Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Where everybody knows your name...

I'm on a first-name basis with Abraham, the man who works at the 24-hour bodega on my block. He gives me relationship advice (and a free mini Toblerone once). I exchange daily waives with the ladies at the nail salon down the street. They ask to see pictures of my new niece. And last week the barista at the Starbucks near work actually remembered my usual order. This can only mean one thing (well, other than confirmation I'm spending way too much on manicures and lattes): I'm a New Yorker, a real one. It happened. Orange to apple.

I'll celebrate the two year anniversary of my move to New York in a couple weeks. So, naturally, I'm tempted to take a wistful look back.

During my first lonely weeks here two years ago, I would have paid big bucks for the man at my neighborhood bodega to remember my name, let alone keep the freezer section stocked with Ben & Jerry's Half-Baked Fro Yo (guilty). I can remember Saturday afternoons when I would literally walk slump-shouldered down the East Village, staring enviously at restaurant tables stuffed with groups of friends brunching, laughing, planning fabulous group activities. It was weird. I was sad and lonely and jealous of groups of strangers. I missed my friends.

This city can be painfully anonymous. But last week after the Starbucks man smiled and yelled "tall soy latte" before I said anything at the counter, and a couple weeks ago when Abraham asked if I missed my ex-boyfriend who moved to Colorado, the city felt anything but anonymous. It took me a hot second, but I think I've finally carved out a life, a wedge in this apple where everybody knows my name (and they're always glad you came...) It's my city too.

I can sincerely say that these days I'm pretty much in love with New York. It's a romance that took time and effort. It took patience and sense of humor. Because you can't really love or even like it here until you feel loved by the people here.

Happy Anniversary.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Ole Ole Ole Ole

It was hardly 7:15am Thursday. I pried one eye open after my cell phone buzzed so many times it nearly scooted off my night table. Missed texts and emails from dad, brother and mom. It took about 5 seconds for my sleepy brain to process.

"Oh my God, the game!" I flopped out of my lofted bed, ran into the living room and scrambled for the remote control. Argentina vs. South Korea, 7:30AM ET.

The photo texts buzzed through all morning.

7:16am: Picture of Mom in an Argentina jersey and white and blue alpargatas standing next to a life size cut out of Diego Maradona (team coach and hands down best soccer play to ever live).

7:22am: Image of my brother in an Argentina jersey cradling my month-old niece wearing an Argentina onesi.
7:55am: Pic of Dad sporting an Argentina jersey and blue and white striped afro
9:11am: Photo of Mom and Dad cheering
And later after we win (4-1!!)...
12:46pm: Shot of Abuela & Abuelo huddled around the television cheering.

The World Cup is a very big deal among us Garcias (as it is for every other member of this planet other than silly Americans). I'll never forget an early morning during the 2002 South Korea/Japan World Cup when my dad woke me up at 4:30am to sit wrapped in the Argentina flag while the team ran out onto the field, out of respect--then I could go back to bed.

Can you blame him? We're the best team in the world.

Vamos, vamos Argentina! Vamos, vamos a ganar!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

sweet gushy goey goodness

I'm a big fan of Bob from the purchasing department.

Bob is responsible for ordering every morsel of food used at the landmark restaurant where I work. He mans our giant pantry and fridge, a veritable foodie dream world (larger then my current apartment) filled with the best ingredients from all over the world- fresh truffle, towers of caviar, $40 jars of honey, every spice you can dream up and the freshest fruit flown in weekly.

I fancy Bob because he uses his pantry power for good and drops edible surprises on my desk when I seem to need them most. During the fall, it's perfectly crisp apples. During the winter and spring, gushing cara cara oranges. In the summer- drum roll please- peaches so good they'll restore your faith in man.

I was on the phone this morning when Bob rolled a rosy little peach onto my desk. I interrupted the call to yelp. Nothing's better than a summer peach from Bob.

