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: