Snowflakes in France

Reflections of a 20-something woman in publishing

Month: August, 2008

Are we there yet?

“Are we there yet?” Joel whined from the back seat.

“We’ll be there in 18 1/2 miles,” replied Mike from up front in a very fatherly tone. Joel was impressed, and shut up. But Mike didn’t mean it, he had no idea.

“Where ARE we?” he asked Claire immediately afterward.

None of us really knew. The car was winding around back roads in the Catskills, following another car, whose driver apparently didn’t know where he was going either. We had left the cottage at least a half hour before to find a great waterfall, and we had all been under the impression that it was only about 15 minutes away. It was not.

But that driving time, along with the time spent at the lake, the time on New York state highways, the time lying in the hammock, (it was a great, relaxing weekend) provided me with some noteworthy thoughts. Two of them belong here, in this very post.

1. The Kentucky mystery

Contrary to what I had always thought, the Bluegrass area of Kentucky is called that for a reason. The grass down there is by no means a royal, Kentucky Wildcats Blue, so I decided long ago that someone made that up. But compared to the bright, florescent green of the Catskills grass, it is at least blue-ish.

As it turns out, the grass in Kentucky is an Old World grass from Europe, and it grows all over the nation. But there seems to be a bit of controversy as to whether other states that grow the same species of grass can market it as “Kentucky Bluegrass” since they didn’t grow it in Kentucky (Bluegrass Case Study). How did it get to be named after Kentucky in the first place? Who knows.

2. The New Jersey Mystery

None of my companions can quite remember how to pump gas. In fact, as native New Jerseyians, they are hardly ever allowed to. New Jersey law says so.

When I commented that this was an extrememly ridiculous law that didn’t make any sense, I expected them to defend it. Instead, they all agreed with me. Anna immediately whipped out her new iPhone, and announced, “Let’s google it….New Jersey self-service gas, origin.” (Because why would one ever pass up an opportunity to use an iPhone in the middle of nowhere?)

“Apparently it all started around 1949, when a man in northern New Jersey opened a multipump, self-service gas station. Threatened, the traditional gas station owners lobbied the legislature for a law to ban self-service–and they got it,” according to a Chicago Tribune article from June 5, 2006.

It seems that now people in New Jersey are simply too comfortable with sitting in their cars while trained gas pumpers fill up their tanks. HA! What an odd state.

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Beaching it up North

The last beach I visited was in Naples, FL. It sounds tropical and exotic, but I think most of that is because it evokes the idea of its counterpart in Italy. If you’re interested, by all means, don’t let me stop you. But I much prefer the northern beaches of Long Island.

(Though before you base your opinion on mine, I would suggest you check out my friend Ed’s blog where he’s posted some lovely photos of the Naples area. He’s been there all summer.)

Last weekend, after a long Saturday at IKEA where people were pushing past me with all sorts of odds and ends (rugs, cabinets, trees, the list goes on), I needed a break. So on Sunday I took a train away from the city, and then caught another train….waited for a while….hopped on a ferry…and finally landed at Fire Island, New York City’s bohemian getaway (www.fireisland.com/history).

OK, so it took me a lot longer to get there than I anticipated, about 3 hours. And I’ve since discovered that a lot of beaches are much closer (Did I mention that Amanda picked the beach? I blame her for our tedious traveling), BUT I think it was worth it.

So Amanda and I arrived, wind-blown hair and sun-screened skin, to Ocean Beach, a tiny part of a very long and skinny stip of island off of Long Island. We walked past all sorts of little bungalows on our way to the shore, and kids were spilling out in separate little gangs, looking like they were up to mischief, until the 80-year-old local behind them called out “Hi Tommy! Hi Joey! Hi Ben!” And suddenly, as they waved and grinned, they became respectful young boys again, just walking down to the dock.

The sand was hot (as it should be), the water was clear and blue (as it should be but usually isn’t), and the lifeguards were attentive… to each other (as expected — why did I never have that job?). The high was in the mid-80s and not a cloud was in the sky, so we struggled to find a spot big enough for Amanda’s blanket, and we settled in for the day.

I felt like a local New Yorker. Here I was, going to the beach for just a day on my weekend, making intervals of tanning and wave riding, and ending it with a few beers, shimp and clams during happy hour before riding back into the city. It was fabulous.

Who needs Florida? I’ll retire to Fire Island where I can have beach and snow!

Caught in a wet place

Car alarms were going off, one after the other, people were running for cover, and cars were pulling to side of the road. And as I stood there unarmed in the middle of the sidewalk with no cover, I realized I deserved it. I never should have said that storms in New York City were underrated.

I knew it was supposed to hit around 5 p.m., right as I would be walking out of the office. But it wasn’t raining yet, not even thundering, when I swung through the revolving doors. I started speedwalking. Maybe, I thought, I’ll be able to get from 1st Street to 10th Street before the storm hits, just maybe.

