Sunday, December 4, 2011

blah blog

"So, do you think you'll blog tonight?" my boyfriend asked casually over dinner.

I was mid-chew through an awkwardly large piece of spicy tuna roll. I'm glad my mouth was too full to answer.

He was off to watch football with some friends after dinner. I had big plans to melt into a couch while watching some pathetic Kardashian Real Housewives Say Yes to the Dress marathon. It was Sunday night, after all.

A year ago, it felt wrong to take a few days off blogging. Lately I can hardly burp up one post per season.

I dipped another roll in soy sauce. He asked why I haven't put a post up in a while.

Without thinking too much about it I blurted out an explanation even I wasn't expecting.

"I guess it was a single gal's blog."

Gag me with a chopstick.

I hated the answer so much I forced a laugh after I said it to make it sound like sarcasm. He went back to his sushi. I changed the subject.

Back home alone after dinner not even the Real Housewives of Atlanta could distract me from the stomach turning truth.

I started Orange to Apple a few years ago, literally days after a 4-year relationship had ended abruptly. It was that tricky period in the wake of heartbreak when those 20 minutes before falling asleep at night are terrifying. I tucked myself in with my laptop. Instead of saying goodnight to him, I would write posts about what I had for dinner. Instead of telling him about my day, I published it for friends and friends of friends and eventually some strangers to read.

When I started dating again, I made a rule that I couldn't post about guys while I was actively seeing them. I could only make reference to my romantic interests after things fizzled out (as they seemed to do for a while). I can distinctly remember faking a stomach ache on a bad date so I could run home to write the blog post.

Sometimes after posting more personal experiences or intimate thoughts, I would get Facebook messages from readers letting me know they could relate or that they had forwarded my link to their little sister or coworkers. It felt good.

Then Jon came along- one that hasn't fizzled out. As things progressed with him blogging fell out of my routine. Not that it's his fault. There's certainly time for blogging, and I'm sure there are things worth blogging. But I guess I don't need Orange to Apple like I used to. I have him.

Single girl's blog? Yuck.

I need to make up with my blog.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Evil Eyebrows

I've always loved Halloween.

I remember defending it at elementary school recess. A heated debate had broken out on the blacktop over which holiday was "the best." I campaigned passionately for candy corns over candy canes and trick or treating over caroling. Christmas won (it was a Catholic school, after all). But my love for the spookiest holiday hung on.

There was just so much to adore- cotton cobwebs in bushes, getting fake blood all over my mom's fancy hand towels, orange and black rubber bands stretched around my braces. Oh and that beloved plastic candy-bloated pumpkin I'd hoard in my bedroom for weeks.

I still adore the holiday and the giant furry spider I hung like mistletoe over my doorway this weekend. But there was this one Halloween- the dark Halloween of 1997- when I didn't love it at all.

I was 12, somewhere between Puffalumps and training bras. You know, that precarious transition when the games, hobbies and toys you loved for a decade become wildly uncool overnight.

I loved Halloween so I took costume selection very seriously.

That year I begged my mom for the ultimate costume straight out of the Disney Store catalog. I would be the evil stepmother from Snow White. Headpiece with sewn in crown, neck to toes draped in a cape, apple and mirror accessory in hand- it would be epic.

I woke up at 4am before school on Halloween to dress and do makeup, borrowing my mom's eyeliner to make my eyebrows look evil. I don't remember how I got to school that day but I'm assuming my siblings weren't there. They couldn't have been. They wouldn't have let me.

I walked into the auditorium where all the grades 5th through 8th gathered before homeroom. Jansport slung over my cape. Mirror and apple in hand.

Nobody else was in costume.

Sure, there were a few adorable bunny ears and bobbing insect antennas over regular clothes. There were a handful of Dracula teeth retainers and embroidered pumpkin sweaters. The cool 8th graders had dressed up like tie dye Rastafarian's. But, no costume costumes. No full body witch suits. No, none of those. Damn Disney catalog.

I ripped the crown cap off first, smearing my eyebrows. It was the only thing I could shed. I wore the costume all day, to every class- I had to- until returning home to yell at my mother for giving me what I had begged for.

I swore off Halloween. The next year I went as a skater girl in wide leg JNCOS. I made fun of anyone who didn't.

Years later, despite the trauma, I learned to love my favorite holiday again.

I still take costume selection seriously. This year my boyfriend was a matador. I was a bull.

But I'll never forget 1997- the Halloween that will never stop haunting.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I can't help it.

