Saturday, August 28, 2010

Winding Down

Once again, it has been awhile since I have written (crazy New York life tends to get in the way of enjoyable activities such as blogging) but I just wanted to wrap up my New York arts & society blog with a post that sort of summarizes my experience here over the past year and three months. It is very difficult to completely incapsulate my experience as a resident of Manhattan, but certain encounters, images, and places have stuck with me and inspired me a great deal. Here are some of them:

When I first moved into my new apartment in the Upper East Side, I was approached by a woman walking dogs. We were both interested in the set being filmed across the street, which was apparently the set for a movie starring both Harrison Ford and Rachel McAdams. We struck up a conversation and I remember thinking how friendly she was for a New Yorker. She owned a dog walking business and had many stories to tell about the various people (including celebrities) that she met while walking dogs all around the city. Her enthusiasm for living in Manhattan truly energized me and made me excited to be there in that moment, despite my anxiety over being completely alone in a city of eight million people.

My walks around the reservoir in New York will be missed greatly. I found the reservoir to be one of the only places in Manhattan where I could calmly collect my thoughts and unwind. The great expanse of the city before me always took my breath away. During my walks, I remember feeling so proud that the city beyond the lake was my city- that Central Park was my backyard. While living in New York, it is a comfort knowing that it is possible to escape the chaos of urban life and find refuge in nature, even if it is man-made.

One of my favorite weekend activities in New York City was, of course, shopping. I never had enough money to buy much, but this never stopped me from browsing the myriad of beautifully decorated, fully stocked stores such as Bloomingdales, Seven For All Mankind, BCBG, DKNY, French Connection, etc. Although I have always seen fashion as a somewhat shallow sector of the world, I truly came to appreciate the artistic qualities of clothing while living here. Fashion is, above all, an art form. New York ingrained that in me.

There is such a spirit of eagerness in New York. Throughout this past year and few months, I have met so many people who have been so alive with ambition- ambition that is both frightening and inspiring at the same time. Countless people have come here to not only break into their respective industry, but rise to the top, and there is certainly an unparalleled energy to be found on every corner. One night in the winter, I went to a party with a group of people from Spain at a loft in Soho. The owner of the loft came to America to establish himself as an artist. Both his clothing and apartment left me in awe; from his large screen mac to the sketchbook lying open on his desk, his surroundings were his canvas. During a party in a loft overlooking the New Yorker building, I struck up a conversation with a freelance writer and we exchanged business cards. He excitedly explained how he had his own online publication and hoped for it to gain popularity in the city. I never had business cards until I came to New York. My aunt made me a set for my publishing program and I still carry them with me, even though they are handmade. This city has taught me to be always be prepared and to never lose that fire. I believe that to get too comfortable with anything is a mistake and will carry that belief with me everywhere I go.

What would New York be without its food? Well, to be quite honest, it would really be very bland indeed. Living here on a budget has made it difficult to fully experience the cuisine, but I am confident that I have tried a large portion of the restaurants that I was interested in visiting (mostly due to generous guests), which is a satisfying feeling. The best brunch I have had here, surprisingly enough, was at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill on fifth avenue. There are a few places that tie for best dinner. Il Buco, a cozy, rustic Italian restaurant decorated with pots and pans is definitely one of my favorites. I also loved the Thai restaurant Kittichai for its unique presentation and bold flavors. BLT Prime Steakhouse has the most delicious Steak I have ever had and Maya has the best Mexican. I also really enjoyed Rayuela, a Latin American restaurant with flavorful cocktails and zesty seafood dishes. One of the things that sets New York restaurants apart from the rest is atmosphere. Each of the restaurants I mentioned has a romantic, sensuous vibe and is filled with beautiful people. Dining out in New York is truly indulging for all of your senses. Apart from all of the restaurants, there are so many small cafes to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee. The abundance of Starbucks around every corner makes one truly appreciate the privately owned coffee shops, where the ambiance is actually relaxing and the coffee is freshly brewed. Coffee and bagels are an art form here, similar to just about everything else. Unfortunately, my favorite coffee shop, which was located in the Upper East Side, closed recently. This is how many private businesses end up, due to the intense competition. Moving on-It is nearly impossible to mention food without mentioning drinks. The Blind Tiger was my favorite bar, hands down. They feature a wide variety of micro-brewed beers that can't be found anywhere else in the city, let alone the nation as a whole. The interior gives off a comfortable basement-like feeling. I found the bar Rare on Lexington to have the most beautiful view of the city from the rooftop.

