Sunday, April 15, 2018

There Is Nothing Like New York on a Sunny Saturday

As I walked back to my apartment on Friday evening, I thought, "This has been a wonderful weekend." Then I laughed at myself, because it was only Friday.

As I'm currently between jobs, I've been taking it easy the last few days. And they have been wonderful.

Wednesday was my last restaurant shift. On Thursday, I got coffee with the editor of Edible Manhattan / Edible Brooklyn, and then lunch with an old friend in town from New Zealand. Then I went swimming, did laundry, and worked on NC housing.

On Friday, I went to the Met. On the way there, I walked through Central Park.

Sheep's Meadow in the morning

These bird-watchers were excited about a barn owl in this clump of trees. A different cluster of bird-watchers were excited about the same owl when I passed by the next day.

Happy Caro in sunny Central Park 
The Met was spectacular, of course.

I loved this fountain (designed in the early 1900s). 

I can't get enough of Monet.

I hate when people take cell phone pictures of the art, but I am one of those people.

Then I found a secluded (!!!)  bench by the pond, where I sat and read the rest of the afternoon. So many of my favorite things: Monet paintings, reading outdoors, and reading an entire book in one sitting!

couldn't resist

This amiable old man read next to me for awhile. He was reading a biography about Einstein. When he left, he said "enjoy your perfect spot."

Sheep's Meadow in the afternoon

That evening, I went on a sunset run in Prospect Park.
 Truly a perfect day. 

The next day, I met up with my long-lost cousins, whom I hadn't seen in 10? years.

And then I ate Beyond Sushi (vegan sushi) in the park.

And then my friend Carson joined me <3 
That afternoon, I walked back to the Met and bought an overpriced watercolor print from an artist selling outside the museum. I'd slept on it and decided I probably wouldn't find a souvenir I liked more, in the week I had left in the city. Plus I bargained him down to 65% of his original price. He made me promise not to tell anyone. I hope this doesn't count as telling people.

I went to bed super early that night and slept many hours. I guess reading and lounging and catching up with friends and long-lost cousins can be tiring!!!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Another Hike

On Saturday I went hiking at Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve, a route called Breakneck Ridge. So called because it was extremely steep with occasional dropoffs. To get there, I took the C train to the 5 train to the Hudson North Train. I spent more time in transit than I did hiking :/
I found a cozy rock near the top, where I sat peacefully in the sun for a solid 45 minutes. I might have fallen asleep; I'm not sure.

must be some ancient Native American ceremonial ground.

I was the only person who got off the train at this stop. I found it funny — such a tiny, lonesome platform.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Observations of a Waitress

One of my favorite lines in my new favorite movie, Thelma & Louise, is when the cop is interrogating the cocktail server about Thelma and Louise after the would-be rapist's body is found with a bullet in his chest.

"Those women are not the killing type," the server insists.

"And you're an expert on human nature?" the cop says condescendingly.

"If waiting tables in a bar doesn't make me an expert on human nature, I don't know what would," she says without missing a beat.

I think she's right. I haven't done it long enough to become an expert, but I can see how it would. As I prepare to turn in my apron for what I think will be the final time, I've been reflecting a lot on what I learned as a server.

It never ceases to amaze me how self-entitled some people can be. How they clearly move through the world expecting everything to go according to their every preference. Money does that to you, I guess? And lack of perspective or empathy.

For example, the other night I had three tables at once who all took issue with the most minute elements of their dining experience. "I want something with potatoes and rice," one woman told me.

"We don't have any rice dishes," I responded, "But the Russian salad is made with potatoes." She frowned at the menu.

"What do you have that's vegan?" Her boyfriend asked.

"Let's see, the olives are vegan," I told him. "The fries are vegan if you leave off the spiced mayo. The blistered peppers are vegan, the eskarola is a vegan salad, and you could do the laminas de setas without cheese."

He, too, frowned at the menu. "I want a real meal," he said petulantly. "Something filling. You don't have like rice and beans?"