I ride the subway to work; I have most mornings and evenings since moving to this big sticky city three and a half years ago. By now, I've more than memorized the commute. Coffee in hand, iPod in ears, I float past mass transit's daily motley crew. Swiping my subway card, pushing through the turnstile, dodging puddles of urine on the platform- it's my routine.

Hang out underground long enough and you get accustomed to a whole load of crazy. In fact, it takes a lot- probably too much- to elicit a double take or surprise from me these days. By now, my tolerance for weirdos is high.

The other day while trying not to stare at a middle-aged male passenger who was wearing a toga and smearing his face with red and blue pastel crayons- I decided I should probably tell you (dear readers) all about what goes down, down there.

I decided there are three main categories of crazies encountered, on a daily basis, on New York City's proud subway system.

1. Harmless Crazy

The man in the toga neatly sums up this "type". They are the ones wearing ridiculous clothing, and I'm not talking Goth piercings, emo eyeliner or other mainstream misfits. These people wear togas, Chiquita banana hats (true) and superhero capes with a very straight face. They carry super sized plastic bags stuffed with 1,000 empty soda cans during rush hour (literally). Or they dress normal, but act ridiculous- like the old lady on the L-train who asked me to unhook the earrings from her droopy earlobes (I reluctantly said yes) and, 4 minutes later, asked me to hook them back in.

They are harmless and, for the most part, entertaining.

2. Please Don't Kill Me Crazy

As the classification hints, this second category of subway riders are pretty freaking scary. I'm referring to the junkies and other cracked out lunatics that like to talk to themselves or, even better, shout and flail their arms at imaginary enemies. These dudes are everywhere, and for the first five seconds when you wonder if "I'm gonna
break your f***ing face" is directed at you, they can be terrifying. Lucky for all of us, they are rarely ever talking to anyone on the train. These ladies and gents are caught up in an entirely different reality- which apparently includes that dead mother bleeper who stole their Miller Lite lawn chair (to paraphrase).

3. Please Don't Poop On Me Crazy

It's the worst kind of subway crazy. The kind that makes you want to shower for 6 hours and/or knock yourself out in hopes that amnesia will erase the memory of what you saw or smelled. And it's not always poop. Once I was on a train with an old woman who was pouring entire bottles of rubbing alcohol all over her unnaturally dirty bare feet. Another time- brace yourself- a man dropped a used condom on the floor in front of me. I'm still traumatized.

Three years in New York, 3,000+ subway rides, 3 categories of crazy. Have I had enough?

Three words: I heart NYC

I can’t help it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Flying Kites

I'm not cool.

I use the word bananas as an adjective. I'd rather stay home and watch the Bachelorette.

But, sometimes, the cool people I hang around let me pretend.

Like last Wednesday night when I got a tattoo.

Well, not officially; I'll never be cool enough for a real tat. My new body art is temporary and for charity. I was stamped at an event celebrating The Temporary Tattoo Project which raises funds for Flying Kites, a Brooklyn-based organization that sponsors needy children in Kenya. Six of the country's top tattoo artists designed limited edition temporary tattoos inspired by the children they support. (More info at

The designs are awesome- a lion prancing on a retro airplane, a koi fish, a funky looking horse- exactly what I might get if I were cool enough to wear a tat. I picked a colorful flying kite on the lower left side of my back (don't worry- that's just left and north of tramp stamp territory). It came with a postcard keepsake (pictured below).

As soon as it was rubbed on I felt different- hip, edgy, definitely cool.

My boyfriend Jon had a baseball sized roaring lion head printed on his forearm. Even under his preppy button-down shirt and Virginia frat boy hair, he was also instantly upgraded to badass.

After the event we strut through the East Village- Jon over-flashing his arm; Me wishing my back tat was visible to passersbys. I was giggly sitting across from Jon's ultra hip forearm at dinner waiting for the waitress or person next to us to catch a glimpse.

Yeah, we're just hip New Yorkers with tats- no big deal.

Five days later, the roaring lion fell victim to too many showers, and my kite is hanging on by a thin faded string. I'm less and less hip with each wash.

Would I ever get a permanent tattoo?

Well, that's just bananas.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Besides being the most precious toddler on the planet, my 1-year-old niece Gigi is very advanced verbally. If you point at a picture of a cow Gigi moos. If you ask "How does a horse go?"she clicks her tongue like hoofs. If you hold her in front of a mirror she says her name.

I know; She's a genius.

A few weeks ago while I was playing with her, Gigi pointed her tiny finger at my belly and asked earnestly, "Baby?"

Devil child.

I'm kidding. She's still perfect. But she did stare up at my stomach with her Bambi eyes and ask if there was a baby in there.

