The Schedule Change

I just came back from a 10-day, 3-city European vacation with my girlfriends (did I just type that?!) It was ambitious of us to try to pack three cities into 10 days, and throughout the trip, I felt the crush of the question I often ask myself in day-to-day life: How will I get everything done that I want to?

By the end of the trip, I’d found the answer. But let me start from the beginning. Back in September, my friend Channing and I were wistfully whining about how we wished we had the money to spend New Year’s Eve in Paris. Finally, we got serious and asked ourselves Why can’t we? A few weeks and some extreme budgeting later, we booked a trip with two other girlfriends to London, Paris, and Barcelona.

Anticipation still reminds me of waiting for Santa as a kid: The night before feels like years, but opening presents is over in a flash. ‘Twas the same with our travels: Before I could blink, we’d ticked everything off our wish list and seen Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the London Bridge, and Westminster Abbey. We ended the trip’s first leg on a swing ride in Hyde Park’s magical winter wonderland. It was all a gift I’d torn open too fast and now, looking back, I wish I could re-wrap it all, just to open it again slowly, with extra care.

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London: Hey, Big Ben!

After a quick train ride, we were in Paris, where we scrambled each day to find café crèmes and crispy croissants before hustling everywhere from the Louvre to Céline. On New Year’s Eve, we counted backwards on a bridge near the sparkling Eiffel Tower. At midnight, I felt a pang of longing for 2013—it’d flown past in a rush of planning and plotting. So the next morning, I decided to finally slow down from all the itineraries and to-do lists. A solo walk with a copy of Julian Green’s Paris led me to this gem: “Until you have wasted time in a city, you cannot pretend to know it well.” It was like Green was shouting to me from those pages: Slow down, girl. Wasting time is just as important as filling it.

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Paris: Giving our best Parisienne

So at our last stop in Barcelona, I took his advice. It was time to turn off my inner New Yorker and take a lesson from the leisurely-paced Europeans. So in between praying in Antoni Gaudi’s breathtaking Sagrada Familia and perusing the Picasso Museum, we indulged in long, relaxed meals full of sangria, tapas, and laughter. Our final Friday night of partying rolled late into the following morning, and I barely even noticed. Finally, we left Barcelona on Sunday at 10 AM to come back to the states—but, despite a nine-hour flight, somehow landed in New York at 1 PM. Time playing its tricks on me.

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Barcelona: La Sagrada Familia’s stained glass windows

After being home in New York for a few days, I’m back to my original question: How will I find the time to do everything I want to do? The answer: I just will. Yes, between working late, the gym, and adult responsibilities, there isn’t much time left over. But somehow, during a 10-day trip to three cities, we made it everywhere we wanted to go. So whether it’s working my ass off or lounging in my PJs, with a lot of hustle and a little less sleep, I can make a lot happen in 24 hours. I will find the time to make it to all of my life’s destinations—just like I did during my travels. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some time to go waste.

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A Letter to 2013

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Dear 2013,

You were a year I will never forget. Unexpected, really; you were supposed to be just another space somewhere between starting the rest of my life and living it.

Instead, I drank margaritas in Cabo. Wrote my ass off on the 36th floor. Found strength in the arms of my girlfriends. Swam with dolphins in Jamaica. Built resilience in the gym. Cried on 59th street. Laughed on 78th. Ran with my nephew in the pumpkin patch. Moved–alone–to the Upper East Side. Danced with Beyonce and Jay-z (!) at Christie’s. Held hands at the zoo in DC. Cracked up with my co-workers in the cubicle. Surprised my mom at the airport. Celebrated the Ravens in Baltimore. Peeled stickers off my butt in the Hamptons. Watched fireworks on the roof. Swam with my dad in Mexico. Hugged Minnie at Disneyland. Had my heart broken in Central Park. Sang “Empire State of Mind” in Yankee Stadium.  Got a tattoo in Brooklyn. Welcomed my sister to New York. Discovered peace in the bathtub. Partied with those same girlfriends…all over. And felt God in every single place.

