Monday, May 2, 2011

On the Tails of Bin Laden.

Being in New York, I couldn’t not go down there. On the heels of Obama’s national address, something stirred inside of me. Tears for the unnamed, for those I never knew.
A man was killed today, and we celebrate. An act of both justice and as Kristof suggests, deterrence. Somehow I can’t find it in myself to buoyantly celebrate the death of a man, no matter how heinous the crime(s). And yet, I find myself relieved. Have we returned to the code of Hammurabi? I know it’s not that simple.
Justice. Deterrence.
It’s a madhouse at Ground Zero. Cars are honking, flags are waving, the crowd is cheering. Chants of ‘USA!’ prevail, with variations of ‘Yes we can!’ and ‘Yes we did!’ thrown in for good measure. The mood: jubilant. Obnoxious at times, what with the drunken revelers, but mostly celebratory. An overwhelming sense of pride ripples.
I’m for the most part, overwhelmed. Silent & observing, it’s with mixed feelings I find myself playing the role of citizen journalist. I’m sombre. Sober. Except to crack a smile upon hearing “na na na hey hey goodbye.”
There were those who once cheered when the twin towers fell.
And now there are those who pop champagne in the streets when a man is killed.

This worries me.
Two people drape a flag at Ground Zero out of respect. A reporter approaches the man for an interview, and he declines. My heart is warmed. In memoriam.
A firefighter reflects.
I’m more moved at the sight of this, than by the 30 minutes of revelry I have just witnessed. At a distance, I pray for him and the friends he must have lost. And then I head back.
Two attendants sit in the Cortland ticketing box. A woman sweeps the subway floor. A homeless person sleeps on the Queens bound N train. A rat scurries across the 34th Street platform.
And life goes on.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Say Hello to Vintage.

Since I started this asmallishbackpack project, I’ve been looking for different ways to be have fun, while saving money. It used to be such that if I had a free day, I would either mosey on over to Central Park or go shopping, the latter which often resulted in consequences that I now need to be more wary of. I didn’t quite feel like Central Park this weekend, so I figured I’d try something a little different.
Like film festivals. Just yesterday, I went rendevous-ing with French cinema at the Lincoln Center. A friend from work had invited me last minute, and so we went to go see Isabelle Czajka’s Living on Love Alone (D’amour et d’eau fraîche). Shot with that soft hazy lighting reminiscent of a summer in Provence (or what I imagine it to be, anyway) clad in Isabel Marant, this film was pretty decent. Anaïs Demoustier was simply captivating as the lead, Julie Bataille. 
Today, I thought I’d switch it up a bit. They say to quit something cold turkey is oftentimes the least effective of methods, so I decided to go vintage shopping in Lower East Side (LES). Cost efficient and fun!
I’d be lying if I said my LES-bound intention was purely to vintage shop. During my last trip to SF, my friend Andrew had raved about one Doughnut Plant, where the lines are out the door and the seats are festive:
“Donuts!” I had scoffed. “Not a fan.” But eat my words I did. And 2-3 doughnuts while I was at it, including this PB&J:
And then off to pick up two more watch straps for my beloved dedegumo watch.
This watch store is an absolute gem, complete with a workshop up front, where the Japanese artisans make the magic happen.
And then I got to my task at hand: vintage shopping. Which inevitably ended up as shoe shopping. Things I look for in a vintage or consignment shop: shoe & bag selection, cuts vs. labels, cleanliness. I suppose I’m not a true vintage shopper, given that I do look for a degree of cleanliness before rifling through racks of bohemian skirts. But I also don’t believe in the Decades type of vintage shops that demand $2386 for a wrap dress from the 70′s. Now that’s just ridiculous. (But still fun to browse.)
I love vintage/consignment shopping, as you never know what you’ll find. A month and a half ago, I found a steal of an ensemble – a Lanvin dress & Jimmy Choo pumps – that I picked up just in time for my college roommate’s wedding. The total damage? Less than, say, a DVF dress at Bloomingdale’s. Like I said, you never know what you’ll find – you just need to be looking in the right places. And while I had my go-to’s in San Francisco, it’s time I scoped out the NYC scene.
Wandering down Orchard St., I came across an expansive storefront (well, expansive, as far as LES goes). Upon wandering into the store, I was greeted with shoes galore. Round tables of 80′s inspired shoes, including these lovely huarache sandal wedges which were unfortunately one size too large:
But I did support the local economy and leave with a kicky pair of cobalt blue heels. Say hello to my new shoes:
Some notable stores in the LES:
  • Daha – Go for the eclectic shoe selection ($60-90 range) & abundance of vintage boots ($100-200). Affordable too! Lots of Coach and Dooney & Bourke bags from the 80′s, if you’re into that.
  • Edith Machinist – Again, great shoes & fun vintage bags. You can almost see the ripple effects caused by the drawstring pouch/backpacks and Chanel chain straps in their collection of handbags. The selection is better curated than Daha, but it’s also more expensive.
  • Some Odd Rubies – Reworked garments made from vintage fabrics. Shapes are given a modernized twist, while still retaining the draping and feel of eras past.
  • PPF Consignment – More consignment than vintage. Worth checking out if you’re scouting labels.
  • Ellen – Cute, non-descript shore on Ludlow neighboring a ramen shop. As one Yelper describes: “where designers like Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors shop for those pieces that inspire entire collections.”
  • dedegumo – Not so much vintage, as it is artisanal. Maker of the coolest watches around. I cannot sing their praises enough. You have to just see for yourself.
Of course all that walking around makes for an appetite. And what lies at the end of Ludlow St., oh-so-conveniently on my way back to the 2nd Ave. subway station? Il Laboratorio Del Gelato! (Oh, and some deli named Katz’s too.) I wasn’t the fondest of black sesame, though it seems to be the It flavor, but malt was delicious.
Two pairs of vintage heels that have personality, for less than what I would’ve paid for a generic overpriced pair at some department store. And more funds allocated towards disaster relief to boot. Never thought to correlate vintage and donuts with disaster relief, but hey, inspiration comes from all around.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Ft. Greene Chronicles.