"Isn't that cute?" my sister-in-law responded. "She does that to everyone."

I laughed nervously. A-flipping-dorable.

Apparently, she's been asking this question since she met my recently pregnant older sister (her aunt) and learned there was a baby growing inside her belly. Now her sweet curiosity terrifies unsuspecting, unmarried and possibly bloated women across the city.

No no, Gigi. I'm not prego. No baby in there. No sirey Bob.

A couple weeks later, I walked into one of those all-organic, all-natural and all-expensive baby boutiques in Brooklyn searching for a gift for my newest niece Valentina.

The owner had her screaming 2-year-old in tow as she helped me pick out a swaddle blanket. He's teething, she explained serenely through his piercing cries, somehow unaffected. After a few minutes I was desperate to leave the store. The hysterical kid. The scary breast pumps. The $80 tiny T-shirts. I paid and ran.

No no, not ready for a baby. Not me. No sirey Bob.

A week or so after (I promise, I'm going somewhere with this.), I returned home from work in a terrible mood. The last few days had been hectic and stressful. Everything was frustrating me. I felt bogged down and blah. I worried life was getting dull and monotonous.

I proceeded to have a mini-freak out for no real reason.

To calm down I went for a jog at the gym. It didn't help. So I went for a walk along the river, but I still couldn't calm down. Even one delicious fudgecicle later, I was still worked up. I flipped open my laptop hoping for some good news. A new video of my week-old niece Valentina was sitting in my email inbox. I downloaded it. She was just waking up- scrunching her face and pouting her lips as she slowly opened her eyes. 10 amazing seconds.

The stress fell away. I was overcome with this skin-tingling joy for my sister and her husband. As long as Valentina keeps wrinkling her nose nothing could be wrong in the world.

Look, I'm far from ready for my own Gigi or Valentina. My last couple baby interactions serve as proof. But I do look forward to a day when someone just like them helps put my life into perspective. When a first cry or yawn or poop instantly shifts my priorities into order. When there's so much big stuff it's hard to sweat the small stuff.

Until then, I'm content being an aunt- the young New York one with that awesome blog.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tomato Tomawful

The sun had set over my second night in Cartagena, Colombia. I was on a terrace 14 floors above the 400-year-old coastal city in what felt like the only skyrise. Sailboats twinkled as they bobbed in the turquoise Caribbean below. A sea breeze gasped through the 90-degree heat. My best friend Nicki and I had rushed off the dance floor for some air. Glass of vino tinto in one hand, skewered hors d'oeuvre in the other, I was almost giddy at the rehearsal dinner before my friend's destination wedding. I teethed a cube of jamon y queso and some tomatoey looking thing off the skewer. Two seconds later...

"Nicki, my skin feels really hot," I sat up to examine my arms in the moonlight. "Do you feel that?" My back started to burn, bad.

"I know, it's a million degrees here." Nicki hardly looked up from her malbec. I leaned back in my chair again, still uncomfortable. I searched for a sunburn on my arms as they boiled in the dark.

"But, it's like pins and needles," I complained. My mouth went dry. My tongue began to sting.

"Somethings wrong." I yelped. "My thung, it's pinths and needelths."

I gasped and covered my mouth after my tongue stammered. Now we both panicked.

"Oh my God! I cant thalk!"

Nicki yanked me indoors out of the dark. I was covered in hives- plump white bumps against tomato red arms, neck and back. My cheeks came next, flushed puffy pink above a mouth that had swelled to 3 times its size. My tongue, growing by the second, jut out past my bottom lip like a Shar-Pei panting after a jog. My heart pounded through a cold sweat. Two hives squinted my eyes. Every inch itched.

Nicki called for one of the doctors in the room (It's a Colombian wedding- there were 5). I was pushed into a chair where a dozen party guests surrounded me reacting in English and Spanish to the Shar-Pei face I hadn't seen but could feel. A 70ish-year-old Colombian relative of the groom grabbed my hands and commanded that I focus. In a raspy stern Spanish he shushed the crowd to ask if I could breathe.

I burst out crying. All I could mutter, "No puedo senthir mi lengua." (a heavily lisped, I can't feel my tongue.)

I was rushed into an air conditioned room, fed an Allegra and reassured that it wasn't "totally awful." Another doctor was coming with more medicine. I sat trembling still dotted with hives. The doctor, of course, was the only young attractive Colombian cousin in attendance- a plastic surgeon, naturally. His even tan, slick back hair and white linen pants bent down to ask me to stick out my swollen tongue. I lisped out what had happened to me- the "danthing", the heat, "the glath of wine" and the "thomato" before the botched facelift face. He pumped me full of an antihistamine. About three hours later it was all gone.