And that’s only the beginning of the list. Now, I realize: I never should’ve thought you would be regular, or boring. Because each one of those moments were sparks–no matter how dim or how bright–that lit up my life. So thank you, 2013. Because of you, I can’t wait to shine in 2014.

xo Arianna

Island Girl

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“Where do you live?” is usually one of the first questions you get when you meet someone new in New York. When I answer “Roosevelt Island,” I always get a blank stare, followed by one of two responses:

“Where the heck is that?”

Or,

“Is that that place with the tram? People actually live there?”

Most people usually answer the question by rattling off important sounding cross streets, or insisting they love their Brooklyn neighborhood despite the horrific commute. So, the anomaly that is my little island throws New Yorkers for a loop. Allow me to explain: Roosevelt Island is a two-mile, narrow sliver of land that sits between Manhattan and Queens. It’s technically part of the borough of Manhattan, but it has its own name and zip code. I’ve met plenty of native New Yorkers who have lived in the city their whole lives and never even heard of it. Formerly home to both a state penitentiary and an insane asylum, the island’s got quite the history, but these days it’s home to a pretty diverse population of more than 9,000. And because of its small size, there’s pretty much only one of everything: one Duane Reade, one Starbucks, one dry cleaners, one grocery store, etc. And guess what the main street of the island is named? You guessed it: Main Street.

When my New York friends visit me or hear about the lack of typically New York-ish things in my neighborhood, they aren’t shy about questioning my decision to live on the island. Call me a romantic, but its quirkiness is just what I love about it: it’s got a story, it’s got personality, and it can be breathtakingly beautiful. A walk home for me means strolling along the water, getting a break from the city while at the same time taking a step back and appreciating the view of its twinkling lights. The aerial tramway that takes you across the Queensboro Bridge from the island to the city is a really unique way of looking at both NYC and Queens. And—wait for it—at one end of the island, there’s a lighthouse. A lighthouse! Come on, you don’t get much more storybook than that.

But I get why it’s not for everyone. Some people thrive on having New York’s noisy traffic and bars right outside their front door, or being able to have the prestige of a certain address. And don’t get me wrong—there are downsides to living on the island. Like, if the F train is down, the only other option is taking the tram over. And the fact that there is only one grocery store on the island means food shopping can get pricey. But every time I start to get frustrated with those aspects and think that after three years, maybe it is time for me to move, a walk along the water during a summer sunset or sitting with a book down by the lighthouse in the fall reminds me that me and this place were just meant to be together.

And each season, I’m seeing more and more that I’m not the only one enamored with the area. Pier NYC, a new, seasonal food-and-booze joint with cute little tables and umbrellas just opened down on the water this past weekend, and it’s drawing big crowds looking for a summer margarita with a great view. And with the island finally offering food truck permits, some fun foodie bites are coming our way, like the Italian mobile eatery Eddie’s Pizza. But while those are some great additions, I wouldn’t mind leaving the island just as it is. I work in the city and I party in the city—so for now, I’m just fine with leaving the Manhattan bells and whistles behind to come home to a little peace, quiet, and Roosevelt Island charm.

Body Odor: The Subway Rider’s Worst Nightmare

image courtesy of herbalgranny.com

Living in New York, this is just something that I absolutely have to address: subway body odor etiquette.

Picture it: you’re on the train during the morning commute. You are hoping for a relatively easy ride while you get your mind together before a day of work, daydreaming about the morning latte you will pick up on your way. You are lost in thought as the music in your earphones pounds away when suddenly, it hits you: the pungent, unmistakable smell of body odor.

Your heart starts to quicken as you look around and realize that the car is too packed for you to try to escape the smell. Besides, you have no idea where it might be coming from: could it be the slightly overweight man sitting on the seat in front of you? The young woman and her daughter holding onto the pole next to you? Or the grungy teenager leaning against the door who looks like he hasn’t showered in days?

