Let me mean different things

When I move to New York after college, I work at a restaurant where I meet a man who “works in publishing.” He’s an editor who comes into the restaurant alone to read book reviews and to meet with one of his authors. I tell him I want to work in publishing. He gives me a copy of an anthology he edited, invites me to a reading.

The reading is in the Rare Book Room at The Strand, and it is Intimate. When I walk in and sit down, one of the authors featured in the collection turns to me and asks me who I know at the event. “I’m a friend of the editor,” I say.

Her eyes narrow.

“No,” I want to protest, “The only thing I’ve ever given him is more water, a napkin, a spoon. The only thing he’s ever given me is a copy of this book. I liked your story in it.”

before the reading 3
(One good thing about coming of age with digital camera technology is that I know exactly what I was wearing that day. I took a picture right before I left the house with the camera in my laptop. I stood on a chair in order to capture the whole look: a poofy pink skirt with a brown cotton jacket.

I’d decided to document my outfit because I wanted to remember the occasion –– my first literary event in New York City! –– and because I thought I looked like a cupcake in a crumpled paper bag. Hardly the outfit of a seductress.)

But I am 22, and sometimes my body means things I don’t want it to.

I want to ask the author, a stately woman with blond hair and pearls if she remembers her body being a hurdle to personhood, a threat to her safety. “When does it stop?” I want to ask. Instead, I read her mind. She is thinking about age-appropriate women who become ex-wives and the young women who “take” their places. She is thinking that men’s preference for younger women is really the preference to dominate.

She is thinking, in short, all the same things I think, but she can’t see past my body, and she thinks I am the problem –– or at least, complicit.

My face feels hot during the reading. I get my book signed by all the authors in attendance, trying to think of interesting things to say about each of their stories as I stand over them at the signing table. All of the authors are men, except for the woman who thinks I am bad. I leave quickly.

The next day the editor emails me to thank me for attending the reading. He says he hopes “we’ll have more time to talk, next time.”

I wait 12 days to write back. I re-read the email over and over, trying to figure out if his tone is flirtatious, before deciding that it’s not. In my reply, I try to sound like the professional I dream of being. I ask if would be possible for me to ask him some questions about his “career trajectory” and any advice he has “for someone hoping to work in [his] field.”

He writes me an encouraging email, saying that summer is a difficult time for job hunting, but he thinks something good will come up for me soon. He offers to talk to me at the restaurant or at his “family apartment” in the city (something rich people who live in Connecticut have, I learn).

I am working when he comes to the restaurant, so he suggests his apartment as the most logical place to meet. I spend the rest of my shift wondering if I should go or not. I text Devin to ask what he would do and he says he would go. I think about how Devin’s body has never been anything but safe, and I am sad and a little angry.

(This, I think, is the hardest part about dating a straight White man: the window into an alternate existence, always just out of reach.)

The career counselors from my college said, “Network, network, network!”

I said, “How?” and followed their advice.

1. Find someone who has your dream job.
2. Invite them to get coffee.
3. Ask them about how they got their job, and see if they’ll help you get a job.

The career counselors never mentioned that it might be harder for some of us to do this kind of networking. A college graduate is a college graduate is a college graduate, their “career tips” implied. I believed them at first.

I spend the rest of my shift filling tiny to-go containers with salad dressing, answering the phones, refilling water glasses, and smiling at the customers. The whole time I am making a list.

+ He’s never been creepy.
But all our interactions have been in public.
+ His emails are business-y.
But why did the female writer look at me like that? Maybe she knows something I don’t.
+ Oh please. He probably suggested the apartment because he’s clueless. Maybe he’s hard of hearing.
Or maybe not.

My shift ends and, despite my daydreams of visiting an apartment overlooking Central Park and launching my career with a firm handshake, I can’t make myself go.

Instead I
• walk  to a street-level restaurant “overlooking” a subway entrance
• stare at greasy croissants in a pastry case
eavesdrop on millionaire women 
• think about how patriarchy means circumscribed.

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Let me mean different things

Sometimes

Sometimes I remember something that feels good to remember, and I have to write it down.

