Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Top 12 Things I Miss About the South

I've been up here long enough to start missing some things about the South. Of course, there are definitely some things I will miss about New York once I leave, but I'll save that for another post. Here's why I love the South...

1. My family, friends and community. This one goes without saying.
2. Lakes and pools.
  • There aren't any lakes up here, and if there were, I don't know that it would be safe to swim in them. There's no telling what's in there. 
  • There are public pools, but it's a very different experience. Lots of rules are involved. First off, you have to buy a lock (or bring your own) for the locker, and then lock all your belongings up. You aren't usually allowed to bring in food. You can bring a towel, your keys, your phone and a book. No electronics are allowed on the pool deck (i.e. iPod and phone). I haven't been yet, but I've heard they are somewhat crowded and many people lay out on the concrete due to the lack of chairs. 
3. Chick-fil-a.
  • Yes, this deserves the number three spot on my list. It maybe should have been number two. Apparently, there is a Chick-fil-a in the NYU food court, but I haven't tried it out yet. Of course, they don't make any of the food there, but it might be better than nothing. 
4. The convenience of having a washer and dryer.
  • People don't have washers in dryers in their apartments. A few might, but the majority don't.  I'm very fortunate to have a laundry room in the basement of my building, but many New Yorkers have to lug their clothes to a laundromat to do laundry. I used the word "lug" on purpose because plenty of apartment buildings are without elevators (not mine), and you may have to walk a few blocks to a nearby laundromat. 
5. A dishwasher.
  • Again, not many apartments are equipped with a dishwasher. I've lived without a dishwasher before, and it's not a huge deal, but it's a very nice thing to have :)
6. Home cooked meals.
  • Both of my parents are great cooks, and my Dad loves to make gourmet meals on the weekends. My mom always keeps me in the loop about the new recipes he tests out, and it makes me want to be there so bad. I enjoy cooking, but cooking for one person isn't always the easiest or most convenient thing when you have a small kitchen and don't get home until seven or later every night. Let's just say I lack my usual inspiration up here. New York does that to you. I usually cook once or twice a week and will make a big meal that will supply me with plenty of leftovers. 
7. A car. However, there are pros and cons to the subway. 
  • Pros: It's nice to be able to read everyday on my way to work. My commute is about 40 minutes, and this is very normal for New Yorkers. Unless you happen to live within walking distance of your job, most people have a thirty minute to hour long commute regardless of where you live. I only live five or six miles from work, but I still have a nice little commute. 
  • Cons: While I enjoy not having to drive 40 minutes, there are definitely some down sides to the subway. No matter where I go, I always allow myself 20 minutes to go somewhere, even if it's just one or two stops away. You never know how long you'll have to wait for the train, so you always want to give yourself plenty of time. When I'm traveling to and from work, I rarely have to wait more than two or three minutes, but the trains run less frequently on nights and weekends. This is when I really miss the convenience of being able to hop in my car and drive to the grocery store a mile down the road. 
8. The cost of living.
  • Don't even get me started about how much everyone pays in rent up here. Unless you're super rich, no one owns any real estate. If you want to live anywhere in Manhattan, you either need to a) be okay with having a tiny little apartment - I'm talking a bedroom the size of a walk-in closet or b) be willing to fork up a good bit of money. This means a minimum of $1200 a month - and that's with several roommates. 
  • Food can be a bit pricier as well, especially when eating out. I've done my research and found several places I can eat at without paying a ton, but you can end up spending a lot on food if you're not careful. The main grocery stores people go to are Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, and Trader Joe's has a reputation of being the cheapest grocery store in the city. There are a few supermarkets, but nothing near as big as Bi-Lo, Publix, Ingles, etc. The supermarkets tend to be a little on the pricier side. 
9. The work-life balance. 
  • As a whole, Americans are known for not being able to relax and disconnect. It's SO much worse up here. It might not like this in all professions, but corporate culture up here is very intense. People definitely work hard in the South, but for New Yorkers, work is their life. I honestly don't know how they balance it all. 
10. Southern gentlemen.
  • First off, New Yorkers aren't rude, regardless of any stereotypes associated with "Yankees." It's just different up here. I don't think people are always aware of their surroundings. Everyone's worried about where they need to be and are lost in thoughts of their own. That being said, I definitely miss always having the door opened for me. There are also many times that I'm standing on the subway and can't help but wish one of the many men around me would give up their seat. Or give up their seat for the elderly lady standing up. Those kinds of things wouldn't happen in the South. But like I said, it's just different up here. People don't expect to have the door opened for them. They don't expect someone to give up their seat on the subway. But that's okay. It's not looked at as an insult up here, it's just their way of life, and you have to accept that.
11. Fresh air.
  • New York is full of all kinds of smells, and not all of them are great. I can't wait to breathe the fresh, albeit humid, air down South. 
12. Cleanliness.
  • You just can't think about all the germs floating around up here or you'll drive yourself crazy. The sidewalks are far from clean. I don't want to know how many people have touched the bars in the subway. Like I said, you can't think about it.
And there you have it! I'll post a list of things I'll miss about New York soon! 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

