Monday, January 31, 2011

Six Months to Go Before the Big 3-0

I feel silly for worrying, for even thinking so much about it.

My 30th birthday is less than six months away.

January 15 was my half-birthday, and also the day in which a high school classmate turned 30 herself. It made me remember how I hated, how I absolutely detested, being among the youngest in my class. Everyone could drive, vote and eventually even drink (legally, at least) up to a whole year before I could.

The adults, with knowing smiles, told me that one day I'd be glad to be the youngest, and I guess that day has arrived.

I'm certainly not going through a quarterlife crisis, even if such a thing really existed. Mostly because I'm fairly certain my life is more than a quarter over. Maybe this is a one-third-life crisis?

But seriously, I know I'm not old. I'm not even really scared of getting old. I already have dreams of country-hopping in my retirement, and that sounds pretty good every Monday morning when I get ready for another week of work.

Most of my friends have entered their 30s, or they will very, very soon. My own husband has been there for more than two years already. Nothing is really going to change.

Yet here I am, giving myself a pep talk six months (and counting) before the big day.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A New York Blizzard ... Again

This is my fourth winter in New York City, and it has been the worst by far.

Paul and I missed the mother of all snowstorms on December 26, but the remnants remained on the ground when we returned from Ohio in January. They haven't left; they've only been added to.

The latest blizzard (and yes, it seems like we've gotten only blizzards and never just regular old snow) arrived Wednesday morning and continued off and on until early Thursday. When I walked home from the subway Wednesday evening, I even got pummeled with kosher salt-sized hail. By the time I woke up Thursday morning, the accumulation equaled 19 inches.

Someone got up early to clear off this sidewalk by 9 a.m.!

Paul didn't drive to work, of course -- not only were the roads in terrible condition, but a lot of the automobiles in the neighborhood were so completely covered that it looked as if the streets were lined with snowcars instead of snowmen. Only about half of the sidewalks were clear, and I frequently had to step into piles of snow just as high as my tall rubber boots.

The "fun" isn't over. More snow is predicted for today and Saturday. In addition, several inches of snow are piled atop the tree branches, and Paul has already been smacked in the head once by a cold, wet fluff of snow.

Spring is much too far away.

Paul draws a happy face on the front of a car.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Okonomiyaki: Finding Hiroshima in NYC

It had been 14 months since I'd eaten okonomiyaki, and I was craving it.

We were introduced to the dish during our vacation to Japan in 2009, and I ate it twice. The first time was in Kyoto, where I had what I later found out was Osaka-style okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is often described as a Japanese pancake, but the Osaka-style seems more like a Japanese omelet.

In the Hiroshima style, which I enjoyed much more, the ingredients are instead layered high atop cabbage and include noodles. It's delicious.

And, in New York, rare.

Okonomiyaki is served in several restaurants in New York, but from my internet research it seems to be almost exclusively the Osaka style. Finally I found Go Japanese Restaurant.

One of my best memories from the entire trip to Japan is when our friends Gail and Joe took us to an okonomiyaki restaurant they frequented in Hiroshima. The food was delicious, but half the fun was watching the cook combine the ingredients on the giant grill in front of you. No such luck here. A reviewer on Yelp said that way back when, Go was a "traditional Hiroshima okonomiyaki restaurant" with a "cook from Hiroshima who sat in the window and cooked on the spot." Now the okonomiyaki is at the bottom of the menu and cooked out of sight.

No matter. It was still tasty, even if I didn't get the show with my dinner. And, I'm proud to say, I ate the entire meal with chopsticks, no small feat since I'm pretty sure I still don't hold them correctly.

The meal was only $8.50 -- a terrific deal for such a large portion, especially in the student-and-tourist mecca of St. Marks Place in the East Village. I'll definitely be returning.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Comedy Central Taping #2: Wyatt Cenac

I'm not sure if Wyatt Cenac is Paul's favorite Daily Show correspondent, but Paul does think that he is the correspondent with the best name.

We hadn't even entered the lobby at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts on Friday night before Paul whipped out his iPhone and posted this Facebook status update:

"In line for Wyatt Cenac, wish I had some Wyatt Cnacks."

Yes, it's funny. But less so when you hear it every time he appears on TV.

Needless to say, Paul was delighted to see a taping of the comedian's Comedy Central stand-up show. Truth be told, I was pretty happy, too.

Yes, for the second weekend in a row, we were at New York University for a free Comedy Central taping. No VIP tickets like we had for John Oliver's show, so instead of sneaking straight into the warm lobby we had to wait outside in the biting cold for about 20 minutes.