Like the time Devin and I rode home from Philadelphia on the Megabus. It was summer. I was wearing a sundress. And the A/C was turned up so high that I couldn’t feel my feet. My eyes were frozen grapes. My goosebumps had goosebumps, which had goosebumps, which had even more goosebumps––generations of goosebumps on all my limbs. I covered myself with everything in reach (my backpack, Devin’s backpack, his button-down shirt), but I was powerless against the cold. And I knew that just outside the window, it was hot. Sunny, sweaty, sniff-check-your-deodorant hot.

This cold was a man-made problem! It could be fixed with the turn of a dial. If only I could get to the driver’s seat… I pictured myself a spy: Kim Possible minus the cargo pants on a mission to turn down the A/C while the driver fumbled with the radio. But Devin napped the whole way back, and I was in the window seat. Powerless.

We got off the bus in Chelsea, which was convenient because we could catch the 2 train right there and ride it home to Brooklyn. The bus dropped us off right at the subway stop, and we started to go down the stairs, but I was cold. I was still so cold, and I knew the train would also be blasting the A/C. I turned back to look at Devin, who was oblivious to the whole thing. Angry New Yorkers scowled at us for holding up traffic on the subway stairs. I yelled, “No! I am not getting into another air-conditioned vehicle! I would rather walk home!”

And Devin, who had no idea that I had transformed into the world’s worst enemy of air-cooling technology while he slept, said, “Sure, we can walk home.”

We could have been home in 40 minutes, but instead, we walked 2 and a half hours. It felt exactly right.

Sometimes

Happy Birthday, Bethany!

This summer I visited a friend I hadn’t seen in a while, and the first thing she said to me was, “How do you know ArchedEyebrow?,” which thrilled me because I love Bethany Rutter, and I think everyone should know her.

And since the internet told me that today is her birthday, I decided to answer that question for the world wide web.

bethany rutter

Bethany in front of the Brooklyn Museum, spring 2015

I met Bethany at a wedding, waiting in line for appetizers––they had these little food stations featuring different cuisines in addition to a seated dinner and multiple desserts. It was food heaven (or as I like to call it, heaven. Because if it’s true we get to create our own version of heaven, mine will consist of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, kitchens, and restaurants).

Back to the wedding buffet…

When I met Bethany, I was spending a lot of time with super cool women who unfortunately had terrible relationships with food (like a lot, if not most, women living in our patriarchal, body-hating society), so social eating situations made me apprehensive. (It’s hard for me to hear people make negative weight-related comments about food, especially when I’m about to eat, and all I want to do is enjoy it!) I didn’t realize how much I had come to expect fatphobic food talk before every meal until I heard Bethany exclaim, “This is delightful!”

We bonded over how excited we were to try everything, and honestly, that interaction was enough for me to love her. But that wasn’t all! She was also wearing a dress I still daydream about. And she was the wedding DJ. And she played ***Flawless by Beyoncé for me, so by the end of the wedding, I had a major friend crush.

She lives in London, so I wasn’t sure if I would get to see her again, but somehow we ended up going to see the Kara Walker exhibit in the Domino sugar factory before she flew home. All of the art was made of refined sugar and represented Black bodies, and at the exhibit, there were lots of non-Black people doing awful things to the sculptures (like taking photos in front of the art while making lewd or violent poses). Bethany took in the scene and said, “Someone should take pictures or make a video to expose all the racist things people are doing.”

I decided on the spot that we were destined to be friends, even if she did live across the Atlantic. (Later we learned Kara Walker had been filming us all along because she’s brilliant.)

It’s been two years since that dreamy wedding, and I’ve only found more reasons to love Bethany, including her fabulous fashion blog, her hilarious twitter, her sense of fun, and the way she doesn’t just stand with her arms crossed when she sees something unjust (see, for example, her “You Look Great!” campaign in response to one of the worst examples of fat-shaming harassment I’ve ever heard of).

edama me

arched sushi

Happy birthday, Bethany! I’m so glad you exist.

 

Happy Birthday, Bethany!

Policed/Protected

I woke up to voices on the radio. They said a judge reversed the jury’s decision, and Peter Liang will serve no jail time.

