Not The End Of The World

November 1, 2012 § 3 Comments

I started hearing about the impending hurricane on Friday afternoon, when my editor warned that we might not be able to come into work the next week. I was intrigued, but not worried. On the map, my apartment was located in Zone C, making it unlikely that we would be forced to evacuate.

On Sunday, my roommate Catherine went out to stock up on food in preparation for the Frankenstorm. It took her two hours because the checkout lines extended from the front of the store all the way to the back. When I went out later, I saw that Trader Joe’s had a line to go inside the store, like it was Black Friday. Crazy. I stopped by the nearby Asian grocery store instead to buy some vegetables and cookies. The wind was already whipping down the street as runners squeezed in one last jog.

We spent Monday relaxing at home; I had some articles to work on but applied to jobs instead, which I suppose is better(?). I quickly ran out of cookies. Hurricane Sandy had landed, and I got tired of reading about it after the first three hours. Around 8PM, our lights started flickering. Then they went out. I was somewhat worried, but my laptop and phone were at full power, and I didn’t expect the blackout to last for more than a day or so. What I didn’t know at the time was that we lost electricity not due to a controlled outage, but to a massive explosion at Con Ed that would take way longer than a day to fix.

That night, I went to bed early and watched What To Expect When You’re Expecting (surprisingly funny, but I watched it solely for Chace Crawford, whose storyline was excruciatingly unrealistic and unentertaining) and Disney’s African Cats (cheesy narration/music but incredible footage), figuring that using up my laptop’s battery was fine since I couldn’t do anything else in the dark anyway.

The next morning, I woke up to the sounds of Catherine rushing around the living room while talking on the phone, and I learned that they now expected the power outage to last a week(!!!), and she was planning to head uptown to stay with a friend. I started getting alarmed and texted a few friends who live in New York to see how they were doing. I also called my aunt with hopes of staying with them for a while, but I couldn’t get through and concluded that they must’ve lost power in New Jersey as well.

Catherine cleared out with her daughter early Tuesday afternoon, kindly leaving me with some flashlights and a box of tea lights. All afternoon, I saw people walking around outside, and wondered what they were doing and where they were going. I, on the other hand, spent the whole day eating, reading and sleeping. Seriously, I took two naps and ate three meals in the span of nine hours. It was partly due to the fact that it was really cold in my apartment, and the only warm places were in my bed or by the stove. Fortunately, we still had running (cold) water and gas, so I could try to use up the perishables languishing in the dark fridge. I was incredibly bored and wished I had my GameBoy (an attempted solo game of Scrabble did not pan out as well as expected).

When the sunlight started fading, I lit 11 candles in my room (more matches than I’ve ever used in my entire life) and started reading some of Catherine’s daughter’s picture books because I had finished October’s Vanity Fair. One of the picture books, about a cat living a fabulous New York life, had the word “sexy” in it, as in her neighbor’s male cat had a “sexy smile.” I was really disturbed by the use of that word in a children’s book — I don’t think any child could or should understand the meaning of that word until they learn what sex actually is!

I was trying to conserve my phone’s power, but I briefly called B to have him check my school email for me and found out that class was canceled for the rest of the week. Things were getting serious, and I decided to relocate the next day. I had tired of reading my journalism books, so I picked out a book of short stories from Catherine’s extensive collection to read in bed: Zhang Jie‘s Love Must Not Be Forgotten (1979). The two stories I read were about lost love and kind of depressed me, so I went to sleep a little past midnight.

Despite having slept early and extra amounts the previous day, I woke up at noon on Wednesday. My cell phone signal had been iffy but viable for the past few days, but it was totally gone by the time I got out of bed. I planned to hang out at Esther’s for the day to recharge (and maybe shower…), so after eating a big lunch, I packed up my laptop and charger and headed out. It was 1:30PM.

Five hours later, I finally arrived at Esther’s apartment on 145th Street. Did it really take me that long to travel uptown from East Village to Harlem, a distance of merely 9 miles? (I could’ve driven from Chicago to Des Moines in that time!!) Yes. Yes, it did.

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Won’t Leave Me Alone

October 18, 2012 § 2 Comments

One recurring theme since coming to New York is the unprecedented amount of attention I’ve gotten from strange men, mostly on the streets, mostly (probably) crazy bums. The only time I’ve experienced anything like this was two years ago in Hong Kong, when I was 10 pounds heavier — and thus had bigger breasts — and wore low-cut tops, causing certain people (mostly creepy old men) in HK to behave like they had never seen cleavage before.