But the momentary discomfort was well worth it. The show was funny, even if there were no Michael Steele impressions. Or Cnacks.

The cameras never came close to where we were sitting during the hour or so Cenac was on stage, and so much the better. Actually, there are no guarantees the show we saw will even be shown on air. We were told before the taping that Cenac was performing his show in front of two audiences that night -- the second show was directly after ours -- and the show with the better audience would be on TV.

Even if I see the show on TV, I probably wouldn't know if it was the one we actually saw.

Now that we've gone to two of these tapings in two weeks, I feel like I've gotten my live comedy fix for awhile. But if John Hodgman is taping something next week, I'll be there. Or Jason Jones. Or Samantha Bee ...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show

It started a couple of Mondays ago, when I came across a solicitation online to request tickets for a free taping of John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show.

The Daily Show correspondent was filming episodes of his Comedy Central show over the weekend at a theater at New York University, and Paul and I both thought it sounded like fun. I requested tickets and almost immediately received an email confirming two passes for last Friday's evening taping.

Then, a couple of days later, I received an email from a coworker. A friend of hers works for the show's production company and could get us VIP tickets. Were we in? Yup.

VIP tickets meant very little other than a purple wristband and the ability to wait for the show's seating to begin inside the lobby rather than in an outside line with the huddled masses. And I do mean huddled. It was a bitterly cold night, snow still on the ground.

Taping two shows took roughly three hours, and no one was allowed to leave the theater the entire time, bathroom breaks not excepted. John Oliver's jokes were spot on, as expected, but the eight comedians he introduced were hit-or-miss. Bashing bankers in business suits for our economy's crash, for example, didn't strike me as funny for two reasons:
  1. The jokes were too easy.
  2. My husband is a banker in a business suit.
I'm not sure when the shows will air, and the website for John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show didn't help me out on that front. And don't bother asking me what comedians I saw; I'm not really sure of that either. Overall, however, it was a fun experience with a good bunch of coworkers at an excellent price.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Working on Holidays in New York City

Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Another holiday in which I'm going to work while Paul stays in bed.

Even if the calendar hadn't already informed me, I'd be able to tell it was a holiday as soon as I got to the subway station. The platform will be sparser. On the train, almost everyone will get a seat.

When I exit the station in Lower Manhattan, I won't have to dart across the sidewalk, feeling like I'm playing a barely successful game of Frogger. Instead, I'll be able to leisurely stroll the few steps to the other side. I won't have to watch out for many bankers in business suits; the people most likely to be in my way are the tourists hitting up the Century 21 department store.

I take a different train on the way home, one where I'm almost always not only standing, but also pressed up against at least one person in a way that would be uncomfortable and/or embarrassing in any other situation. On holidays, I might get a seat. At the very least, I'll be able to breathe.

Of course, no one would trade in their day off for a more pleasant commute. But for those of us who don't have a choice, it's not such a bad consolation prize.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Snowpocalypse 2.0: Winter in New York

I missed the big post-Christmas blizzard that slammed New York with about 20 inches last month, so I was surprisingly eager for the sequel Tuesday night.

The snow started in the early evening, and we watched the snow quickly cover the cars across the street, the sidewalks and the sky. It was still going strong when we went to bed about midnight. Everyone was prepared for an onslaught.

Paul had a pre-scheduled conference call Wednesday morning to determine whether he and his co-workers would be expected to come into work. They were. I logged onto the MTA website on my phone from bed, saw that my subway line was running normally and realized this snowmageddon was anything but.

I shimmied into my calf-high plastic rain boots that do double-duty as snow boots -- a must-have for New York winters and springs. The neighborhood roads had been plowed, and most of the sidewalks were clear, too. My boots came in handiest at the sloppy intersections.

Only a few sections of the sidewalk hadn't yet been cleared, but the commuters who had come before me had already pounded down a narrow path through the snow. The worst part of my trek to the subway was the slick and slushy steps leading down into the station.

We received eight or nine inches of snow, but my commute was exactly the same, but slipperier. The only indication that this winter hasn't been normal are the gigantic piles of snow -- some almost as tall as me -- that surround the cars, a leftover from blizzards past.

All in all, Wednesday's "blizzard" ended up being more of an annoyance than a snowpocalypse.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Behind the Wheel: Driving in Ohio & New York

It was New Year's Eve, and I was behind the wheel for maybe the third or fourth time in 2010.

In Brooklyn, I drive the car a few blocks here and there -- to park, to get groceries or to run other small errands. My highway driving is now few and far between. Nevertheless, there I was in Columbus on Dec. 31, on Interstate 670 heading west toward Hilliard.

