Snow Day! The Joy of Juno

Being from Colorado, seeing snowfall makes me feel right at home. But even I was getting nervous on Monday, when the winter storm warnings were issued and everyone hastily wrapped up their work to start the mad dash for home. By 2pm, the office was more than half empty, and the general consensus was that the following day would be a work-at-home day.

YES, Snow Day! With, you know, work. But still plenty of time to play in the snow!

New York had already issued a state of emergency, and at 9pm, we received a mass emergency alert on our phones stating that “all non-emergency must be off all roads in NYC by 11pm until further notice.” At 11pm, subways officially shut down as well. NYC was taking every precaution…

…all for nothing, it seems. There was a solid six inches of snow piled up on the streets when I woke up the next morning, but the forecast for the “biggest snowstorm in the history of New York City” fell short.

It was still enough to quiet the city and turn it into a frosty playground, though. So I set out on a stroll to Central Park at 8:30am, when most of the city was sleeping and the snow was still undisturbed, to capture scenes of the storm in a normally bustling city.

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Just about everything was closed. Only a handful of cars and people were out on the expansive streets, and the crosswalks all had barricades of snow around 2 feet high. This was an incredibly tall mound of snow right next to the Rockefeller Center (see the snowplow on the left for scale):

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Subway service was suspended until 9am, but there was barely anyone out and about to ride them.

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I found these snow piles quite funny:

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And Central Park was picturesque:

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When I went back to actually play in the snow almost 12 hours later, there was barely a square meter of snow that had not been trampled, formed into a snowman, or packed by hundreds of feet. And all of the road-side snow that had been so fun to jump in had degenerated into unidentifiable slush. I figured such beauty couldn’t last long in the city. But beautiful it most certainly was, and I’m so glad I was fortunate enough to capture it.

First Snowfall at the Cloisters

Last weekend my Dad, who came with my Mom to the Tri-state area for the holidays, visited me for one last day in NYC (while my mother ran off to California for a slew of New Year’s Eve late-night ballroom dancing celebrations. Meanwhile, I stayed in on New Year’s Eve and baked cookies. Can you say “role reversal”?)

The forecast for the day was about 10 solid hours of a 90% chance of rain, but at a loss of anything else to do, I suggested visiting the Cloisters. I had heard that it was a less-trafficked branch of the Met that had a focus on Medieval architecture as well as art. As my Dad was an architect by training, I figured he would enjoy it.

We took the long subway ride North past 200th Street and emerged to find that, true to the forecast, there was precipitation. However, it was of the dry, fluffy, white kind. Now, this I don’t mind!

It’s snowed a couple of times this winter before, but this was the first time it’s actually stuck on the roads. Walking on the path that winds up the small hill to the Cloisters in the snow was like being briefly transported to a winter wonderland. We didn’t get a White Christmas, but I guess this is a close second!

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The Cloisters itself is one large and austere stone building that houses authentic medieval European churches and gardens which were transplanted in the 1930s and painstakingly rebuilt. I don’t know what I was expecting to see — exhibits explaining medieval architectural practices and structures, perhaps? — but this was like being transported to through time to another sort of wonderland, one where you could walk from a 12th century Spanish church straight into a 11th century French courtyard (these dates are probably completely wrong, by the way. But you get the idea).

Even though there were much fewer visitors at the Cloisters than at the Met, it was still fairly difficult to take pictures without any people in them. So at some point, I just gave up and decided to include them.

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My favorite is the man kneeling in front of Jesus. Praying? Nope, just taking a quick picture.

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And my Dad’s favorite work of art, silver-stained glass roundels. All of the different colors are achieved by painting with different mixtures of silver and then baking the glass, thereby actually staining it (and not just painting it, which is what most “stained glass” is). Most were images of Jesus and monastic life, but let’s just take a moment to appreciate whatever is happening in that second scene down there:

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I completely did not expect something like the Cloisters to exist anywhere in the vicinity of New York City. Snow or not, it’s a magical place!

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

I feel that there are certain things you have to do at least once if you live in New York City, and attending nationally televised events, like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, is one of them. People fly in from all over the country and book hotel rooms close to the parade route in order to see it, so given that I live five streets away, I really have no excuse.

My plan was to wake up at 6am to secure an optimal front row spot, but I couldn’t help snoozing once…Okay, twice. I cooked and ate a nice warm egg breakfast, donned the long underwear and Goretex layers that I usually reserve for skiing trips, poured myself a bottle of hot water, downloaded a new book to my Kindle, and then set off.

By the time I got to Sixth Ave at 7:20, all of the front row spaces within three blocks were already occupied. I couldn’t find a single piece of empty railing to grab onto, so I had to settle with positioning myself just behind a pole and in between two families that had come early and set up tarps to claim the space. If you can’t spend Thanksgiving with your own family, might as well spend it with a family.

