Tag Archives: New York City

10 Things I’ve Learned After A Decade In New York City

The world doesn’t need this blog post. The world doesn’t need another liberal white 30-something New Yorker navel gazing about her time in the city. So I’ll spare you the introspection about how when I moved here in November 2005 I planned to only stay for one year and how life has taken so many unexpected turns since then. I’ll keep the analyzing the choices I’ve made and what fate has dealt me for the pages of my journal.

Plenty of people have lived in New York City for more than a decade, but I’m never one to let an anniversary or milestone pass without recognition.

There are a lot of lists and articles about the best or worst things about New York (one of my favorites is the Onion’s “8.4 Million New Yorkers Suddenly Realize New York City A Horrible Place To Live“). But in honor of the last decade of my life in this city, here are ten truisms about New York that I’ve picked up.

  1. Everything that sounds fun will be crowded. On most days in the city there are probably at least five unique/interesting/entertaining events that you’d like to attend (likely more) but anything that sounds really great will be crowded, sometimes unbearably so. Free screening of Ghostbusters in Bryant Park? Better arrive four hours early and be willing to run, push and jump over people to get a spot sandwiched in with strangers (see video below).

    A short list of other things New Yorker’s have waited in line for several hours for:
    a donut/croissant hybrid
     the opportunity to go down a big slide
     or to cuddle cats.

    Bottom line: there are a lot of amazing things to see and do in the city that you can’t do many other places, but there are also over 8 million people and it’s not a very big place. The seasoned New Yorker knows how to find the still fun but not as crowded option, when it’s worth standing in line or pushing through a crowd, and when it’s better to just order Thai food and watch Gilmore Girls.

  2. Everything costs more than it should. You know your city has some issues on cost of living when a candidate repeatedly runs on the sole platform that “rent is too damn high”And our current mayor was elected in large part for pointing out how unequal the income levels in the city are. Truly there are some people in the city that are the 1% of the 1% and the excess of their wealth is astonishing and honestly disgusting. And on the other side of the coin there are millions of people in the city who can’t scrape by — homeless yes, but also families and friends sharing one room and going hungry. The extremes of poverty and wealth in New York City are a concentrated example of what’s going on in the rest of the country. But there in the middle are a lot of people paying way too much for way too little. There is a lot that a person has to give up in order to live here.

    And many of those people are willing to pay way too much for their apartments: $2,500 a month in rent for a one bedroom isn’t “a good deal,” but here we believe it is. Space is at a premium here, and there is a lot of competition for everything, but I refuse to believe that spending close to (or over) a million dollars (likely up front in cash) for 600 square feet of living space is an acceptable way to live. I was lucky when I answered a Craigslist roommate ad ten years ago and ended up in a rent stabilized apartment that I like with a good landlord, but most of New York City is built for only the very wealthy. And a surprising amount of people put up with it.

  3. People are the worst. One morning several years ago I was riding the subway to work when I started to feel very ill, my vision was starting to darken and I was seconds away from fainting. There were no open seats, so I told the person closest to me that I didn’t feel well and asked if I could have her seat.

    She glanced up at my pale, stricken face, said “no” and went back to reading. I sat on the floor until the next stop. In a city so big it’s easy to slip into feeling anonymous and to categorize the millions of individual human beings as one annoying anonymous mass of “other people.” A certain amount of disassociation is necessary in order to squeeze into packed subway cars and walk past people sleeping on sidewalks everyday. It’s a stereotype that New Yorkers are rude, but it’s not completely untrue.

    I am by no means outside of this. There is a certain degree of self-centeredness that you need to survive. The result of a city of people looking out for number one is of course a lot of obnoxious behaviors that can make you hate humanity. Here is a very abbreviated list:
    -walking while texting
    -carrying one of those giant golf umbrellas on crowded sidewalks,
    – talking during a concert or play
    – lots of street and subway harassment from creepy ass dudes

  1. People are astoundingly kind.The amount of assholes in New York is the law of averages. If there is a large enough group of people then there will undoubtedly be at least 15-20% jerks. But that also means that you are guaranteed to encounter the other side of humanity. I’ve witnessed the kindness of strangers helping each other, from giving directions to lost tourists, to giving food and money to the homeless to offering empathy to someone crying in public.

    But the largest way that I’ve seen kindness manifest is in the myriad of ways the New Yorkers (who are stereotypically overscheduled and self-centered) have given generously of their time and resources: volunteering after hurricane Sandy, and in my work with New York Cares and Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC, I’ve tried to give my time and money, but there are people far more generous than me giving so much of themselves to those around them.

  2. It’s a big city that ends up feeling like a small town. A person could live in New York City for a lifetime and still only experience a fraction of the city. New York City is geographically insignificant, but the astonishing density of people means that there are more bars, restaurants, theatres, parks, beaches, neighborhoods, and events then one person could ever visit. Actually that’s not true, you probably could visit the entire city if you really wanted to but you won’t. In a city of infinite choices you’ll spend 95% of your time going to the same seven to ten places. You’ll always order the same thing from the “good” Thai place in your neighborhood and go to brunch within walking distance. You’ll branch out occasionally for a show or concert to try a new restaurant, but by and large most people (myself very much included) will find their comfort zone and stick to it.