The next night, I walked down my friend's aisle as a bump-free bridesmaid.

Nobody's sure exactly what caused the severe allergic reaction. Maybe it was that Colombian fruit I had never tried. Maybe it was a couple glasses of wine mixed with an antibiotic I had started before my trip. We may never know.

Temporary deformation aside, I adored Cartagena and I suppose I owe it a thank you.

Spontaneous lisp-enduing and potentially life-threatening situations are what good blog posts are made of.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hermit Crab Confessionals

I wish I had a good reason why I stopped blogging.

I've attempted and abandoned at least five different posts during the last six weeks of radio silence. One stale, unfocused idea after another- posts that put me to sleep, literally.

It doesn't feel right. My blog, when well kept, was the best habit I ever picked up. It kept me engaged, thoughtful and off of the Real Housewives. It saw me through a career jump, a couple ugly break ups, bad days (flies take over my apartment), really bad days (my tooth falls out) and all the other zig zags of well lived life in NYC. It connected me to people- friends, acquaintances and even a few international strangers who cared or were bored enough to follow me.

I miss it, and I want to come back. But even now when I've dedicated my evening to pushing out a post no matter what, my fingers hover over the keyboard, lost.

So here goes, the only thing I can think to write about:

When I was 11 years old I came home from a sleepover with a new pet hermit crab.

I didn't like him. I don't even think I named him. It was my friend's brilliant idea to beg her dad to drive us to the pet store to buy crabs. I pretended I wasn't scared of it. It looked like a giant roach stuffed into a shell. I reluctantly carried his plastic tank home the next morning. It was lined with magenta rocks and a couple branches we plucked from my friend's backyard. The nameless crab only came out of his shell to eat the pellets of food I plopped on his branch every day. The dislike seemed mutual.

Two weeks later my family went on vacation. I didn't bring the hermit crab. I left a pile of food on his branch. I was 11. I figured he would eat when he was hungry. A week later, when we returned from our vacation, my bedroom smelled like a dead crab. I poked him. He didn't writher.

I killed the crab.

I stuffed his tank in my Jansport and snuck out to our backyard. I nervously dug a hole and buried him with his magenta rocks. I made a cross over the mound with the branches from his tank. Kneeling over the pile of dirt, I searched for something to say. Suddenly I started sobbing- slowly then hysterically. I pictured him hungry and thirsty and dead. I apologized to him frantically.

I composed myself before I went back inside my house. I didn't tell my mom. In fact, I didn't tell anybody for at least a decade.

Fifteen years later, far more often than any sane person should, I think about that no-name hermit crab. I think about his little magenta rock grave behind my neighbor's swing set. It makes me feel nervous and guilty all over again.

I realized the only way to get rid of the hermit crab that haunts me is to publicly confess.

Mom, God, Blog- I killed that no-name crab. And I'm sorry.

Hermit crab skeletons out of my closet, I'm ready to come back blog.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tijuana Bible, please.

After years of research - painstaking devotion really - I think I've finally found my favorite bar in New York City.

I know. Those are big britches to fill. But (lets just say)lots of cocktails, beers, shots, beer and shot combos, additional beer and bad decision combos, happy hours and late nights weighed into this final verdict.

Before I make any announcements I must also note that there's really a bar for every occasion in this great city. It's hard to pick one favorite because it depends on the drinker's mood, needs, company, etc. The great happy hour spot with frozen margs may not be appropriate for date night or I-have-friends-visiting night or We-just broke-up-and-I-want-whiskey-tonight night.

So when I say "favorite" I mean overall favorite- a consistently cool scene with a delicious beverage menu.

Drum roll puhlease, my favorite bar (at least for now) is Hotel Delmano in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Seems I had to travel to the far east (first stop off the L train from Manhattan) to find this wonderful little watering hole. Like all things in Williamsburg, it's pretty hipster. The bartenders are tattooed and stuffed into skinny jeans. I did spot a pompadour during my last visit. But, I promise the good makes up for the fedoras. And by good I mean cocktails. It's one of those schmancy mixologist bars where drinks are infused with elderflower, orange peels are zested and mortar and pestles are flipped around like forks.

The cocktail list is a little overwhelming (as everything looks fantastic) so I made the bartender pick my first drink. "I just don't like bitters" were my instructions. He served me an icy cold Cleopatra's Pearl: apricot and peach blossom liqueur, fresh lemon and Egyptian mint infused vodka. Tart, subtly sweet and crisp; it was a very good first impression.

