Thursday, August 28, 2008

Metapost: Back Soon

I'm off to enjoy the last long weekend of summer. The last two weeks have been quite eventful. Thought organization with posting to follow.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

From 72nd St to the Brooklyn Bridge, and not a car in sight

That, my friends, is Park Ave
closed to vehicles.

Ever since Mayor Bloomberg announced the Summer Streets program I have been counting the days. Seven miles of city streets closed to vehicles? Bikers, skaters and pedestrians welcome to take over? Count me in!

You see, I would totally would bike to work except there is no safe route. I am not crazy enough to bike on New York City streets. And unlike my co-workers on the west side I don't have the safety of the West Side bike path here on the East Side. So I walk home sometimes but no biking. And on top of that, there are so many cool buildings on Park Ave that I've never taken proper photos of because you can't just stand in the middle of a busy street aiming for the right photo.

Someone must have heard my whining, because for three consecutive Saturdays in August the NYC DOT is closing Park Ave south of 72nd St and Lafayette to the Brooklyn Bridge to vehicles and opening it to cyclists and pedestrians. And it is nothing short of awesome. I missed out on the first Saturday but went this weekend with three buds.

The beginning of the street closures at 72nd.

My friends are all regular cyclists and I am...not. So I knew I wasn't going to be able to keep up with them for too long. Asthma and all that. They all came from Brooklyn and met up with me at 72nd and Park. I was impressed with the police effort -- police at every block uptown with barricades on all side streets. You really get a sense for the lay of the land on a bike. Who knew NYC had hills? Not me, until I was biking up them. We had to stop a few times for designated car crossings but for the most part it was smooth sailing into midtown. The DOT had helpfully coned the middle of each side of Park. Bikes on the left and runners on the right. Of course, not everyone was listening. But for the most part it was quite pleasant.

Biking up the Park Ave overpass
Grand Central.

God bless my friends; they stayed with me all the way to Union Square even though I stopped every couple of blocks to take pictures. I kept myself mostly in check until we got to Grand Central. It was just such a riot being able to bike the underpass under the Helmsley Building and then around the Park Ave overpass that I had to take tons of photos. I heard a bunch of people remark that it was like "I Am Legend." Only, you know with way more people. No sign of the mannequin in front of the station. I'd give the mannequin a name drop but his role went unlisted on IMDB...ha.

We also made a pit stop in the 20s at one of the rest stops set up along the way. On the downtown side we grabbed free bike maps and signed a petition to make the program an annual event. Then we got free (badly needed, in my case) water bottles and filled them up on the uptown side. Once down at Union Square, I could tell my friends were itching to go and I was starting to tire. So I told them to go off with out me. After some slight protesting we agreed to call each other in 1 hour to decide what to do. I wasn't sure how much further down the course I could go anyway.

Union Square was the end of Park Ave as well and the course moved onto Lafayette, which was narrower and without an island between the directions. It also seemed a lot more crowded down there. I met up with several large packs of runners that were hard to maneuver around. I'm sure they would have complained about the crazy bikers, but they were taking up both lanes even though they only were supposed to be in the right hand lane.

This one group of about 15 or so runners kept catching up with me. By that point I was taking breaks every few blocks to catch my breath and by about the fifth time it was almost funny. I say almost because the runners were giving me a hard time about it. I decided to take a longer break to let them get a good distance in front of me. When I first started the course my goal was to make it to Union Square. Then I wanted to go 5 more minutes. Then 5 more. Well those damn runners really lit a fire under my ass and I decided to go the whole way.

The Brooklyn Bridge walkway
was very crowded.

A little while later I surprised myself when I realized I'd made it to the Brooklyn Bridge. At that point the traffic pattern narrowed from two wide lanes in each direction to a very narrow one. But I pressed on as far up the ramp as I could before I felt like my lungs were on fire. I dismounted and walked the rest of the way, pausing to take pictures along the way.

The view of NYC from the Brooklyn Bridge.

At the second tower I was taking shots of the skyline when I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was friends J and J. They had passed the rest of my group a little while before and congratulated me on making it all the way down the bridge. They were going to brunch on the Upper West Side and invited me and my group to join. Ha, if I made it that far! Truth be told I had no idea how I was going to make it home.

