Thursday, December 29, 2011

In the Night: A New Year's Post

There’s something special about arriving in a city after dark, particularly if you claim it as your own.

We (as in any transplant to New York) sneak away for the holidays, needing to refuel, rest, or reassess. Home always brings perspective, and it is often this viewpoint, which you know and trust, that leads toward a direction so easily lost in the city. We can hear ourselves think when the beeping horns cease, and hours slept each night are counted on two hands verse one.

But when we (as in any “New Yorker”) are away from the incandescent orb that is Manhattan and its vibrant boroughs for long enough, there is a sense of absence or deficiency nipping in the back of our minds. Luring us, stirring us…until unexpectedly, we are hit with the original pang of passion that lurched us into this beautifully wrecked, yet boundless city.

As my plane looped over Brooklyn, I was comforted by the thought of knowing every house has a human, and every human has a heart. Every heart has a desire – so try to fathom the amount of longings and aspirations beating indefinitely throughout our city. 

Intimidating… yet inspiring.

And what of desire? This leads to change. Action. Movement. Controversy. Failure. Triumph. Desire lends to the necessities that fulfill a different need, separate from money or sustenance. Yet maybe living here, you find your craving holds equal importance and value.

What is so special about arriving in a city after dark is that the town is relaxed and slumbering. But when they wake, you’ll already be present, quietly amongst them. Maybe you left unnoticed; maybe your return was unseen. But you are here now, and you choose it. Yes, we decidedly displaced Virginians, Floridians, Californians, and whomever else - we sneak into the city at night, reposed and ready.

But for what?
You’ll have to decide. 

We are back. We will do what we came to do. And oh, will we do it well. 

Are you ready for 2012?
I say bring it. 


Monday, December 26, 2011

Tradition #23456: Christmas Scavenger Hunt

We have a lot of family traditions. 

Some are normal, like reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas" or attending the late service at church. Others are a little more out there, like the Jesus birthday cake, the Sound of Music sing-a-long or...

The Scavenger Hunt.

Every year, Dad creates a scavenger hunt for the gals of the house to find the "big gift." So this Christmas, we thought it was his turn to run around a little bit... Fitzgerald Family Tradition: Commence. 


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Time I Pulled a Knife on Someone

“Yeah… we had fun,” I said
“Good. Did you fix your boots yet?” Mom asked. I had called her on my walk home from the subway.
“No, mother. I’m poor.”
“You’re not that poor!”
“First – yes I am. I hate getting paid every two weeks! And second – ” I swiveled around and glanced up and down the block. I had reached one of my safety “check points.” Two people behind me, one to the right. No one on my heels.

Check point one: PASS.

“ – and secondly, I don’t even know where to go to fix those boots. Everyone in Astoria’s “gotta a guy.” I gotta bagel guy, but that’s about it.”
“Oooh maa gosh… Britney! Fix those boots.”
“I will mother.” I said, glancing around one last time before heading down my street. A few feet behind me, an Unknown had snuck up. He walked quietly and held a briefcase. But he was too close… and why hadn’t I seen him before?

Check point two: FAIL.

I wish I could tell you there was a method to my madness, and that I knew the Unknown was going to be problem because of facts A, B, and C, but the truth is I always go with my gut. And the gut said stop walking.

So before turning down my street, I veered to the left and leaned against the wall of a large apartment building.

“Can you believe how much we spent on those boots?” I asked my mother, who was happily prattling on the phone. I wanted to look busy even if I was acutely aware of the Unknown. Trying to run home would only lead something sketchy to my doorstep. And if any funny business happened, big apartment buildings almost always have cameras. This was an ideal spot.

Did I mention my gut had specifically said stop walking? I was listening.

“Oh I know!” Mom said. “And to think…” but I didn’t hear the rest of what she was saying. The 40-something year old man with a briefcase was passing by me… and then he stopped.

A chill went from the tips of my fingers to my feet.

