RIP, Rizzoli

New York, I love you. But not today.

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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.

 

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Film Buff in the Making

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In my post-college life (which has been just as long as my college life, now that I think about it…when did that happen?!) I’ve become a bit of a movie junkie. It was a natural progression; I’m a writer and a reader, so I love a good story. And growing up, a regular family activity was browsing through Blockbuster with my dad for an hour to find a good movie to watch on a Saturday night.

So now that I’m a grown-up, I’ve decided to make it a point to eat up all the films I’ve always meant to watch. And it’s been like my own private education in culture, comedy, and history. For instance (like every girl) I loved Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but I got to fall in love with her all over again when I discovered Roman Holiday a few years ago. I discovered the brilliance of Woody Allen when I binge-watched his films during Hurricane Sandy, fell in love with the solo date when I took myself to the Paris Theater a la Carrie Bradshaw, and devoured indie cult favorites like An Education, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Once.

The next item on my movie bucket list was to catch an outdoor movie in the city. So I trekked across town to the west side for River Flicks, the weekly outdoor movie screening that goes down every Wednesday during the summer. I caught Rian Johnson’s sci-fi time traveler Looper starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt, which began just as the sun was setting over the Hudson. It was lovely lying on the grass in the summer air with my girlfriends, engrossed in a fast-paced, mind-bending film. In the future, however, we’ll probably bring foldable chairs…nobody tells you the lying on the ground for two hours part can get a little uncomfortable.

Now that I’ve checked off one more item, I want to see what the Film Forum has to offer, hit up a screening in Central Park (West Side Story during summer in the city? I’m so there) and catch some French cinema at the Alliance Française. What’s on your movie bucket list?

It’s a Party, It’s a Party, It’s a Party!

Ever since I moved into a one bedroom, I’ve been looking for any and all opportunities to have get-togethers. I’m a hostess at heart: I love planning, decorating, and getting the people that make me happiest together in one place for a good time. (I even joked with my friends that I might have an Arbor Day gathering. But really, why not?) So when July 4th came around, I knew it was time to host a par-tay to celebrate our great nation…in other words, have an excuse to eat, drink, and be merry.

As soon as I told one of my good friends and fellow magazine editors about the gathering, she passed along the party-in-a-box she’d been sent at her job, a creation by the new company Revelry House. The kit is full of every adorable thing an eager 20-something party-thrower might need to have a great July 4th bash, and I was ecstatic when I found out the business was co-founded by Lo Bosworth, the beloved sidekick from Laguna Beach and The Hills. (I was actually just lamenting about missing those shows with my friends. Admit it: Real or not, they were addicting).

In my box: Blue-and-white paper straws, sparkly American-themed cupcake toppers, star confetti, an American flag scarf, cardboard dining trays, bamboo cutlery, and more. The boxes are a bit pricey, at $189, but they eliminate the need to spend hours shopping, budgeting, and planning. And what I love most about the idea is that the box gives you all the tools you need to throw a great shindig, but you can also make them uniquely your own. For instance, in addition to the flag, bicycle, and rocket shaped toppers, I threw some blue and red sprinkles onto the white icing of my cupcakes; the confetti went on the table and inside the red balloons (and although it got everywhere, it was totally worth it); the flag scarf became my tablecloth, and the blue and white straws went swimmingly with the red signature cocktail I’d already planned.

Some photo evidence that I actually pulled this off:

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And guess what? The July 4th party-in-a-box also included sparklers, which I tried out on my balcony at the end of the night w/ my besties. Nice work, Lo—I’ll definitely be checking out the Birthday and Bachelorette Boxes, whenever one of my friends decides to tie the knot next.

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The Misadventures of Ari & Esther

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Once, grocery shopping meant trailing behind my mom as she wandered down every aisle of Safeway, then grudgingly helping her load the bags into the back of the minivan. Now, it means stopping in Duane Reade for some milk that hasn’t expired or ordering Pad Thai from Seamless.

But after scrounging around my fridge recently—and staring at a barren bank account (thanks, Upper East Side rent)—I’ve decided to perfect the art of Manhattan grocery shopping. Sounds easy enough, right? But there’s a reason there’s a restaurant every two steps in this city: New Yorkers don’t cook. And the ones that do are either ordering from Fresh Direct or sending their personal assistants to do it for them.