Rested a bit, I started back. I was determined to bike the whole way back home even though I knew I faced a long ride with some uphills. Toughen up, sister! Downtown was rough but once I made it back to Union Square I felt re-energized. At least I was until that damn running group from my downtown plight caught up with me again. I was slightly mortified. But this is New York, so when they started giving me a hard time again some guy came to my aid, saying "Every time a jackass runner gets run over an angel gets their wings." That shut them up. The voice sounded familiar, and I turned around and it was my friend H who had come to my aid! Like a corny movie or something.

I paused at the water station in the 20s to refill my water bottle. My friends had biked around Brooklyn for a bit but decided to take the Js up on their brunch invite. What the heck, I was in too. We were about to get started again when two guys came running up to me. "Your tires are low," they said. "Can we help you pump?" Awesome. Turns out they were with the Five Borough Bike Club and they were pretty amazing. One guy took my front tire and the other took my back tire. They gave me their spiel ("Do you offer rides for severe asthmatics?" I asked half-jokingly) and a couple of minutes later I was ready to roll again.

And wow what a difference. I realized I was an idiot for not checking my tires before I left that morning. Suddenly it was smooth sailing. I kept up with my friends (though I'm sure they slowed for my benefit too) all the way up to 72nd. Then it was decision time: bike to the west side or drop our bikes off at my place and bus it?

Bike it was the consensus. We cut across the loop and met up with the girls at Cafe Lalo. We were not the only bikers there and we traded stories with another group that had also just finished the tour. Then we had to bike back...oy. When I finally got home, I calculated that I'd biked close to 20 miles. I collapsed on my bed and I don't think I moved for a couple of hours. That is until my lovely neighbors started crashing around. This is NYC, after all.

I made a slideshow in my flickr account of my best shots from the day. Enjoy! Also, a big thank you to all of the volunteers who manned the intersections. It was a safe and fun day and I cannot wait to do it again.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Take me out, the higher the better

Yeah, the Zebra's my wingman.
(photo from the New York Times)

Outdoor space is at a premium in NYC, and so are great views. How to get them both in one shot? A rooftop bar or restaurant of course.

A little voice has been chanting "outdoors, outdoors, outdoors" to me since the summer started. Being cooped at work has been torture during the lovely weather so I've spent as many nights as possible enjoying the warmth, ignoring the humidity and taking in breathless views.

I never get sick of staring at skyscrapers and being high up gives me the illusion (or, ahem, delusion) of being a superhero looking over the city from above. We may not have mountains or scenic amber waves of grain here but we do have glorious seas of steel and light.

Part of the view from 230 Fifth.

In picking a rooftop bar, I look for a view things: 1 - a view of either the Empire State Building or the Chrysler Building (both is awesome); 2 - seating; 3 - palm trees. No joke. I feel like every single NYC rooftop bar has palm trees these days. Big fat F's go to any private clubs or hotel rooftop bars that require you to be a guest. I find those policies to be quite gauche.

Since it's summer I'm not alone in my desire to be outside. The bars are almost always packed and sometimes there's even a line to get in. I hate lines. At least none of these places have gone cover yet. The only thing worse than lines is the privilege of having to pay to drink somewhere.

The western view from Tonic East.

When I first moved here I hung out at Tonic East a lot. They have many, many TVs and were a great place to go on NFL Sundays. But what I loved most of all is that the rooftop bar had killer views of both the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. The place was always full but never crowded. I could move easily around the place. Last time I went though it was packed to the brim and I hate that. The service is not great but they have an amazing tater tots appetizer with three kinds of dip.

The summer deck at Bar 13.

My work used to be located in Union Square and I spent many Thursday happy hours at Bar 13, which has a nice summer deck. The staff there is super nice and they have a nice selection of unique mixed drinks. The crowd was always young and hip (maybe a little too hip for me). It's hard to get in there on Fridays. It is not cheap to drink there. Bring a date or be the sugar mamma.