He was looking at me, but just barely. It’s difficult to explain, but the Unknown appeared to be staring right through me, like I was an apparition he’d accidently spotted but could no longer see. There was no expression on his face, which was about three feet from my own.

So I did what any gal would do after 30 seconds of awkwardness.
“Shoo! SHHHHOO!!”  I said, flicking my free hand at him like he was an unwanted fly in summertime. He blinked repeatedly, and stepped away from me, suddenly coherent after his trance-like state.

“Britney who are you talking to…”
The man began to walk away.
“Shush Mother. I’m kinda… having… a moment,” I said through gritted teeth. I needed a weapon. Where were my keys? Purses are always ridiculously messy at the wrong moment. With one hand on the phone and another in my bag, I watched as the man turned to face me again, this time about 10 feet away.
“Well! Well wait, what’s happening.”
“Tell ya in a sec. Just keep talking.”
"Okay hum… so I think that…” she continued, as I stopped digging in my purse. The Unknown was oddly standing in the middle of road, facing me again.

“What do YOU WANT!?” I screamed at him. He backed away, not taking his eyes off me now. It was only 10pm and there was a family walking down an adjacent street. This was such odd behavior; I couldn’t categorize it. And I was hungry…. Really hungry. This freak was the only thing between me, and my baked potato.

“Brit what’s happening?”
“Mom… shh. Someone followed me. Now I’m annoyed 'cause I’m starving. But I can’t go home 'cause he’ll see where I live. Stay on phone.”
“Oh maa gosh... uh, yeahI'm not going anywhere,” the sassy Southern accent came ringing through the telephone.

Unknown was now across the street. I stood directly on the other side, staring at him and debating my options.
 He set his briefcase down.
I pulled my bag closer.
He began to dig in his coat pocket.
I began digging in my purse. And then a thought struck me – I had a knife! HA!

“What are you doing now?” Mom asked, almost whispering.
“Looking for my knife.”
“What!? You have a knife??
“Ha. Yeah. Ironically enough, I found it last night.” It had been resting, blade open, in the hall closet of my apartment. And now I had the heavy object in my hand. The weapon was probably a relic from my old roommate, but she wouldn’t mind me carrying it around for a bit.
Well…” my mother said, “I don’t know if I’m more nervous for you – or for that man!” she continued with a little laugh. I couldn’t help but chuckle at her confident one-liner.

Guys, it wasn’t graceful, but it worked. With one hand holding a phone I could barely open the old blade. Suddenly it popped into place. Striking a pose similar to Peter pan, I raised the knife in the air. The street light overhead made the metal gleam.

What they don’t tell you in the movies is what to do next. I didn’t really want to use the knife. So I waved the blade back and forth through the air, in a “just-try-to mess-with-me-because-I-might-West-Side-Story-dance-my-way-out-of-this-situation” kind of way.

This method worked surprisingly well. The Unknown DID NOT like my knife. He pivoted around so quickly; I couldn’t help but think maybe he wanted to dance/rumble too. But still he searched for something in his coat pocket. This is the moment when my gut began speaking to me again: it said run.

I clumsily closed the knife, slicing my finger in the process (nube mistake), and tossed it in my pocket. The gut and I both knew if Unknown were reaching for a gun, my knife would be no match.  While he was still turned away from me, I ran down the street, protected from his view by two large moving trucks. Now even if he were looking for me, it would be very difficult to see my exact whereabouts. I peered between the vehicles, and saw the man quickly grab his briefcase and take off down the road. I couldn’t see much but I knew he wasn’t coming my way.

West Side Story Peter Pan had scared him! Or at least confused him enough to make an escape.

“Yes?!?” She said.
“Hey, I’m home.”

(Editor’s Note: These methods are not conducive to all situations. Readers should not believe they can scare off all Unknowns, but should instead follow their gut. Sometimes even Peter Pan needed help from the Lost Boys. RIP Rufio.