    This is unfortunate since it limits your experience and can lead to the annoying sweeping generalizations that people make about places like Brooklyn (no it’s not all hipsters and yuppies) but mostly it’s not unique to life in New York, humans are creatures of habit regardless of where they live. But this kind of self selection of lifestyle does lend itself to something that can seem like a cosmic coincidence: there are over 8 million people in the city but in my ten years here I have randomly run into every single person from my small town high school that has moved to the city, I’ve worked with the same people at multiple jobs and have several friends who know or have meant other friends. In short: it’s a big city but with very little effort you end up building it into your own personal small town, even if you don’t mean to.

  3. Walking 25 blocks is nothing, but you will never visit someone who lives five miles away Mark jokes that if I had lived in the Bronx when were single that we would have never started dating. It’s sad, but true. We meant online and we both selected the shortest distance that a potential partner could live, I believe it was four miles. I lived in South Park Slope Brooklyn and he lived in East Williamsburg, we were just at the cut off. If either one of us had ended up in an apartment even a few blocks further away we wouldn’t have meant, fallen in love and gotten married.

    Most anywhere else in the country where most people live at least 10 to 20 miles from their friends, refusing to date someone who lives more than four miles from you would seem extremely nitpicky. But in New York it’s incredibly common. Just look at that map – an hour and 36 minutes of travel time and three trains? It takes up about that long to drive to visit Mark’s family in Pennsylvania.Commuting via public transportation has a lot of pluses but the congestion and geography of the city can make some places that may only be a few miles apart feel prohibitively far. So we create our own little worlds (see number 3); most people will stay within their neighborhood (so realistically about a one miles radius or so) on the weekends.

    This also means that if a friend moves to another part of the city, you will most likely see a lot less of them. I have a friend from Michigan who lives on the Upper West Side but we only see each other back in Michigan because the logistics of meeting up in the city never seemed to line up. Yes I realize how ridiculous this is but we all do it.

  1. You are a nobody. So many people come to New York with the fiction we are fed in pop culture: The idea of “making it.” And of course there are those Cinderella stories of a girl from a Detroit suburb moving here and ending up so famous she only needed her first name (Madonna). Sure, there are plenty of famous people here, but that precisely the problem: there are so many impressive people here that no matter how much success you achieve, A) there will always be someone who is more “famous/successful,” or more intelligent, or more talented, and B) no one will care, you will walk down the street and ride the subway and stand in line and deal with all of the same BS as everyone else. (I’m sure many celebrities receive a lot of preferential treatment, but I have seen several celebrities in my time here in public doing normal stuff with nobody has given a shit.)

    You may move here and “make it” in whatever field “making it” is for you and you will still probably feel inferior because there are just so many people doing awesome things. I mean I assume, I certainly haven’t “made it.”

  2. You’ll need to escape. Most people feel like they need to a vacation from time to time. The walls of your life close in on you and you just want a change of scenery. But in New York many people talk about the real need to escape. The size and density of the city can wear on a person and I think a lot of people that live here can end up reaching a point of “I can’t take it anymore!” For most people it means a weekend trip or a weeklong vacation somewhere that you don’t have to lug your laundry and groceries 20 blocks. For others it can be a breaking point where they realize it’s not all worth it anymore and say “good bye to all that” and move to the suburbs or farther a field.
  3. Everyone doesn’t wish they were you. When I first moved to New York after a year living in London, the city was touting itself as “the world’s capital.” London is also a large city with thriving a culture scene and tons of history and beauty, but you would never hear Londoners talking about their city with that kind of egotism. That sort of arrogance is a uniquely New York trait.Many people love or have pride in where they are from or where they choose to live. New Yorkers however have a self-assuredness that not only is the place where they live the best of all possible places on the entire planet but that everyone who doesn’t live here wishes that they did. It probably has a lot to do with the desire to justify everything that we have to put up with to live here.

    We want to congratulate ourselves that they couldn’t hack it here. We disparage the majority of the country where millions of smart valuable human beings live as “flyover states.” But the truth is you should have to endure the place where you live and doing so isn’t really a badge of honor. Those people in the “fly over” states are probably happy where they are. If they wanted to live in New York, they would.

  4. Your New York experience isn’t universal. A trap that almost everyone who writes about New York falls into (and that I’ve fallen into several times while writing this post) is that we assume that our NYC experience is universal. For the amount of times we’ve heard the story of a white Midwestern woman moving to New York to “make it” as a magazine editor, it’s a far cry from the experience of a black gay southern man moving to New York to live with less judgement. And all of the stories of transplants aren’t anything like the life of native New Yorkers. And the life experiences and viewpoints of a native New Yorker raised in Park Slope with a nanny is vastly different than a kid bouncing around in foster homes in Brownsville or the child of first generation immigrants in Queens.