If you know me well at all, you know that I'm a little bit of a choir nerd. I've sung in multiple choirs for the past six years, and I met some of my dearest friends in the choirs I sang in at Clemson. My non-choir friends know my choir friends as my "singing friends." There's nothing quite like being a part of a group of talented people who love to sing as much as yourself.

I went to church at the Brooklyn Tabernacle this morning, which is a church well-known for it's church choir, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. The Brooklyn Tablenacle Choir is directed by the pastor's wife and is made up of 280 voices. The choir is mostly composed of church members with no formal vocal training, but you would never know that listening to them. They've won five Dove awards and six Grammy awards and have also performed at Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall and the Madison Square Garden Theater.

Here's a few clips of the choir singing to give you an idea of what they sound like. I think both of these clips may be from a concert or something, because no one was dressed like this today. There were no choir robes to be found, and everyone was wearing normal, everyday clothes.

Not sure why these have subtitles, but there surprisingly weren't a ton of videos on YouTube. 

The choir nerd in me loved it so much. Some of the soloists were ridiculously talented. I had heard of the choir before, but my Mema really wanted me to go hear them sing while I was up here. One of the first things she said to me when I found out I was moving up was "oh Laura, you have to see the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir while you're up there." So cute. 

If you're ever up here, I definitely recommend stopping in on a Sunday! 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Fam in NYC

My goodness, what a crazy week it's been! Like I mentioned earlier, my family (plus Andrew and Katie) came up last weekend. We had a great time, but we were all exhausted by the end of the it. Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to recover as I had to be at work bright and early on Monday morning, but I finally feel like my schedule is getting back to normal. 

So the fam flew in on Thursday. I met them on Thursday night and was able to take Friday off of work. I have one summer Friday to take off during my time here, so it worked out really well. It was SO good to see everyone on Thursday night. 
Our first picture in five weeks - way too long!

I met everyone near Rockefeller Center and we headed down to the Lower East Side to eat. We ate Cafe Habana, which is a neat little Cuban place famous for their grilled corn on the cob smothered in feta cheese, aka "Mexican corn." It may sound weird, but it was delicious.

After dinner, we wandered over to SoHo and got a cupcake from Georgetown Cupcake. My sister and I watch the show DC Cupcakes a good bit, so I wanted to make sure she got a cupcake from their SoHo location. I tried the Key Lime Pie cupcake this time - so delicious. 

On Friday, we woke up pretty early and headed to Times Square to stand in line for Jersey Boys tickets. We were able to get really cheap tickets with our student ID's, and since we were able to buy two tickets per ID, we were able to get my parents student tickets as well. 

Waiting in line for tickets. 

After snagging our tickets, we walked around Times Square a little and then headed to Madison Square Park to eat at Shake Shack. I work right by Madison Square Park, so I see the ridiculous line for Shake Shack every single day and knew we needed to get there early. We got there at 11:15 and still had to wait for 45 minutes! Isn't that crazy? By the time we left, the line was twice as long. It's literally like that every single day, all day long. I don't know how people have the time to stand in that line. However, the food was delicious, and it was on my bucket list of things to do while I'm here. 

Me, Caroline and Katie in the castle at the Disney store in Times Square. 

Katie and I in the Barbie house in Toys R Us - can you tell we like fairytales/princesses?

We spent the afternoon at the 9/11 Memorial, and then headed back to Times Square to eat at Carmine's. Carmine's is a famous Italian restaurant that serves all their dishes family style, meaning you order a few things for the table and they bring them out on huge platters. It was so yummy. If you're ever in NYC with a group, I definitely recommend going there. You get a ton of food and it's not super expensive. 

Does it seem like our trip revolved around food? Well, it kinda did. We had quite a few foodies among us, myself included. 

We saw Jersey Boys that night and it was so great. Loved it. 

On Saturday morning, my mom, Katie and me went wedding dress shopping! Up until this point, my mom hadn't seen any dresses on me because I had done all my shopping in NY. I'm glad she was able to shop with me a little, and I actually ended up buying my dress! 