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From then on, it was just a waiting game. About twenty minutes in, I realized it was too cold for Kindle reading (at least with the Kindle Paperwhite, which has a touch screen. I knew I would eventually regret not getting the one with the buttons), I didn’t have headphones, and no one in my phonebook was actually awake for a call. I honestly can’t tell you how I got through the next two hours… to be frank, probably mostly by shivering, eavesdropping on other people’s conversations, and passive-aggressively defending my spot. I did chat with one of the families next to me, who came from Long Island and has been in attendance for the parade for the past 7-8 years (now THAT’S dedication), but I learned that while exploring things on your own is an adventure, waiting alone is no fun at all.

The parade started at 9am, but it took a full 40 minutes for the first wacky rollarblading clowns to wind down Central Park West and reach our stretch of Sixth Ave. I have now seen about 700 more clowns than I have ever cared to see, in all sorts of varieties: dressed like traffic signs, old grannies, graduates in gowns, and much much more. But finally what I was really there to witness, all of the floats!

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And the marching bands, but really, just one or two would have been quite enough.

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I really could have done without this one, which came before the Chinese culture/embassy float (I’m not reeeeally sure why China needs representation on Thanksgiving. And really? Those outfits?)

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There were a host of celebrities too, none of whom I recognized except for Nick Jonas and Idina Menzel (and most of whom I missed entirely because I was distracted by their elaborate floats). But they were all saving their performances for the televised portion near 34th street, so all we saw were the smiles and waves.

Because being in the second row was still not enough to make up for my lack of height, I was basically on tip toe for the entire parade. By 10:37, I was already praying for the parade to end so that I could sit down and remember what it felt like to be warm.

Finally, finally, Santa came about an hour later:

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And just like that, we kicked off Thanksgiving and ushered in Christmas! It is now socially acceptable to play Christmas songs on repeat and have Home Alone marathons, which is what I promptly did as soon as my body temperature returned to normal levels back at my apartment.

Next year (and for every year after that) I think I will watch the parade on TV, with the option to plop my butt down into a warm, comfy seat. The broadcast also gives you the best views, which no amount of physical strain or waiting in the cold would have given me at the parade in person.

Still, going to the parade is just one of those items on the bucket list that you have to cross off, just once in your life…but now I’m seriously reconsidering watching the ball drop on New Year’s Eve in Times Square. Maybe there are certain things that you should never attempt, not even once.

Solo Trip to Storm King

Ever since summer barely officially ended, I’ve been dying to travel out of the concrete jungle to see fall in full bloom. Being from Colorado, I don’t have the chance to see many deciduous trees (okay, that’s a bit of a lie…we have a city named Aspen for a reason. But on the whole, there are more coniferous pines. And then just plain desert), so I figured I had to go and see the leaves change in upstate New York.

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None of the other weekends in October worked out, but the leaves are rapidly changing and sliding past peak, so I knew I had to go this past weekend or not at all. Unfortunately, renting a car in Manhattan starts from $200/day and only goes up. But a coworker recommended Storm King, an open-air sculpture museum located an hour and a half upstate and which I could travel to and from with a mere $46 bus ticket. Perfect!

The only problem was that I couldn’t find anyone to go with me. Being the busy New Yorkers we all are, it was impossible to find someone with an entire Saturday free. But companion or not, I was going to go, damn it. At that point, the casual desire to see some pretty leaves had turned into a metaphor for living out my life. What if I just keep saying, “Yeah, it’d be nice, but oh well. Next year” to everything??

Nuh uh. I was going to get my leaves!

And to be honest, I really don’t mind traveling alone…my main source of consternation was that there would be no one to take pictures of me. There, yup. I admit it.

Learning from my previous public transport fiasco, I left a full 30 minutes earlier than necessary to catch my 10am bus. Good thing, too, because Short Line Bus company should be sued for false advertising. What is the point of buying tickets online if you must line up at the ticket window anyway to exchange the online confirmation for physical tickets? And of course I picked the line that took 20 minutes longer than the others, because it was staffed by a woman moved like a glacier, inexplicably took a 10 minute break, and seemed incapable of counting out the $84 given to her by the pair in front of me (thank goodness she didn’t have to give them any change – mixing subtraction with addition could have resulted in another 5 minute delay).

It was quite a relief to finally get on the bus. I found a nice window seat, but gave it up so that a couple who boarded the bus later on could sit together. I figured I could use some good karma after all of the negativity of the morning.

