" Dancer
Similarities: There's always that weird girl in the corner who flails her arms and gets into her own groove, acting as though she is the only one in the room, while everyone else is acting like rowdy, careless drunks.
Differences: In the 90s, she was more goth and pretended to shun the attention. At Man Man, a band that wears neon war paint and plays the kazoo and the xylophone, she is hula hooping. 

The Dweebs That Do a Poor Job of Pretending to Belong: 
Similarities: Being a social misfit in a group of social misfits isn't as cool as it sounds. 

Differences: In Hawaii, the grunts would almost fit into this category because even though they could kick all of our asses, no one liked them (except a few dominatrix friends I knew). However, in this day and age, as exemplified by the hula hooping girl, we have entered some wonky territory of nerd cool, so in theory, the hacky sack players that gathered by Man Man's last song could reasonably "belong." Just not in my book. To me, a circle of dudes gently kicking around a bean bag pouch is just always going to look plain sad. 



From the top of Coney Island's Wonder Wheel, the tallest ferris wheel in the world: 

On my left, half a million people and the Atlantic.

On my right, Brooklyn and beyond.


Boardwalks are like giant runways for freaks. But I think the attraction has less to do with showboating in front of a large audience than it does with congregating in front of one. 

Compared to the likes of Southern California's flamboyant Venice Beach, the boardwalk at Coney Island--home of the original carney freak show, Barnum & Bailey Circus--was a little tame this past weekend. But a few did get into the groove. 

It's hard to tell from this photo, but the woman in the purple, near the DJ booth, likes to tear it up. (She can also do a mean windmill-haymaker combo.) See two photos below, which was taken three hours later.  

And while I'm all about a dance party, I think the DJ would have had a better turnout if he didn't play rave music.**

However, the macarena was a big hit, so what do I know. 

** Seriously, who not still trapped in 1992 or 1997, still listens to techno? And btw, it was bad back then. This is why I don't do drugs: I don't trust anything that will make infinite oonce-oonce-oonce-oonce-ing sound pleasurable. 



Perspective is what I'm trying to get after the crashing of my physical, emotional, and dare I say, spiritual world (and after writing that highly dramatic statement).

Three days ago, my hard drive went kaput. It took with it 100 pages of thesis and whatever other pages upon pages of writing I've never thought to back up or email to anyone. (The wound is too fresh to get past this first thing to start doing a head count.)

I could bitch about this for an entire post, like I have to friends and family, but the truth is, I can't do anything about it. (Plus I'm numb and still in shock. I'm sure I'll eventually hit some uglier stage of grief.)

But what I did notice while sulking around the city the other day was a bevy of good deeds going on all around me, things I never see (not just never notice) on regular basis here in New York. For instance,

* A woman who offered to, not was asked to, help another woman carry her baby stroller up the crowded subway stairs. The mother couldn't speak English, so the woman just picked up one end of the stroller and began walking.

* Passengers digging in their purses and their pockets as a bone-thin blind woman pushed her walker and held out a knitted hat as she sang a gospel song. I have never seen more than one person per train car give a handout before. Five did that day.

I can't say witnessing others worse off than me or seeing humans take care of each other has abolished all remnants of self pity, but it has made me rethink how I could wrap up my entire identity and sense of usefulness in one compact machine.



I love Barbie. I don't care if that makes me a girly girl, some anti-feminist throwback or the sole reason why American women have body issues. Growing up, I wanted to be just like Barbie. She was hot.

Last night, however, as I perused the massive Toys R Us in Times Square, I was a little disappointed in Barbie Land. First of all, there wasn't much selection (and some weird correlation to Thumbelina), and the selection that they did have was rather peculiar.

The Highlights:

Jersey Barbie - Okay, this is actually Malibu Barbie, circa 1971, but check out the orange tan! The see-thru, matching lounge ensemble! The obvious peroxide job! Give the woman some heavy gold baubles and a few of those babies from below.

Williamsburg Barbie - Again, another vintage Barbie, but vintage is oh-so appropriate for W'burg! I think I saw one of these mesh rompers on the L train yesterday. And she even comes with an extra metallic lycra ensemble in case she can't make the L back in time for a quick evening change. American Apparel couldn't have designed a shorter, better fitting A-line.

The Lowlights:

Barbie has made some poor career choices. New and from the "I Can Be A..." Collection:

Pet Sitter. (She can also be a pet boutique owner.)

Host of a TV Cooking Show.

Baby Doctor, not to be confused with Newborn Baby Doctor, which is also available.

While I'm happy that at least this Barbie has a degree, just about every career fun-pack comes with a set of children or pets. See "I Can Be A Soccer Coach" or a "Sea World Employee.") I am disturbed by this not necessarily because I'm turning into a bra burner in my old age (really though, is pet sitter the new preschool teacher and baby doctor the new nurse?), but because if Barbie is indeed beautiful and hot shouldn't she be at least using those assets to do something cool? I mean, cooking host? What girl wants to be Rachel Ray? How about host of a super catty model competition, or how about a reality show contestant who weasels her way to the top by manipulating men and alliances with her looks and underrated cleverness? She "can" at least strap on a guitar and manage her own rock band for chrissakes.

The 80s: Barbie's glory days