As I sip the last of my coffee, I wrap this blog up with a few final thoughts. My time in New York has been precious and awe-inspiring. I have become so strong and independent; I have learned to truly defend who I am as a person. Over the past year and few months, I have grown a sort of thick shell that will be hard to crack. This doesn't mean that I have changed completely, because I haven't, but it does mean that I have been exposed to many things that have broadened my horizons and thickened my skin. When you live here, you are in survival mode and I dare anybody to disagree with that. There has been beauty in this experience, though. Living here has made me appreciate the simple things- conversations, glances, smells, sounds- peace. I find it ironic how living in such a lonely city makes you at peace with yourself. I also find it ironic that being immersed in such a materialistic city can make you want to don sweat pants or jeans every day for the remainder of your life- (hah!) It all makes sense, I guess, but it is an interesting phenomenon nonetheless. Ultimately, the glamour of New York is stripped away when you become a resident here. Brief moments will fill you with the awe of a tourist (such as those breezy, windows-open cab rides home at 4 am) but these moments are only fleeting. Transience is abundant here, but its affects are permanent. Living in Manhattan changes you forever, in many ways, both good and bad. I suppose It can be summed up in one sentence: New York leaves an indelible mark.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Brooklyn Flea

It has definitely been awhile since I last updated; I've just been very busy with a lot of different things! Now that the weather is nicer, it is more enjoyable to be outside. The brutal cold of winter has finally disappeared and the overall mood of the city has changed significantly. Everyone seems happier! I have been more active than I was in the colder months, which has affected my mood in a positive way. The only bad thing is that I find it harder to concentrate at work now that it is constantly sunny outside! Several things about my routine have made the grind of work a bit easier though. Recently, I have started to take the express train to Grand Central and then walk to 26th and Madison, where I work. This wakes me up and gets me going in the morning, so I have been making a concious effort to do it every day for the past week. After work, I have been walking to Central Park occasionally and have also been going there on the weekends to take some casual strolls. There is no question that New York is a more enjoyable city when the weather is nicer.

Last Saturday, I went with a group of people to the Brooklyn Flea Market. It took us a good half hour or so to get there, as it was far out in Brooklyn, but the trip was more than worth the effort. The sun was shining, but there was a cool breeze blowing, so it wasn't too warm. We slowly made our way around to all of the tables and chatted along the way, making sarcastic comments about odd items that we saw at each table. For example, we saw an extremely terrifying stuffed animal that looked like it was possessed. I hope that no child ever purchases this thing. It had flaming red eyes and was very battered- not a pleasant sight to behold. I happened to fall in love with a purple sequined coat from the 80's, but when I saw that it cost $20, I decided that the price was not worth it to sport for one night (we were going to an 80's cover band at the canal room later on). We stopped to get some lobster sandwichs (apparently a specialty here) and a homemade margarita pizza. I got an iced coffee to feed my out of control caffeine addiction that has slowly but surely taken over my life as a Manhattan resident. There's no avoiding it when you are working a desk job in the craziest city known to man; it is inevitable that one will become dependent on it and feel as though an IV leading straight to the arm would be ideal. After sitting on the stairs and sunning ourselves while chatting and eating, we got back up and continued our exploration of the oddities around us. We were extrodinarily amused by some large plastic letters that we found laying in an old sandpit; we held them up and began taking lots of pictures of ourselves holding these. This kept us entertained for longer than it probably should have.

After negotiating a few purchases (I did learn a thing or two about bargaining in Europe), we stopped to browse through some vintage postcards and commented on how much we like the old, beat up ones as opposed to the more modern ones. They just have a romantic quality about them. I feel that way about a lot of things, though. Personally, I find myself drawn to the items that look as though they are straight out of the 20's- 50's, things that would probably look better on my grandmother. I almost purchased a vintage Gucci knockoff clutch that was ragged around the edges, but declined, as I am now picky as ever about purchasing anything. Living on a publisher's salary has taught me a thing or two about opportunity cost, or whatever the technical term would be for making smart purchases based on necessary sacrifice. I'm glad I passed it up, as I just don't see the point in purchasing anything unless I'm absolutely "in love" with it. I do feel this way about many things in life nowadays, which seems to be a good thing.