    That New York is an extremely diverse city is part of the appeal of living here, and yet the story of the city is usually narrated be people like me. My experiences may represent a portion of the New York experience but they far from represent the whole thing.

It might sound like I’ve grown disillusioned with the city. While I think that I’m getting a bit burned out on city life I am glad I moved here and glad I stayed so much longer than I had originally planned. Ten years ago I wouldn’t have thought that I’d be living in that same apartment from a Craigslist ad with my husband and three cats. I didn’t know that after lots of career ups and downs I would be in a job that I like. And I had no idea that I would grow a strong network of close friends. So maybe that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned in the last decade here: whatever my expectations are they will usually be wrong. I guess even after ten years New York might still have the capacity to surprise me.


Think Of The Children! Analyzing Our Problem With Women’s Breasts

You could blame the slow summer news cycle for the reason why this week’s local headlines in New York City have been dominated by the proliferation of topless women in Times Square. But the real reason why everyone is clutching their pearls about this “problem” has a lot more to do with American culture’s hypocritical and puritanical attitudes about women’s bodies.

This week, both the mayor and the governor have vocalized their disdain for predatory panhandling in Times Square and promised to do something about it, from a proposed bill to limit the hours and locations that anyone can solicit tips, to completely shutting down the pedestrian walkway.CM8ThFzXAAMWKjF

But why this week? Costumed characters have harassed tourists for photos and tips in Times Square for years, and there have even been stories of altercations with angry Cookie Monsters and Spider-Men, yet the ranks of costumed characters have been growing unchecked. In fact, the Times Square Alliance counted
more than 120 costumed characters
one week in late June this year. But it’s the other hawkers they counted, a much smaller group of 11 “painted ladies” that have turned the tide for both the public and the media from viewing it as an annoying but harmless part of the New York tourist trade to something that must be at least regulated and at most stopped.

Here’s where I should point out, as many have this week, that it is 100% legal for a woman in New York City to be completely topless in public. In fact local ordinances vary, but it’s legal to some degree for women to be topless in the same locations that men can be topless—parks, beaches, public streets – in all but three states. Of course many police (including the police commissioner who suggested turning the area into a park to get rid of the topless women) and even more citizens don’t seem to know this and there are countless stories of topless women getting harassed. (Case in point: Just last week I observed a topless woman on the beach get yelled at by a woman there with two teenagers, direct quote: “put that shit away, I have kids here!”)

(The green colored states are those where it's legal for women to be topless. The orange colored ones have amibiguous state laws on the matter. The red colored ones are where the mere showing of the female breast in public is illegal according to state law. via. GoTopless.org)

(The green colored states are those where it’s legal for women to be topless.
The orange colored ones have amibiguous state laws on the matter.
The red colored ones are where the mere showing of the female breast in public is illegal according to state law.
via. GoTopless.org)

(The green colored states are those where it’s legal for women to be topless.
The orange colored ones have ambiguous state laws on the matter.
The red colored ones are  where the mere showing of the female breast in public is illegal according to state law.
via. GoTopless.org)

It’s been noted in some reports that the women, who pose in underwear bottoms with patriotic symbols painted across their bare chests, are exploited by their male “managers” who paint their bodies, presumably watch out for their safety, and take 40% of their profits. If that’s true, it’s a battle worth fighting, but it’s irrelevant to the issue of the public and governmental moral policing of women’s bodies.

Personally I wish that these women didn’t feel like the best way for them to make money was to stand in the street topless and solicit photos with bros, but you can’t regulate your moral choices on others and the lack of lucrative career options for young immigrant women won’t be solved my banning photos with painted topless women. Besides, even if it could as long as it’s not hurting anyone, government shouldn’t dictate what is an acceptable of means of making a living.


But that’s exactly what many would have. The flurry of coverage this week has included plenty of horrified reactions from tourists whom you would think have never watched a show on HBO or needed to breastfeed away from home. From the New York Daily News:

“It’s disgusting. It should be illegal,” Jackie Castillo, 46, of Pennsylvania said. “It’s not a good example for the kids here.”

Yes, “think of the children!” is the common refrain, and that knee jerk belief that seeing a woman’s body is corrupting is exactly at what is at the heart of the real problem. Outrage over an exposed woman’s body teaches children that women are sexual objects – little boys can’t see it because they’ll get ideas of doing dirty things and little girls shouldn’t see it because they’ll think it’s OK to be “improper” and “impure.”

Things sorts of notions are absurd for 2015 and perpetuate notions like:

  1. Sex is dirty and shameful and we must pretend it doesn’t exist.
  2. Men and boys can’t control themselves.
  3. Women should cover their bodies for their safety, and because it’s “lady like.”
  4. Women’s bare chests are inherently sexual, and inappropriate for children to see, while men’s bare chests are neutral and acceptable. (It should be noted that the topless underwear-clad “naked cowboy” has been harassing tourists for over a decade and is so accepted that he’s received endorsement deals)

If you follow this logic through, it’s a short walk to the Missouri capitol where earlier this week lawmakers came up with a solution to the scandal in which two (male) lawmakers resigned over allegations of sexually inappropriate conduct toward (female) interns. Their solution? Mandate a “conservative” dress code to avoid tempting legislators into improper behavior.