Later my Tuesday got even tastier. My boss treated my coworker and me to Chinese lychee. I'm familiar with the fruit but I had never peeled into a fresh one. The gooey flesh under it's bumpy skin burst like a plum when I bit into it. More refreshing than sweet, it's the kind of thing I can eat 20 of before noticing (like edamame and Twizzlers.)

Later, I took an extra lap past the pastry side of our kitchen to sneak a mini chocolate ball filled with pistachio mousse. Three indulgent reasons a gal like me probably shouldn't work at a restaurant.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Five O'Clock Somewhere

I know everybody everywhere happy hours. But do you sip after-work brewskis at a roof top bar under the legendary Empire State Building?

I snapped these cell phone photos from Sun Roof, a 14-th floor roof bar in Midtown West located in the shadow of the 102-story landmark. No King Kong, Meg Ryan or Tom Hanks sightings but the breeze and view from up there made it a pretty stellar spot to end my work week. Only in the Empire State.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Getting my rooftop on...

A few weeks shy of the official start of summer and I'm beginning to remember just how bitter sweet the season can be in the city. The heat here is relentless. Warm air coats the boiling streets. It's sticky hot outside, worse commuting underground and even when you finally reach the indoors, without central air chugging away you're always at least 10 minutes away from relief.

Yes, it'll get pretty gross during the next couple months, but this crazy city can't help but find perfectly unique ways to redeem itself. Restaurants open sidewalk seating, patios, rooftops and beer gardens. (The pic above was snapped Monday night from the rooftop at the Gansevoort Hotel overlooking the Hudson River.) Parks host outdoor movie screenings and concerts. People picnic, toss Frisbees, rent bikes, throw parties and incorporate chilled alcoholic beverages into it all-- anything to keep us out of our sizzling shoebox apartments.

I get to know the city best during the summer. So even if I wake up sweaty most mornings and even if I curse every boiling block of cement I walk to work, I'm looking forward to an extra hot one.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


My family's crazy.

The good crazy. The kind of crazy that makes me laugh until my cheeks hurt at family gatherings. The kind of crazy that makes spontaneous post-dinner dance parties (complete with conga lines through the living room) a relatively normal occurrence. The kind of crazy that can only come from unconditional love (and an Argentinian background). I'm proud and appreciative. But some days (Sunday) certain loved ones (Mom) go too far.

I rolled the dice and invited a guy I've been dating casually for the last several weeks to lunch with the family. My mom was visiting from Florida. My sister just moved to the city. My brother and his wife (brand new parents) were willing to leave their apartment for the first time in weeks. Despite the relative newness of my "relationship" with (lets call him) Bob I felt comfortable saying yes to my mom's request to meet him. Like I said, I'm usually pretty proud of my nutty family. Their antics are always entertaining, and I knew Bob could handle it.

We met for lunch at Perry St. in the West Village, a Jean Georges restaurant that takes itself a nudge too seriously but the food is fantastic. I ordered a steak. Since I started working at a 3-star restaurant and at least pretending to be a part of New York's City's foodie culture, I've adjusted some of my ordering habits. The chef I work with taught me that a good steak should be enjoyed medium rare so that's how I ordered it. And that's how it came, pink and juicy. We were all ready to dig in, family plus Bob.

My always-opinionated mother took one look and proclaimed in her extra loud accented English...

"Ju know, Vanessa, ju really shouldn't eat it so rare. Remember a couple weeks ago you had bad diarrhea."

Just like that, she dropped the d word. She screamed the d word.

The table erupted in laughter. I dropped my fork, turned red and melted into the back of Bob's chair. Really, Mom? Really?

She wasn't done.

"I'm just saying, ju should be careful because..."
"Mom, stop."
"You eat these things and your stomach is sensitive and..."
"Mom, please."
"I'm just saying, it can make ju sick."