After our Brooklyn Flea Market excursion and long trek back to Manhattan, we were exhausted and ready to take a mid-afternoon nap before our fun night watching the 80's cover band. And that is exactly what we did.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Epic Walk

In New York City, sometimes the only thing that saves the restless soul from going crazy is the” epic walk”, as I like to call it. Since the day I arrived here, I have cherished my aimless strolls around the city, where window-shopping, or even occasionally stopping into a store is commonplace (as if I actually have the ability to buy anything). Sometimes, on my epic walks, I will grab a coffee and head down to the river near Carl Schurtz Park. There is something liberating about the tall trees in the park, the openness of the river, the seemingly endless boardwalk that runs alongside it. The sight of people sitting and reading or chatting on a sunny day is always calming. Gracie Mansion, which sits right on the edge of Carl Schurtz, makes you feel as though you’ve stepped back into a different era; it is a welcome anachronism in the middle of the busy city, where loud construction and herds of impatient people can sometimes be just a little too overbearing.

Spending all day in a tiny cubicle and cramped apartment is enough to drive anyone crazy; a New Yorker will quickly learn that the “epic walk” must become a part of their lifestyle if they are to maintain any sort of sanity in the big apple. Usually the epic walk has no destination, which is what makes them so much fun. You just never know what you will stumble upon- a small, privately owned bookshop that specializes in children’s literature, an antique jewelry store, market, or even a wide open natural space that may become your favorite place to unwind. The “epic walk” is all about discovery. Even if you do have a destination, you will still end up surprised at what you find.

When I take my “epic walks”, I not only like to discover new places, but I also simply like to observe the people around me. There are obviously a lot of amusing personas in this city, and there is never a dull moment here, purely because of the variety of people you find here. As an upper east side resident, I often see perfectly put- together mothers pushing their children in a stroller, always looking as if they are on a mission. These mothers usually have a crazed look in their eye, and I try to steer clear of them, for fear of being run over by the stroller. Sometimes I will walk around texting on my phone and accidentally almost crash into them. This is very dangerous. One does not want to accidentally bump into an Upper East Side mom. This may be a fatal collision. When walking around the West Village or Soho, I love to observe the “hipsters” around me, i.e the people who think they are too cool to speak to anybody else, especially a short blonde gal with cheetah print ballet flats and knock- off wayfarers from canal street. These avante garde personalities have a distinctive way of walking. They almost seem to hover or something; usually you can spot them with their jacket thrown over their shoulder, beret on the head, oversized sunglasses on the face.

These epic walks are a saving grace for the lonely, restless souls of New York City, or even just a temporary cure for the moments of restlessness; they are a chance to find yourself while observing everybody else doing the same. They are also a chance to stumble upon something that would otherwise not be on your radar. It is so easy to stick to your own neighborhood and find comfort in that, but that can become dull very fast. During some of my toughest points at the very beginning of my time here, epic walks made me feel free. They gave me a chance to escape the loneliness of my apartment and the rootlessness that I felt in a place that I was trying so desperately to make into a home all by myself. Now they have become more of a chance to explore the city that I am falling in love with as time goes by. Is the “epic walk” really as aimless as it seems to be? Maybe there's a subliminal purpose to it.

Friday, December 25, 2009

I Travel to the West Side

It finally happened. I finally trekked across the park to the...gasp... West Side. I never thought I'd do it. Sadly, I somehow thought upon moving to the Upper East Side that the West Side was some mysterious territory that was very unreachable, and, just so...foreign. Of course I knew that I could take the bus to the other side of the park, but there was just no way I could picture myself doing this. I had a vision in my head of this bus trip being an intimidating experience like it was in Baltimore- me being the only white person there- people staring me up and down with angressive looks on their faces. I dreaded the thought of breaking my normal pattern of taking the subway and the occasional taxi. God forbid I step onto a bus and break my routine. The possibility of crossing the park by foot had occurred to me once or twice, but it never seemed like a truly viable option. Knowing myself, I'd most likely get lost, or it would just take too long. I think what I was really waiting for was somebody to trek to the West Side with, someone whom I could use as a sort of travel companion (afterall, this crossing over to the West Side was truly going to be an epic journey). 