Peter Liang, the NYPD officer who killed Akai Gurley, was found guilty of manslaughter. But the judge reduced the conviction to “criminally negligent homicide” and the punishment to five years’ probation and 800 hours of community service.

akaila and akai gurley Buzzfeed
Akaila and Akai Gurley (photo via Buzzfeed)


I wanted them to say that Akai Gurley was just walking down the stairs in his apartment building.
I wanted them to say that Peter Liang fired his gun blindly into the stairwell because he heard a sound.
I wanted them to say that after his bullet hit Akai Gurley, Peter Liang left him on the ground.
I wanted them to say that Peter Liang was required to give CPR to Akai Gurley, but he didn’t.
I wanted them to say that instead of helping, he refused to answer calls from a 911 operator and his commanding officer while a man he shot lay on the ground dying.
Instead of helping, he texted his union representative and worried about being fired.
I wanted them to say that Peter Liang wasn’t even supposed to be patrolling the stairs of that building.
I wanted them to say that Akai Gurley had a two year-old baby at the time of his murder, a baby girl named after him, a baby girl who lost her dad.

akai gurley memorial in pink houses NYT
Memorial in the Pink Houses building where Akai Gurley died (Photo via The New York Times)


I wanted to say that the Pink Houses, where Akai and his family lived, were so far away from my own house in Brooklyn that it took me two trains, one bus, and an hour of travel time to get there for the vigil. When I got there, I saw nothing except brown public housing buildings, one after another. I wondered where residents could work, how they could buy groceries.

I wanted to ask how we would have reacted if the shooting had happened one hour from my house in the other direction. If, instead of East New York, a man had been killed by the police in an Upper East Side staircase.

Would we be more indignant that an innocent man was murdered by police if he had been wealthy and White? Would it be so easy to write off his death as an accident? Can we even imagine it?

Policed/Protected

NYC Tour

Anja Riebensahm sent me a pop-up model of New York for my birthday! The best part is that she put little speech and thought bubbles of things I might say or think all around the city (and a sign that says “KRISTY 4EVER” in Midtown). I loved putting it together and remembering all my favorite places.

Lately I’ve been daydreaming about New York more than usual. Aside from missing my friends who live there, I remember how much fun it was to play tour guide in the spring. Last year Devin and I hosted friends from England, Mexico, and South Africa within a few weeks of each other, and we were in tour guide heaven. This spring I am stuck in what feels like tour guide limbo. I’ve written a lot of texts and tweets that say “Go here! Skip this! Do that!” to friends who are visiting the city, but I realized that I almost always give the same advice, and to spare myself from carpal tunnel, I might as well put it all in one place.

Note: I am most familiar with Brooklyn and Manhattan because that’s where I spent most of my time. I am also familiar with restaurants in Queens (the borough with the best food, in my opinion), but I don’t know much about the Bronx or Staten Island.

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GENERAL ADVICE

1. As soon as you arrive, get a copy of New York Magazine, The New Yorker, and Time Out New York. Read them on your first day in town to see if there are any events you want to attend while you’re there. (You can also read their events listings online at the links above.)

2. If you’re going to be in New York longer than one or two days, get a 7-day unlimited MetroCard. You can get almost anywhere by public transit, and aside from saving money and time (because you won’t have to refill your card), the train is one of the best places to people-watch. If you like to tour cities by bus, skip the expensive tour buses, and ride a city bus (also included in your unlimited MetroCard). The buses are empty at prime touring times, and they ride down the same streets. Tip: The option to buy an unlimited card can be hard to find on the MetroCard machines, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

3. Use Google Maps to find your way around. There are New York-specific apps and sites, but you’ve probably used Google Maps before, and its directions are accurate for transit, walking, and biking. I use the app all the time, no matter what city I’m in, and it’s never led me astray.

BROOKLYN

1. IM Pastry Studio (1131 Nostrand Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11225)

IM Pastry Studio is the bakery of my dreams! Perfect cupcakes, savory food, the best
cold brew in the city, super fresh fruit drinks (the mojito mint limeade and the ting ting  
are my favorites), and Dough doughnuts (a.k.a. the only donuts that matter). I’ve been   
known to walk out with a drink and dessert in each hand because the choice was so difficult. Plus, it’s beautiful and close to Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which I also highly, highly recommend.