This is, unfortunately, a more than common occurrence for me on the subway. And when it happens, there are two disturbing things I’ve noticed other subway riders do when the train odor is so putrid that it’s unmistakable that every person smells it, and both are attempts at some type of etiquette or politeness. The first is when people try to discreetly place their hand under their nose as if they are embarrassed to admit that they, too, notice the horribly strong odor in the air. The second is when people sit there going about their lives, acting as though the smell in the air isn’t making their eyes tear and prompting their gag reflexes.

Why are these two choices of action by commuters disturbing to me? Because HELLO!? If you don’t make your distaste and uncomfortableness known, then the culprit of the body odor will never realize that they either need to a) take a long, thorough shower b) wear some much stronger deodorant or c) perhaps not wear the same shirt 5 days in a row. So what do I do when I smell some horribly strong B.O. on the train? I dramatically cough and wave my hand in front of my face and plug my nose with two fingers, because these actions will help the B.O. perpetrator realize that they need to take some immediate action. It will hopefully open their eyes to the notion that their despicable personal hygiene is offensive to the people in society, especially in a city where people are constantly trapped together in small spaces as they try to get from Point A to Point B.

If one person sees the people around them all obviously smell something terrible, and that person doesn’t smell anything bad themselves, then perhaps they will take a minute to think about the fact that it could be them, which will hopefully prompt them to head to the nearest Duane Reade immediately and pick-up some extra personal hygiene tools.

Welcome to Harlem, Target!

All week, Manhattan has been abuzz with the news: we’re getting a Target. I’ve never been ashamed to say that I love Target (or Targé, as my mom pronounces it when she’s trying to make it sound more upscale). There are so many great finds, from clothing to decorating, that when I learned I was invited to a preview of the new store, I had no problem venturing over to East Harlem for the event. (Sidenote: yes, I said venturing…I’ll admit, I’ve become quite spoiled by my 2-stop commute to work everyday, so anything involving switching trains or a long ride feels like a trek to me!)

When I was invited, I had no idea what to expect. So when I walked in for the preview and was greeted with free-flowing wine, performances by the likes of Yerba Buena and Doug E. Fresh, and soul food and Puerto Rican cuisine (and yes, I do notice the irony in the fact that I am half black and half Puerto Rican), I was in awe. Add rubbing elbows with celebs like Russell Simmons & Rev Run, Jerry Seinfeld, Angie Martinez and Tyson Beckford, and you can imagine I was in New-York-event-heaven.

So, the store. It’s located in the new East River Plaza, alongside the Cotsco and Best Buy that recently made their debuts in East Harlem as well. Last night I learned that many feel the addition of this Target is taking away from the neighborhood’s organic, authentic feel, but after talking to community leaders and taking part in the celebration, I honestly feel it’s going to do great things for this area. The store is creating jobs for East Harlemites, has a supermarket with fresh produce in an area that doesn’t have many supermarket options, and is providing an outlet for designers to design exclusive collections that reflect East Harlem’s vibrant Latino and African-American culture.

My review: Designer Stephen Burrows debuted a funky, bright and color blocked collection of casual wear that would be great for a day at the beach or a low-key summer night:

Latino husband-and-wife duo Isabel and Ruben Toledo both designed beach wear for the store. Below, see the beach towel (the design on this towel was one of my favorites of the night) designed by Ruben, and a one strap one-piece designed by Isabel that I didn’t love for myself, but could be cute for someone with a slim build.

photos courtesy of Nylon Magazine

The best part of all? Target is donating 5% of proceeds of the sales from their collaborations with the designers to local charities.

What are your thoughts on the collection, and of megastores making their way into classic community and culturally oriented neighborhoods?

p.s. If you want to be super jealous about an amazing NYC loft, check out this piece Harper’s Bazaar did on Isabel and Ruben Toledo’s apartment…incredible!

p.p.s. A huge thank you to Love Brown Sugar for the hookup to this event!