Next visit, I demanded some tequila. The Tijuana Bible, specifically. Hotel Delmano doesn't put their cocktail list on the Internet and I'll admit my memory of this delicious spirit's exact ingredients is a bit fuzzy, but I can tell you it combined mescal, jalapeno and orange. The glass was lined in chili powder that may have burned a layer off my tongue but I was into it.

The bar offers a vintage Parisian vibe- dark wood, fogged mirrors, a long curvy bar cluttered with bottles, jars and blinking votive candles dripped over with wax. The DJ, on clunky turntables, plays old-timey French and Latin music. I was told a traditional Cuban salsa group sets up a few times a week too.

Hotel Delmano is cool but still cozy. Sophisticated but not exactly pretentious. The bartenders might take themselves a smudge too seriously, but the drinks they pour are impressive so I'll keep visiting. And you should too. For the sake of good research, of course.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

oopsy daisy

It was around noon Tuesday when a dozen pink roses arrived at my desk at work. My stomach fluttered with nerves as the delivery man handed me the giant bunch in front of my coworkers. Excited and embarrassed, I never know how to react when a gift is presented to me in public. I get a little awkward.

A tiny card was taped to the arrangement. My heart thumped as I read it out loud to my curious coworkers.

"Vanessa, Happy Birthday. Love, John"

I'm seeing a guy named Jon- not John. I noticed the discrepancy but quickly assumed it was simply misspelled. He must have called in the order and the florist got it wrong.

I really wasn't expecting flowers. It was flattering and too much. I called Jon immediately.

"Hey there," he answered.

"Oh my God Jon! You're adorable. The flowers are gorgeous. You really shouldn't have. I can't believe,"

"Vanessa," He cut me off mid-gush.

"I didn't send you flowers at work."

Nervous pause.

"Ha, stop it. They're so amazing," I continued, awkwardly, my stomach dropping.

"What does the card say?" He sounded serious.

"It says Love, John"

"How is it spelled?"

"John but I figured the florist misspelled it and I umm, wait, are you messing with me?"

"I'm sorry gal, it's not me."

I rushed off the phone, yanked the tiny card back off my desk and re-read it.

"Vanessa, Happy Birthday. Love, Julian." It was clear as day.

Julian is my bosses name. He was out of town and sent me flowers for my birthday. He would.

Jeez. Louis. In my awkward haste, my crazy brain changed the name (that was, in my defense, very sloppy!). Still, I'm an idiot.

I texted Jon an apology and explained who the flowers came from. Always a good sport, he laughed it off...and surprised me with gorgeous yellow tulips later that evening.

Silver lining to my ridiculous mistake: finally, something to blog about.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sorry Friends

I owe most of my friends an apology.

Lately- while traipsing through some relationship troubles- I've been an awfully high maintenance friend. You know, the kind of pal who answers the standard "Hey, how's it going?" with a 10 minute monologue ending in some panicked version of "...and I just don't know what to do."

Yeah, it's not pretty.

At the end of an especially confused rant over the phone last week, a friend who's known me more than half my life casually replied: Is it possible you just stirred up some drama because things were quiet?

I paused. Sucked some tears back in and thought about it.


Later, I shared this thought with my new roommate.

Maybe, she agreed. We decided to explore the theory.

She asked me if I've ever really dated. I quickly nodded yes. Of course I've dated. I'm 25.

She wasn't convinced. I offered a quick synopsis of my past.

I moved to New York newly single after a 4-year relationship. I dated the very first guy in the city who asked me out for a couple months, another for a few more, then jumped into a 5th year with the ex. After it ended again a couple of 3-6 month "relationships" followed- some more serious than others but all exclusive.

That's dating right?

Wrong. Apparently, that limbo NY girls know well- where you hang out with someone constantly, don't see other people but don't use a title-doesn't count as dating.

As a result, my roommate assured me: Vanessa, you have never really dated.

Really dating, I learned, should be casual. It should be with multiple men at the same time. You don't invest emotionally. And, most notably, it offers a healthy does of entertaining drama- aka: a horrendous first date, a really good first kiss, wondering if he'll call etc. It's fleeting, unpredictable, commitment-free fun.

Under that definition, I suppose I haven't really dated. Most of the dating I've known has always been just a quick segway into a serious (or pseudo-serious) relationship.

What's so wrong with that? I instinctively defended my serial commitment.

Potentially a lot is wrong with it, my friends advised. Dating- under the definition above- teaches you a lot about what you want and what's good for you. Every interaction offers it's own lesson, for better or for worse. Most importantly, it can help you develop a sense of independence that's difficult (but not impossible) to foster when your committed/leaning on a boyfriend. You must learn to make yourself happy. It's nobody else's job.