I was completely sober -- I'd been downing water and cranberry juice like nobody's business at the party we had attended. Still, I was afraid I appeared drunk from my sheer inexperience. I'm not sure, however, a cop would have accepted that as an excuse.

It didn't take long to find my feet, as it were. The 300 miles I drove -- getting us about halfway through Pennsylvania -- the following Sunday on our return to New York took care of that. Still, it's odd not being completely comfortable behind the wheel each and every time I take the driver's seat.

When we visited Peter Luger in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg last month for Paul's birthday, Paul drove. As we walked to the car, it occurred to me that this was the first time we had ever driven the car in New York strictly to go to a restaurant. What a special occasion! In Columbus -- at least in our old neighborhood of Galloway -- it would have been strange to walk. Of course, this isn't true of all Columbus neighborhoods, but I think it's more the rule than the exception.

I don't miss driving, but I do miss the convenience. I miss the warm air of the heater blowing in my face during bitter winter morning commutes. I miss the "All Things Considered" jingle on my way home.

I don't miss getting gas two or three times a week. That's just as annoying as I remembered.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Christmas in Ohio: 11 Odds and Ends

Outside Lima, Ohio

1. My sister, Katie, wins the prize for most creative gift: lip balm called "Chicken Poop." Reassuringly, the tube states that it "contains no poop."

2. I miss pizza buffets.

3. And especially dessert pizza.

4. After eight years in Ohio and three in New York, deer have become wondrous parts of nature instead of everyday sights. Paul and I saw a pack of 13 about a mile from the house one Thursday evening.

Two deer at my parents' house

5. Peanut brittle is delicious.

6. I'm glad I don't have an appointment with the dentist soon.

7. I walked into a Kroger grocery store in Columbus and realized the empty space at the entrance, just past the sliding doors, is probably larger than my Bay Ridge grocery store is altogether.

Between Defiance and Columbus

8. I dislike sleeping in a twin bed.

9. I can't complain about sleeping in a twin bed at my parents' house since I traded them that bed for the double bed we have at our current apartment. I got the better end of that deal.

10. If there is a bowl of flavored Tootsie Rolls within sight, Paul will eat them all. Or at least give it his best shot.

11. I'm already counting down the days until next Christmas.

Between Defiance and Columbus

Friday, January 7, 2011

Christmas in Ohio: Food with a Side of Family

I saw more than 30 members of my family during the week I was in Ohio and ate roughly twice that number of cookies.

The food is always plentiful when I go home for a visit, and never more so than at Christmas. First up: Christmas dinner. More than two dozen relatives appeared at my grandparents' house bearing gifts -- not gold, frankincense and myrrh, but rather baked beans, potato salad and peanut butter cheesecake. It's always buffet-style, so I eat until I'm stuffed and then I help myself to another serving.

At my parents' house it's more of the same. Different sets of relatives came on a couple of different nights, and I should have prepared myself like a competitive eater. How else was I to fit in the deer meat, beer bread and shrimp with cocktail sauce? Forget the chicken sandwich; I'll take another slice of angel food cake.

And the cookies. Oh, the cookies. Filled with M&Ms, chocolate chips, peppermint candies or some combination of the above. At my mother-in-law's, I gorged on meringues and melt-in-your mouth sugar cookies. I might have had only two cookies for dessert, but that doesn't count the two I had for a mid-afternoon snack. Or the two I had before bed. My mouth tasted of butter before I fell asleep.

One of the Christmas gifts from my parents? A bathroom scale.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Trashy Start to the New Year

As if returning to the real world after a week of vacation and holidays wasn't bad enough, we got to New York City only to find that it looked like an even bigger city had taken a giant dump on it.

We missed the brunt of the blizzard that covered the city in 20 inches of snow just after Christmas. Instead, we came home to piles of trash.

Garbage was collected on Monday for the first time since the storm -- but it wasn't picked up everywhere. I counted 65 bulging bags on one block near our apartment; about 40 on another. There's a good 35 bags just at our 6-unit building alone.

In fact, an Associated Press brief notes that a man who jumped from his ninth-floor apartment was saved  when he landed in a pile of garbage bags.

Most of the snow was gone when we got into Brooklyn late Sunday night. The curbs had just enough snow to make parking annoying but not impossible. The sidewalks, unfortunately, are still lined with snow and ice. I'm a long way from the 62-degree weather I was blessed with in Columbus on New Year's Eve.

If the return to New York was trashy, my week in Ohio was just the opposite. More on that Friday.


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