"Nope," I said lightly. "The only bean dish has mussels in it."

He looked at me with great annoyance. "Well I guess I'll just drink, then," he said. "But she's starving. Can you please get her something?"

I looked back at the woman. "I guess I'll have the Russian salad," she said as if it were a tragedy.

I turned around and grabbed some txakoli from the bar, and carried it to another of my tables.

"These are the wine glasses?" A man at the table asked me with outrage.

"Yes," I explained patiently. "Txakoli is poured high to aerate it and bring out the effervescence. These are the traditional glasses, used to keep it from splashing out when you pour it."

He frowned at his glass of wine.

I walked to another table who looked ready to order. "I'll have the special fish," one started. "I'll get the rabbit," the woman to her left said. "And I want the octopus," the third said. I stifled a sigh. I had already explained to them that Txikito doesn't serve entrees per diner; everything is meant to be shared and is sent out by the kitchen one at a time. We don't even have seat numbers.

I told them again how it works. "Well, can you at least make sure that the fish comes out at the same time as the meat?" The second woman asked. "She doesn't eat meat." She gestured towards her friend.

"I'll do my best," I said brightly, knowing the kitchen staff would be annoyed if I even asked.

And so it goes.

I serve people like this at every shift. None of them are flat-out rude, per se, they just expect the world to operate according to their standards, according to their every whim. Or maybe they're only like that in a restaurant, where they walk in knowing their server is at their service.

I don't really mind being part of the scenery, but I can tell when someone is failing to recognize me as a human operating in a system I largely have no power in. I can also tell when someone is making a point to recognize me as a fellow human: For example, when they look me in the eye and say thank you as I fill their water glass or set a plate of food on their table. Or when they ask my name and use it in a polite way. Very rarely do I get asked my name.

Also, what's the deal with bad tippers? Do they really not understand that tips are my wages? Are they somehow unaware that 18% is a standard tip for acceptable service in a high-end restaurant in New York City? The other day I waited on a guy dining with a friend of the chef. The kitchen sent out not one but TWO complimentary dishes. And yet he tipped less than 10% of the final bill. Why? It can't have been me; I know I did a good job. So somewhere in his brain there is no awareness that tipping less than 10% is totally inappropriate, unless he's a sadist who wanted to insult me for some unfathomable reason? I have learned to not dwell on these things excessively, but they still bother me. It's like getting a bad grade in a class where you know you deserve an A —expect this isn't grades, it's real-life income.

And then there are people who tip grandiosely, and I wonder about that, too. Was it because they once worked in the service industry? Was it to make up for the bad tippers they know are out there? Was it because they were charmed by me? Was it because I looked hungry? Was it because they simply have a lot of money and take pleasure in giving it away whenever possible? I'll never know.

At ACME on Broadway in Nashville, where I worked for only one month, I saw all kinds of bizarre tipping patterns. Someone once tipped $15 on a $11 bill. The same night, someone else tipped $1 on a $16 bill. And once I stood awkwardly in front of a couple who'd handed me a $20 — their bill was $16.75 — and watched them struggle to decide when I asked whether they wanted change. The $3 ceases to matter to you when you have half a dozen other tables needing your attention, but you can't help but puzzle over why the question of $3 was such a difficult one for this couple drinking at a tourist bar in Nashville.

I feel like a sociologist or anthropologist (what's the difference?) watching people in the restaurants I've worked in. I see gender dynamics: Men sometimes order for their female dining partners. Sometimes the woman doesn't even look at me, she just looks at the man as he speaks for both of them. Other men are terrified of inadvertently ordering "girly" drinks: This hasn't happened in Chelsea, but in Nashville I was often asked, "Is it pink?" "Is it fruity?" "What kind of glass does it come in?"

I also puzzle over the psychology behind people's decision-making processes in a restaurant. How they choose their order, how much information they want before deciding. How they decide whether or not they like something, and how they decide what to do if they don't like it.