And, of course, there's that dose of drama that most of us crave- the dating push and pull that eventually gets old but, at the right moment, can be absolutely exhilarating.

I guess I haven't dated much. But, is it possible (returning to my friend's theory) that I just pushed away a perfectly perfect mate because I haven't met my quota of dating drama?

I'm still at a firm maybe (and a hopeful no).

Whatever the answer is and regardless of what happens, I'm grateful for friends who put up with me- single, dating or otherwise.

In advance, I'm sorry friends.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Abuela Zuckerberg

My mother and grandmother are on Facebook.

My grandmother's not only on the book- Abuela Zuckerberg is wildly active. She comments on every status update, every uploaded photo, every wall post. Everything. These comments are never fewer than three sentences long and unfortunately for any friends who innocently "liked" or commented before her there is always a follow up, or four.

I joke but it really doesn't bother me. She lives in Argentina and if it wasn't for this knack for technology (Facebook, Gchat, Skype) we wouldn't be able to communicate weekly like we do.

Mom uses Facebook less often. She's had the same profile picture since she joined- on a boat, in a leopard print blouse, tipping a ship captain's hat. She'll occasionally thumbs up a Republican fan page or write on a younger cousin's wall in all CAPS because she can't figure out how not to. Mostly, she uses it for stalking. She recently called specifically to let me know that my boyfriend- who she's never met before- needs a haircut. And, a few weeks ago, her status for at least three days was simply "Trici Garcia", my older sister's name. Unlucky for Mom, the status update field on Facebook happens to be a confusing couple inches below the search field, so her attempt to snoop my sis was accidentally blasted onto our feeds.
Mom's Facebook activity is far less endearing than my abuela's, but I can at least count on it for entertainment. And isn't that what Facebook's all about? A little stalking, a little judging and pure unproductive fun.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


They say bad things happen in threes.

Last week I found myself ranking all of the recent unlucky happenings in my life, trying to figure out exactly which qualified as the official three.

Every time I'd pick a third, another whooper would give it a run for its money.

In two short weeks:

I took an icy fall on a snowboard and sprained my tailbone. (I'm still sitting on a foam donut at work.)

My debit card's pin number was stolen by some evil scammer in Amsterdam who cleaned out almost $1,000 from my checking account, on rent day.

I came home to (brace yourself) a swarming fly infestation caused by the crazy old ladies who live/may or may not be dead in the apartment upstairs. (The exterminator got rid of them but I spent at least 30 hysterical minutes swatting at black clouds of bugs cursing the day I ever moved to this god-forsaken filthy city.)

Then there was my lost iPod, the un-returnable kitchen table I ordered online that arrived in 4 broken pieces, and, most upsetting of all, my love life got real wobbly.

I debated writing this post. Nobody likes a Debbie Downer and we're all dealing with our own strains of misfortune. I realize a broken butt and biblical plague hardly qualify as blogable. But, I'll admit, this loss of mojo has me a bit out of sorts. Mostly because I'm usually a pretty lucky gal.

I'm that obnoxious friend who wins raffles, runs into Madonna at the grocery store (true), scores last minute tickets and pretty frequently stumbles into great opportunities/free stuff.

Sure, I'm no stranger to the occasional funk but it's really been a while since I've taken so many punches, one after another.

After a quick visit to Tampa last weekend, I boarded the plane for New York reluctant to leave Florida's sunshine for my black cloud in Manhattan. Even after landing and pushing my suitcase through the taxi line at La Guardia, my stomach tied itself into a knot. Slouched into the backseat of the cab, I tried to psych myself back up. Then, we turned onto the Triborough bridge. The Manhattan skyline- giant, glittering in the mid-day sun, pouring over the river- grabbed me fast. It yanked me out of my slouch by both shoulders, shook me and slapped me around a little. That's where I live- in the middle of that beast. As we sped toward it, I finally relaxed.

Unlucky in New York is still pretty damn lucky.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Three Year Thing

New York was supposed to be a two to three year thing. I would get the big city out of my system then bounce. I was sure of it.

During my first couple years here I had trouble committing to anything that seemed to dig roots. I let winters pass without an expensive "real" coat, sure I'd make a move before the season rolled around again. I never upgraded from a set of ugly plastic drawers in my bedroom. Why spend on furniture I'd eventually lug cross country? I constantly imagined myself elsewhere- in Boulder, in Tampa, in DC, in Chicago, even Buenos Aires.