Menacing litte Peter Pan blade, isn't it?


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Awkward Office Moments #1

Most of us will work in a cubicle-like setting at least once in our lives – and for those rare souls who escape corporate America completely, you’ve probably seen enough television to get a relatively realistic perspective of office life.

After much observation (and insights from working gals like Steph, Ivy, and Clare) I’ve compiled a small list of some… eh… awkward moments that are bound to occur when you’re working 9 to 5.

The Epic Last Coffee Cup Battle:
You are tired… so tired your bones hurt! Gosh it hard to sit all day and appear alert. But with that magic black gold, anything is possible. So you run to the coffee maker and reach for a cup. At the same time, some other tired corporate-mutant-human walks into the kitchen. You recognize the desire in their eyes…

But alas! There is only one coffee cup left! You get a little tense and protectively block the coffee maker with your body. Guys, it's survival of the fittest and our generation's jungle is a concrete one. You need that bitter, murky water to survive. So what’s the next move?

You can A) Give up the cup to your coworker and just get over the whole “tired” thing …but that’s not really an option so B) Pretend like you didn’t see them – yeah that’s right, don’t make eye contact! Of course then you’re kind of a jerk so C) Grab the cup and run… I mean, they might understand your need… or D) Do as I do: ask the cleaning crew where they store these miraculous little solo cups. This way, you have an endless supply of coffee AND powerful knowledge that sets you above your competition! YES!

Oh. By the way:

 I discovered that the extra coffee cups are very often located in a cabinet directly above or directly below the coffee maker. 

Genius. Pure genius.

Now take this insight with you and soar in that big, coffee-loving, corporate world.

More “Awkward Office Moments” to come. 


Sunday, December 11, 2011

My Apologies

Yikes. I realize my posts have been sporadic over the last two weeks - BUT - the thesis is due December 19th. After this, I promise to be a little more proficient in detailing every bit of this city. 

I also owe you three blog posts: 1) about when I got pepper sprayed 2) a holiday recipe with Nutella and 3) the tale of when I pulled a knife on someone – in defense of course! But you’ll just have to wait for these with baited breath because for now, all I have are pictures of my study space.

Sorry guys. Give me a week, and I’ll be back to my usual blogging routine.

Making the final edits...

... in the Harry Potter room at the New York Public Library.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Poor in New York

You know you are kind of destitute in the Big Apple when...

You keep having to ask cashiers, "is this still gonna work?" It's also reason #17856 why I love my life. Don't worry - I'll just keep asking and laughing my way through Manhattan. 


Friday, December 2, 2011

Working for Parents Magazine

Click here to see what I do somedays at the office. 


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Poor in New York

I walk… a lot.

Every time I call my parents or friends from home, they ask, “What are you doing?” And my reply about 90% of the time is “Oh you know... walking.” Living 15 minutes from the subway has its perks (like never going to the gym) but also makes life difficult at times (like when the streets and wind eat my clothing).

Thus my shoes have taken a beating. I think I’ll have to show you the full extent of damage my wardrobe has endured some post soon, but for now here is a snapshot of what these city streets have been doing to my feet.

Time for new Toms? And yes, these were once the same color.

You know what I'm asking for this Christmas.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Snapshots of Home

Kitchen bar stools,
Late night drives.
Garden State soundtrack still in my car.
Neighbors to the left and to the right.
Stars in the sky, not just city light.

Big double bed,
Christmas decorations.
Starbucks drink before getting the tree.
Plate of those Waffle House hash browns,
among Richmond City’s late night sounds.

Pine trees,
Autumn leaves,
Football season,
Watching TV for no reason.
Dog hair on your clothes,
forgetting about your penniless woes,
The smell of fireplaces in the air
Yes, the reasons to visit Virginia are certainly all there.

After a quick trip home, I'm back in the city until Christmas. I hope everyone's Thanksgiving was marvelous, and that you had ample opportunity to eat entirely too much.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

I Lied

I didn't stay in New York for Thanksgiving. And I didn't go to the parade. And I couldn't tell you.

