Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Poor in New York: A Night "In"

Subway fees. Cover charges. $11 mixed drinks, $7 beers, $20 meals, $12 desserts. And that’s if you went somewhere relatively cheap for dinner. New York is certainly the city for food and entertainment, but these luxuries add up quickly throughout the span of an evening.

Hence the night “in.”

Throwing a little soiree can be more difficult than just meeting up somewhere in the city. She lives in Woodside, he’s in Brooklyn, she’s on the Upper West, and they live in Murray Hill.

Not to mention that little thing called a schedule. Most nights I’m not even off work until 9:30pm. Who wants to commute an hour to my place so by 11pm we will unquestionably be enjoying ourselves? Eh, anyone?


But if by some magical coincidence of timing you’re able to host a few friends in your tiny apartment, by all means, do it and save the thirty dollars you were going to spend for buying food not consisting of peanut butter or ramen. Some of my favorite city nights have been spent in my living room, or in someone’s studio, or in a random hole in the wall in the Lower East Side, or lounging around in the Upper West.

Here are pics from my favorite New York nights "in."


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thursday's Things New Yorkers Say: She Speaks

I was carrying two grocery bags from Whole Foods.
It was finally a blue-sky kind of day, though deceptively chilly when the wind whipped around a building. But that's typical spring weather, and I was simply content to wake up to something besides the miserable, ever-present grey.
So when I was asked to walk several avenues across the island to purchase party supplies for the editorial department, I didn't mind in the slightest. Pesky sunshine rays had been whispering in my ear, "Come indulge!" all day long.
The green Amex felt heavy in my wallet, weighed down by purchases I couldn't even dream of making as a poor grad student. I was sure that today's $60 shopping spree was nothing in comparison.
Ow... These bags were getting heavy.
I rounded the corner, and glanced up to see 601 W. 26th in the distance. Despite the commute, I had come to enjoy this looming building full of all types of important people, from book publishers and magazine companies, to Homeland Security.
Oh no. These bags we're going to break. "Just make it the elevator," I told myself. "Just make it there, then put...bags...down."
Ha! Made it.
I slumped against the elevator wall and massaged my fingers. We zipped up the floors, only stopping once. I was alone in the car when the 9th level button lit up, signaling my arrival.
Ding ding.
As the doors slid open, I reluctantly grabbed the heavy Whole Foods bags. I heard footsteps rush to catch my elevator followed by a set of slower yet more pronounced clip-clops.
I glanced up and saw a woman stick her arm out, as another blonde lady walked my way. She spoke right as I leaned over to secure the packages around my wrist.
"Hellooo," she said, almost with a smile.
I probably looked frazzled. The wind had blown my curls around for the last hour, and heavy bags pulled my arms down, bunching up the sleeves of my coat. I had a guest pass in one hand and my phone in the other.
But it didn't matter.
Because MARTHA STEWART was talking to ME.
Yes, a millionaire was gracing me with conversation. The owner of her own omnimedia corporation was acknowledging the poor, lowly intern, who at the moment, also happened to look like a crazy bag lady.
Now…. that was about the extent of our dialogue. I did manage to mumble out a "hiiiii," or something along those lines.
But that one simple phrase? That little "hello" with an extra emphasis on the "hel" and a slight lowered tone on the "o?"
I'll never forget it.
And that's all New York needed to say this week, my friends.

New May issue, just out on stands.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Poor in New York: Parents Visit

Since you're poor, you don't always get to enjoy the chic hot spots of the city or the tasty delicatessens that line Lower East Side streets. Never the less, there's a certain moment in your twenty-something squalor destined to propel even the penny pinchers towards meals over $5. You've previously snubbed tourist attractions on account of your new "local" status, yet curiosity overwhelms even the born and raised, and a little financial assistance will have you snapping pictures like you're from Wisconsin.

This moment is when... the parents come to town.


Here's a list of what must be done:

Have at least one over-priced but exquisite dinner.
Sardi's Restaurant on 44th Street

In fact, eat food that is usually considered excess.
Chocolate covered cannoli from Caffe Palermo in Little Italy

Spend some quality time with the stars of the weekend.
Mum in NYC and...