It's a lovely day in Brooklyn today, and I'm saddled with.. laundry. Laundry is something of an ordeal here, as laundry equals laundromat. I've never been to a laundromat before, having been incredibly lucky and finding a place in SF that miraculously came with washer/dryer in unit. But no matter, laundry means waiting, and there are books to be read, bagels to be eaten, and boutiques to be browsed nearby.

I've done my own laundry hundreds of times, but somehow, upon encountering a new machine, I'm always baffled at the sequence of motions. What buttons should I press? Is permanent press really permanent press the way I know it, or should I opt for gentle cycle - warm? Quick cycle vs. double wash? And why are there three compartments for apparel cleansing substances - detergent, bleach, and fabric conditioner? Have I had laundry wrong this whole time?

In between wash and dry cycles, I wander over to what has quickly become my favorite grocery store - Greene Grape Provisions - and pick up a Baked salted caramel cupcake. While more than satisfactory, this has nothing on Bi-Rite's. SF 1, NY 0.

One chapter of Kitchen Confidential later, my clothes are now fully dried and within 35 minutes, which simply blows my mind. Amazing, the power of a high heat cycle! No more tumble dry low for this girl.

After dropping off my folded and freshly laundered items, I head back out for some more fun in the Brooklyn sun, this time untethered by the shackles of laundry. I find my feet walking towards the fabulosity that is Stuart & Wright, where the likes of A.P.C., Vanessa Bruno, and Isabel Marant dwell. Where the occasional Alexander Wang tee can be found squeezed in between its French brethren.

But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? A window of found objects! I must investigate further.

Inside the unmarked store front lies an eclectic bunch of flowers. Wallflowers and wildflowers. My kind of flowers. I'm immediately taken by these:

And these.

Ooh.. and even these lovely tufts of cotton.

4.37298 seconds after walking through the Stem threshold, I know I love everything this unassuming little flower shop stands for.

It occurs to me I don't have a vase, but I must support the spirit of this shop. And so I buy a flower or two to spruce up the kitchen. And then return to the excursion at hand: Stuart & Wright.

I've decided to check out Trinity Grace Brooklyn today, and one Alexander Wang tee later, I head off in the direction of Park Slope. I'm early for once, so I wander down 5th Ave. to kill time and come face to face with this:

The Chocolate Room. Ha. Zagat says the chocolate layer cake is to die for. And so says Oprah. Who am I to argue? I'll take decadence to go, please.

And then I head off to church for one of those uncannily on the dot sermons where you can't help but wonder if it was written directly for you. Fierce individualism vs. covenantal living.. food for thought.

I'll leave you with my random photo of the week.

Q: What's better than sailboats?
A: Nothing!

Monday, September 20, 2010

In Excelsis Deo.

Today, I think I'll do something out of the ordinary. Lay my cards out on the table and talk about something personal. There are two topics I rarely breach - faith and relationships. But now is as good a time as any. Yes, I think it's time.

I've been taking a break of sorts. I wonder if that's even possible.. taking a break from faith. I suppose it's not faith itself though, but the institution and conventions of church. Of expectation. Mostly, from the nagging sense of disappointment that seems inescapable at times. You're not good enough. You're not doing enough. How many times I've felt this over the years.

This can't be faith, I think.