2. M.O.B. (525 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217)

You know how sometimes you put your phone in airplane mode and it charges really fast? That’s how I feel when I walk down Atlantic Avenue. I can’t explain why, but I can tell you about M.O.B (Maimonides of Brooklyn), my favorite restaurant on that energizing street. It’s a vegan restaurant that aims to “seduce carnivores,” and judging by the reaction of the many meat-eaters I’ve taken there, it succeeds. Go there for brunch, lunch, or dinner. Sit inside at the long communal tables or outside in the garden. The whole menu is excellent, but I have a soft spot for the M.O.B. flatbreads served on plates in the shape of the Brooklyn Bridge.

3. The Brooklyn Heights Promenade (at Montague Street and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway) and Brooklyn Bridge Park (starts at 45 Dock Street and wraps around the waterfront)

If you ask most New Yorkers about parks to visit, you’ll likely be told to go to the High Line, but I find it kind of underwhelming. The Brooklyn Heights Promenade and Brooklyn Bridge Park, on the other hand, never disappoint. They’re perfect for skyline views and photo ops. Brooklyn Bridge Park is built on a series of piers (each with its own features and activities), making it one of the most creative uses of public space I’ve ever seen. Take a spin on Jane’s Carousel, get pizza and Ample Hills ice cream, ride a bike, watch a soccer game, go for a swim in the (admittedly tiny) pop-up pool, roller-skate, have a perfect sunny day.

4. The Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11238)

As far as I know, the Brooklyn Museum is the only museum in the world with a feminist art wing (though I would love to be proven wrong). It is also the home of First Saturdays––my favorite, favorite, favorite free event in New York. Every first Saturday of the month, the museum opens its doors, allowing everyone the opportunity to view its exhibits, make art, and dance to live music for free. Go for the art, and stay for the people-watching. It’s a monthly convention of New York’s most stylish residents, and their outfits regularly left me breathless.

5. Night Train (622 Degraw Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217)

I hear NBC recently filmed Night Train for a TV special, so catch this comedy night ASAP before it blows up and you can no longer get tickets. Wyatt Cenac (of Daily Show fame) hosts and picks an incredible lineup of comedians. For example, in January we saw Erin Jackson, Hari Kondabolu, and Kevin Avery. Bonus: The DJ in residence is Don Will, whose name you might recognize from Another Round!

MANHATTAN

1. Banana Pudding from Magnolia Bakery (various locations)

I don’t have very much wisdom to impart, but there is one thing I know deep down in my bones, and that is “If you go to Magnolia Bakery, get the banana pudding.” You will be tempted by the cupcakes. The cupcakes are beautiful. The cupcakes are famous! But sadly, the cupcakes are dry and boring. Trust me. I have made this mistake many times. However, the banana pudding is worth all the hype and then some. I don’t care if you don’t like banana desserts. I don’t care if you don’t like pudding. Both of these things are true of me, and still, the banana pudding is perfect.

2. Housing Works Bookstore Café (126 Crosby Street, New York, NY 10012)

Housing Works is a superb organization operating the best thrift stores in New York City. I love all of their stores, but my very favorite is the Housing Works Bookstore Café. Located on a cobblestone street in SoHo, it’s everything a bookstore should be, with bookshelves covering every wall on both floors, good lighting, plenty of tables, a grand staircase, and green hanging lamps. It also has free wi-fi, which is important if you’re visiting from abroad or if you don’t have a smartphone. All of that is enough to make it worth a visit, but it also hosts some of the best literary events, including The Moth StorySLAM so be sure to check the calendar.

3. Pippin Vintage Jewelry (112 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011)

Pippin Vintage Jewelry is a luxurious boutique that sells jewelry from seemingly every time period, but the coolest thing about it is that they have pieces at every price point (starting at $5). I bought Devin’s wedding band and my most beautiful pair of earrings at Pippin, and every time I’ve gone in, the staff has answered all my questions and made me feel like a VIP (even when the only thing I could ask was “Um…what’s the cheapest thing you sell?”). Bonus: Chelsea is filled with vintage stores, so be sure and walk around before and after you check out Pippin.