Dad in NYC

Do things you can't typically afford to do.
About to take the NBC Studio tour to see the SNL stage, Jimmy Fallon's studio, and the Dr. Oz set
And try the "touristy things" at least once. Yes, you'll be mad if you skip out of them permanently.
Uncle and Aunt on the "Top of the Rock."

Check out the historical landmarks.
St. Paul Chapel near World Trade Center

But eat the local food too.
Katz's Deli huge pastrami sandwich

See a movie set or star sighting.
The table where "Harry Met Sally" was filmed

And above all, enjoy your time with the parents.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Thursday's Things New Yorkers Say: Parks and Lunch

It had been a busy day at Bloomies.

I sought relief in my lunchtime, spent outside at a "park" of sorts near Lafayette and Spring. Subway sandwich in hand, I left for my much needed hour in civilization, without the thousands of questions and constant queries about restrooms or sale prices.

Of course everyone in New York had a similar idea.

I was lucky to find a seat on a park bench facing the sun. As I munched on my meal, I casually read a magazine and observed the world around me.

What it world it was...

First, two girls appear lost. They are looking for a street nowhere near our location, but seem to be working through their directional problems via iPhone. Suddenly, an Asian man who had been sitting near me jumps up to assist them.

"What are you looking foooor?" he shouts like a deaf man learning English, with his head stretched forward and his arms moving the opposite way of his body. It almost looked as though his clenched fists were propelling the words from his mouth. The two girls couldn't even pretend not to hear him. The whole freaking park could have listened in on this conversation if they so desired.

"Uh...er. Christopher Street?" one of them says, trying not to laugh. The other woman has her face turned away from the little man, chuckling despite herself.

No. Not here," he says abruptly shaking his head once.

"Yeah, I know," she continues. "That's why we're looking for it." Somehow over a three-minute time period, they figure out where they're going. The Little Man is pleased with himself as he waves them onward. When the girls walk away, I hear one say, "What the heck was that?"

Then it was my turn for a little craziness...

A woman pulls up in a cab next to me, stopped at a red light.
"Excuse me!" she shouts out the window.
Surely she's not talking to me."Uh, um excuse me?"
I look up from my magazine, and catch her eye.
"The guy next to you..." she says twisting her head, trying to get the obviously foreign twenty-something's attention. He's laughing with his friend, speaking another language quickly, and oblivious to crazy taxi lady.

“Um… she wants you,” I say to the guy
“Where’d you get your hat!?” she says loudly.
“Wha?” the Foreigner says.
“Where’d you get your hat!?” Taxi Lady asks again.
Still no understanding registers on the man’s face.
Great. Now I'm involved.

“Where did you buy hat?” I ask him slowly, pronouncing each syl-lab-le.
“Um. Wha?” The Foreigner really doesn’t understand, and Taxi woman is beginning to look desperate because the red like is about to change.“Where – did – you – (insert me motioning “money” by rubbing my fingers and thumbs together) – buy – your – hat – (insert me pointing at his leopard baseball cap).

By the way, did I mention this was all over a leopard baseball cap?

Suddenly, out of nowhere Little Man jumps in the middle of our conversation, his head stretched out again, arms propelling him forward. “Where you get your hat frooooom?!” he yells.

This makes the Foreigner almost laugh, and I am beginning to giggle at the general situation. “Where you buy hat?” I say one last time.

“Oh,” he picks up the cap. “Japan.”
“Japan!” I shout to the Taxi Lady.
“JAPAN!!” Little Man shouts even louder.
“Oh. Thank you!” she says from the car. Little Man happily goes to talk with her for a moment. He then returns to me and ask, “You. Speak Japanese?”

Keep in mind; I’m just trying to eat my sandwich.

“No, haha not today,” I say. He smiles and walks away, ready to assist anyone on the street – and whether you want help or not, he will assist you.

I try to not laugh as I replay the scenario in my mind. The man on the bench next to me looks my direction, and out of the corner of his eye I see judgement! I know what he’s thinking. His stare is basically shouting, I thought you were normal. That’s why I sat next to you. Just wanted to read my paper… and then people started screaming about Japan. I can’t believe you got involved. You were supposed to be normal.”

