Sunday, March 28, 2010

$130 Acid-Washed Jeans, Anyone?

Just cut my ankle with my other foot's big toe, simultaneously stubbing said big toe in the process. So, now I'm bleeding profusely from both feet. Not good when my favorite hangout position is sitting in my bed atop cream-colored sheets.

I went into the bathroom looking for a Band-aide, but I knew I wouldn't find one. Band-aides are just one of the many staples everyone has around the house that I do not. Like a thermometer, a crock pot, flour and cinnamon sugar. Sure, it would be nice to have all of those things, but somehow I've managed to get by just fine without them for eight months, so why bother getting them?

And as far as Band-aides go, this napkin is working just fine....


This weekend was pretty dreary weather-wise but I still managed to get out and do some fun stuff before my nearly debilitating toe injury. (Side note: What is it about spring that makes my big toes a magnet for collision with hard, inanimate objects? Unfortunate.)

I went with a couple of friends to a playcalled Penny Penniworth-- a spoof on Charles Dickens's work, so lots of "dreary" and "dark" scenes with over-the-top accents and characters with ridiculously long and pretentious titles. It was really very funny, and because the director works at my company we got to go for free, which made it just that much more appealing.

Afterward my friends and I walked back together towards our respective apartments. The theater was a good twenty blocks from my place and ten from theirs, but after sitting for so long it was nice to be moving so we wandered even though it was kind of cold and damp. (And dreary!)

On the way back we discovered a cool-looking vintage clothing store called Cheap Jack's and, not really having any other plans for the day, went in to look around.

I'd always heard that New York's the place to go for fantastic vintage finds. In Dallas, I spent some time in Buffalo Exchange and Clotheshorse Anonymous, but this was my first NY thrift shop experience. It did not disappoint.

I wish I could post some pics of the amazing pieces we saw there, but they don't allow you to take pictures so, as they advise us to do in elementary school, I'll just have to use my words.

A few choice treasures included a leather jacket that read "Born in the USA", a pearl-snap brown-plaid collared shirt, a full-length rabbit-fur coat, several 1960s wedding dresses, purple waist-high jeans, and enough shoulder pads to save a sinking city. Also, their cowboy boot collection rivaled any I'd seen in Texas department stores that specialize in leather goods.

It was really quite the experience.

There was only one problem. Cheap Jack's is anything but. To give you an idea of the kind of prices they were asking for items-- a pair of severely damaged, 80s-style, acid-washed jeans: $130. And the pearl-snap shirt?: $65.

Too rich for my blood. I don't seem to remember vintage places in Dallas being so high-end, but maybe I just had more money as a student, haha.

There's a Buffalo Exchange here in New York, too and I'm curious about how their prices would compare to the one across from SMU in Dallas...

Don't get me wrong, I understand when you shop vintage you're paying for the story and the life behind the dress, not the cost of the dress itself. But, at a certain point, isn't a really cool polyester dress just that? A polyester dress? And, if the prices at the Buffalo Exchange in NY differ from the one in Dallas, am I then paying for the "privilege" of purchasing clothes from their NY location? Lame.

How much are you guys willing to pay for a really interesting/old wardrobe piece? Where do you draw the line? At $130 acid-washed jeans?

All-in-all though, a lovely experience akin to window shopping at the mall or wandering around a museum or, actually, more like a strange combination of both. I will probably do it again and, despite my previous protests, could possibly be persuaded to spend entirely too much money on used shoes... most likely some sort of platform stiletto or boot. Or stiletto boots.

Yes... I'm going back to that place soon.


This week's question of utmost importance:

What's the most you'd spend on a really HOT pair of 1980s acid-washed jeans? Keep in mind, these are the coolest acid-washed jeans you've ever seen. And, for all anyone else knows, they belonged to [insert famous 1980s rockstar of choice here]

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Roomies 3.0

This month a new set of roommates moved into my apartment. I've written briefly about my strange living situation before, but I think it's worth a revisit given my new appreciation for the ridiculousness of it all.

To put things into context I'll start with a little background information. My roommates and I all have separate leases with the landlady. This is an unusual setup, and has its pros and cons. 

Pros: I pay my share of the rent directly to her. I don't have to worry about forking over my roommate's share of the rent if s/he's short for the month. I guess that's just one pro... but it's a pretty big one. So I think I'll keep it plural.