It was a little surprise...


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Let It Begin... Christmas in NYC

“Excuse me miss, which way to Times Square?”
“Pardon, how far is 5th Ave from here?”
“Is this train going up or downtown?”
“Can I take pic-ture with you?”
“Hablas Espanol?!”

Oh yes! It’s that time again. Christmas cheer has spread through New York City as quickly as a rat overtaking an open garage can. (That simile was not meant to imply anything except suddenness…)

Lights decorate skyscrapers, window displays gleam in the night air, and carols are already blasting non-stop in retail outlets. Astoria, Queens – my humble ‘hood – even has Christmas songs playing on the streets until late evening, streaming from elevated outdoor speakers. This extravaganza is about a week too early for my taste, but then again New York has a huge amount of prep work to accomplish the creation of a holiday experience.

Though questions from wide-eyed tourists can be a nuisance while commuting (you don’t want to talk to anybody while you’re in this mindset), I absolutely love their fresh excitement. And, I would dare to say that a good majority of the “New Yorkers” in this city secretly like pointing a lost visitor in the right direction.

So you can ask.
They don’t really mind.

Because let’s face it; at one moment in time, that was us... wondering around the city in absolute awe.  

Macy's Department Store, with the Empire State Building in sight. 

Good old Radio City Music Hall, home to the fabulous "Rockettes."

Happy holidays people! I hope Turkey Day treats you well. And look out for me at the Thanksgiving Day parade in NYC! 


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thursday's Things New Yorkers Say

I know, I know... it's been far too long since I've written a "Thursday's Things." Honestly, these are the hardest posts to write because timing, length, and description are everything. Plus I'm finding it more and more difficult dissecting what is considered an "odd" conversation. 

Yikes. Am I a jaded New Yorker??

No. I'm not, because these two moments from last week I still find humorous. Without further ado, here's "Thursday's Things New Yorker's Say," overheard by yours truly.  

Double Date
“Where is Josh?” a prim looking waitress asks her coworker on 30th Ave. He is less prim, and maybe a little smug.
“He’s with Rach.”
“Oh,” she says.
“Know who Rach is?”
“His girlfriend I would assume?
The guy smirks. “Baby-Momma.”
“Oh. I understand…” she said nodding sympathetically.
“Ya… but I bet he’ll try and go to his girlfriend’s afterwards – You know, try and hit them both up in one night.”
Prim waitress just kind of blinks.

Keep Your Magic to Yourself
“Wanna see a magic trick?” a toothless man asks me in Union Square.
“No,” I reply matter-a-factly while flipping through a magazine.
“Come on, one magic trick??” he insists.
“I don’t have any money.”
“I wasn’t asking!” he seems offended.
“One card trick?”
“Fine. One card trick. Go ahead.”
“But…you don’t have any money…?”
“Really? Really. Show me your magic trick for free or go find someone else who makes more than $18,000 a year,” I reply with that ironic smile my sisters hate.
“Ehh…hell! What do you do for a living?” he says backing away and mumbling about how his salary from the street is higher. Toothless Man then begins to laugh at me… a lot. 
These are always humbling moments. 


Monday, November 14, 2011

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

It was cold. I was huddled in a ball on stairs near 8th Street waiting for friends. That epic hunger pain was beginning - the one where you realized it's been hours, and hours, and only one thing will conquer such gluttonous thoughts streaming through your vulnerable little mind.

Fast Food.

The girls arrived, with the same determination on their faces. We were hungry ladies, with only dollars to spare. What to do? Where to go? But of course...

NYU is located around this area, and what is something that only NYU possesses in the city? That's right - every southerner's dream: 
Chick-Fil-A. Crispy, juicy chicken smothered in whatever sauce you prefer, and placed on a golden bun with the ever necessary two pickles. In fact, finding a Chick-Fil-A in New York City is close to the equivalent of finding Narnia.