The opportune moment to embark on my wild West Side adventure arose when my friend Steph visited a couple of weeks ago. Her bus back to Philadelphia wasn't going to leave until Sunday night, and seeing as it was rainy and miserable all day, we decided that the best activity for us would be to visit a Museum. After researching our options, it came down to either the Met or the AMNH, as both have optional donations. We thought the Guggenheim would be an excellent choice, as we are both intrigued by modern art and convenience as well (it is located right next to my apartment). However, the entrance fee was $15, and, well, that was just unreasonably expensive in our (very cheap) minds. So, we opted for AMNH, as I have been wanting to see it for quite some time.

Steph and I grabbed our umbrellas and braved the nasty weather that day. The wind was howling, and we were both afraid at several points that our umbrellas were going to blow inside out, or completely disappear altogether. It was cold, rainy, and windy- the worst possible weather combination, especially for traveling. Steph and I were travel buddies abroad, though, and we had survived a near hurricane in Salzburg (literally crossed a bridge as lightening was striking down on us and hail was flying everywhere), so we knew that we could make it through this. We hopped onto the bus, and much to my surprise, I felt completely comfortable. I was very worried that we would miss our stop or get lost, as busses have typically proven to be very confusing for me in the past. Who would have thought that we would be there in ten minutes safe and sound?! Not me. I was shocked as we screeched to a halt right on West 86th street; it truly was a short trip. We stepped off and struggled through the blasting, windy rain to the looming steps of the AMNH on 79th. It felt comforting to finally step through the doors of a shelter, but the museum was dark and cold. Regardless, we were just happy to be out of the frightening weather.

Steph is applying to grad school for anthropology, so I knew that she would enjoy this museum, and she certainly did. I also found it to be very interesting. We browsed through all of the various culture displays and found the stuffed animals and semi-realistic settings behind glass to be fascinating. This museum had a beaten down quality about it, but kept us there for awhile, nontheless. There was just so much information to read about, and all of the history present there that I have never been exposed to before almost made me furious. How could I have gone through so many years of school and still not know about any of these cultures or historical events? Of course I had heard of some of this before, but all of it just seemed so distant to me.

 What also struck me about this museum was the attention to evolution; I found it to be eye-opening. The evolution of both humans and animals was highlighted here, and the effect was really startling. Day to day we do not think about these sorts of things, but at AMNH, you are forced to dwell on the cold, hard reality surrounding humanity- a bit frightening, I'd say.  As I explored this display, I began to think about the fact that it is just so easy to get caught up in one's routine while working in the city (what many refer to as "the daily grind") and forget about philosophy, science, literature- all those things we dwelled on so much during our studies. Leisurely trips to the museum like this need to become more frequent of an activity for me, I think. Regardless, it is so important to be able to take time to reflect in solitude once in awhile while living in a city like this. I think that may be why I value going to church so much more than I ever did. It has the same effect- it makes me sit there and really just quietly think about "the bigger questions" in life. A friend of mine who also lives in the Upper East Side just agreed with me on this. She said just walking into a quiet church calms her down.

After walking through the various halls filled with historical and anthropological displays, we stepped into the ocean wing. The giant, life- sized blue whale hanging from the ceiling was absoutely terrifying and awe-inspiring. It took me awhile to realize that this was actually the size of this ocean animal. After this, Steph wanted to take a look at the Margaret Mead wing, which was an expose' of her Pacific anthropological studies. I think this was very inspiring for Steph, as she is about to enter the same field. 

Towards the end of our browsing, we took a look out of the wide windows on the top floor that overlook the city. We sat on a bench and just tried to soak in the expansive, dreary setting before us as we caught our breaths. I had forgotten how exhausting it was to visit museums, even though it only involves walking around and browsing. We did it all the time in Europe and somehow had unlimited energy for everything we did while abroad, but not on this day. Maybe it is because we are just getting older!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Billy Elliot!

Change of plans- I probably won't be hitting up the museums until at least next weekend. I was lucky enough to be taken to one of the greatest shows on Broadway by a close friend from Leuven (Katrien) and her boyfriend Jon- so nice of them! I feel that a write up on this spectacular play is more than appropriate for an arts and society blog! Miss you Katrien!

To be completely honest, I had no idea what Billy Elliot was about before I went to see it. The only thing that really drew me to the show was the fact that it has won numerous Tony awards. Rave reviews from people I know was added incentive. At the beginning I wasn't sure if it was going to be as great as people made it out to be, as the opening act consisted of a huge television screen with video footage of union protests in Newcastle. It seemed like it was going to be more of a history lesson than a broadway production, and even though I am very interested in history, it just didn't catch my attention. However, as soon as the wide array of intricate sets were revealed, and the young actor playing Billy Elliot began dancing, I started to become more engaged in not just the show, but the context of it. I started to feel for the characters and become interested in their fates.

Billy Elliot is a twelve year old boy growing up in Northern England who has no desire to mine coal, drink all day, or become a boxer; he is the black sheep of his family and town, a social outcast. One day, after accidentally stumbling upon a ballet class full of girls following a pitiful boxing lesson, he realizes his potential and passion to become a great dancer, and finds himself taken under the wing of the instructor, who sees a future in ballet for this young, talented boy. Billy's father walks into the building right in the middle of Billy's dance, and angrily tells him that he will not be a goddamned "bally" dancer. Afterall, "bally" dancing is for "poofs". Billy is left hysterical and alone, not knowing where to turn for support.

Following an offer from the dance instructor to give him lessons and help him apply to the Royal Ballet Academy, Billy continues practicing ballet in secret, until he must acquire the money to audition for admission into this prestigious school. This forces him to reveal to the public that ballet dancing is his life pursuit. Surprisingly, the blue collar town contributes to his fund, which brings about unity between all of the various classes, and allows the families to bond, despite their varying backgrounds.

The most impressive parts of the play for me were the intricate sets and the story itself, more than the music or costumes. I've heard much better singing on a broadway stage, and I've certainly heard better music by Elton John, but those working on this production did a great job with conveying the atmosphere in Newcastle at the time. Billy's home consists of a kitchen below a tall spiral staircase that rises from below the stage (not sure how that technology works). His bed is situated at the top of the spiral staircase, and emphasizes the fact that Billy's only places of refuge are the privacy of his own bedroom and the dance floor. His elevated bed draws attention and forces the crowd to empathize with Billy's situation. His abusive father forces him to escape whenever possible, and his feelings of frustration and loneliness are highlighted with the elevated bed. In one scene, Billy tosses up the wire frame of his bed and dances to a dark song that reveals his inner anger, all of which displays a creative use of the set.

Another scene that strikes the attention of the audience is one in which a hoard of police regulating the strike come onto the stage with the ballet dancers, while both dance in unison. The policeman, standing rigidly in a horizontal line, beat their batons against thick plastic shields, resulting in an extremely terrifying noise, so loud that forces you want to plug your ears. The ballet dancers take part in their own routine while this goes on. The clash between the police and the delicate little ballet dancers emphasizes the struggle between the common folk of Newcastle and the brutal authority of Margaret Thatcher's enforcers.

My favorite scene was one in which young Billy meets an older version of himself and dances in unison with him. Both are wearing the same outfit and perform the exact same moves (older Billy is much more muscular!), so it is almost as if it is a mirror image dancing on the stage. Fog is blown onto the stage to create a dream-like effect, as Billy is, in fact, supposedly imagining this encounter. Billy's encounter with his older self bolsters his self confidence and enables him to stand up to his angry, forceful father. At the end of this powerful scene, Billy strikes a solid pose right in front of his outraged father, who is standing arms akimbo. This scene is symbolic of Billy's evolution from boy to man; it displays Billy's newfound confidence, which he slowly acquires, despite all of the obstacles that face him. After this, I found myself reflecting on times where I have envisioned my future self and tried to picture the state I will be in ten years from now- scary, yet exciting.