Bars aren't always my scene though, so sometimes I go for lunch outside instead. The city is full of restaurants with 2nd floor outside dining or sidewalk cafe dining. Way too many to name. But I have to give props to a couple of my faves. First, by my work. Wichcraft (another in the long line of Craft names from Tom Colicchio, this time with Sisha Ortuzar and Jeffrey Zurofsky) just opened up a second-floor outdoor eating area. You get a back-alley view of other people's fire escapes but it's suprisingly nice being in the back, away from the traffic and most of the noise. The patio is of course tastefully yet minimally decorated. Then there's Pescatore, an Italian seafood place in midtown. Its rooftop balcony is small but airy. It's surrounded by other restaurants with the same layout but the food stands head and shoulders above anything else out there. BFF M introduced me to this place and I love it.

Sometimes I want the illusion of being outside without actually having to, you know, be outside. On those nights I round up some friends and head to The Park. Their garden is awesome -- Japenese maples and a couple of tin deer. The middle part is open to the sky but the sides give the feeling of being outside without actually being open air.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Matchmaking on the Internets

Would the arrow find me?

Just before summer started, I was having a lovely faux romantic dinner with T at The Park. Me with my risotto, him with his blackened catfish, surrounded by other couples (other faux couples?) taking in the scenery. It was all so...funny. I may have been flicking tiny pieces of lobster at him across the table. He might have been 'accidentally' spilling his water towards me repeatedly. I pity our waitress though we tipped her well.

T's great and all but he is faux. We are too good at arguing with each other. So when he announced that he was taking his annual all-summer trip to Chicago this year I was sad but not disappointed. He asked what I was going to do without him to which I replied: "Find a boyfriend online." His face kind of wrinkled into a frown and then contorted into a disbelieving smile. "Nooooooo," he said. "You?"

The evidence was too good, I retorted. Three out of four of my friends who'd tried the online thing had found success and I was interested in maybe joining those ranks. And while I am a believer that love finds you and not the other way around I am not the most patient flower out there. Plus, I've found everything else in NYC online -- my apartment, my job, my social events -- why not a nice guy?

T ticked off the reasons: I'm too independent (true, though I was willing to commit to sharing!); I'm flaky about setting up dates (also true, I get nervous!); I go for days or occasionally weeks without calling or emailing (wouldn't guys love that?? the opposite of needy!) and I was faux his (ahem). I dismissed his reasoning. Now say nice things about me, I implored. Please. Help me write my profile.

We spent the rest of dinner assembling my selling points and the next weekend day I signed up for BFF M was my trusty advisor helping me to construct a profile that sounded alluring, appealing and realistic. You have to answer some questions about yourself and spend a lot of time describing yourself (kind of a good gut check in a way). Then you set criteria for your match...looks, job, life's all in there. I uploaded a couple of photos (a headshot and a full body shot as recommended), paid some ridiculous fee and then I was set!

It was kind of overwhelming at first. You have your own dashboard, which shows you how many people looked at your profile and all of the peeps that either winked at you or sent you a message. You can search for matches based on your criteria or wait for peeps to contact you. I clicked on a link for some personality test and ended up getting roped into signing up for a second site, I bought 3-month memberships for both sites at a discounted rate.

It was pretty exciting for awhile. Every morning I'd wake up and have 5 or 6 new emails from people either messaging me (match) or interested in me (chemistry). On match we could correspond freely through double-blind messaging while on chemistry we had to go through an annoying 3-step process before we could email each other. In the first week alone I was steadily talking to 2 or 3 guys and I felt kind of weird about it. I felt kind of like the Bachelorette. Was the expectation that everyone online was casually dating? Was it considered bad form to see more than one guy at a time?

A quick check with friends, co-workers and maybe a few random people on the street and the consensus was it's OK to see multiple peeps at the beginning but once you like one commit. OK, easy enough. I went on 3 nice dates and saw 2 of those guys a few times. We'll come back to the 3rd guy later. The 2 guys fizzled out because we weren't as compatible as we seemed. No big deal.

Except that then the twighlight reality zone set in. Some of the guys I met were perfectly content to just email or chat, never to meet me. Some of the guys flaked -- showed interest and then disappeared. Some of the guys were sketch or clearly had...alterior motives. Some guys started cool but I wasn't interested enough to actually meet them (I tried to politely let them know this). I went through a 2-week period where none of my matches interested me.