4. Fabulous Fanny’s (335 East 9th Street, New York, 10003)

People often ask me where I got my glasses, and I love answering “Fabulous Fanny’s!” It’s a store that truly lives up to the adjective in its name, with glasses of all kinds, most at much, much lower prices than at other stores. Fabulous Fanny’s stocks vintage frames and new frames made in the U.S.A. They don’t do the lenses in store, but they’ll refer you to a place in Chinatown that does quick work and is also very affordable, making it possible for you to buy a pair as a souvenir!

5. Playing Tourist (various locations)

When I was younger, I thought tourist attractions were for boring uninspired people with no creativity. As a result, I went to Paris and almost missed out on seeing the Eiffel Tower. Thankfully, a nice French family intervened, and now I know the error of my ways. I hope nobody is as silly as I was at 19, but just in case, I want to add this disclaimer. Most tourist attractions are attractions for a reason, and it doesn’t make you any less cool to want to see them. Since there are so many things to see in New York (and you probably want to do some things off the beaten path in addition), I suggest choosing a few rather than trying to see them all. My favorites are Grand Central Terminal (bonus points for all the good dining options, ranging from The Campbell Apartment to Magnolia “Get-the-Banana-Pudding” Bakery), the New York Public Library at 42nd street and the adjacent Bryant Park, Times Square (go late at night for maximum effect and minimal crowds), and the Statue of Liberty. You can see the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry, which is free to ride, and a good option if you don’t have much money or time or if you don’t care about seeing the statue up close. However, in my opinion, going to see it up close is worth it (and before going, I didn’t think I’d like it that much!).

QUEENS

1. Casa Enrique (5-48 49th Ave. Long Island City, NY 11101)

In my experience, most Mexican restaurants in the States are not good––to put it mildly––so I prefer to wait until I go home to Chihuahua where I eat and eat and eat in an attempt to make up for lost time (and tacos). Casa Enrique is the shining exception. I cried when I ate there because I never imagined it was possible to have food that good on this side of the border. Chef Cosme Aguilar is my hero.

2. MoMA PS1 (22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, NY 11101)

PS1 is MoMA’s cool little sister. Focusing exclusively on contemporary art and housed in a former schoolhouse, it’s ideal for visitors who get overwhelmed by gigantic museums and who want to see experimental art they may not encounter elsewhere. I especially like it in the spring and summer because of the outdoor exhibits and the Warm Up concert series in the courtyard. However, I highly recommend that you check the calendar before going. Since it’s a smaller museum, it has a smaller number of exhibits (sometimes the whole museum is devoted to a single artist). I’ve seen some exhibits that I loved and others I regret seeing (and subjecting my mom to…), so make sure you know what’s showing.

3. SriPraPhai (64-13 39th Avenue, Woodside, NY 11377)

The average price for an entrée is $10. The portions are generous. And it is the best Thai restaurant in New York. I would regularly take hour-long subway rides to eat there with whomever I could convince to join me, and considering how far it was, it didn’t take much cajoling to convince anyone after they’d tried it once. The menu is longer than the Old Testament (with a sizeable vegetarian section!) so if you need recommendations, allow me to suggest the papaya salad, the mock-duck salad, the tom kha soup, and the panang curry.

Do you have any favorite NYC places? I’d love to hear them!

NYC Tour

2015 in Review

In 2015 I got a valentine named Leila (born February 14th)

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…and a little firework named Nolan Antonio (born July 4th).

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Devin and I finally went to Mexico City to visit my cousin Carol’s family. Carlos Manuel and Devin became fast friends and spent hours playing rockets. I wish I had a video!

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Victoria told me her favorite hobby was “helping,” so we spent time folding clothes and writing letters. She also learned to whisper and told me secrets like “I love baby Leila” and “Will you please come visit me again?” (I’m positive this information has been declassified by now.)

 

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All four of my sobrin@s finally got to hang out together in November, and I realized just how little babies care about each other. Victoria was excited, but the rest of them were preoccupied with things like sleep, milk, and their mothers. I suppose the real lesson is that I know almost nothing about babies because I expected them to have so much fun and become BFFs, but I guess those types of interactions don’t happen until after you’ve mastered things like holding your head up and feeding yourself? IDK.