The lead actor in this play, although only 12 or 14 years old, was an excellent dancer, and was most impressive throughout. I should not have been surprised with the amount of young talent present in this musical, but I truly was. Billy's young sidekick, who reveals himself to be a "poof" in secret, was extremely talented as well for his age. His antics were entertaining, and, all in all, I believe that it was great to address the issue of homosexuality and the oppression that can result in exposing one's true nature. There was one particular scene where Billy's young pal (gosh, I'm blanking on his name) makes Billy dress up in his mother's clothes and dance around flamboyantly. He reminds Billy that there is no shame in this and that he should do whatever he wants, regardless of the social stigma that can come with being genuine. The overall message of this play was great; it really reminds us all to be ourselves and accept others, regardless of our varying talents, hobbies, appearances, or passions. Billy ultimately is accepted into the Royal Ballet Academy and becomes a successful dancer, illustrating the fact that dedication, self confidence, and perserverence in the face of opposition are the keys to accomplishment in life. This play was powerful, and the scene with Billy and his future self dancing together is absolutely the most inspiring scene I've seen in a musical to date. Go see it!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Necessity of Friends in a City Teeming with Strangers

I am sitting alone once again in my barely furnished apartment with mixed feelings of both respite and loneliness- a combination of feelings frequently felt by anybody living in New York City. My friends from Leuven came out last night and we had a great time together, but it has been hard having people come in and out, always staying just for a bit. This morning we all sat and reminisced about our days abroad when we would travel on a whim and then sit all day talking and eating together for the majority of the time that we weren't traveling. The most special thing about going abroad was being able to bond with people on a deeper level than with anyone else in any other circumstances.  Now it seems as though all catching up must be done within a small time frame; everything is just so much more rushed than it used to be. I don't feel settled. 

Even though people come and go, staying for only a brief stint, seeing familiar faces makes it so much easier to survive in such a cold-hearted, frantic city, full of people who only notice themselves. For such a populated island, Manhattan is ever so lonely, and I don't think I will ever be able to pinpoint the reason for this. When friends aren't coming into town, I am usually escaping to the suburbs in New Jersey or visiting friends in other cities.  I must admit that I do feel a bit lost right now, and am trying to find a place that I can truly call home. These days, "home" seems to be a relative term. I guess if I had a community here I would perhaps feel more at home, but this city isn't very conducive to that. As cliche as it really is, the people in your life make a place feel like home. I am not sure where I will be one year from now, but I do hope that I am surrounded by people that I know and love, regardless of where my path will lead. I do know one thing for sure; it is strange trying to find a home, a place to truly fit and feel content and blissfully happy, even through the down times. I'd say I had finally found that two years ago in the people I became so close with from Loyola. 

Next blog will be more artsy- Moma and AMNH October 15 or 16!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Meet Me at the Met

Believe it or not, I have yet to experience just about all of the museums that New York City has to offer- which sure is a lot. So far, I have only been in the Met, but if it counts for anything at all, I have been there twice.  When you initially step foot in this vast museum, you are overtaken by throngs of tourists trying to figure out where the heck they are supposed to pay for admission and begin their exploration of this never-ending, world-famous mansion of art that can sometimes seem like a maze, even if you've been there a few times.  Once you finally discover how to line up for admission, almost everybody  around you proceeds to chat-chat, trying to figure out just how much the admission actually is. "I heard it was free; Is that true?" is the line coming out of most mouths as folks wait in line.  Nobody really knows how much the met costs, which is quite normal, considering that it has an optional admission donation. This does not mean that you can choose if you want to pay or not, but, rather, it means that you can choose just how much you want to give to the Met. After spending a year bargaining my way through Europe, finagling deals left and right, and moving to the city on a publisher's salary, it is difficult for me to want to spend any more than the bare minimum for admission, regardless of my avid support for the arts.  So I feel my face turn red as I pretend to act like I am uninformed of the optional donation amount.  Once I discover that it is optional from the clerk, I hang my head and say, "fifty cents is all I have, sorry. I'm a student". Not only is the first part a blatant lie, but the second part of that couldn't be farther from the truth either these days. As I stand at the entrance of such a classy, historic museum, I can't help but feel cheap and shameful at the thought of my fifty cent donation. Some guy says to me, "Hey, you can pay twenty- five cents and still get in!", as if to try and make me feel better. Soon after, I walk up to the "Met Supporters" wall and realize that this museum is doing perfectly fine and does not need my pathetic fifty cents, even if there is a sign that claims it needs our donations to stay open.  Conde Nast publications and J.P. Morgan Chase are just two of the donors to the Met. Needless to say, even if my fifty cents were fifty dollars, The Met still has these big time organizations to provide for it.

