When It Rains, It Pours

rain

In case you haven’t guessed by now, I love this city in every light, season and weather condition.

Except.

Except when it’s pouring rain, and you have to get on the subway. On Wednesday after work, I headed to meet Le Boyfriend to see an early IMAX screening of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Normally I would walk from my job to Lincoln Center, but after considering the monsoon, I decided to hop on the 1 train uptown just one stop. I left a half an hour early to make sure I’d have plenty of time to grab popcorn and get a good seat.

The problem is, when it’s raining, every other New Yorker has to do the same thing. Nobody is walking, and it’s impossible to catch a cab—so everyone slams into the subway salty, sopping wet, and smelling like wet dog. But despite the underground crowd, my spirits were high: I had a date, and my journey would only take five minutes. At least, that’s what I thought. Behold, a peek into public transportation life on rainy days:

6:35 PM: A train goes flying by, doesn’t stop.

6:40 PM: Another train flies by, doesn’t stop.

6:45 PM: People start pushing up behind me. I convince myself a mob is forming with plans to push me onto the tracks. Sweat forms under my raincoat, steam fogs up my glasses.

6:50 PM: Thankfully, a train pulls in and opens its doors. I let out a sigh of relief and make myself semi-comfortable next to a pole. Then, as the doors are closing, a gaggle of French girls come giggling onto the train. The car is now beyond packed; I’m praying the pointy thing poking my behind is a man’s umbrella.

6:51 PM: Train hits the brakes. And sits. And sits some more. I look at the time on my phone anxiously because the screening starts at 7 and my Spidey senses are tingling. The tourist teens continue to titter and chatter in française. In a previous life, I adored everything remotely Parisian, but suddenly I hate French people.

6:58 PM: I fly out of the train station and pop open my umbrella. A gust of wind blows the umbrella out of its handle and into the crosswalk. Left holding only the handle, I run into oncoming traffic to retrieve it. A car comes to a squealing halt and honks at me; I give him the finger, scoop up my umbrella, and sprint to the theater. (Did I mention this was the gorgeous “Le Chat Noir” umbrella I purchased under the Eiffel Tower?! See Exhibit A, below. Admit it, you would’ve run into traffic, too.)

Exhibit A.

Exhibit A.

7:08 PM: I burst into the doors, breathless and blind, glasses covered in rain. I assume the tall, dark, and handsome figure in front of me is Le Boyfriend, so I thrust my umbrella at him while I wipe my lenses (Good thing it was in fact him and not a serial killer). Our auditorium is all the way on the top floor, and I fear I’ve already missed some major Emma Stone moments. Luckily, whoever runs screenings knows that in the rain, every New Yorker will be late; we made it just in time.

The moral of the story? If I lived in Maryland, Pennsylvania, or basically anywhere else in America (except for bumper-to-bumper LA) getting somewhere on time in the rain would be much simpler. Reader, you might ask, Wouldn’t it be much easier to quit your whining and leave New York already? But what can I say? I love the pizza and the sparkly lights too much. And so, my adventures will continue, rain or shine.

PS: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was really entertaining—definitely better than the first one. I’d recommend seeing it in IMAX—it made me feel like I was a superhero, jumping from building to building and taking over Manhattan. Wait, what am I talking about? I already am a superhero, taking over New York City one day at a time. Right?! 

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RIP, Rizzoli

New York, I love you. But not today.

afterlight

I just learned that my favorite bookstore—Rizzoli on 57th Street—is shutting down. The 95-year-old townhouse will be demolished. In its stead will be some shiny, towering skyscraper. And I am pissed.

Here’s the thing: You, as a city, are incredibly irritating and maddening. You drive a girl to drink (overpriced margaritas, usually) with your millions of people and crowded blocks and subways and pollution. But your magic lies in the cozy, charming places that embrace us, that make us feel sheltered and safe and a little less alone.