I know. Bold statement. But you must understand the excitement and anxiety felt at the time. I had never been to a Chick-Fil-A north of Virginia, and the craving for those waffle fries had been increasingly irrepressible.

We walked left. We walked right. This gem isn't easy to locate, you see. NYU likes to keep their little secret out of the public eye. Ahh... but we were too hungry for such games. "Where's the Chick-Fil-A!?" Ivy finally asked a wondering student. There was desperation in our eyes; a gleam on our skin. The girl showed us mercy.

"Up the street, to the right."

These words were not directions to live by (Up the street? To where - Harlem?) but they gave us hope. And that was all we needed to fulfill our mission. I could see us in slow-motion. Dodging people, glancing around nervously, excited but solemn. Until The Chicken Sandwich was in our ambitious grasps, we could not dare to dream... not if our dreams could so easily be dashed.

(Cue dramatic music)

Ah! The entrance. Now all we had to do was walk past the guards... eh, I mean RAs. Nonchalantly, we gave our best college faces, and hooked a quick right into the cafeteria. It's entirely possible you could be homeless and walk into the student union, but we weren't sure of the rules and now was not the time to ask.

Glowing lights beckoned, pronouncing to us "The chicken from GOD is here for you!" I'm not even a die hard Chick-Fil-A fan, but there will always be something magical about finding places unknown. Need I mention my meal was under $5?

And that was the best fast food I've devoured since moving to New York. Except for maybe that one late-night Taco Bell excursion in Queens...


Sunday, November 13, 2011

The "Oh Crap!" Moment

I was sitting at my kitchen table
feeling very ready and very capable.
An important task needed to be done,
though it’s never enjoyable or ever fun.
It was morning time… or, well maybe afternoon.
So I was relaxing, and then going into the city soon.
My poverty breakfast was quickly made;
two pieces of bread – sans the marmalade.
But I had a strong cup of coffee to drink.
And now I just had to access my bank.
Because it’s time to pay the bills, you see,
For internet, for lights (but not the TV!)
And as I spread my papers around
And lined up the piles into a little mound,
This familiar sense came over me,
like I’d seen this done previously.
And as I organized the bills one after another,
A thought struck me – Oh crap! I’m my mother!

(Editor’s note: It is not at all crappy to be my mother. It is not at all crappy to be like my mother. Children just tend to have these "Oh crap!" moments. And Mother, if you’re reading this, don’t pretend you haven’t had these thoughts about Grandmother.)


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Poor in New York: Where to Find Deals

Yesterday was a great day.

I enjoyed a free cupcake from Crumbs Bakery, and then dined on $1 fries from Pomme Frites in the East Village. Last weekend, I grabbed a $15 brunch with friends that included two Bloody Marys, and in the near future I’ll be partaking in a “wine night.” What do all of these things have in common, you ask? Besides food (oh how I love food), all of these activities involve some sort of deal. So without further ado: Here are five great ways to save a buck or two while living in New York City… or really anywhere.

1) Do Your Research
“Hey Brit, let’s get some drinks at so-and-so!”
I then Google search so-and-so restaurant. $17 drinks and no happy hour?
“Hey girl – let’s not.”

Okay, sometimes you’re going to splurge. But on the average, I don’t like paying more than $7 for my drinks - and even then I cringe a little. So here’s a tip: If you haven’t heard of a restaurant or bar, look up the menu first. You will be shocked at some places prices, particularly in cities like New York, DC, LA, etc. Use Yelp, Urbanspoon, and restaurant’s websites to explore just how much you might be spending before you agree to a paycheck thrashing.