Having neither the time to order from a service nor the money to hire an assistant, I decided to venture out on my own. When I first moved to the city, I found a little rolling cart at the hardware store in my neighborhood. It was a grandma cart so adorable, I named it Esther. Genius! I thought. I’ll use it for all the fabulous grocery shopping I’ll do to create delicious gourmet meals! One week later, Esther was full of dirty laundry.

Four years and one apartment later, I pulled Esther out of the closet, unfolded her, and set out to the Food Emporium. Another difference from the days of Safeway? There is no minivan here, honey. There is either walking with six bags per arm (highly un-recommended, as I discovered the first time I tried and had to stop every minute on the way home to give my arms a break), or rolling up with your g-ma cart.

As I rattled 3 blocks and one avenue away, I could feel the dirty stares of Upper East Siders looking at Esther. I imagined they were all thinking Why didn’t she just send her housekeeper? Still, I marched on. I made it to the Food Emporium and stacked Esther full of everything from veggies to fiber-full yogurt. After everything was bagged, I headed home, feeling proud of myself for catching sales and spending $120 for more than two weeks’ worth of groceries—significantly less than I normally tally up with restaurants, takeout, and work-cafeteria lunches.

While I walked, I dreamed of the gorgeous frittata I’d fix for the week’s lunch and the grilled chicken salad I’d whip up for dinner. As I rounded the corner, I started humming to myself. And then: Esther hit a sidewalk crack. Before I could blink, there was a heap of cracked eggs and chipotle-lime marinade oozing all over a bag of multigrain Tostitos on the sidewalk.

Needless to say, my first effort as a grown-up, responsible New York foodie didn’t go as planned. But even though I had my head down for the rest of my trip home with Esther, occasionally looking back wistfully at the $10 of groceries I’d accidentally just dumped, I was back to feeling good again later that night when I made a big salad. And since that night, I’ve ventured on a few more successful trips to both the Emporium and Whole Foods, and I’m on a good, solid BYOL (yes, I just made up “Bring Your Own Lunch”) streak at work. So, I pat myself—and Esther—on the back. Huzzah to me for being grownup—and a chef-in-training! But tonight, I think I’m in the mood for Pad Thai. Seamless, anyone?

The City Is Mine

ImageToday, I had one of those lovely, perfect New York moments.

The weather is (finally!) warm, so after work, I strolled toward Columbus Circle. The sun was still shining, the fountains were going, and the flowers seemed more vibrant than I’d seen in a long time. I started my walk home along Central Park South, feeling enamored with the park, in awe of the Plaza Hotel, and practically skipping when I came to the mini-Strand bookstore on 5th Avenue. I literally took a moment to stop, take a deep breath, and think Man, I love this city.

By the way, you read that right: I did say my walk home along Central Park South. I recently moved; While the island will always have a special place in my heart, I felt for awhile that after four years, I was ready for a change. And no sooner had I made the decision to find my own place than the perfect, unexpected 1 bedroom fell into my lap. So, it’s official: I’m an Upper East Sider now. Just call me the brown Serena van der Woodsen.

My friend and fellow brown Upper East Sider and I have been plotting how to rally our friends this summer and make it a point to take in all the many things this city has to offer. I admit, I’m often afflicted with a case of Grass is Always Greener, falling into daydreams of  my other city-love, Paris, or other ‘hoods across the globe I’ve yet to discover. But the truth is, there’s a truly amazing city right outside my door, and my wonder and amazement today reminded me of that. So here’s to a summer to remember—I can’t wait to share whatever this great city has in store.

The View from (beneath) the Eiffel Tower

Yes, I haven’t posted since I’ve returned from Paris. Yes, I’m also in denial that I’m no longer in Paris. I’ve been back in New York for a month now, and I’m still obsessing over the experience. It was so different from anything I’ve ever experienced. I know it sounds dramatic, but I feel like my short time there reshaped my sensibilities in so many ways. From what outfit I put on in the morning to what I watch and read, the city has really impacted me. Basically, all the romance and whimsy that writers, filmmakers and artists have talked about for centuries? I totally get it now.