For lunch on Saturday, we went to a restaurant called Pommes Frites.  I don't know if I would consider it a full-service restaurant because they only serve french fries. Huge french fries. With tons of different sauces. We ordered two large orders for all of us (which was plenty) and got several different sauces to try. I definitely recommend going there if you're in NYC - very unique. 

On Saturday night, we wandered through Chelsea Market and strolled along the High Line, ultimately ending up at Chelsea Pier. 
Sunset at Chelsea Pier

On Sunday, we had a cute little brunch at place on the Upper West Side called Cafe con Leche. Brunch is huge up here, so I wanted to make sure they got a complete NYC experience. After brunch, we decided to visit the Museum of Natural History because there was a possibility of rain. NYC is MISERABLE in the rain, so it was good to have a backup. It didn't end up raining during the day (thankfully!), but we still had fun at the museum. 

Of course, I had to take a picture with the leopard display. If you know me at all, you know that I love animal print, particularly leopard print. Thankfully, I was wearing my new leopard shorts that day - perfect photo op. 

We rode down to Canal Street on Sunday afternoon just for the experience, but I honestly don't like going to Chinatown. Canal Street and Times Square are both SO crowded. Andrew and I split off from the family and actually got our engagement pictures done on Sunday night. My roommate up here is a photographer, and we had so much fun taking them. Maybe I will be able to share some of them in my next post :)

That's all for now - this girl is sleepy!

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Brooklyn Bound

It’s hard to believe I will have been in the city one month tomorrow. As of this weekend, I’m officially living in Brooklyn. I mentioned this in an earlier post, but I’ve been living at a place called the Webster since I’ve been here. However, now I am subleasing a room in a cute little Brooklyn apartment from a friend-of-a-friend. There are pros and cons to both living situations, but I’m excited to live in a New York apartment. Let me start by telling you a little bit about the Webster….

  • It's basically an all-girl dorm in the heart of the city. Sounds a little sketchy, but it's not so bad. There are actually a few of them dispersed throughout the city. The attraction? You pay reasonable rent (for Manhattan), pay your rent weekly (no lease - frees you up to move if you find your apartment), and your rent includes two meals a day. 
  •  You get your own room with a sink, but have a communal bathroom. 
  • It's the perfect place for interns, students, or single women just starting out in the city. However, there are older women there as well, some of them who have lived there for decades. A little weird. 
  • It's SUPER old school. They don't use email. You have to call and request for them to mail you an application, and then you fill it out and mail it back. 
  • In addition to having your meals cooked for you in the cafeteria downstairs, you also have a maid who comes and cleans your room everyday. 
  • There's a BEAUTIFUL rooftop garden with a stunning view of the city. I've posted pictures taken from it in previous posts. 
  • No AC in the rooms. You can pay $250 to get a window unit installed for the summer, but since I was only going to be there a month, I decided to stick it out. I opened my window most days, and I had a fan to keep the air circulating. There were only two nights when I was super hot at night. It's very rare for apartments up here have central air. The majority of apartment buildings have window units, but it's not unusual for a building not to have air at all. 
  • They have "beau parlors" for you to entertain men, who aren't allowed past the first floor. I told you it was old school. However, these little parlors are adorable. Here's a picture of one:

Here's a picture of my little room:
It's not much, but it was fine for the time being.

One great thing about living at the Webster was the location. It's located on 34th, and for those of you who aren't familiar with NY, that's the street the Macy's parade is on. Macy's is a few avenues away. 

Here's a picture of my new room in Brooklyn:

I love it. My Brooklyn apartment also has several window units, which I'm very excited about. It's extremely different in Brooklyn, but I'm excited to get to know another borough of NYC. It's definitely more of a commute, but I think I will get used to it. 

Living in an apartment means I have to buy groceries now. Buying groceries in the city is much different than back home. You only buy as much as you can carry. Also, like everything else, groceries are much more expensive up here. Trader Joe's is probably the most reasonable place, and their prices are about the same as back home. I made my first trip there tonight and was completely overwhelmed. Right when I walked in door, I saw a guy holding a sign that said "line ends here." He was standing right by the entrance, and I quickly realized the line wrapped all the way around the store. After trying to weave in and out of people in line, I found out the best method was to get the stuff I needed from the center aisles, head to the back of the line, and then pick up items from the outer aisles as I walked by them while waiting in line. 

