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.

 

An Ode to Kanye’s “The College Dropout”

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Yeezus concert, Madison Square Garden, 11/24/13

10 years ago, I was that high school kid riding the bus to school every day when all of her friends had cars. The ride was about an hour each way, and to fill those two hours, I’d listen to music. Discman in hand (Yes, Discman—it was the Stone Ages…) I’d sit with my knees pressed against my chest, listening to mixes I’d created from downloads and my parents’ CDs.

I learned that certain albums would become the soundtrack for different parts of my life, and Kanye West’s The College Dropout set the tone for the latter half of high school. I’d never heard a record like it: His distinct voice and lyrical wit gave a breath of new life to samples from artists like Marvin Gaye and Chaka Khan. The passion I felt as he rapped with a wired-shut jaw on “Through the Wire” gave me goosebumps. “Spaceship” helped me get through long days in classes I didn’t care about. “We Just Don’t Care,” became my anthem for hope, and of course, “All Falls Down” was full of aha-moment gems like: “It seems we living the American dream, but the people highest up got the lowest self-esteem.”

And so, thanks to those early morning bus rides, my love affair with ’Ye began. A decade later, I’ve seen him perform live six times. Late Registration became (ironically) the soundtrack for my freshman year of college; Graduation, for early morning inspiration; 808s and Heartbreak for the laying-in-the-dark emo moments (hey, you know you have them too!); My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy for long walks in the city, and Yeezus for intense workouts at the gym.

Rants and Kardashians aside (although, full disclosure: I love a good Kanye rant, and I’m maybe, kinda, sorta coming around to him and Kim) Kanye is, as he himself has pointed out to all of us, a genius. His music has helped me feel confident enough to dream out loud, to go against the grain, and to be my own biggest champion—and it all started with an album that’s just as relevant today as it was ten years ago. Now that’s a classic.

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

The Curious Case of Writer’s Block

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photo © Calvin and Hobbes

I haven’t been writing. I could blame it on the whirlwind of life after turning 25: A promotion at work, trips home to Maryland, surviving Hurricane Sandy, the holidays, a Ravens Superbowl Win (!).

But if I’m being honest, I’ve had a horrible, dire case of writer’s block. It’s a pretty strange concept for me; My entire life, I’ve written. I wrote stories and plays as a kid, poetry as a high schooler, essays in college and the beginnings of many (admittedly bad) novels after graduation. And I’ve been a blogger since high school, and since then I’ve blogged and blogged and blogged, up until…I just stopped.

According to my self-diagnosis, the cause of my illness is that I’m now doing lots of writing for work. And don’t get me wrong, I am loving it—I’m living the American writer’s dream of getting paid to brainstorm and write and edit, and it’s great fun. But by the time I get home and want to put some thoughts down just for me, all the ideas and creativity have been soaked up.

My condition got so bad that I decided to check out the Gotham Writer’s Creative Writing Workshop one Saturday last month. It was brilliant: Someone giving me innovative assignments that inspired me to finally bring to life all the characters that run around in my head.

During our lunch break, I walked around the neighborhood and came across the Church of St. Francis Xavier. It’s a breathtaking, baroque-style church, and the architecture was so stunning that I had to peek inside. I was surprised to catch sight of a bride, fluffing up her white veil with her left hand, a bouquet of red roses in her right, before the doors closed. Through the glass, I could see a procession of bridesmaids in scarlet dresses making their way down the aisle in front of her, and next to her, a silver-haired man in a black tuxedo raised his hand to wipe away a tear.

It was the kind of New York moment I instantly knew I’d never forget—and it also made me desperately miss my blog. It reminded me that there are too many fantastic things happening every minute in this city, and that I want to share as many of them here as I can. So, I’ve decided, the treatment for said case of writer’s block shall be: Just freakin’ blog, already. I’m back and ready to write. For real, this time. See you soon.
xx AGD