Yet I love. Love without fully understanding what love is. Still desiring after His heart, wanting to do right by Him. I can't help but wonder what the correlation between faith and church really is. A dotted line connection, perhaps. I suppose that depends on how you define church. I believe it to be community, of support - a body of believers inspired by Christ. At least that's what I want to believe, despite the image of the rigid institution that has been hammered into my head from years of LA Korean Christian churching.

I'm a closet Christian of sorts. I wonder if people know. It's not that I intend to hide it, but it seems to put people off. I'm not one of them, I want to say. We're not all ignorant; we're not all judgmental. And so I go out of my way to avoid cheesy Christian platitudes, purging any traces of lame Christian music out of my iTunes. Except not all of it is bad. Sometimes cliches are cliches for a reason.

I don't feel comfortable praying openly, and that's a shame. I hear people bitch about Christianity all the time, and I merely listen and nod. I understand though.

Why have you forsaken me? I don't know, God, I don't know. Maybe I'm just weak. I wonder if what I'm really compromising is myself. Or maybe I'm still figuring it out. I feel terrible about this, but I don't want to go through the motions. I think I love you. I wonder if that's enough.

Not by works, but by my grace. Somehow, I always get this wrong. It's infuriating.

How do we know what God desires, what the outcome will be? I mean, how do we really know? How can we possibly think it's our place to make that call?

I used to teach Bible study. For five years, I worked with kids from elementary school and up. Trying to drill into their heads the importance of grace, trying to live out grace - the one thing that eluded me all these years. I want so badly for them to know it, to experience it, to bask in it. And not tie Christianity with restriction, with condemnation and perpetual disappointment. I emphasize love. I secretly laugh along with the mischievous ones. I want them to know freedom that comes through Christ. I hope they know this.

That's what I'm here in New York to discover. Yes, of all places, the concrete jungle. I feel God the most viscerally when faced with uncertainty, in the midst of change. All blessings, I attribute to him. A couple years ago, I set out to unlearn all that I had learned, get rid of the head knowledge, the lifeless commands. I want to live out inspired verses, live a life worthy of God's calling. I don't know what that is yet, but I'm searching.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

New York State of Mind.

I probably shouldn't be eating at 1:33 in the morning, but I figure I needed proper sustenance while typing up my first week round up of NYC. That, and for some reason, this red velvet cake from Cake Man Raven tastes even better refrigerated than when I first got it. That being said, my first few days in New Yorrrrrrrrrk (concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there's nothing you can't do..) have been awesome. I love it already. How can you not love this:

I've been walking a lot, anywhere from 2-4 miles per day. This is promising. But I find that the consumption of all the great food is putting a dent in Operation Lose Google 15. I have every intention of jogging in Central Park. But what would be even cooler would be roller blading.. or ice skating, come winter. Oh, the possibilities!

Speaking of Central Park, I spent part of my afternoon there, sandwiched between apartment hunting and meeting up with old friends. I found myself wishing I had my sketchbook and watercolors. But I'll have to save that for another time. Walking along the outer edge, I looked up to admire the amazing buildings lining the park. This one even had gargoyles. Forget Park Ave, I want to live on Central Park West!

You know it's a proper park when it has wonderful lampposts like this one. I'd like to petition for every park to have proper lampposts.

I think I'll end with a list of firsts: 

First meal: Plain bagel w/ cream cheese from La Bagel Delight
First meal at Google NYC: Meatballs, courtesy of guest chefs from The Meatball Shop
First really great sandwich: The Other Thing at This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef
First food truck: Wafels & Dinges
First dessert: Red velvet cake from Cake Man Raven
First act as tourist: Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
First book purchased: When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro
First shop visited: Kate's Paperie, the greatest paper store there ever was.
First stop for Fashion's Night Out: Bloomingdale's
First celeb sighting: Cynthia Nixon, outside Michael Kors for FNO. If I was delusional & that wasn't really her, then Simon Doonan at Barney's.
First Gossip Girl moment (haha): Where it all began - standing inside Grand Central Terminal, where S first returned from boarding school. 
First time hearing Empire State of Mind in NY: At the rooftop bar at The Strand Hotel. It was glorious.

It's getting late, and I'll leave you with another first - my first view of Manhattan:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

This Old Couch.

Once there was a couch... and he loved a young girl.
And everyday the girl would come
And she would lay atop the fabric
And fluff the cushions
And dress it with blankets.
And read her books and watch her movies.
And when she was tired,
She would sleep on his pillows.
And fall asleep into dreamless slumbers.
And the couch was happy.

But time went by, and the girl grew older.
And the couch was often alone.
And the couch was sad.
And then one day, the girl came back
And the couch quaked with joy.
And he said, "Come, Girl, lay atop my fabric
And fluff my cushions and read your books.
And watch your movies and be happy."
"I am too busy to fluff cushions," said the girl.
"I want a newer home to keep me warm," she said.
"I want a change and I want big city adventures,
And so I need to move. Can you give me adventure?"
"I have no adventures," said the couch.
San Francisco is my home.
But you may rest on my cushions
And dream up your adventures.
Then you will be happy."
And so she did.