In other news, I got to celebrate 4th of July in the city this week! To be honest, I would have much  rather been down South, soaking up the rays at the lake with my family. It was fun to be in NYC, but I miss having bodies of water nearby. It's still pretty hot up here, and I don't love spending tons of time in the heat if I don't have relief from the heat in the form of a pool, beach or lake. 

I did get to watch the Macy's fireworks show. It was really neat to watch, but there were so many people. Here's a glimpse of the crowds. 

Between trips from Manhattan to Brooklyn this weekend, I made time to go to Chinatown and Little Italy. My friend and I ate at a wonderful restaurant in Little Italy. The best part? We ate supper super early, around 5, and we were still offered the lunch menu. The restaurant was so cute, and tuxedo-clad waiters came and scraped the crumbs off our table when we were done.

Bread from our Italian lunch. Does that just look delicious? It was so yummy.

I also went to church in Brooklyn this morning with my roommate, and the pastor of the church actually grew up in Greenville! I get so excited when I meet people from the South up here, much less from my hometown. It makes me feel like the city isn't so big after all. 

My family comes in on Thursday, and I couldn't be more excited! I'm sure I will have some stories to tell from their visit. 

Hope you all had a great weekend!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Dialogue in the Dark

Work. Exploring NYC. Shopping.

That pretty much sums up my week. 

I also got to experience NYC through a blind person's eyes. No pun intended. 

Let me explain. 

On Friday, I went to an exhibition called Dialogue in the Dark. My work does something called Parks and Recreation every so often, which are fun activities that various employees plan in order to get to know other employees better. It's not a company-wide event, but rather is a smaller group that gets to participate. In the past, they have gone to concerts, taken a Broadway dance class and done other fun things. It's first-come, first-served, so you basically have to be sitting at your desk when the email comes through and respond right away to get in on it. On Friday, they had a spot open up last minute so I decided I would go. 

 Dialogue in the Dark is an experience in total darkness where participants embark on a simulation of NYC. Of course, you're not actually walking the streets of the city with a blindfold, but rather go through a series of pitch black rooms while being guided by a tour guide, who happens to be an actual blind person. The rooms you go through are set up like different parts of the city - Central Park, a grocery store, the subway, Times Square and a restaurant. 

The rooms were amazing. Central Park was filled with trees, stones, fountains and the sounds of birds chirping. We even had to cross over a bridge. The room smelled of fresh air, and the only things missing were the crowds and our sense of sight. 

After visiting the park, we experienced what a grocery store would be like as a blind person. Our tour guide, Romeo, made us pick up many different objects (real food) and identify what they were. They even had a freezer with frozen foods in it. We made our way to the subway station next, which was so weird to experience in the dark. I can't imagine navigating through the terminal as a blind person. We arrived at Times Square and were met with the smells of hot pretzels and roasted peanuts. We headed over to a diner after getting our dose of Times Square and were allowed to ask Romeo any questions about being blind. It was so interesting and insightful to hear him tell us about his life. 

Throughout the tour, I was amazed at how quickly Romeo not only learned our names (there were 8 of us), but also learned our voices and knew who we were by simply guiding us in the right direction with his hands. It was unbelievable. 

On Saturday, I finally went up to Central Park. My family (plus Andrew and Katie) is coming up in two weeks, so I have been trying to visit different parks of the city so I can have places to take them. I'm a little concerned about transportation when they come up. I can just picture me trying to direct all 6 of them around the subway terminals among the crowds of people in NYC. We might not all get to the right place in the most orderly fashion, but I'm sure we will have some stories along the way. 

On Saturday night, one of the other interns and I headed to Times Square to see if we could find any last minute student tickets for a show. We ended up getting student tickets for CHICAGO. We paid student price, but I'm pretty sure the box office guy did not give us student tickets. We ended up near the center on the 13th row - great seats. I think he felt sorry for us because we were still looking for tickets an hour before show time. 

I went to Hillsong NYC again this morning and ended the day by heading over to Macy's. I walk by it almost every single day, but haven't actually taken the time to look around. Since it's 9 floors, I knew I needed to go on a day when I had some time to look around. As I was getting ready to leave, I made a last minute decision to go up one more floor and check out the shoes. Good/bad news - they were having a huge sale. Racks and racks of shoes on clearance. Every time I thought I have seen them all, I realized there was another section that I had missed. I tried on a lot of shoes, but ended up walking out with only one pair and $20 less in my bank account. Not too bad. 

Hope you all had a great weekend! I've heard it's been hot in SC thanks to all your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram pictures of the thermometer :)