I sped down to 3rd before I started feeling tiny drops, barely there, and petrichor (a word I learned yesterday) seeped from the ground. This is when New Yorkers normally put up their umbrellas in haste, rush inside, complaining about how it’s pouring rain outside. I’m used to rain, and I feel silly lighting up an umbrella when I can’t even hear the rain hit it. It usually doesn’t get worse than that up here.

But not today. The drizzle turned to rain, which suddenly started coming down in sheets. I was soaked by the time I hit 4th Street. At that point I stopped speed walking. I had 6 more blocks to go, and no umbrella. I might as well enjoy it.

My skirt began to cling to my legs, I felt like my eyes needed windshield wipers, and my feet protested at walking through the hot rain water gathered at the crosswalk at the end of each block. But I felt strangely invigorated. People with umbrellas stared at me as if I were an alien. A couple of stay-at-home moms who were sitting on their porch to watch the downpour chuckled and waved when I grinned at them from behind my dripping blond bangs.

Every once and awhile it’s fun to get caught in the rain. I laughed at myself the whole walk home, stepping in puddles without a second thought and ignoring smirks from drivers in their comfortable, dry cars. I squished up the stairs of my building, and went straight for the bathroom. After throwing my drenched clothes over the shower curtain, I snuggled up with a glass of wine, pajama shorts and a fresh t-shirt, and I smiled at the rain outside.

Mother Nature had bested me, and I had learned my lesson. I know now that it can pour rain in New York, hopefully next time I bring my umbrella.

Moving In New York

It wasn’t until I saw the sweat dripping down Katie’s temple that I realized my face was dripping with sweat also. Moving in New York is a work out.

Forget complaining about hauling boxes out to the moving truck on the street, agonizing over the careful wrapping of dishes, that’s normal. It’s nothing. Nothing compared to trying to get a grip on a futon mattress, an awkwardly shaped object that surprisingly weighs 59 to 75 lbs, according to futonlife.com, as you drag it down the street and into an old, towering apartment complex among millions of old, towering apartment complexes.

Katie and I, along with a helpful man from the street, were on the third spiral staircase in my building. Luckily my apartment is on the fourth floor. I wonder how many people a day struggle to squeeze futons, couches, sound systems, dining room tables up tiny spiral staircases into buildings with narrow, uneven doors. Clearly the architects responsible never considered moving in to the buildings they were designing.

But somehow we managed, and now, three hours later, I’m looking out the living room window and I can see the Empire State Building! Did I mention that I love Hoboken? All the fun parts of living in the city, none of the busy hassle. My room is about the size of two futons laid out next to each other, but it’s cozy and bright. Most importantly, it’s mine.

For the last three weeks I’ve been living out of suitcases. I began at a hostel, a decent enough place if you don’t mind sleeping in a room with five people you don’t know and protecting your food from mice (something I learned the hard way), but it quickly ate up about $350 in a week. That’s what I was paying per month for rent in Kentucky!

So I moved in with some co-workers, and became very familiar with their couches, beds, futons, roommates, boyfriends, cabinets, and bathrooms. But it wasn’t mine.

When I arrived here, I added two dishes to the kitchen. A Cincinnati Post coffee mug (a trinket from my internship there) and a brand new McDonalds plate (a fresh version of the plates my family has used for at least 10 years). I arranged my clothes in the closet, and I think they’re relieved to be out of the stuffy suitcase. My roommates are out of town, but I inspected their collection of DVDs, books and alcohol, and I think we’ll get along.

I feel like a stronger person for finally completing this move. I got a job. I got from a hostel to Hoboken. And now, I got a place to call my own. Now, you can come visit!

Hot in the City

I just cooked a great meal. I know, most of you are thinking that I can’t cook, you’re thinking that I put vinegar in my brownies, that I hardly know how to make grilled cheese. Trust me, this was greatness. I concocted a cucumber salad and Mexican stuffed peppers. Delicious. And all for about… $10, with left overs for at least 2 more meals. In case you’re interested, I found the recipes off this nifty little blog:

Thursday Night Smackdown

And yet, all I can think about is the heat. Did you know that the milk is dated differently for New York City? I bought a half gallon of milk last week, and the expiration date read: “SELL BY AUG 10” And then right below that in smaller letters: “IN NYC BY AUG 4.”

I wondered if Hoboken was included in “NYC.” Technically I’m in Jersey, a fact I typically like to ignore since I can see Manhattan from my office window, but when it comes to milk, and the heat for that matter, I think I’ll own to it.

As I noted to my friend Blair just the other day, I miss the Kentucky heat. The New York heat is similar — humid, blistering, consuming. But in Kentucky …it chooses where it goes and how it fills the vast air across the Bluegrass. In New York, the buildings trap the heat, which in desperation clings to people until they pour sweat, begging them to let it out. Heat in New York needs a psychologist.”

So what was I thinking when I decided to turn on the oven?