And after a long time, the girl came back again.
"I am sorry, Girl," said the couch, "but I have nothing left to give you -
My cushions are flattened, my pillows are limp.
Will dreams alone no longer suffice?"
"My bum is too padded for cushions," said the now-heavier girl.
"My seats are gone," said the couch. "The yellow hue, faded."
"I am too tired from work to host dinner parties" said the girl.
"I am sorry," sighed the couch.
"I wish that I could give you something.. but I have no padding left.
I am just an old couch."
"I don't need very much now," said the girl.
"Just an empty room, while I pack up these boxes before I move."
"Well," said the couch, straightening himself up as much as he could,
"Well, an old couch is still good for the next home.
Come, Girl, send me to the next abode so you may be on your way."
And the girl did.
And the couch was happy.

For what the girl didn't know was
The couch was also destined for greater things.
The couch was on its way to Burning Man
To fulfill the girl's desire for adventure.
And the couch was happy.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Big Sweet Chronicles.

I'm on a mission. I'm making my way through 7x7 Magazine's Big Sweet List. Ambitiously. Furiously, some would say. After realizing that I had (shockingly) only consumed 13 of 50 listed treats, my goal for the remainder of the summer suddenly materialized before my eyes. I love sweets. I live, breathe, and consume multiple sweets daily. I thought I had the dessert landscape of this city down pat. 26%?? How could this be?

Considering I only have 3 weeks left in SF (well, two really, because of the wedding), I've set the measurable stretch goal of knocking out 50% of the list. Not counting week days, where lengthy commutes to Mountain View prevent me from making any real progress on said list, I really only have weekends left. Only two days a week - four days!! - in which to cram multiple desserts into.

Let's do the math, shall we? 25 - 13 = 12 / 4 = 3 per Saturday and/or Sunday.

Yesterday was Day One of Operation Big Sweet. Using the pre-text of the BFF's birthday dinner that I was planning, I opted for the setting known as Starbelly. Yes, they seem pretty happening every time I drive by, and yes, they have a fabulous wine bottle window display. But more importantly, it was the lure of the toffee cake (#8) that sealed the deal.

But one dessert alone would not a goal meet. What is a birthday without a proper birthday cake? Yasukochi's Coffee Crunch cake (#35) was in order. And why just stop there? Why not make it a multi-sweet affair?

Rather than spending the afternoon packing, I dashed across town to 2565 Third St., listed home of Kika's Treats and Sweet Revolution for some honey cakes (#11) and maple honey caramels (#18). Knock out two with one blow... or so I thought. But no bakery was to be found. As I curiously found myself stepping into a warehouse of sorts, #11 and #18 were not to be, in this eerily quiet office space that did not a store front make.

No matter. An adventure is not an adventure without its challenges.

Onward to Dynamo Donuts for a sampling of Spiced Chocolate donuts (#25). But alas, another wrinkle in time! Sold out, or so I was told, so I opted for Candied Orange and Lemon Pistachio instead. And then off to Three Twins for some Lemon Cookie ice cream (#5), which thankfully was readily available.

Day Two. Lying in a semi-conscious state, the first thought in my head is 'oh no!' as I bolt right up and mull over the melted pint of lemon cookie ice cream believed to have been left in car. The pool of congealed cream and sad, soggy broken cookie pieces. OH NO. Such a shame. Except my cousin happened to be awake and reassured me with the words 'I put it in the freezer.' Crisis averted.

Day Two is a lazy Sunday - a lazy cleaning Sunday. But on a lunch break, I'm determined to track down the honey cakes and caramels. Real Food Company does not carry these, but they do have the Poco Dolce Burnt Caramel tiles (#22). Hoo-ray for this!

Clean, frollic, find, graze, laze, read, pack, and unpack are some of the verbs that occur on this day.

And now off to dinner, at Izakaya Sozai, which was excluded from our LIST in question, but it's okay because they have fabulous ramen. And nearby is Andronico's, where I try my luck again. But no Kika's or caramels of the Revolution. Blurgh. But Bi-Rite does! And so off to Bi-Rite we go, which is oh-so-conveniently perched a Pizzeria and a Delfina away from one Tartine.

Let me tell you about Tartine: long lines, hipsters, and deliciousness! Morning buns are of course gone gone gone, but lemon cream tart (#1) is not. But even in my most ravenous state, I cannot consume the 16" tart they have in stock. Next time, I say and le sigh before carefully examining Bi-Rite Market's wall of chocolates.

Honey cakes: SOLD OUT.
Caramels: I'll take one box, s'il vous plait.

And so it goes. 18 of 50 and counting...