On Tuesday afternoon after dropping B off at Newark Airport, I sat on the train on my way back into Manhattan. The inside of the train looked like this, with cushioned benches; the seats on the right can fit three people comfortably while the seats on the left can fit two, if they sit pretty close together. It wasn’t very crowded, and I picked an empty seat on the left, prepared to stare out the window for half an hour (or sleep) while listening to my iPod and wishing my boyfriend wasn’t flying 1,108 miles away from me.

In my peripheral vision, I saw a tall person dressed in black stop next to my seat and hoist his bag onto the shelf above my head. The seats around me were empty. He sat down next to me, and I moved closer to the window, annoyed that of ALL the seats available nearby, he chose mine. Whatever.

The train started moving, and I was gazing out the window, lost in thought, when I felt my neighbor say something to me. I pulled out one earphone and turned my head. He was a thin man, probably in his early to mid-30s, had a receding hairline of wavy black hair, and was somewhat formally dressed in black layers. He asked me if I knew how long it would take for the train to reach Manhattan. “Um, about 30 minutes?” I responded, and that gave him the chance he was so obviously looking for to continue talking to me.

He asked me where I was from. What I did. Where I lived. Out of politeness, I tersely answered his questions and asked him about himself. He was French (he had an accent) and worked as a private chef. He might’ve been handsome if I were old(er) and desperate, who knows. Mr. French Chef gave his game away when I asked if he was visiting New York (he had a suitcase), and he said that he had lived there for three years. WTF! As if he didn’t know how long the train would take!! I scoffed (internally), incredulous, and put my earphone back in once the brief conversation stopped, but he kept trying to talk to me. CAN I PLEASE JUST THINK ABOUT MY BOYFRIEND IN PEACE, I thought.

But no. He clearly had an agenda — he walked in from the back of the car, which meant he probably followed me onto the train, and deliberately chose to sit next to me so he could chat me up for half an hour. So he wasn’t going to take a hint.

He was telling me about how his friends open art galleries often in the NYU area, and how he likes to attend those events, and did I like to drink wine? Ugh. Then, as the train was nearing New York Penn Station, he gave me his business card and asked for my name and number, which I actually gave him because I guess I’m a crazy person. (Actually it’s because I’m bad at saying no and/or improvising my way out of unwanted situations.) Then I speed-walked off the train and out of the station because I was kind of freaked out.

As I scuttled toward the Herald Square subway station, I felt a wave of self-loathing. I hated myself for being too polite, for not having the courage to say “Please leave me alone,” for actually giving some weirdo my phone number. And maybe he’s actually a really cool dude and an amazing chef (or “l’Architecte du Gout©,” as it says on his business card). As a journalist, I thought, hey, maybe this guy has an interesting story that I could listen to over some wine, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is the guilt I felt for not being able to stand up for myself and knowing that if I related this experience to anybody else, they would probably respond “Well, you should’ve just ignored him.”

Why? What is wrong with me? And is it even right to believe that there’s something wrong with me at all? Is it irresponsible to blame “society” for raising me to be nice to people who creep me out?

He texted me before I reached my apartment.

Hi Laura
Was a pleasure to meet !
I will give you a ring sometime this week!!
Have a nice day !!!

I didn’t respond this time.

The website doesn’t work.

The First Bits And Pieces

September 20, 2012 § 8 Comments

It’s been almost three weeks since I moved to New York City. (If you feel like I’ve been here forever, it’s because I was squatting at my aunt’s house in NJ for all of August.) I’ve already experienced so much, so I do believe it’s time for an update!


The evening of Labor Day, my father and I drove from NJ to Manhattan and hauled all my belongings up four flights of narrow stairs. We also brought an old twin-sized bed that had been languishing in the cobweb-ridden guest room of my aunt’s house. My furniture situation is a bit unique because at the moment, I’m using the bed, shelves, nightstand and window curtains of the previous tenant. She doesn’t need her things until mid-October, and I figured I’d save her the trouble of having to shove them all into storage. Eventually, I’ll have to reconstruct my bed frame and acquire my own table and shelves. Hopefully by then I’ll have befriended some strong people to help me bring furniture back to my place.

Why yes, my favorite color IS pink.

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