Well, buddy. This is New York. That was pretty freaking “normal”… whatever normal even means. And maybe, I don’t want to be as normal as you today.

This was a week full of...

fashion shows...

taxi rides...

phone snatchers...

birthday parties...

fabulous food...

and friends.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Poor in New York: Microwaveable "Baked" Potatoes

When I first moved to NYC, I realized very quickly that I love cooking... but not for myself. It's not nearly as enjoyable. And there's a bunch of cleanup in my tiny kitchen, plus it cost more to buy ingredients... etc.

So I needed filling food that could be bought in bulk and didn't involve the words "peanut butter" or "jelly" (which is a food group in itself, and deserves a blog post in the near future).

Hence the potato.

I now eat this veggie about three times throughout the week. Spuds cost 75 cents a pound, while a small onion is around 70 cents. Cheese is $1.99 for a block, and I buy the family size butter so it lasts for a month.

Grand total for three potato dinners in a week? Under $4.

"But baking these vegetables takes forever!" you say, maybe whining a little bit.

And then I say in my infomercial voice, "No, silly. It only takes a few moments of your time." Watch and learn how to enjoy the incredible, edible, 5 Minute Microwavable Baked Potato:

First rinse off the skin in warm water and get rid of any lingering dirt.

Next, stab the sucker. Put at least one line of holes down each side of the potato and on either end. This is an important step to prevent your dinner from exploding...

Then smear a little butter all over the guy. This will spread into the fork holes you just made and give the potato a creamier taste.

Next, take a damp paper towel and wrap the buttered spud. This step also helps to keep your meal from getting too dry and starchy.

Stick in the microwave for 5 minutes.

In the meantime, cut up your toppings. Cheese, onions, broccoli, etc.

When the potato is done cooking, peel away the paper towel and cut the spud in half. I then like to cut two lines on each side...

And STUFF them! I add cheese and butter, then put back in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute.

Finally I add my onions, broccoli, crumbled rosemary, salt, pepper, and sometimes a dash of Old Bay.

You could make this and clean up within 15 minutes - plus it's filling/cheap.

And that's how this poor New Yorker rolls...


Friday, April 8, 2011

Robert De Niro Filming in Astoria

Walking to work today I noticed several hundred cones placed strategically down 30th Avenue and its side streets. When the orange man told me to “Stop” at an intersection, I looked over at a green slip of paper hanging on a nearby pole.

Ah ha. An explanation in 200 words or less.

The film, “Another Night” based on the book Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn was going to be shooting during the evening, starting around 6pm. IMDB summarizes the movie with this quote:

“During his twenties, a young man works at various homeless shelters in Boston, where he often intersects with his brilliant but troubled father (2011)."

"Another Night" in book form.

Later, when I was meeting up with my roommate after work at Mexi-Q (hello $3 happy hour) we stumbled upon the crew setting up outside of a bank. Some people had stopped to watch, but no actors were present nor had filming begun. An hour and a half later, another friend joined us and we decided to migrate to dinner - but by now the curiosity was killing me, so our group paused near the set.

“No flash please,” a man said. “You can use your camera, just no flash.” And then BAM. I looked up to see Robert De Niro RIGHT across the street. We excitedly attempted to take pictures with our cell phones.

“Quiet on the set!” someone shouted. "Whoa, they actually say that?" I mumbled.

“Action!” Ah! This was thrilling. What if I told security I needed to withdraw money. Would they let me into the bank? It was a thought...

Robert De Niro's character walks into the building while cameras film him from the outside. A woman walks by, a check is written, the cameras pan out…

“And cut!” This 30-second clip must have been shoot dozens of times, but it was hardly boring for the gathering audience. I called my mother, happily explaining my movie location.

"Oh his real friends call him Bobby!" she exclaimed, like they'd grown up together or something.