And that is how I met my spontaneous companion for the day, another girl who wanted an adventure and couldn’t find anyone to go with. It was meant to be! And most importantly, the photography problem was solved. 😉

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Storm King is basically a well-curated forest (or maybe Central Park without the crowds and the backdrop of Manhattan’s skyline), peppered with massive abstract statues. It’s big enough that you have to trek a bit to get to the things you want to see, but small enough that you can cover the entire park at a leisurely pace on foot.

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I couldn’t have asked for a better day trip or a more beautiful fall day. So there’s the lesson: if you want to do something, even if you have to do it solo, make it happen! Companionship and fun memories will come.

The Long PATH to Fishing

Since I moved to NYC at the end of July, I hadn’t really had the chance to leave the City (unless you count commuting to Jersey City everyday for work or the day trip to Edison to pick up the last of my university stuff). So I was super excited about my company’s annual fishing trip out around Sandy Hook Bay on a chartered boat, the Misty Morn!

I went on the same fishing trip last year and had a blast, but there were a few things that I was determined to do differently this year:

  1. Arrive at the designated pick-up spot on time. Last year, when I made my way from SoHo to Jersey City, I didn’t realize that the PATH train’s weekend schedule was one train every half hour. I just missed the train, and as a result spent an excruciating half hour in the World Trade Center station and caused the boat to set sail 45 minutes late. Nobody blamed me, but I swore on the powers that be that I would not repeat the experience.
  2. Catch a keeper. Even though I caught a few flukes (flounders) last year, none of them were the required 17″, so they were all thrown back in the water. But this year I had all the seasonings prepared, so I was counting on bringing a fish home!
  3. Dress appropriately. Last year, I naively wore a white shirt. Shortly after, I decided that it was just about time to get rid of said shirt.

When preparing to make the trek to Harrison to get picked up this year, I drew from the lessons I learned the year prior. First, I actually looked up the PATH schedule online (imagine that, I know), and second, I aimed for the train BEFORE the one that I actually had to take, so that I would have a fall-back just in case. All set.

The morning of, I woke up at 4:30, had a quick hearty breakfast, left the apartment at 5:10, and made it to the 33rd Street PATH station at 5:30, with 10 minutes to spare. All according to plan! Except the 5:40 train never showed up. And then the 6:00 train was delayed by 7 minutes, causing me to miss the 6:31 connection to Harrison (sure, THAT train runs on time). Instead, I had to take the 7:06, which subsequently was delayed for another 10 minutes while we waited for another train to pass. All told, I arrived at 7:25 instead of 6:40. And the boat set sail, again, 40 minutes late.

DAMN IT.

The EXACT situation that I had taken such great pains to avoid. I literally have nightmares of being late – in one vivid dream, I missed a Taekwondo tournament because I took two hours to change into my uniform pants, and in countless dreams, I’ve been delayed on my way to meet people and only get there when everything is over and the everyone is gone. This was a living nightmare, and waking up at 4:30 in the morning (unnecessarily, apparently) didn’t improve the situation.

In any case, we got there, and just like last year, the fishing itself was a blast! Even though I miserably failed my first goal, I did manage to catch three keepers! (and a few that definitely weren’t):

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The mates of the boat that we chartered graciously filleted our fish for us (in addition to helping complete newbies like me unhook our catches and untangle ourselves from each other), but after witnessing a 18″ sea bass reduced to two 4.5″ flaps of meat, I decided to take my catches (two sea bass and one porgy) home whole to clean and treat them myself.

I had, however, definitely underestimated the difficulty and general unpleasantness of a two-hour ride on the subways with a sack of fresh fish. Even though I stole some ice from the coolers and then triple-bagged the goods, it didn’t take long for fish juice (maybe it could just be melted ice? Nope, unfortunately, very definitely fish juice) to start leaking. On the PATH train, a little puddle of it formed by the bag between my feet, and the juice flowed out in all directions as the train moved. People threw me alarmed and disgusted looks, but at that point, I was so tired that I had reached a state of transcendence and couldn’t be moved to care. Take THAT, PATH.

For the rest of the ride, though, I found the makeshift solution of taking off my sweater and wrapping it around the bag to soak up all the leakage. It was either that, or dribble fish juice all the way from Hoboken to Manhattan. So there I was, carrying a sack of fish and ice, all wrapped up in a wet sweater. And reeking of fish, to boot. I bet I was everyone’s favorite fellow passenger.

But at least I had this to show for my efforts!

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Three fish, as fresh as can be (perhaps just slightly fresher without the two-hour train ride), and a cold. What with waking up early, enduring two hours of intense stress, and standing in the chilly wind on the boat, my body simply couldn’t keep up.

But what more could you ask for than an (infuriatingly) interesting story and a delicious meal? Still, I might sit the trip out next year…and the rest of the boat would probably thank me for it.