Monday, March 08, 2010


I interrupt this long radio silence to announce that I'm in Tokyo, Japan for a couple of weeks decompressing from life and visiting Far East traveler and fellow blogger Mikka. I've been here since Wednesday and apart from vicious jet lag and the disorientation that comes from being more or less illiterate things have been pretty awesome.

Top 5 Things I Love About Japan
1. This is the land of cute. Seriously, this place is adorable; from the cherubic like toys to the legions of happy schoolchildren in navy uniforms to the desserts.
2. It's scrupulously clean. For a city larger than New York that's shocking. Even the public restrooms at the train stations are shiny.
3. FOOD. We've had sushi with fish so alarmingly fresh looking we've been afraid to try it. I'm in love with real ramen, and there are some great Hawaiian restaurants here too. Tomorrow I'm getting up crazy early to go to the Tsukiji Fish Market to see some of the freshest fish in the world
4. The hi-tech toilets. Heated seat? Bidet? A little music maybe?
5. Karaoke in Shinjuku. Need I say more?

Top 5 3 Things I Don't Love About Japan
1. The subway crush. You haven't been on a crowded subway until you've been on the Keio line headed towards Shinjuku station at rush hour. And they're not shy about pushing. The weirdest thing is that it's all silent. Nobody gets mad. No-one shouts. In fact cell phone use is prohibited and you are likely to get shushed for talking loudly.
2. $$$ or should I say ¥¥¥. While some things like conveyer belt sushi are very inexpensive, other things like going to bars ($5 table charge BEFORE you drink), taking taxis ($7 flag-down charge), and getting to the maritime museum from Kichijoji ($7 each way) are ridiculous.
3. The smoking. Smoking is still a big part of bar and restaurant culture here and there are very few places were smoking is banned.

Considering I couldn't think of 5 things I don't love I think I'm ahead. Yesterday I ventured out of the city to Hakone which is near Mount Fuji. It was very beautiful but cold and foggy, and despite the fact that I was right there I didn't actually see the mountain up close. So I, like your, have to console myself with this stock image:

Oh well. But there will be original pictures later and hopefully video of my further adventures. We are headed to Kyoto this weekend to get a taste of old Japan via overnight bus. In the meantime I have to figure out how to get to Tokyo Bay and learn about the history of the shipping industry in Japan.

More later!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Home Again

I had hoped to fill this blog with pics of my final adventures but I never seemed to remember my camera. Tourism sort of fell by the wayside in favor of hi-jinks with friends. I did manage to do a few new things in between karaoke sessions a 2nd on 2nd, an impromptu Michael Jackson dance party at Fresh Salt, and playing board games at McCarren Park in Williamsburg. My very last day I went to PS1 MoMA in Queens for some contemporary art, beer, and dancing. It was a great send-off and left me missing New York more than I ever thought I would. Staying for that last month and a half was both good and bad. Good in that I managed to get a fair amount of work done and spend time enjoying myself a bit. Bad in that I got a taste of what living there would mean if I had the luxuries of time and money to really enjoy myself.

Since being home I seem to be always doing something. Yet the pace has slowed somewhat. Part of it is just the settling in aspect (and man, it's hard incorporating a studio apartment's worth of stuff into this house), and part of is just the fact that I pretty much left my social life on the east coast.

As for the fate of this blog, who knows? I'm thinking of morphing into a foodie blog devoted to my adventures in fine dining and cooking with brief sojourns into knitting projects. Thoughts?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Memorial Day etc

Back from a very long weekend in Phoenix, AZ visiting Mary and nursing a sprained/twisted knee while I upload photos and avoid thinking about work. Given my usual knack for injury the knee should come as no surprise although to be fair I didn't fall myself. Rather I was knocked down by a very exuberant Weimaraner. See the culprit, Reilly, here with her very patient owner Max.

Despite this, and two nights with a bit too much sangria, it was a great trip. We hiked in Flagstaff on Saturday (the scene of said accident) which was a nice change of pace given that I usually only experience the desert side of AZ. Flagstaff feels more like Colorado than anything else, cool and evergreen.

Monday we went to the Chihuly exhibit at the Desert Botanical Garden. Chihuly is a glass sculptor and this exhibit was particularly gorgeous when paired with the desert flora and fauna and seen in the late afternoon sun. I took too many pics to post here but these are some of my favorites.

Now I'm back, icing my knee, swallowing painkillers, wondering if I absolutely need to go to campus today, and trying not to miss space and sky so much. I never really thought about space until I moved here and now it seems like all of my problems really come down to lack of space. Since making the decision to leave New York, I've been thinking a lot about my ideal living space and coming up empty. I like urban spaces because of the proximity to culture, good food, a variety of people etcetera. At the same time I've overdosed on crowds, dirt, and concrete. Flagstaff seems an attractive area to teach in a lot of ways. Yet I remember how small Ann Arbor felt at the end of my four years there. Chicago too seems crowded and unbearable sometimes until compared with New York in August. Then it seems very livable.

Given the nature of my work, I have to be prepared to end up anywhere and deal with it like a grown up. So for me the real quesetion isn't "What's my ideal space?" but rather "How do I cope once I'm there?"

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Has it really been so long. Eep! How can I possibly condense everything that happened in one short-ish post? Oh I know. Movie!!

The rest of the trip was pretty great, if somewhat stressful. My first day on my own it rained buckets so I parked myself at one the many expat coffee shops in the old quarter and read while drinking many glasses of watermelon juice.  The next day I finally ventured out on my own braving the crazy traffic. Crossing the street is terrifying in Hanoi, more terrifying in a way that riding the Se-om (motorbike taxies).  The was also pretty awful. That coupled with the crazy jetlag meant that I would walk around in 2 hour stints and then sit down someplace with air conditioning for an hour and a half.