So if you were strolling down 30th Avenue on April 8th, 2011 you were privy to the likes of Robert De Niro (too many films to name), and Director Paul Weitz (About A Boy, American Pie). We didn’t specifically see Julianne Moore or Paul Dano, but they will also be starring in the 2012 film.

Don't miss these classic pics of Bobby D:

Here he is in "Once Upon A Time In America." Coincidentally, I watched this almost 4 hour film in Ireland.

More recently, De Niro in "Meet the Parents."


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thursday's Things New Yorkers Say: Coffee and Canned Soup

First, an update for those of you who aren’t on Twitter: I saw her! I finally saw Martha! She was taking photos with our new editor in chief and I caught a few glimpses from afar. While they were having the shoot, I was told to go into the editor’s office and finish putting up storyboards (snapshots of the pictures used for articles).
She returned, so typically I would vacate the office because you never know if a meeting or conference call is about to take place. But the editor was very sweet, and told me I could continue to my work.
Then suddenly she says, “Thanks for shooting with us Martha!”
My eyes dart to the door. I see a blonde woman walk by with her arm extended in a slight wave, and that trademark scary smile that always leaves you wondering.
Oh my lordy! It was HER! Homemaker, baker, gardener, and powerful businesswoman all wrapped up in one, like some complex casserole.
Now my internship is complete.
Speaking of the office, here’s a tidbit from today’s conversations for Thursday’s Things:
In the kitchen area at the magazine, around 1pm:
There were three of us.
One was warming something. One was pulling out milk from the fridge, and I was washing my coffee mug.
But I knew we were all there for the same thing. The coffee canister was slowly filling up with a warm, fresh batch of black deliciousness and the three of us wanted to be privy to the first couple cups. So one at a time we formed a small, almost subtle line.
“Here for coffee?” “Yep.” “Yep.”
There’s a moments pause while we all stare at the coffee maker with longing in our eyes. Drip drip drip. Could this take any longer?
Suddenly the woman in front of me starts swinging her arms back and forth, and sways from side to side. “This is my coffee dance!” she says. I laugh at her, but focus on the task at hand – I need coffee ASAP.
“We’re on the drip,” the other woman says. Hours seem to go by as the brown liquid gold flows hesitantly into the canister. Coffee Dancer begins to add a little hop to her dance, while Coffee Fiend #1 (and I am most certainly Coffee Fiend #2) starts to edge toward our desired beverage.
Drip. Pause. Drip. Pause.
Coffee Dancer quickly runs to the aid of the machine. I admire her motivation as she shakes the last droplets of water from the filter with a frenzied look upon her face. We Fiends #1 and #2 also step forward to prepare our mugs for that afternoon pick-me-up.
Coffee Fiend #1 turns to me, obviously excited about the beverage soon to rip through our bodies. “This is like extra-strength, you know?”
“Yeah, yeah” I say to her with crazy eyes and maybe a small twitch.
“And you know when you have, like, that chill in your brain??”
“Yeah, this’ll fix that!” I say and we both laugh like villains. Coffee Dancer has just filled her cup, and is eyeing the black pool with a look of ecstasy. Meanwhile, the three of us have caused a bit of a scene – people wonder by to see if there are any free samples from the test kitchen, only to be bitterly disappointed that no, in fact we are just really excited about the free coffee that’s available everyday.
“Like drug addicts on a street corner…” a man laughs at us as he walks by, shaking his head in mock disgust. Yes. We were. But it's the little things that can bring you immense joy throughout the week, and believe me, free food and beverage ranks high on my list.
“CHEERS!!” we three shout, and clink mugs most conspicuously, forever bonded by the love of that ferocious black drink.
Speaking of free food... My family sent box full of sustenance! The combos were gone on the first nights, the chocolate-covered pretzels are well on their way out. I desided to try some soup for dinner..

Might be sketch...

But I opted to give "Giant Chunky" a good ol' try.

Okay I ate the first half warm in a bowl. But then, I got hungry about two hours later...

So I may or may not have just eaten it out of the can...

And it was good.
Props to you "Giant Chunky." I know my old roommates want to throw up right now. But you guys weren't here to tell me not to eat things cold when saving time! Hehehe... yum.