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This summer Devin and I said goodbye to New York and hello to a little city between two lakes. In between, we decided to see as many of our friends and family as possible. Our goal was to attend every wedding we were invited to and meet all the babies we hadn’t yet met, and somehow we were able to do it. Highlights from this summer vacation included

• going to Jill and Eric’s wedding in Portland (the first Portland wedding I went to was my own, and Jill and Eric came to our wedding, so it was like déjà vu + role reversal + our friend Tasha!)

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• sightseeing in San Francisco with my mom

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• sharing Chihuahua with the world via Enormous Eye

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• falling in love with Mexico City

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• packing up our apartment and saying goodbye to our friends in New York (that part was actually so hard and sad and why can’t you make everyone you love go everywhere you go?)

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• being welcomed to our new neighborhood in Madison by this incredible octopus sculpture (it’s gone now, but I will never forget it)

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Sometime in 2015 I decided I’d like to be the Ambassador for Mexican Snacks. I blogged about burritos and junk food, and at Christmas I got my very American suegra hooked on Valentina, Mexico’s top hot sauce. Though I’m not yet receiving a paycheck for my ambassadorial services, I am certain that my career is on track and look forward to living in a mansion with a giant chamoy fountain in the center where I can entertain dignitaries and elevate Mexican snacks to the level of fame they deserve. I expect all of this to happen within the next year, and you are all invited to the housewarming party. ; ) 

2015 in Review

Surprisingly Easy (to Humiliate Myself)

Although I’ve lived in Madison for quite a few months, I still manage to embarrass myself at least daily.

For example, the other day I took a taxi to meet a friend at a bookstore and stayed in the car an extra five minutes because I thought we were stuck in traffic. In fact, we had arrived, and I was just sitting there making the cab driver feel awkward. (There is no traffic in Madison.)

Finally, he asked me if I’d ever “been here before,” and I was like, “Oh, I moved here in September. It’s been really nice!”

“Cool, but um, I meant the bookstore.”

“Oh! We’re here?! So fast?!” and then I mumbled something about traffic as I tried to exit gracefully.

I’m still ready to strategize and compete for everything, so I end up arriving way too early to events to “make sure I get a seat.” (There are always plenty of seats.)

I didn’t think I was that accustomed to public anonymity, but I jump every time I hear someone yell out my name in public despite the fact that I know there is a 0% chance I won’t run into someone I know anytime I leave my house. This one’s particularly embarrassing because I’m trying to make new friends, and I’d rather not be known as the paranoid jumpy one. (I am definitely the paranoid jumpy one.)

The weirdest thing is that sometimes I don’t understand people’s Midwestern accents. There is no good reason for this because Devin is from Wisconsin. I know lots of people from Wisconsin. I have been to Wisconsin like a hundred times. Still, I end up overpaying for things at coffee shops and stuff because I don’t understand what the cashiers are saying when they tell me the total. Related: I still carry cash everywhere because I expect places to be CASH ONLY. (Nowhere is cash-only.)

If all of this sounds ridiculous to you, imagine how you’d feel if it were you! I moved a fourteen-hour drive away from my last home, in the same country, to a state I’m very familiar with, to a small city that is very easy to navigate, but I still get lost and feel supremely dumb on the regular. It’s peak pathetic, and I am ashamed.

Still, I remember how much I hated living in New York for the first six months. Everything was so hard! We couldn’t find a couch that would fit through our front door! There was so much litter! Once, on a particularly rough day, I remember saying to Devin, “It’s like Earth Day never happened here.” I may have been crying while I said it? Then, on my six-month anniversary, it was like a switch flipped. Suddenly, I understood New York, and I started to like it more and more until I felt like I belonged.

Devin and I went back to visit earlier this month, and on our way to the best Thai restaurant in North America (SriPraPhai, go now if you’re lucky enough to be close to it!), we passed the sign that most symbolizes the city for me. (I even blogged about it once.)

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It has almost been six months since I moved to Madison. I wonder what my sign will be here.

Surprisingly Easy (to Humiliate Myself)