It shouldn’t be surprising that government officials see telling women to cover up as a solution to their misconduct. Numerous schools across the country have long been in the business of policing girls’ bodies and clothing because boys simply can’t control themselves. Schools in states ranging from Illinois, Oklahoma, California, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts have banned yoga pants, saying they “distract” boys who should be paying attention in class. These arguments are all just another side of the “what was she wearing/she was asking for it” rape defense.

But it’s not just on the streets, beaches, and parks of cities and states where going topless for both genders is completely legal, or women’s clothing at their schools and jobs. Women’s bodies are censored in the name of purity on social media: both Instagram and Facebook ban images of topless women but not topless men, even when women are using their breasts for their biological purpose (to feed their offspring). It should be noted however that images of guns and violence go pretty much unchecked pretty much everywhere, and when we see those images (which we all do countless times a day), where are all the concerned parents and lawmakers saying “we need to take action and stop this, here’s what we are putting in place”? We have somehow come to accept near constant gun violence, and monthly mass shootings, but a woman’s boobs? Think of the children!

UPDATED: Derby News

I really won’t just use my blog post things about roller derby once every couple of months, I swear 😉

Anyways….if you are in NYC and you are looking for something fun to do on Friday night, consider the Derbytaunt Ball where the “fresh meat” (aka the new skaters) are announced. There’s cheap drinks, free food, dancing and a lot of bad ass people all dressed up. Here’s the snazzy flyer:


In other Derby news, the season schedule is out! Here are the bouts I’ll be jeering at. (location and time information to come)

Saturday, April 13th: Manhattan vs Bronx
Travel Teams Invitational- Saturday/Sunday, July 13th-14th
Saturday August 3rd: Brooklyn vs Bronx
Saturday September 7th or 14: Queens vs Bronx
GGRD Championship (tentatively scheduled for Saturday October 5th)

22 Things I’m Thankful For

In some of the corners of the internet that I frequent (Facebook and Pinterest) the idea for a Thanksgiving advent has been floating around. Maybe I’ll make one next year, and dole out my gratitude one day at a time. But this year you are getting it all in one heaping helping. Thanksgiving in a  national day of overindulgence after all–so here you go–gorge on my thankfulness.

Thanksgiving advent

22 Things I’m grateful for  2012 (in no particular order)

  1. My husband. I’m telling you, I picked a good one. Mark Beazley is the kindest, funniest, smartest, most loving person I’ve ever known. He cares for me in a way that honestly makes me feel grateful every single day.
  2. My family. They always say you can’t pick your family, and while I might not see eye to eye with everyone in my family at all times, I really really love them, miss them all the time, and wish we lived closer. My mom will always be the person I call the most, my nephew is the coolest little boy, who makes me smile as soon as I see him, my brother, my grandparents, my cousins, aunts, uncles, everyone in my family is good people.
  3. My in laws. I lucked out in the in-law department. The cliche is that you are supposed to dread visiting your in-laws, but mine are such lovely, sweet people, I always look forward to seeing them. They have made me feel like a welcome part of the family and I am happy and proud to be a part of the Beazleys.
  4. My friends. It’s not quantity, it’s quality, right? But I feel like I got both. I am lucky enough to have a couple of amazing women who are more like sisters, whom I’ve known for many years. And I’ve also built a close group of friends here in NYC whom I get to see pretty regularly for such fun events as book club brunches, crafternoons and slumber parties. On top of it all, my husband and I have many mutual friends, so I get to double date and hang out with tons of awesome people all at once. I love that many of my friends are also friends with each other–it makes such a close group.
  5. My job. Those who know me, know what a struggle I had being unemployed and freelancing for over a year. This year, I am very thankful that I found a full time job in my field. I am learning a lot, and using some of my skills. I like the people I work with, and I like getting up and going into work on the weekdays, and knowing once again that I have a steady paycheck coming in every two weeks.
  6. My freelance work.  It helped keep us afloat during that long period of unemployment. And even now it means that I get to explore new topics and learn new things. (Right now I’m working on a feature for AAA New York Magazine about cool museums, as well as teaching yoga privately on weekends.)