The sites didn't seem to learn from my rejections, and I HATED that on you couldn't set your preferences to only match you with people who had photos. Seriously, who goes on a dating website with no photos? Worst were the people who said "see my photo after step 4, first meeting." So you can see me but I don't get the same courtesy. One guy's profile was hysterical; it said "I don't play games" but he was one of the wait until x step to see my photo. games except not being able to see what you look like? At the risk of sounding superficial, I need to be able to see you to know if I'm attracted to you. It's not the only thing that matters but it matters.

With 2 of the guys, we set up dates and then they backed out at the last minute (to be honest, I did that once too). One guy just plain stood me up. Oh, and that 3rd guy from above? We had 3 great dates and then he jerked me around for a month. We set dates and he backed out. He would call to apologize and then asked me to wait while his busy season played out. Except he had plenty of time to go out with his buds every night. I don't know what I was thinking with that one. What a jerk.

In total, over the 3-month span my profile was viewed over 1,000 times and about 100 guys made contact with me. The site yielded 4 total 1st dates that actually happened, an additional 3 that didn't and 8 more regular online conversation partners. I went 0-fer when I initially made the contact. Only 1 person actually used the "no thanks" mechanism to reject me. From Chemistry, I had 2 1st dates that actually happned, 2 more that didn't and 2 guys that were regular conversation partners. Five guys rejected me outright, 4 ignored me and I probably rejected about 12 myself. The guys I talked to really did not seem to like when I suggested meeting first.

The experiment ended a couple of weeks ago and I am still talking to 2 of the guys, plus maybe meeting 1 for the first time. My main finding is this: guys online are pretty much just like guys in real life. Some are dependable, some are flaky, some only care about themselves and some just don't care about anything. I didn't find love on the Internets (at least not yet) but I'm no worse off then before I started. The one thing I did notice is that people will say things online -- especially on AIM -- that it would take a lot of balls to say in person. It could be the caliber of guy I was attracting I suppose.

Some weird things happened too. On match I had a few people from across the country wink at me or email me. Also, way too many guys in their late 40s or 50s winking or emailing me, even though I set my max match age to 37.

The lame factor was also there. After I cancelled my memberships, I was still getting matches and winks from both sites. Turns out that you can leave your profile active when you're not paying. The shitty part is that people can contact you but you can't respond in any way. Lame! So someone could show their interest in you but since you can't reject them they're left wondering WTF hasn't this chick responded? Try being on the other side of that coin. After about a week I figured out how to disable my profile on both sites. I'm still getting daily matches from, but I'm just deleting them for now. The experiment was fun, but I prefer the instant gratification of real-life flirting.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

You meet people everyday, but which ones stick with you?

One of the most common questions I get from my non-NYC resident friends is, "Is it hard to meet people in New York?" The answer is a resounding yes. I think there are several reasons why.

1 - We live in a small area physically and so we tend to separate ourselves mentally even when in crowds. We listen to our mp3 players and ignore whatever is happening right next to us. To give ourselves the illusion of privacy, we emotionally space ourselves out.

2 - We turn off our social faculties. I don't read body language or look for non-verbal cues as much in NYC. Think about how tourists say there is a lack of etiquette in this city. It's probably not on purpose; it's a result of constantly being surrounded by other people. Some hot guy could totally be flirting with me on the subway and I would never notice. Oblivious? Yes.

3 - We're so driven we tend to forget or forego our social needs. Socialites not withstanding, the young in NYC are here to make themselves and that usually means working really, really hard. I know I've spent the last 6 months working 60 hour weeks to try to get ahead of work. The last thing I have time for is spending 2 hours primping to wait in a 1 hour line to get into some club that I stay at until early the next morning. This could potentially mean I'm boring...not really sure.

4 - When we are social, we surprise each other and take away our comfort zones. We get so used to having this bubble around ourselves that when someone actually takes a chance, nods your way and says "Hey," we're so shocked that we don't know how to react. We get that deer-in-headlights look. We give a goofy smile. Sometimes we recover and are able to make a connection. Most times we have an awkward minute-long conversation before turning back to our respective circles.