My sister changed the subject. I regained normal coloring in my face a few minutes later. Bob obviously didn't care (though I'm sure some of the mystique of our new romance got flushed that afternoon).

I was mortified and I realize I'm now letting cyber space laugh at me. But some things just have to be blogged.

Like I said, the Garcia's are crazy.

It's complicated.

A guy friend recently joked that a man's brain is run by dude in a La-Z-Boy, wiping potato chip fingers on his shirt, making all decisions based on the maximum amount of boob he can get out of each situation. Crack open a woman's head and you'll find a fully-staffed control center, a hundred women in headsets calling in opinions, emotions, judgements, feelings etc...

He's right. Women are complex creatures. An article in the science section of the New York Times this morning confirms it...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Peachy Keen

"There are two types of people,"

My ears perked as one of my bosses (a Swiss man who wears suspenders under his impeccably pressed suits) addressed our lunch table. I love when people speak in absolutes, and as a yogi who's chummy with the Dalia Lama (literally) this boss usually offers worthwhile bits of wisdom.

"You're either a walnut or a peach," he proclaimed.

According to the boss man, if you're hard like a walnut on the outside (guarded, inexpressive, cautious) once broken into you're a sweet little nugget. If you're a mushy peach at the surface (emotional, open, sensitive, tender) deep down there's a tough core.

Neither one is good or bad, he explained. Just different, and we're all absolutely one or the other.

"Vanessa, you're definitely a peach," he burst my thought bubble before it floated overhead. The rest of the table (all men) nodded their heads in agreement.

Alright, I'll take peach. I'm self-aware enough to recognize that I'm generous with my emotions. I don't mind being vulnerable. I'm anxious when I don't express myself. I'm addicted to affection (If you sit or stand by me I will hold your hand.) All peachy. But, what's this deep, dark, impenetrable core?

Sometimes I feel more like a kiwi: mushy through and through, too sensitive for my own good. According to my zen boss, however, my tough core absolutely exists. I'm comforted by his insistence. Lately I've been trying, rather unsuccessfully, to act a little harder. Because apparently what every single lady in the Big Apple needs is a ninja turtle shell.

The shell protects against New York City men who are a different breed all together, or so I've been told. Everyone has their theory.

"Guys in this city are drunk on options," a girlfriend commented recently. The warning: men here will wine and dine you but few will commit. Why should they? There's a new single, attractive, semi-interesting girl at the corner of every bar.

It makes sense. Just about all of my 25-year-old friends back in Florida are married, engaged or openly talking about engagement. In New York, single is the norm, committed relationship is the exception, marriage talk before 30- well that's just madness.

Most days I like it that way. I'm certainly not ready to settle down. But every once in a while I wonder if I'm walnut enough to handle dating New York City men. There's only one way to find out.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

ragged on the edges girl...

I heart you New York, but some weekends there's nothing I crave more than a city break.

This holiday weekend I traded up for the wide open spaces of Central Pennsylvania. A friend invited me to a hunting cabin tucked deep into the PA backwoods- five hours away from New York where cell phones, Internet, television and all reminders of my buzzing city life cease to exist. Riding up the mountain we hung our heads out the windows of the car like dogs sucking in the fresh air we didnt realize we missed.

Our plans for three days: throwin' horseshoes, shootin' guns, ridin' four wheelers and grillin' steaks...all set to the honky croons of Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney and company (songs I've memorized by osmosis growing up in Florida). I wore jorts, sipped Miller Lites and let my legs get muddy, a world away from my fancy pants day job.

At night, huddled around a fire, the sky burst with stars I never get to see. Leaned back in camp chairs with leg rests and cup holders, we counted shooting stars (I wished on two) as the moon rose over the trees.

I forgot the day and time, the Blackberry and bridezillas (it's turkey hunting season at the cabin but wedding season back at work).

Back in the city Monday nothing was still. At night, I couldn't count a single star. I still heart you New York and your hustle and bustle, but sometimes you're just a little too much.