2) Know Your Apps
While research is great, more often than not you’re going to find savings on the go. We don’t usually think about a way to save money until we realize we’re about to spend money. Hence, the smart phone. But a cellular isn’t so clever without a quick-thinking user. Below are a few apps that might just make you brilliant:

Foursquare - “Check in” to a place you visit on this website, and sometimes you will find a discount waiting.
Scoutmob - This relatively new app is only in the large cities as of yet, but its scrolling list of deals for 50-100% off got me my free fries this evening. And you don’t have to buy the deals! Plus you can send pictures of yourself looking like a mobster with a mustache to friends. Get it? Scoutmob. Love it.
Yelp - As mentioned before, apps like Yelp will help give you a price range of your favorite restaurants. Living Social and Groupon are two other coupon-like apps, usually with a purchase price for a deal that can be used over a certain period of time.

 Free fries from Pommes Frites... Delectable with a Pesto sauce.

So the next time you don’t know where to go with a friend for dinner, scroll through your apps and find the best deal. Ta da! Your meal is served.

3) “Follow” Companies You “Like”
“Following” companies on Twitter or “Liking” organizations on Facebook can definitely lead to a few perks. For example, yesterday I got a free cupcake because I donated a children’s book to Crumbs Bakery. I originally learned about this event on Twitter from a coworker, but then forgot the details. So I looked the bakery up on Facebook and verified the event. Thank you social media! 

 My free cupcake, which gave me quite the sugar high.

To avoid getting overly inundated with advertisement-like messages on your Facebook and Twitter, make sure you only follow the companies you really enjoy or pages that you truly find useful.

4) Know the Turf
When you find a deal, keep it in mind for life! Explore the city and learn the cheap options in each neighborhood. This way, when you’re out and about, you won’t accidently spend your entire paycheck on a burger and fries. Make note of your finds mentally, or type them into your phone. Google Maps even let’s you drop “pins” on its virtual map so you can remember the places you’ve visited in the past.

5) Use Your Friends…
… for fun. Don’t forget to throw a wine night, holiday soirĂ©e, or birthday bash at someone’s apartment. Bars are great, but no matter where you go, the spending quickly adds up. BYOB and potluck dinners are fabulous money savers and can be more fun than a night out on the town. Why you ask? Because there’s no long trip home at 2am.

Humm... Let's see if we can find you a deal, yes?


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dirty Days: Laundry in NYC

So you're probably going to find this blog post a little discussing, or possibly repulsive based on your own cleaning habits. But maybe... Just maybe... You can relate?

I hate doing laundry. Always have, always will. This chore is the biggest time suck I can think of and it's typically a solitary task, meaning us naturally extroverted creatures feel as though we must be missing out on something better than our current state of sad affairs.

But that’s not even the worse part! No, the most unfortunate thing about washing your clothes is that the feeling of having "done" your laundry last no more than 12 hours. As soon as the day is done, another freaking shirt is back in the hamper!

Bah! It’s just bad.

And the thing is, this task actually gets even less enjoyable in the city. I simply CANNOT carry that bag of clothes down two flights of stairs and up two city blocks without muttering a curse word.

So I wait to do my laundry.
And then, I wait a little more…
The pile gets a bit out of control,
and I hide the basket behind the closet door.
Some clothes seem to be missing.
I contemplate doing a crucial load.
Oh but then there’s a rainstorm.
So I can’t walk my clothes up the road!
Well, I’ll just try for the weekend.
Oh but I’m out of town!
How unfortunate for me.
Though you wouldn’t see my frown…

And then suddenly out of nowhere, I’ll realize the last time I did my laundry was…


I know, I know… I shouldn’t have enough clothes to last me three months. BUT I DO! So I’m sticking to my ways suckers! It just comes down to this: You can take the girl out of college, but you can’t take the college out of the girl.

Please though, for the love of plastic hangers, if you have a solution to clothing storage space in the city - LET ME KNOW.

Always counting quarters and waiting.

Can you see my bed? It's there... somewhere. Stop it. Don't make that face at me. I'm sure you too have an oddity that is nose-wrinkleable. Besides... I only repeat wear the jeans.