5 - We're just rude; or it's just me. But please tell me this isn't it. I'm naive enough to think there must be another reason.

So whether it's friends or a date, NYC is tough. I admire those who have the skills to come here with nothing and build large social circles. I'd love to know their secrets (do they blog? probably not). Ever the eternal optimist I try to put myself out there as much as possible. But sometimes I just want to stay home and play Halo. Or check my favorite distractions for the upteenth time today.

I'm sure my independent nature has a lot to do with this. I remember what I was like in middle school...always on the phone with one of my three best friends, talking about nothing for hours on end. Movies and the mall every week. Rinse, repeat. But in high school I changed into a dreamer and adventurer and it was hard for my friends to keep up. New York City suits my nature well. But while it was easy to flip the switch to loner, it is harder to switch it back to social. In college I would go days without returning friends' calls. Not on purpose. I was just easily distracted. Eventually some of them gave up, and who can blame them? Even now I sometimes reject invites to go home and be alone. I don't know if that is normal, healthy or what. But after a day in a crowded city I sometimes just want to come home and think.

So what to do when no one around you is paying attention? Put yourself out there. Yeah, it's hard and you'll fail more than you'll succeed. But even if you knew you'd fail 9 times out of 10, at least you have that 1 time to pick yourself up and keep going towards. It takes a lot of effort and a ton of positive thinking. My top success story so far is my friend S, who I met at a happy hour when I bumped into him and spilled both of our drinks. I bought him a round and we ended up finding out we had a ton in common. Though we went on a terrible date, our friendship budded nicely and now he is my Ikea-handyman/wingman and I'm his movie-lover/winggal. I probably tried to kindle friendships with 5-10 peeps before that and it just didn't work out. And yeah, it sucks when you put forth an effort and don't get one back. But you have to be tough to make it in NYC. And you have to keep trying.

One of the great things about New York is that you can go places by yourself without feeling uncomfortable. Really, just getting out of the apartment is step No. 1. Common tales among my friends are meeting friends at work (and then cross-pollinating with your non-work circles, if you are willing to do that); joining a religious group and making friends there; joining a book club/sports club; and/or finding a local branch of a group you were in back home. I'm by no means an expert, but I think the key is staying open to new people.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Lack of Zipcar availability sends me Zipping in style

Were it not for Zipcar, I probably would not live in the city. I'm not even kidding. After getting over the cost factor the toughest part of moving to NYC was giving up my beloved SUV Hunk. You don't need a car in the city but sometimes I like to escape and the places I like to escape to require a car. Zipcar fills that need pretty nicely. They know their target audience well: the factor that pushed me over the top was that they have nice cars from recent model years. So long, Ford Focus rentals. Hello, Mazda 3 with a sunroof and nice sound system.

The downside is that it's really hard to get a Zipcar on the weekend days in the summer. You need to book your car two or three weeks in advance, and for some cars (Mini Coopers) further in advance than that. It speaks to both the popularity and the frustration of the company. I recently upgraded my plan from a pay as you go to a monthly plan but besides a small discount on my rentals I don't really get any perks. It would be nice to have some kind of preferential car access or something.

I love the Minis and always try to book them but so do a lot of other Zipsters. So lately I've been trying to broaden my horizons and try other cars. I was disappointed by the Jetta (though my sister owns one and loves it) and the Honda Fit was cool but a pain in the ass to park. My last rental was kind of a kick though. I was invited to an outdoor dinner party up in Connecticut but out of the range of Metro North. It was only 4 days before so I knew I'd need luck to find a car available near me.

Luck was sort of on my side: a car was available 4 blocks away. But that car was a BMW 328, which is pretty expensive to rent. And it's kind of big. And seriously, a BMW? When I think BMW I think 80s yuppie. But I suppose I am sort of a yup pup and so I booked it with a chuckle.