  7. Our kitties. I had several pets growing up, including the best cat in the world from when I was a baby to a teenager. It’s perfect then, that the first time in my adult life that I got pets, it was two cats that look a lot like my beloved Smokey. Kermit and Jonesy may have been a  Birthday gift for Mark over four years ago (when we’d only been dating a few months) but they have always “our kitties.” They are so fuzzy and adorable very much apart of our family.
  8. Our apartment. I’ve lived in the same apartment since I moved to NYC in November 2005. Seven years in the same apartment is kind of rare in this city, especially considering how many life changes I’ve gone through here–jobs and relationships lost and gained, two different roommates, and a boyfriend that became my husband. I feel like I lucked out with this place. I didn’t know very much about New York when I moved in, but I managed to snag a place that’s in a great neighborhood, isn’t super tiny, has a good landlord, basement storage, and a backyard, that we can actually afford–in this city that’s a lifelong dream for some.
  9. My health. This is the easiest to take for granted, because when you are healthy you just feel normal, your body can do all sorts of amazing things like breath and walk and run and nothing hurts. It’s not until something goes wrong that you realize was a complicated machine you totally take for granted. So I’m not taking you for granted body–thanks for being so healthy–keep it up!
  10. Yoga. Some of my friends know my dirty little secret: My grade point average was brought down from 4.0 to a 3.95 because I got a B+ in my yoga class in college. I didn’t take the gym credit seriously. And then, just a few years later when I moved to this city I joined the Y and started taking yoga classes regularly. Now, about a decade after that B+, I’ve been practicing yoga for over six years and teaching for over a year. Yoga has integrated itself so much in my life, it’s release, it’s comfort, it’s challenge. My body and mind are grateful for yoga every day.
  11. Our luck. Especially now when so many around us have lost everything, I realize how lucky we are. We aren’t hungry or cold or unsafe. We can provide for all of our need and some of our wants, we live in a time and a country with a lot of freedoms. We got to chose where to live and work and who to marry, we have loving and supportive friends and family, we have unlimited access to information and entertainment. These things are all pretty basic, but are also pretty amazing, and I need to remember to be thankful for them more often.

  12. Good books.  My love for storytelling, reading, and the written word are among the first loves of my life. Discovering and getting lost in a good book–looking forward to when I can get back to reading it, is one of life’s great joys. Good books, good writing, well crafted sentences and phases are what made be be a writer.

  13. Weekends.  As much as I am thankful for my job, I am also grateful for weekends–time to sleep in, exercise, read, cook, go out, have people over–you know generally enjoy life.
  14. Travel in the past and future. I have tried to make up for the lack of travel in my childhood so far in my adult years–and having visited over 13 countries, I feel like I’ve been fortunate enough to see a small part of the world. But there’s still so much to see, and the move I travel, the more I want to. I feel most alive when I travel and I’m thankful and lucky that I’ve traveled as much as I have and that I married a man who wants to see the world and have adventures with me.
  15. Good food. My friends have deemed me Kate “don’t mind if I do” Davis because of my love of eating. And with Thanksgiving being a national eating holiday of sorts, it’s only appropriate that I am thankful for all the good food both made by me and my friends and family and at the many vegetarian restaurants in NYC.
  16. Possibilities. When you are in high school or college it’s easy to feel like your whole life is ahead of you and there are so many possibilities. But just because I’m in my 30s and married doesn’t mean my life is all figured out. There are still so many surprises in store–I never would have thought I would teach yoga to kindergarteners in Brownsville. Who knows what turns my life will take in the decades ahead (or even in the next year), and for that I am grateful.
  17. My age. I dreaded turning 30, not because I was vain, and not because my 20s were so great I didn’t want to leave them behind (they had their ups and downs, like most decades). I dreaded turning 30 because I felt like I hadn’t accomplished enough, like I wasn’t the person that I wanted to be. But the “wisdom” that I’ve gain a year and a half in to my 30s is: So What, nobody is. I think my 30s are going to be about coming into myself and giving up on those insecurities that plague your 20s. I’m glad I’m 31, and I have no desire to be 21 again. I’m thankful for where I am.
  18. My Little Sister. I was matched with a shy 13 year old girl nearly five years ago, and now she’s in the middle of her first semester in college, and is almost 18. It was a challenge and a huge learning experience mentoring a teenager while I was in my late 20s, but I lucked out–she’s a great girl, and I am thankful that I allowed in her life.
  19. The giving spirit of others. I’ve been so inspired these last few weeks by how giving people can be–people have completely selflessly devoted themselves to total strangers. It has renewed my faith in humanity and made me feel so thankful for other people.
  20. Our wedding. I almost considered adding that I was thankful that I no longer have to plan a wedding. While there were lots of elements of wedding planning that I did enjoy there is an insane amount of stress and craziness that is unavoidable. So yes, I’m thankful that’s behind me. But I’m also thankful for our wedding–it wasn’t perfect–it was hot and humid that day and not everything went as planned. But it was still possibly the most amazing day of my life–it was beautiful and I felt so loved and happy and lucky.
  21. Our safety net.  We had some bad luck this year, and we will no doubt have bad luck in the future. So, I am thankful that my mom raised me to be the prepared saver that I am and to always have a savings. I’m also thankful that we have a supportive family that would help us if we didn’t have the safety net.
  22. All the things I’ve crossed off my list of life goals. Learning to sew, riding a bicycle built for two, taking a ride in a hot air balloon–I’ve crossed three things off my working list of life long goals, not to shabby. And I’ve had a lot of other adventures–and for that I’m very thankful.