Cons: If one of my roommates should, for whatever reason, decide to move out, I have absolutely zero say in who my new replacement roomie will be. This is also only one con. But it's a pretty big one. So I think I'll keep it plural, too.

And, in the ten months I've lived in this apartment, I have gone through three different sets of roommates, meaning I've lived with six different people. Pretty ridiculous, any way you look at it, right?

The reason for the high turnover, I've decided, is due to a combination of things. 

There's the layout of the apartment. It's very small. "Lori" the landlady took a one-bedroom apartment and made it into a three-bedroom by throwing up a few false walls where the living room should be. As a result, the occupants are left with a long, narrow hallway, a galley kitchen and a tiny bathroom as their only "common" living area.

Granted, there is a table with two stools shoved into the corner created by the false wall covering what would be the entrance to a living room and the true wall bordering the kitchen. So at least we have our cozy little bfast nook. And let me tell you, is it just adorable...

So, needless to say, the place doesn't exactly scream "make a home here!" But, it takes more than uninviting apartment layouts to ruin the appeal of a centrally located apartment in the heart of times square, so I don't think that's the only reason people don't stay.

It also has to do with the kind of people Lori finds for this place, or maybe, the kind of people attracted to a fully-furnished, tiny and, therefore, obviously short-term space. Many of my roommates were interns, and a couple, like me, were moving to Manhattan for the first time and uncertain as to what kind of details to look for in a "good" Manhattan apartment.

My first two roommates were both French girls. They hadn't known eachother beforehand, the same way I didn't know either of them before I moved in. One was interning for the same magazine company I'd interned with the summer before (strange, strange world...) and the other was an intern at the UN. 

So, both temporary stays from the start. (Lori seems to revel in temporary stays. In fact, she only offered me a 6-month lease when I first moved in, which I jumped at, since I wasn't sure how long I'd be able to stay.)

I really enjoyed living with these French girls. They were clean and cooked delicious things and I'd studied abroad in Paris the previous fall semester so I had fun practicing my terrible broken French. 

Another added perk: the one who interned at the UN could get us into the UN bar only accessible by those with employee (or foreign diplomat) IDs. We went once just before she left to go back to France.  

It's a large room with glass walls that overlook the East River. For whatever reason, there's only one bartender (or there was only one that night) in no particular hurry to get to the several dozen UN employees surrounding the bar. Observing the room while waiting with the mob I noticed several large "No Smoking" signs in compliance with the New York City-wide ban on smoking indoors on public property. Around those signs floated big, billowy clouds of smoke from tens of foreign diplomats' cigarette butts. 

And, of course, neither the signs nor the cigarettes were mentioned.

We had a lot of fun hanging out the few months we were all in the apartment together but, eventually, the summer ended and so did their internships and they went back home.

Before I knew it, Umar and Arvind had moved in. Literally. Lori gave me no notice when she was showing the apartment and no notice that the rooms had been let. I got home from work one day and Umar was in the hallway carrying boxes to his room.

I'd sort of known I'd get another roommate, so it wasn't like I stumbled upon him and thought "Stop, theif!"

But at the same time a little warning would have been nice. Perhaps even an interview. But then, now I'm just dreaming dreams.

Arvind moved in a few days afterward in the same manner. I came home from work to find him and his entire family lugging his wordly possessions into the too-small room beside mine.

Umar was a recent graduate from Princeton, originally from Pakistan, who had moved to New York for a job. I'm honestly not 100% sure I know what he did... but I know it was some sort of engineering. Software, maybe.

And Arvind was an American-Indian (as in, not Native American) originally from Queens. He worked as a web engineer for HBO.

Having not lived with guys since an awful semester in a house with my older brother that still torments my dreams, I was pretty sure that this setup would be a disaster and began looking on craigslist for new homes.

But, much to my surprise, these guys were great. They didn't touch my food, weren't in the bathroom when I wanted to be, were never around and were generally invisible. I know for a fact that Arvind, out of consideration for the thin wall separating his room and mine, actually listened to his music through headphones rather than aloud. (I must admit I did not return the favor...) 

Of course, as always happens when you live with another human being for any period of time, I noticed these guys had a few little personality quirks that were less than desirable.

Arvind, for example, liked to hit the snooze button on his phone alarm for up to two hours before he'd actually wake up. (I never complained about this until one Saturday he forgot he'd set it and continued his weekday snooze-repeat pattern. In a desperate defense of my weekend right to sleep in past 7 a.m., I banged on our previously mentioned paper-thin wall LOUDLY. And it stopped.)