Come that Saturday I went to the garage to pick of the car. All the Zipcars are named with the same first letter of the car brand, so this car was Beaumont. I handed my Zipcard to the garage attendant and said "Beaumont please." He nodded and lowered a silver Beemer that was on a set of risers. I could not stop laughing at myself. The best was when I sat in the driver's seat. I am 5'8" and I could barely see over the dashboard. Whoever had the car before me had reclined the seat back pretty far to go cruising. The cockpit was so big and filled with so many instruments compared to cars I've driven that I really felt like I was about to fly a jet. I took a few minutes to reset the seat and my mirrors. Then I put the fob in the ignition and started the car. I half-expected a computerized voice to say "Welcome, Roxy."

I picked up friend M outside a subway station. I somehow managed to parallel park the car in one shot. When he came out of the station I beeped the horn and like I had before he started laughing. Doubled over, in fact. Once recovered he opened the rear passenger side door and said, "So, I ride in the back, right?" With a bit of convincing he moved up front and we spent a couple of minutes laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. "I feel underdressed driving this thing," I said.

Once on the highway I was trying not to speed because I felt really conspicuous. It was hard. M and I would start chatting and when I checked my speedometer I'd be going a lot faster than it felt like. I tried riding in the center lane but it didn't matter. Even the right lane does 70 in I-95. As soon as we got to Connecticut I left the highway for the back roads so I could control my speed better.

When we got to our friend's place I was exhausted from driving a big car. We had a great time and a great dinner. Once the party broke up, one of my friends asked "Who has the BMW?" I was blocking him in the driveway. "Oh, that would be Mademoiselle Roxy over there," said M helpfully. I gave a curtsy and reminded everyone that I only drive in style.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

My friends are moving out of Manhattan

So long, Manhattan?

And so the exodus begins? In the past two weeks, three of my friends have told me they're moving out of Manhattan to one of the boroughs. Their reasons vary from wanting a quieter neighborhood to missing trees but let's be honest: they can't afford Manhattan anymore.

Con-Ed just raised their rates. Most of my friends in rent stabilized units just got their renewal agreements. Food has doubled in price and halved in packaging size. Our salaries are not growing fast enough to keep up.

Living in NYC is about monetary sacrifice when you're young (unless you're young and privileged). I don't mind that 60% of my income goes towards rent because I get to live in the greatest city in the world. That's the trade-off I chose. Recently though it's become tight. This story is nothing new -- it's the same song and dance that's been written for decades. Most recently the real estate boom drove out the artists and the bohemians. The average income of a NYC resident is well above $100,000/year and in my zipcode it's closer to $450,000/year. It's tough to compete with that when you're a recent college grad or even a 20-something making a decent salary.

With the economy in a downturn I can see how living in Manhattan becomes frivolous. We live in a whole other world...we don't cook our own meals; we pay others to chauffeur us around town; we spend our weekends elsewhere; we hire people to deliver the things we buy to us. We're taxed on our luxuries, from the cost of driving food in to the city to the cost of sending our trash out. If you haven't lived here your whole life at some point you say enough.

But if there is one thing I learned as a commuter it's that the mental cost sometimes outweighs the monetary cost. Sure, your rent may be $200/mo cheaper but now you've got a 30-minute subway ride each way to work instead of a 15-minute one. The train is always crowded and you probably stand most of the time. Want to get a meal late at night? Sorry, except for the corner store your neighborhood closes at midnight. Good luck catching a cab after hours. And then coming into Manhattan becomes a pain because it doesn't seem as close as it once was. You don't tell your friends this though. It's tough enough for them having to leave Manhattan.

One result is that the boroughs become more expensive too. When I was in high school and college Brooklyn was super cheap. Now many apartments rent for the same rate as Manhattan units. I can only imagine Queens will become the same way. It's interesting because I feel like we are right on the cusp of a rental rate drop. But it can't come soon enough for some of my friends.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A view from above...Central Park

S and I were biking the Central Park loop the other day when we saw something odd -- a big white sphere sticking out above the treeline. It was like the world's largest 3D kite. We both stopped as it rose, wondering what the heck it was until we saw the gondola below it. It was a balloon. But not the typical hot air balloon. There was no big gas flame propelling it. It was eerily quiet.

The mysterious balloon.

"That," I said, "is exactly what an evil supervillain would use to launch their attack on this city." S countered that the cops would shoot it out of the sky too quickly if it was part of some evil scheme. Logic, schmogic...I reminded him that the heroes always win anyway. S thought it was some kind of weather experiment. We couldn't figure out exactly where it was so we kept to our original plans.