Post Hurricane Post 2: On Cancellations

Everyday there is more and more news in the aftermath of the storm. From news that warms my heart (and makes me cry) to news that just makes me so so sad and angry. The biggest news today in NYC seemed to be the marathon, which was scheduled for Sunday.

At first Bloomberg defiantly said that it would go on, citing Giuliani’s decision to hold the marathon after 9/11 (which makes no sense of course because that was two months after and there weren’t displaced people without homes/food/water/power and exhausted polices/EMTs who haven’t had more than a few hours rest in days). But throughout the day the pressure mounted, from the press, individuals, groups, and even runners. And by the end of the day he canceled the marathon–which I think pretty much everyone agrees is the right thing to do.

Now here’s the radical thing, I think we should have cancelled more — a lot more. The subways were still not running, half of Manhattan still didn’t have power, but New Yorkers had to “prove” that they were resilient and get back to work. So they stood spent hours waiting for shuttle buses or trapped in the worse gridlock the city has ever seen, resulting in widespread gas shortages. For what? What do most of us do? Sit in front of computers.

Schools were closed for the week because kids couldn’t get in and they were being used as shelters. I think that non-essential employees should have been given the week off as well — that New York should have been declared in a state of emergency, and that rather sitting in an idling car for 3 hours to get in to sit in front a computer, those that were lucky enough to not have been hit hard, should have had the freedom and ability to volunteer and help those in need.

After September 11, 2011, New York needed to prove to the world that they wouldn’t let the terrorists win, but after this hurricane, I think a stronger message would be–the city that never sleeps is going to put the breaks on for a week and work on helping each other out. There is more important work to be done.

Next Post: On Climate Change and Voting.




Post Hurricane Post Part 1: How to Help

It’s been a hell of a week in New York. And I’ve had it really easy compared to many. With the transit system shut down completely for several days and now with crippled and gridlocked commuting, I’m glad to be working from home this entire week (and possibly longer since our office building has no electricity, water, phone, or internet). Here’s the Hurricane Sandy coverage we’ve done this week.

High atop the hill here in Brooklyn, we were out of the flood zones, and despite several large trees coming down on our street (crushing a car and breaking the stained glass windows of the church), we never lost power.

Of course millions on the East Coast weren’t so lucky. From the lives and homes lost, to the thousands of people in shelters and still without power, it’s been so difficult for so many people. (below is just one of the hundreds of scary images we’ve all been pouring over the last few days–the lower east side flooded and without power).

The recovery efforts have been underway since as soon as the storm passed (and even during). And since I’ve been working extra hours, I haven’t yet been able to volunteer, but I’ve been trying to keep track of all the volunteer opportunities to share them with those who are able. Luckily Yoga Dork has put together a pretty comprehensive list:

(Note: I have edited/updated and made a few additions to this list)

If you live in the NY area the NYC Parks Department needs your help. Check  NYC.gov for on the days/hours and parks in need of volunteers.

Via TimeOut NY:

The New York chapter of the American Red Cross requested volunteers prior to Hurricane Sandy making landfall to help staff its shelters throughout the region. Find out if you meet their criteria and register at this American Red Cross web page, How to volunteer for Hurricane Sandy shelters. You can also learn more about donating blood through the organization.

Mayor Bloomberg has asked you to donate your time at one of the city’s evacuation shelters. You can find a full list at this nyc.gov webpage.

The Mayor’s Office also recommends registering with NYC Service, which will notify people once volunteer opportunities are available. Per the organization’s Facebook page: “There will be various ways to volunteer to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy – Want to Volunteer? Please email nycservice@cityhall.nyc.gov with your name, email address and borough. There will be ways to volunteer today and over the next week as opportunities arise.”

New York Cares has several projects set up, and is asking anyone who is interested in helping out to sign up on their website, they are a great organization, that I’ve worked with for many years (I am also a New York Cares team leader)

An organizing site, The Lower East Side Recovers, has been set up to track volunteer opportunities and needs in Lower Manhattan. Sign up to get updates and more information.

Members of Occupy NYC are using recover.org to track volunteer efforts in their communities—check out pages for Red Hook and Astoria. Occupy has also set up a Facebook page to coordinate its relief efforts throughout the city. (via the House of Yes) also you can follow #Sandvolunteer for updates of project via Twitter.

Via Brooklyn Based, you can sign up with the New York Public Advocate’s office—give a date and time that you’re available, and they’ll follow up if your assistance is needed.

Food Not Bombs is asking for assistance—both by in-person volunteering and with donations—for its chapters in the Northeast, including NYC, Boston and Philadelphia. (via the House of Yes)

Red Hook Initiative is keeping tabs on local businesses who need help in the wake of Sandy, be it with generators, manpower or other forms of assistance. The organization is also accepting donations at its Red Hook headquarters; follow the group’s Twitter feed for up-to-date info on what they need (non-perishables, clothing, etc.)

The Food Bank for New York City is looking for volunteers—sign up on their website for more information.