Rizzoli was one of those places for me. As you know by now, I am a book girl. So when I was a New York newbie, with a boyfriend in grad school and friends far away in different cities, I would escape to Rizzoli’s third floor and peruse the books I couldn’t afford (because of your sky-high rent, of course). After a solo day at the movies and treating myself to lunch, Rizzoli is where I’d end up, flipping through biographies of women I aspired to be like. When I was heading to Paris for the first time, Rizzoli is where I went in search of travel guides. And in that bookstore, beneath its grand chandeliers, is where my Allende obsession continued and my Fitzgerald infatuation began.

Now, I walk by that store every day on my way to work, often with my nose pressed against the window admiring the latest displays. And never mind the fact that we’re losing a historic bookstore: We’re saying farewell to one of your city’s architectural landmarks, a century-old townhouse that got its start as a piano showroom. It literally pains me to imagine that little gem demolished and replaced by scaffolding and yet another West 57th Street glass building.

Tonight, I said goodbye, and tomorrow, I plan to join the rally that will, to put it nicely, give you and your businessmen the middle finger. I know that these things happen, and I never imagined I’d be so attached to a place, but here I am. And here’s hoping I’ll find another great escape just as perfect.

 

Let It Snow

Is there anything more magical than New York City covered in freshly fallen snow?

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Growing up in the ’burbs, snow meant sledding down the driveway, followed by hot chocolate in our PJs. Now, it still means hot chocolate in my PJs, but only after trekking home in a North Face and three pairs of leggings, hoping not to get sprayed by slush as a cab speeds past.

I’m lucky enough to be able to walk to and from work every day, but during the winter, I tend to half-jog with my hood up, head down, and hands in pockets, eager to get inside. But tonight, I decided to keep my head up and eyes open.

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Boy, was it worth it. Manhattan at night after a snowfall is eerily quiet; with only the occasional taxi whizzing by, it was like the city had whispered an invitation for me to enter a secret, sparkling world. Instead of getting lost in thoughts about my work to-do list, I noticed a tiny purple mitten lying on cobblestone; a lone couple walking next to Central Park’s ice-covered turtle pond; light glittering off of benches blanketed in white. With no chatter or cars or cell phones in sight, I was struck by the sudden feeling that I could be in any year, whether it was 1920 or 2014. This Fitzgerald quote popped into my head: “New York had all the iridescence of the beginning of the world.”

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Now, I’m back home in my PJs, safely inside and sipping snow-day hot chocolate. Even though I’m cozy and warm, I’m filled with the memory of floating through the city’s poetic, shiny streets, and I can’t help but feel eager to get out there again. My fellow city dwellers will curse me for saying this, but here’s hoping there’s more snow coming soon. Yes, it’s cold, and wet, and inconvenient, but damn, it’s beautiful.

Late Night Cab Dilemma

photo courtesy of photos.com

I have a confession to make that wouldn’t make my Mom and Dad too happy: Sometimes I take the subway late at night.

There, I said it. When I first came to New York, I promised I’d take cabs home when I was out late with friends. And at first, I tried to stick with it. But I quickly became acquainted with the late-night cab dilemma. What’s the dilemma?

There are NO cabs late at night!

The problem is, everyone else in the city who’s out at 2, 3, 4…whatever time in the morning also has the same idea. So the sidewalks get packed with other party-goers who are trying to head to their corner of the city that never sleeps. And cab after cab whizzes by, their car full of passengers. And when a free taxi does finally come near, please believe that the other NYers on the sidewalk are not going to remember their manners or feel bad if you are a female by yourself. (Keep in mind that this occurance of trying to hail a cab by myself only happens rarely, on the occasion that the people I’m with have to go in completely different directions/via different modes of transportation.) Or, the driver will ask where you’re going, and if it’s not where they want to go, they’ll drive off, without caring about the fact that your hand is still attached to the back door handle.

In the early days, I had men jump out of nowhere in front of me to steal my cab (so much for chivalry,) and couples mid-make out so eager to get back to their bedrooms that they somehow pushed past me (bodies still intertwined) and stole my cab. So I had to learn to forget my manners and do whatever it took to grab a free taxi the moment I saw it. But there was one late night where I was just way too tired, my feet were hurting way too much, and the nearby subway entrance was just calling my name. So, I went for it. And was surprised to find that the subway late at night is just as busy and full as it is during my morning commute to work. Go figure.