We continued our bike ride but saw the balloon rise and fall several times on our periphery. It never seemed to go higher than about 500 feet and never stayed in the air very long. The entire time it seemed to be tethered by a long rope. It was truly odd. During our break on the west side's killer hill on the loop, I noticed flashes from the gondola. People taking photos. Surveying? I asked S. He shrugged.

We cut across the loop at 72nd St, and that was when we saw the line of people waiting. We had to see what was going on. As we approached Bethesda fountain we found our answer. Something called Aero Balloon. To celebrate Central Park turning 150 years old this year (Happy Birthday!) the company was offering 10-minute balloon rides that go about 300 feet up (the sign said that was about 21 stories) for $25. It sounded really cool. It also sounded very scary. As someone who is scared of heights watched part with wonder and part with fear.

S of course thought it was the shit and wanted to go up. Truth be told I did to. But I didn't have my camera with me, neither of us had cash and I was probably going to chicken out anyway. Since we've seen it I can't stop thinking about it though. The rides run through August 22. I am hoping to work up the guts to try the ride between now and then. Sure, you can see Central Park from Top of the Rock, but this perspective looks pretty unique. And it would be cool to say I did it. S is going to go back in the next week or so. I might just go with him.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The superficial silliness takes over

I walk a ton in NYC. I try to walk home from work at least 3 times a week -- just under 60 blocks. If I am going shopping anywhere in the range from 50th St to 86th St on the East side, I walk. If I am within that range on the West side I usually walk. I'm bike riding in Central Park almost once a week. I'm squatting and planking at home.

So what gives, legs? I'm 5'8" and my long legs should be stunning! But no. Not even close to mini-skirt worthy, and it is so frustrating. And I admit to turning green with envy when I see all the minis and daisy dukes floating around the city around pretty young things. Because I should totally be one of them! I've struggled with this pretty much since puberty. Chunky calves, over-sized quads and big thighs. Despite years of softball (half-spent squatting as catcher thankyouverymuch), equine sports and tennis my legs have just never toned.

The result was that summer was kind of my enemy, because while everyone else was shedding layers to show off I was trying to figure out how to join them and keep my legs hidden. The result was a lot of jean-wearing with summery tops. I hardly ever wore shorts, and certainly almost never wore skirts or dresses. Looking back on it I probably looked pretty ridiculous. And it was hot in jeans. And my legs never tanned. And I felt less feminine then I would have liked. I wanted to wear skirts and dresses like every other girl but felt kinda ugly when I did. Sad.

It's not about trying to meet someone else's expectations. I know NYC is full of people with ridiculous standards about how people should look, dress, etc. People with standards so unrealistic have little effect one me. This is mostly a personal thing about how comfortable I feel myself. And yes, that is influenced by how I think other people see me. But I digress.

This year, I finally caved. I spent the winter doing the best I could and lost about an inch off my legs. My calves still require extended width sizes for tall boots but they acquired a shape resembling that of what a normal girl's legs look like. Come spring with all the walking it was just too hot to wear jeans or even pants. In the city you really need to do the shorts/skirt thing. So I am wearing skirts this year. And it's been kind of liberating -- no one has run in the other direction screaming about the young woman with the thunder thighs yet -- although I've kept the skirts to knee-length.

I know my body type will never support skinny jeans, and that's OK. I prefer my curves. But as odd as it sounds I wish I could wear a mini-skirt. They're young and fun and I think it would be fun to flaunt it a bit with a nice flirty top. But my thighs just will not shrink or tone no matter how many squats I do. It's like God blessed me with a nice hourglass shape and a nice rack but then threw in the fat legs just to remind me that you can't always get what you want.

I have three minis sitting in a drawer patiently waiting for the day when my legs are ready, should that day ever come. But you can't wear minis forever and my 20s are kind of sliding by here. In the winter I can get away with it because I can wear tights and long boots with a mini, which makes the legs issue pretty much moot. In the summer and fall I am pretty much out of luck. And so the mini continues to elude me. Hopefully not forever.