Solar One sent out an e-mail blast earlier about volunteering to help clean up their space, which suffered significant damage during the storm. Here are the details: “We need volunteers to help us in the park this week to aid with all clean-up efforts. Our urgent need for volunteer help is for this Friday, November 2 and Saturday, November 3 from 10am-4pm. Please RSVP to dina@solar1.org so we’ll know you’re coming!” They’re also accepting cash donations.

The Prospect Park Alliance is accepting donations to help fund the clean-up of the park, post-Sandy; you can also sign up to be a volunteer once the clean-up efforts begin.

There are a lot of missing pets, check out http://www.facebook.com/SandysPets, or follow #SandyPets if you have lost or found a pet. Also the ASPCA is helping animals affected by the hurricane, they are always a great place to donate (our kitties donate to them every year)


The New York Blood Center (800-933-2566, nybc.org) has posted a list of locations on its Facebook page. In New York City, the locations are Upper East Side Donor Center (310 E 67th St between First and Second Aves, lobby) and Citicorp Donor Center (601 Lexington Ave between 53rd and 54th Sts, lower level). Currently, these offices are not open and cannot accept donations (due to lost power from the storm), but you can call or check their website or Facebook page for updates. Once they’re operational, they will need donations.


Money is definitely needed with billions of dollars of damage. Below are some organizations taking donations:

The American Red Cross –call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Your gift enables the Red Cross to get prepared and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance to those affected.

The Food Bank for New York City (text FBNYC to 50555 to make a donation from your mobile device)
The Salvation Army
The Humane Society
North Shore Animal League
New York Cares (text iCARE to 85944 to donate $10 from your mobile device)
The Bowery Mission (text BOWERY to 20222 to make a donation from your mobile device)

Since I haven’t been able to this week, I am going to try donate blood or volunteer this weekend where needed and I’ll be texting my donation to the red cross–please do what you can–and we can all do something.

Next Post: On  Cancellations

Another Word for Miracle is Repetition

One of the many great things about summer is all the free outdoor yoga classes (yes, mine included…). I’ve done yoga in Times Square, Prospect Park, Coney Island, and today after work I walked two blocks and took a great yoga class in Bryant Park.  Its good to take your practice outside, experience the interesting mix of peace and distractions, and try out different teachers.

But this post isn’t about yoga, well not completely. This post is about something the teacher said in the class in the park. She was trying to get the 200 or so people in the park to do this pose:

Yeah, that’s right. It wasn’t happening. I’ve been doing yoga for 7 years, and this was nowhere near happening. And I wasn’t alone, there was probably 2 out of the 200+ people this was happening for (and even for those 2, it lasted for about 10 seconds).  I have always thought of these as  “show off” poses, and I’ve been fine with the idea that I’ll never reach them, I’ll give it a shot, but it’s not for me. And maybe I’m right, but maybe not. Who knows.

Like I said the yoga pose isn’t the point. It’s what she said when we were all looking at her like she was crazy.

“Another word for miracle is repetition.” 

Something might look crazy, something might seem impossible, but sometimes if you keep plugging away at chaturangas, or writing, or running, or sewing, or holding your breath underwater, or baking, and one day you are in that crazy arm balance, or have finished a novel, or ran a marathon, or made a skirt, or are swimming laps, or made a cake.

Sure it’s a cliche, Rome wasn’t built in a day, if at first you don’t succeed try try again, but cliches are there for a reason. And so what if it’s cheesy, some days it might not work, but some days a thought like this may be just the reminder you need.

I read this blog post the other day about committing 15 minutes a day to writing, she makes a lot of good points in it, one being that “Repetition builds momentum.” Its hard to find a large block of time to write, so you don’t do it and then weeks or months go by with no progress, but a few minutes a day, and you have a chapter in a few weeks.

Practice might not make perfect–your novel might never get published, you might fall out of the handstand after 10 seconds, you might finish the marathon dead last but you are lapping all the people on the couch who never even get started

New Fitness Trend: Take Anything and Just Add Yoga

Here’s a fun experiment. Pick something, it could be anything. Say it’s babies that look like Winston Churchill. And you’ll start seeing that thing everywhere and you’ll think to yourself–“Wow there sure are a lot of babies that look like Winston Churchill in my general municipality…” But they have always been there and you just haven’t noticed.

After renting a Mini Cooper on our honeymoon, I am now noticing Mini Coopers nearly every other block in our neighborhood. I don’t think more residents of Park Slope have all decided to buy awesome cars in the last 3 weeks, it’s just that I’m more aware of them now.

So, maybe it’s just a product of being a yoga teacher, but I think I spy a new fitness trend in our midst. Combining yoga to other activities.

I submit the following as evidence:

1) Yoga and Cycling: There are numerous options for this  indoor (spinning classes that combine 30 mins of cardio and 30 mins of asana here, here, here, and probably a bunch of other places).  And outdoor bicycling trips that stop for yoga breaks (you can even do it all over the world! or here )

2) Yoga and Hiking or Running: Notorious purveyors of Ayn Rand philosophy and overpriced yoga clothes Lululemon Athletica have a yoga and running club (plus there’s several others). Yoga and hiking trips are exploding all over the place, there’s even one in my beloved Prospect Park.