It seems an impossible task to write about the trip in one short blog post, but I’ll do my best by highlighting my favorite things about Paris:

The Eiffel Tower (duh). A few weeks before I left, I dreamed about seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time. When I actually saw it in person—peeking from the trees as we walked toward the Champs de Mars—my heart literally stopped. I was speechless. It was a weird sense of déjà vu from my dream, combined with pure awe. As we walked closer, the light show began. My heart literally started beating a mile a minute and I got teary eyed. (I know, this post is full of over-dramatics. Just roll your eyes and stick with me.) I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything that’s taken my breath away like that. And the best part? I thought that nothing could compare to its evening luminescence, but when we saw it a few days later in daylight, I was just as dazzled. Remember when Adriana in Midnight in Paris said to Gil, “I can never decide whether Paris is more beautiful by day or by night”? Word.

The architecture. Ever since I took a river tour of Chicago two years ago, I’ve never looked at cities the same way. I’ve become a bit of an architecture nerd, trying to identify the styles that I recognize wherever I go. From baroque to art nouveau, I was in awe of how constructions from centuries ago are still such a major part of Paris. There’s so much attention to detail—from the Arc de Triomphe to the apartment balconies—and every bit of it embodied the glamour I’d always associated with the city.

Shakespeare & Co. The storied bookstore where some of my favorite authors—also known as “The Lost Generation” (Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, T.S. Eliot)—used to hang out back in the day. Well, technically, they used to hang out at a bookstore not far from there, but it was shut down during World War II, and the one we visited is its reincarnation. A dusty, dimly lit bookstore full of history, rare books and a reading nook dedicated to Sylvia Beach? I just about fainted. They even stamped the books I purchased with an official S&C stamp! I left there brimming with writing ideas and dying to dive in to the books I’d gotten. (Currently reading “The Paris Wife,” a brilliantly written story from the fictional perspective of Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley. Love.)

Taste-testing macarons. While it was pure eye-candy just looking at the colorful displays of macarons in bakery windows, my favorite was the plain-old vanilla from Ladurée. Simple, yet decadent. Parfait.

…and taste-testing croissants. Impossibly buttery and soft, they smelled and tasted like absolute heaven. It was the best way to start the day almost every day we were there. I will never eat an American croissant again.

Le histoire! Paris has such a unique and interesting history, and it was great fun paging through our guidebooks before and after each day to learn the story behind the sights we saw. Everything from the Louvre, with its historic artwork and unique story (12th century royal palace turned most-visited museum in the world) to the Notre Dame cathedral was a history lesson, and we learned lots of fun facts along the way. Like, did you know that Napoleon wanted to impress his second bride-to-be so badly, he had a replica of the Arc de Triomphe built for their wedding because the real one wasn’t ready yet? Or that icons like Audrey Hepburn and Coco Chanel used to sip chocolat chaud l’africain (THE most delicious hot chocolate you will EVER taste) at Angelina, a 110-year-old teashop that we visited? It was all so educational but fun—I haven’t done that much studying since my college days!

Comparing it to New York. The conversation is endless. What’s better, a delicious cupcake or a delightful macaron? Eiffel Tower or Empire State Building? NYC subway or Parisian metro? City street style or Parisian chic? The questions go on and on, and I had fun soaking in one amazing city and comparing it to the other back home.

Leisurely café lunches with the girls. Living in NYC, I often miss two of my besties (one lives in Harrisburg, the other’s in law school in East Lansing). We don’t often get the opportunity to sit around and talk for hours like we used to in college, so it was nice to enjoy lunch together the Parisian way: relaxed, with plenty of wine, food and gossip. And not once did a waiter hover or rush us out. A girl could get used to the Parisian lunch hour—it was a welcome break from scarfing my lunch down at my desk in NYC, that’s for sure.

All in all, 9 days in the City of Lights was long enough for me to fall in love—and realize I need to go back ASAP. I’ve also got a serious case of the European travel bug—I need to get to Rome, Barcelona, and London like, yesterday. I’m already Googling flights!

PS: Please don’t hate me if I mention Paris in every single blog post from now on. Seriously, I am completely, irrevocably, head over heels in love. I mean, can’t I just change my blog name to “The View From The 36th Floor, aka The View From Beneath The Eiffel Tower?” It’s got a ring to it, right?

PPS: Feeling inspired by the Paris trip, my 25th birthday, and a new camera, I’ve been trying my hand at (some very amateur) photography. So, I started a Tumblr page to share some random photos from my life. I dubbed it “La Vie En Rose” after my favorite French song. It’s also a lovely Parisian phrase that translates into “life in pink”—the only way to see things, in my opinion! Check me out.

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.