Now that I've written all this out, I realize I'm nowhere near an expert on human nature. Restaurant work has only made me all the more baffled over human nature.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Hiking in the Suburbs

Finding nature as a New Yorker is a challenge. As a committed hiker/backpacker, I consider myself up for the challenge. So this past weekend I planned a day hike in New Jersey.

view of the city from NJ 

I rode the train for 30 minutes to the bus (which I BARELY caught — had to sprint through Penn Station), and then rode the bus for over an hour. Things I saw from my bus window:

-Row of pigeons lined up on the edge of a slanted roof (cute)
-Swamp ft. capsized grocery cart (creepy)
-Dead goose crumpled up in massive mall parking lot (disturbing)

After the goose, I decided to nap the rest of the way.

I got off the bus at a random cross-street as instructed by Google Maps. I then walked about three-quarters of a mile to a green area on my map.

 I tramped up this hill for a few minutes and found a path at the top of the ridge but wasn't sure where I was. To gather my bearings, I sat down on a rock and had a snack before pulling out my phone again.

 Turns out Google Maps had brought me to the right park but not to the entrance. So I called a Lyft (perks of not actually being in nature) and rode the 3 miles to the proper park entrance.

Then I did a very pleasant six-mile hike.

And then it was time to head back to the concrete jungle. Already planning my next hike for this upcoming weekend!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Best Bday

25 has been a great age so far. Huge improvement from 23 and 24.

On the morning of my 23rd birthday, I ran 10 miles. My only friends in Nashville, Lisa and Jim, took me to my favorite taco joint for lunch. That afternoon I worked at my hostess job, and no one at the restaurant remembered that it was my birthday. I thought I was okay without being made a fuss over, but then the next day, when some of my friends texted me a belated happy birthday, I cried because of how forgotten and insignificant and alone I felt. I didn’t blow out any candles that year.

bday FaceTime with my best friends, Lisa and Jim <3 

I ran 11 miles on my 24th birthday. It was a year later, and there was still no one in Nashville other than Lisa and Jim whom I could imagine enjoying time with on my birthday. So I flew to North Carolina to be with my family. My stepmom cut fresh roses from her garden and made me a vegetarian lasagna and chocolate cake. When I blew out the candles, I wished for friends and a job.

This year, I didn't run on my birthday because the weather was terrible and I haven't been running much in general because NYC. Instead, I got up early to swim at the YMCA — my go-to form of exercise in the city.

I ate two excellent breakfasts, one before swimming and one after. I did a little bit of work in the morning, and then headed to the MoMA for some peaceful birthday art-gazing.

Turns out it was a rainy day so the MoMA was NOT peaceful.
people looking at Starry Night
can relate
I liked this room.
other thing I liked

made from a glass slide found by the artist in Havana
this was called States of Mind (in order): I. The Farewells, II. Those Who Go, and III. Those Who Stay
Monet's Japanese footbridge <3
view from a MoMA window
I had planned to go to the Met after that but the thought of it being just as crowded forced me into a cafe instead. I spent the rest of the afternoon working on a personal essay I plan to pitch to NYT's Modern Love column.

NYC: April 3, 2018
Aside from my atrociously colorful umbrella, do I look like a New Yorker yet?

Then I had dinner with friends, yay! At an excellent Chinese restaurant in midtown.

among other things, we ate fake (vegetarian) duck

So that was the actual day of my birth. But the other half of this birthday being so wonderful is that I got to see my family! I flew to NC last week for a job interview, and got the fam together for dinner in Chapel Hill.

<3 <3 <3

They gave me a cake and flowers which I took in my Lyft, put through the x-ray machine, brought on the plane, brought on the train, and carried all the way to my apartment.

I served the cake (pictured above) at my self-hosted birthday party this past weekend.
Highlight of the party: Surprise appearance from none other than Joanna Kuang!

Other things that made the birthday excellent:

Yas + Brooke together in Telluride
June gave me exactly what I wanted! 
so did Jack! :D