At the beginning of the month my roommate moved out, leaving me with an apartment that looked like it had been robbed- next to no furniture, not even a spoon to my name. She had furnished our tiny two-bedroom years before I got there and of course boxed it all up for her new place when she left. I needed a new everything. Plastic furniture was unacceptable in my bedroom; It would be blasphemous in our living room.

Alone, sitting on the floor of my empty kitchen the day after my roommate moved out (and a few days before my new roommate moved it), it all finally hit me.

I had spent the last 24 hours punching my credit card number into furniture Web sites, clicking yes to everything that would make my abode livable again. I never hesitated. In fact, the idea of finally making an apartment my own excited me (even if it is exclusively furnished by Ikea and Craig's List).

Through all the transition it never occurred to me that I could just get up and go- toss those plastic drawers and leave NYC, like I always planned. Really, it's been months- maybe even a year- since I've even thought about getting out of the city like I constantly used to. Instead, three years after moving from Florida, I find the idea of permanency here comforting. I'm eager to commit and grateful for the attachments I've already made. I'll paint my walls, splurge on a dresser, maybe even fall for someone here. I don't mind the ties.

I plan to stay awhile.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Bringing Pickle Back

I'm a sucker under peer pressure. Really, the after-school specials of the 90s were lost on me. I can be talked into just about anything if "everybody else is doing it." Blame it on indecisiveness or a lifetime fear of being pegged the party pooper, I'm usually eager to just go with whatever a more opinionated person wants. Luckily, this gets me into a lot more good than it does bad.

Perfect example: Pickle back Sunday

The Jets made it to the playoffs this season so, of course, I spent my last two Sabbaths watching the games/day drinking. As soon as I got to Whiskey Brooklyn, the bar where about 10 of my friends were gathered, I was offered a spicy pickle back.

"A what?"

Pickle back: a shot of Jameson chased immediately by a shot of pickle juice.

"Eh, I'm good. I don't really drink Whiskey." (I, somehow, after 4 years at a #1 party school can't really hold my own around liquor)

"Yeah, but you drink pickle backs. Trust me," my friend signaled for the waitress. "You have to. We're all doing it together."

As soon as she uttered the magic words I was in. Only a party pooper would decline a group shot. Within seconds, a full tray of shot glasses- half brown, half ninja-turtle green- hit the table. We toasted to the Jets and down that pickle back went- a shot of whiskey followed by a shot of pickle juice.

The salty pickle juice (and really, it's exactly that- the brine from a jar of pickles) masked the Jameson completely. And this particular pickle back, since we ordered it "spicy", packed a sinus-clearing punch. The Tampa girl in me made a quick association. It kinda tastes like a Cuban sandwich. (Gross sounding, I know; But, in the moment, pretty delicious).

My alcohol enthusiastic group of friends aren't the first to throw these back. In fact, after a little Googling, I learned whiskey and pickle juice is basically the new whiskey and Coke. It all started at Bushwich Country Club, a hipstery dive bar in Brooklyn. McClure of the famous McClure's Gourmet Pickles (all the rage among NYC foodies) was storing some of his stock in the bar's basement. One fateful night a daring bartender took a swish of pickle juice after a shot of whiskey. The pickle back was born, and I'm grateful for it.

This unlikely combo became the official beverage of my playoffs (seriously). And although the Jets lost last Sunday, the discovery of the pickle back made us all winners....that is, until Monday morning.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

She get it from her Grandma....

We got there around 10:00pm Saturday- tucked into a line about 25 people deep outside Public Assembly, a mini-warehouse turned bar/music venue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The bouncer nodded for my ID and asked what we were there for.

"Uh, the neighborhood watch meeting," my boyfriend* tried to keep a straight face as he responded. It was the secret code we were given in the secret email that revealed the secret location. The bouncer waived us in.

It was dark. Music was blaring. At least 200 people were gathered around an empty stage. A countdown flashed on a black screen. We had about 15 minutes left.

We were all excited. We knew what we were there for. It wasn't a neighborhood watch meeting- whatever that is. The countdown ran out to zero. The crowd- now pushing 300- roared like it was New Year's Eve.

A late twenty-something British man walked on stage in a trench coat. He told us we weren't safe. He told us the streets of Brooklyn were crawling with thieves. Then he started to unbutton his trench coat. "But you're not really here for a watch meeting." The crowd cheered. "You're here to change your life." The crowd cheered. "Do you want me to change your life?" The crowd lost it. He ripped off his coat and finally revealed what we were all waiting for.

"You're here to play Underground Rebel Bingo!"

We were.

We were holding magic markers and bingo cards. There was a bingo machine on stage. We wanted prizes.

But it wasn't your Grandma's bingo.

Two girls- one dressed in not much more than a corset, the other with a diamond-studded bra hanging out of her dress, both in neon wigs- bounced up on stage. They started to fondle the bingo balls and call out letters and numbers with rhymes too raunchy to repeat. The rules: If you win, scream bingo, fight through the crowd, launch yourself on stage and hug the announcer. If you call a false bingo you get ridiculed by the entire audience. The prizes: an iPod speaker that looks like a guitar amp and a giant panda bear suit.

Rumor has it, Underground Rebel Bingo started in a church basement in London. After it became wildly popular with the Brits, the man in the trench coat decided to ship it to Brooklyn.

A rave-like Bingo with a secret location and panda-themed prizes- my prediction is that it will catch on fast with the hipsters out here. BINGO!

*Still deciding how to introduce him/refer to the new him on the blog. But yeah, boyfriend.

NOTE: Picture stolen from the New York Times coverage of another Rebel Bingo night.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hungry Bear

Remember that Sex and the City episode when everyone gave Miranda crap about moving out of Manhattan to Brooklyn? The girls were horrified. A cabbie wouldn't even drive her there.

I watched that show religiously (because I'm a warm-blooded American woman) and therefore arrived in New York with that same Manhattan-or-bust prejudice tucked in the back of my brain.

No matter how abusively high the rent, I was determined to find a home in Manhattan- downtown Manhattan if I could help it. Lucky for me, I landed in the East Village first. Now I live in the West Village (a couple streets down from Carrie Bradshaw's stoop, actually). Long story short, I've remained a total Manhattan elitist. It takes a lot to get me out of my superior borough. At least, it used to.

Turns out (brace yourself) there are two things that can get Vanessa out of Manhattan often: a cute boy and good brunch.

No real shocker there, but let's focus on the brunch.

Where: Enids in Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Commute from the West Village: About 30 minutes by L-train and bus
What I ordered: The Hungry Bear

I was sold on the dish before I read the description. If my appetite in the late morning (after a drink or four the night before) had an Indian name it would absolutely be "Hungry Bear." This $11.00 dish, voted most popular by Yelpers, includes a homemade biscuit sandwich stacked with sausage and a poached egg, smothered in gravy and sprinkled with paprika. I chose "cheesy grits" as a side. The egg was plump then oozy, pairing perfectly with the sausage and almost frothy gravy. The cheesy grits were creamy and layered with just enough saltiness. And best of all, we were able to order our own French-pressed coffee. It was exactly what any hungry bear or girl needs around noon on a damp January Sunday- the kind of start to the day that makes you wanna get right back in bed, but in a good way.

And it's not the first blogable restaurant I've visited in Brooklyn, the latest borough that cute boy I mentioned has inspired me to explore. Restaurants there (in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, at least) seem to have few things in common: they're cheaper, more casual and slightly less full of it than their Manhattan counterparts, but just as yummy.

I'll eat there. I might date a boy who lives there. But, move in to another borough?? That would take a bit of a Manhattan miracle

Monday, January 3, 2011

r.i.p christmas tree

It's the most wonderful time of the year-- and it's over.

Walking through my neighborhood Saturday morning after New Year's Eve, I couldn't help but find it all a little depressing. Mangled New Years hats floating in puddles of brown slush leftover from the blizzard, balding Christmas Trees abandoned on curbs, a barista at the coffee shop nearby ripping down paper snowflakes that floated in the window all month-- by next week even the after-Christmas sales will expire.

Sure, New York is cluttered, inconvenient and basically cracked out during the holidays, but wrapped in lights, it's all pretty magical.

So now we've just got plain ol' winter to deal with. No sparkle. No Sinatra's Christmas album at the grocery store. No gingerbread lattes at Starbucks. Just a city that gets dark around 4pm and cold, well, until April.

To protect against the post-Christmas blues, I decided to make a list of all the positive things that will happen during the next few frigid months:

1. With tourists cleared out, I can get a cab in midtown again.
2. No more whiney saxophone versions of (once enjoyable) Christmas songs playing on my coworkers CD player.
3. Martin Luther King Jr. Day off...because your boss sorta has to.
4. Upgrading to a bigger bedroom when my roommate moves out that features- wait for it- a real closet! (I've hardly survived 2 years without a proper one).
5. Valentines Day...because I'm a cheeseball
6. Snow days/ Snow ball fights
7. Weather related excuses to skip the gym (it's blizzarding) and drink hot cocoa (it's delicious).

With two winters behind me, I'm hoping 3 times a charm and a lady.

Merry Winter!