The first time I visited the Met, I walked through the "Model as Muse" exhibit, which was stunning and tragic at the same time. It was enthralling to be able to see the old covers of Vogue- covers from a time when the publication still held its dignity and had old fashioned class. One cover stands out in my mind. It is black and white, and simply has the face of a woman on the front, wearing a large brimmed hat. The hat has a connecting piece of net on it that partially hides the woman's face, making for a mysterious, sexy, and unforgettable image.  I think one of the only colors visible is the red from her lipstick.  It is so simple, yet so elegant. These days, Vogue is something close to 75 percent ads. As I made my way through the exhibit, it was sad to see the classic fashions of Dior and Chanel fade and give way to the trashy, edgy looks that Kate Moss sports. Suffice it to say, the evolution of fashion says a lot about the direction our culture has gone and where we are headed. Magazines pander to the consumer-driven world of advertising, and, sadly, they are watered down versions of what they used to be.

Now that I'm done with my little tirade about modern culture, I will tell you a little story about something that happened to me in the Impressionist exhibit. I've always been a huge fan of Impressionism, mainly because of the light and use of color that is such a large part of it altogether.  One of my all time favorite museums is the Musee D'Orsay in Paris, due to its large collection of brilliant impressionist paintings by Monet, Degas, Van Gogh- among others. I could really spend all day looking at this stuff; it just makes me so calm and happy. So anyways, I am looking at this beautiful painting of the shore by Degas, and all of the sudden, this short, creepy looking guy comes up to me and asks me what my opinion is of this painting and if I am an artist. He then starts to go on about his attempts at art and his skills at writing, which is really of no interest to me whatsoever. I think I tried to be somewhat friendly and told him about my career as a staff writer for our school newspaper, which seemed to impress him a bit too much. However, after this short attempt at socializing with a complete stranger, I awkwardly listened a bit longer and decided it was time to make my escape. This sorts of run ins are commonplace for me- just ask anyone who knows me well. Is there a sign on me that says, "Please come talk to me and increase the level of awkwardness in my life, because it just isn't high enough"?

My second visit to the Met was with a friend, and I must say that going with somebody is far different than going alone (more enjoyable? Depends on your mood). I showed her my favorites, as if the Met was my living room.  There's something empowering about being able to guide somebody around the Met. It was also nice to have feedback about the art this time and to not have random strangers approach you for no particular reason.  We were particularly impressed with the large, open room full of statues that is used for swanky fundraising events.  Light streams in from the glass windows located at the top and causes the place to glow, contrasting nicely the rest of the museum, which is is dark and cold. 

Another impressive part of the museum is its Egyptian art collection. From sculptures to vases to sarcophogi (how the heck do you spell that?)- they really have it all. It's always been so fascinating to me that all of these artifacts still exist, despite thousands of years of death, destruction, wars, etc. I will admit that I used to have a strange obsession with all things Egypt, so their vast collection really excites me.  When I was in grade school, I would check out books every single week from the library on mummies and pyramids. I was literally obsessed with mummies- especially King Tut. I truly believed that the curse of King Tut was on the whole city of Cairo and that everybody there was doomed for all eternity. Looking back, I don't know how I slept at night after looking at pictures hundred year old frozen explorers found in Nova Scotia and the like. I'm not normal now, and I wasn't back then either. Nobody needs to remind me of that; I am too aware of it.

 I think I'll go to the Met again many more times, both alone and with friends; it is nice knowing that I can walk six blocks and pay fifty cents (or less) for the likes of Monet, Michaelangelo, and 5,000 year old Egyptian sculptors. No offense, guys.