So sorry, Mom and Dad. I try, I really do, to keep the promise. But after 20 minutes of waiting for a cab with no luck, can you blame a girl for hitting the subway to keep home quickly? And really, it’s not that bad. I promise.

Blazin’ Heat

Photo courtesy of iStock Photos

It is 102 degrees in New York City today.

I repeat, it’s 102 degrees in New York City today.

On any given day, this city is bustling, moving so fast that if you blink you just might miss something. Commuters pack onto the trains like sardines, stabbing at their Blackberries with one hand, sipping Starbucks in the other. The city moves so fast that you rarely get an “excuse me,” but often get pushed, jostled and cursed at.

But not on a day when it’s 102 degrees.

When it’s 102 degrees in New York, everything seems to slow down. You can feel it as Manhattanites swipe their foreheads with one hand before blearily crossing the street. You can see it when you notice how many people have opted out of work due to the blazing heat when there are actually seats on the subway car in the morning. You can hear it when you notice that people are reserving the energy normally used for morning chatter to keep themselves cool.

Seeing this phenomenon today made me think about how southern and coastal towns are usually so laid back. I’m a laid back girl at heart, so I’ve always admired the “yeh, mon” mentality of people of the islands and the cool, relaxed manner of Floridians and Californians. Because, really, how can you be uptight and in a rush to go nowhere fast like a New Yorker when it’s so hot you swear you can see the heat?

So as I walked my commute this morning with my handheld mini-fan, I thought, “Wow, New York today almost feels like a beach town.” Just as I got carried away imagining a few palm trees scattered along 6th Ave and the water of the Hudson turning a light, clear blue, my fantasy was interrupted by a blaring car horn and the sound of a taxi driver cursing out a pedestrian.

Ok, nevermind. No matter how hot it is, New York can never be anything but New York.

The Cab Driver Saga

Ahh, the New York cab driver. Catching a cab in New York can be quite the experience. I have my moments when I feel so Sex and the City, holding out my arm Carrie Bradshaw style, breezing into the taxi as it pulls up to the curb, closing the door and telling the driver matter-of-factly where I want to go. Unfortunately, that’s where the cosmopolitan tv show likeness ends and I often find myself in heated debates with the taxi driver. Here are the questions I most often find myself hurling at them:

1. What do you mean you need directions? Aren’t you a cab driver?
I always thought part of a cab driver’s job was to know the city in and out–intersections, highways, or at least the general neighborhoods. So why are you asking ME, the passenger, how to get there?

2. What do you mean you aren’t going in that direction? Your light is on…aren’t you supposed to take passengers where they need to go?
I actually looked this up, and it’s illegal to refuse a passenger due to their destination in the city. So why do I frequently find myself back out on the curb after telling a driver where I need to go and him mumbling that he’s not going in that direction and speeding off?

3. Where is your sign saying that you only take cash? And if you don’t take cards, why is there a credit card machine right here?
As of the last few years, pretty much all cabs have credit card machines. So when I am in a rush to get somewhere and don’t have time to stop and get cash, I’ll just hop in a cab knowing that I can use a card. But inevitably, whenever I go to use my card, the driver tells me he will only take cash. Meanwhile, the credit card machine is working just fine, I go ahead and swipe, and the driver rolls his eyes and moans about credit card fees. Sorry, dude, not my problem!

4. Can you PLEASE slow down and/or pay attention to the road?
Ok, Mr. Cab Driver. I know NY drivers in general suck. And I know you are in a rush to get me to my destination so you can pick up your next job and make more money. But I really should not spend the entire length of my ride white-knuckled holding on for dear life. Don’t believe me that cabbies have no regard for the road and safety? Yesterday I witnessed this driver not paying attention and completely missing the fact that there was a red light, which resulted in him hitting this innocent man on a bike in front of him:

As you can see, the man here seems to be trying to calm himself down by ignoring the cab driver, who is trying to act like he cares about the fact that he almost killed this man. If it was me on the bike, I guarantee this picture would have looked waayyy different…

Anyway, folks, the moral of this story is: just take the subway.