Mikka is now stateside and plotting a new adventure in Japan and hopefully that will mean more trips for me too!

In other news...

...I've spent the last eight months rooming with Meg in the Financial District just two blocks south of the World Trade Center site.  July will find me back in Chicago to spend the year writing my dissertation, traveling to different archives, knitting, cooking, and learning how to make cheese. Oh yeah, I got BIG plans.

But that also means that this blog will no longer be about New York livin'.  Guess I'll have to find a new subtitle. 

Monday, June 30, 2008

Hanoi Lenora Pt. 1

Hello all! Here I am in Hanoi crashing with world traveler and former fellow budget-foodie Mikka.

This trip is a series of firsts for me, first time in Asia, first time on the back of a motorbike, first communist country. The flight was long and slightly surreal. Crossing the International Dateline means that I lost an entire day, last Thursday to be exact so I spent the first 2 days feeling pretty disoriented. Conversely when I go back I will leave at 11:20 pm on Sunday, and arrive in L.A. at 9:20 pm, also on Sunday. I learned about this way back in elementary school, but I still feel that this should violate some kind of law of physics.

When I arrived I was immediately accosted by a group of teenagers who wanted to take a picture with me. Somewhere in this city a bunch of fresh-faced Vietnamese kids are laughing at the panicked sweaty frizzy-haired American clutching at her bags. Mikka informs me that this is pretty common as foreigners still attract a lot of attention. This is also why they stare a lot. Once you get accustomed to it, it's fairly easy to ignore it.

The first thing that struck me about Hanoi was how completely moterbikes outnumber cars as the primary form of transportation. I could probably devote a lot of blog space to motorbike culture here since it's so much a part of getting used to the rhythm of the city. They've even replaced cyclos, which are now mostly a tourist attraction'

The second thing that struck me is how young people are. Walking or riding around it seems that most of the people out and about are between the ages 0f 17 and 25 zipping along on vespas and bikes, managing cafes, out in front of shops, eating bowls of pha. It gives the city a kind of bouncy high energy feel. The guidebook says that this is sort of a commercial renaissance period for Vietnam and also the longest sustained period of peace since the 80's. That may be oversimplifying things a bit, but the atmosphere is definitely upbeat. There's a lot of commercial activity and a lot of construction.

It's pretty hot and humid but no worse than Chicago or New York in the summers. After it rains the air is fresh and cool for several hours which is wonderful after a long day of picking your way through narrow streets looking at silk and silver and baskets of dragonfruit.

We spent Friday and Saturday exploring the Old Quarter before heading out to Halong Bay on Sunday. More about this later when I can post pictures and video.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Things About Hanoi that are Going to Take Some Getting Used To*

Staring is not considered rude.

Small children ride with their parents on motorbikes.

People here are tiny.

Chickens walk the streets.

I am probably one of three people of African descent in a 100 mile radius.


*Did I mention I was coming to Hanoi? Nope. More about that later.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Miss Me?

(cue "Morning" by Grieg)

Apologies for the lack of activity here but it's no fun writing in a fugue state. It's also impossible to write about life in New York when said life is...well...this:

Granted my lab is a windowless shared office in the basement of the same building that houses my department but you get the general idea. At any rate, I finally have something to write that isn't about stress, inertia, or panic.

Kate, Sonny, and Betty were in town last month. Kate is one of this year's Poetry Society of America's National Chapbook Award winners for her Dream of Water series. You can see the accompanying images as well as some of the poems here.

We also saw the Tisch School production of El Grito Del Bronx . I am truly ashamed of the fact that this was the first time I've seen anything at Tisch, which, given that it's right here and student tickets are insanely cheap, should have been a no brainer. But there it is. Chalk it up to lack of imagination. Oh well.

If this was typical of the quality of work the students are putting out then I will definitely be back. The play itself was very episodic, going backwards and forward in time. The first act felt uneven, but the pacing was better in the second act, although I'm not sure if that was a problem with the play or my own need to adjust to the rhythm.

Winter here wasn't particularly harsh but kinda clingy so since the weather's turned nice Spence and I have been exerting ourselves to be outdoors more. Spence bids farewell to NYC in about two weeks and is trying to cram the things he hasn't seen over the last four years into the space of a couple of weeks. Tales of his recent exploits avec and sans moi are here.

One of my new favorite places to go on a nice day is the South Street Seaport to look at the tall ships. It's a cheesy touristy area but you can't beat the tall ships and the view to Brooklyn.

Appropriate since I've decided to write about ships.

See what I mean about the view?

The weather hasn't been consistently great, yesterday windy and rainy, today, gorgeous. I was prepared to hole up for a second day in a row and catch up with missed TV on my DVR when Spence texted me: "It's gorgeous. Go outside right now." He wasn't wrong. I took the train to Prospect Park and wandered around a bit before finding a place to sit and read for an hour or so. Prospect Park is the other large park in New York designed by Frederick Law Olmstead. I can't say I actually have a preference for Prospect Park over Central Park but, being a Brooklynite, I opt for distance over fame.

Ah, green space.

Once again, I am decamping to Chicago before this wonderful weather turns vile. Next year will see me in a new apartment and, possibly a new neighborhood. I'm crossing my fingers that I find a place not too far from where I am now. Moving will be traumatic enough without the added nuisance of establishing a new routine regarding grocery, laundry, and train.

More soon-ish.