3) Yoga and Kickboxing: Sounds like someone was inspired by Billy Blanks! This place offers yoga and kickboxing, or um…”Koga”

4) Yoga and Laughing: This has been around for awhile, and is equal parts heartwarming and cheesy, but I think it could be fun but I think I’d have to close my eyes to not feel silly.

5) Yoga and Karaoke: This is the newest yoga trend (in a world where “trends” are less then 100 people doing something). “I’m on a mission to spread joy and have people feel good,” says the teacher Jennifer Pastiloff–in her Karaoke yoga classes students sing and dance while they do yoga. I have nothing snarky to say about this because it sounds like something I would really enjoy.


6) Yoga and Drinking: Okay so I don’t think anyone is suggesting drinking while doing yoga, but there’s a new yoga studio/bar that’s opening in Brooklyn–it’s a yoga studio by day and a bar by night. And some yoga studios offer special wine tasting and yoga events.


I’m sure there’s a lot more things yoga is being combined with, archery? bowling? scrapbooking? Any ideas for the next yoga-combo trend?

Why I Loved Lying on the Ground in Times Square on the Hottest Day of the Year

Yesterday was the first day of Summer, and the hottest day of the year so far. To celebrate, there was a (free!) massive (and massively sponsored) yoga event  in Times Square–what started with 3 people a few years ago grew into 14,000 participants this year. It was a unique yoga experience to be sure.

I took the 3:30pm class, and when I arrived at 42nd street and Broadway (aka Hell on Earth to any New Yorker) the line for registered ticket holders winded around the block while a yoga clothes fashion show took place on the stage and blasted from the dozens of speakers. After a short wait, I was given a free yoga mat (!) and a bag of goodies from the sponsors (hummus, water, magazines, yogurt, etc)  and then ushered by the NYPD to a spot of pavement smack dab in the center of it all (and unfortunately right next to a heat blowing vent for one of those flashy electronic signs).

There were peppered amongst the thousands, some hardcore yogis (there was even a couple showing off some acroyoga when the class ended), but at least around me, it seemed a lot of first timers or at least people who don’t practice regularly. Which is pretty awesome, if I was new to yoga I don’t think I’m choose a 95 degree day in Times Square with thousands  of other people to try it out. And while thousands preregistered, there was also a sizable line of people (some dressed for yoga, some in business or street clothes!) that just walked up and decided to do some yoga in the middle of the hottest and longest day of the year.

The event was called “Mind Over Madness” with the tag line: ” Anyone can find tranquility on top of a mountain.
Can you find it in the middle of Times Square?”  And yes, it was more distracting than a quiet zen studio class, but I’m kind of used to classes with noise coming in from the hallway or weight rooms, or  from the street below, or practicing in the park with lots of noises, or in my living room with the cats going crazy and the birds chirping. And there was nary a moment of silence in the room when I taught a bunch of 5 year olds yoga.  Yoga is a practice of drawing your senses inward and noticing but not attaching to the distractions and thoughts vying for your attention.

More distracting than the noise of Times Square was the spectators–dozens of people lined the barriers and just watched and took pictures and a giant screen projected the class and the instructor. I was towards the center but off to the side, so my mug never made it up on the big screen, but I’m sure I’m sweating  in a lot of strangers’ photos.

It was a unique and fun yoga experience, and even if you’re not into yoga at all it’s kind of a once in a life time experience to lie in the middle of the road in Times Square and stare up at the clouds in the blue sky past the buildings.

Making Eating Local and in Season Eaiser

There are so many reasons (health, taste, cost)  to buy fruit and veggies that are locally grown and in season. That is assuming that you are eating fruit and veggies at all–according to an  NPR report, generated from Bureau of Labor Statistics data,  we spend almost 30% of our grocery dollars on processed foods and sweets (compared with less than 12% in 1982), and less than 15% on produce.

There are tons of factors that go into that shift, the least of which Mr. Bloomberg is the size of soda (you are treating the symptom not the disease). The first steps are making these foods more available in all areas and finding ways to prepare them that work with your taste buds, but  it’s also helpful to know what is in season where you live at what time of year.   There have been countless articles written on the topic, but unless you cut them out, pin them, or commit the information to memory, they do you little good when your shopping or planning your menus.

My husband and I plan our meals for the week and make the shopping list every Sunday, but it’s more driven by our favorite roster of 15 or so meals and the weather (i.e. It’s too hot for chili) than what’s in season. I’ve been wanting to change that for a long time–especially after I unwittingly spent $7 on a bunch of asparagus. The chart below is helpful, but even more handy is the Local Foods Wheel  (it’s $13 and is available right now for New York Metro area, San Francisco Bay area, and Upper Midwest).  (You can buy the New York one at the McNally Jackson Bookstore in SoHo–a great independent  non-chain, non-amazon bookseller!) *

*note: these are not paid promotions–I just like these things!