And Umar took up the guitar in the middle of his stay here. His favorite time to practice the B and C chords was anytime past 3 a.m. Arvind and I were also convinced he never bought a single roll of toilet paper or paper towels during his entire 7-month stay. Irritating.

But, all general minor roommate annoying habits aside, and I'm sure they had their own gripes with me, we coexisted remarkably well, given the roulette-like risk of the situation.

Then, last month Umar and Arvind left, too. Both for bigger, cheaper apartments. Which makes me think I, too, will be moving on soon.

But until I do, I now have a new set of roommates. Roomies 3.0, if you will.

There's Bas, short for "Sebastion" and pronounced "Boss" who is from Holland. And then there's Dries, pronounced "Drees" as in "Drew Brees" but with a "D" (sorry, couldn't help myself, just had to throw in that bit of New Orleans Saints shout-out) who is from Belgium.

Bas is interning for a web programming company.

Dries is an intern for a foreign diplomat. 

They didn't know each other before moving in together.

Anyone else noticing a pattern? Because, honestly, I'm beginning to feel like I stepped into Bizarro world.

Living with Bas and Dries is a completely different dynamic than either the situation with the French girls or the situation with Arvind and Umar. 

They're great guys and we're getting along pretty well, but I seem to see more of them than I ever saw of Arvind and Umar (which was hardly at all) and even Clara and Brune (who I saw several times a week).

And so as a result I'm bursting with funny stories about them which, given the public nature of this blog, I probably shouldn't publish. But, I'm going to. If you're reading this, Dries and Bas-- love you guys!!  :)

One of the first things I noticed about living with these guys is that they, like the French girls, share a foreign language. Only their common language is Dutch, of which I don't even have a broken knowledge of.

So of course, when they're together in the kitchen or the hallway or the nook, our few common living areas, they speak Dutch. Loudly. And in my bedroom, behind walls so thin they should really be called stiff curtains, it's like I'm in the on the conversation, only I can't understand a damn thing! Except for a few English words thrown in here and there-- "time square" "pissed" and, more often than you'd think, "fu*&ing" I'm totally in the dark. They could be plotting to kill me, or worse, drink the last of my milk, and I'd never know.

It's pretty funny, because they try to be polite about it and if I'm around, they'll speak English so I can understand. So if I exit my room, for a glass of water or to use the bathroom or to make dinner, they immediately switch to English-- and I have to laugh because it's a nice gesture, but really, by this point I'm used enough to the Dutch that they could just stick with it. I may even learn a few phrases by immersion!

Also, these kids can't seem to stay away from all kinds of drama.

In the first few weeks of living here, poor Dries has lost his laptop and passport (on the same night, in either a bar, the taxi, or a McDonald's), has gotten a 100$ ticket for trying to let Bas in a subway turnstile on his single-ride swipe, and has locked himself out of his room at the apartment while in his bathrobe, necessitating the borrowing of my metro card and Bas's clothes for a 1 1/2-hour trip to Lori's in Long Island for the spare key. 

In turn, Bas has shattered a glass meant to hold toothbrushes in the bathroom, locked himself out of said bathroom (and, consequently, everyone else just before our morning pre-work showers), and had a potentially devastating miscommunication with his female boss. Apparently in Holland people use the slang "mom" for "moment". i.e.: "I'll get that done, mom." means, "I'll get that done momentarily."  His boss was unaware of this alternate translation and thought he was calling her "mom." I can only imagine the scene she created and poor Bas trying to explain his way out of it...

Basically, my home-life excitement levels have picked way up now that they're a part of it and I couldn't be happier.

Of course, as always happens when you live with another human being for any period of time....

Let me just say that someone ate the last three pieces of my bacon. Also, inexplicably a pitcher of lemonade I'd made ended up in the freezer?  And there are often dishes left in the sink. I can only assume that in Holland and Belgium there is some sort of dish fairy that comes back behind you and washes them for you. I'll have to let them know that in the U.S., there exists no such fairy.

Pet peeves aside, these guys are a lot of fun and we've had a great time going out together in the city. I'm looking forward to seeing what other kinds of shenanigans they can get themselves into over the course of these next few months... could be anything.


This week's question of utmost importance: What're your biggest roommate pet peeves? If you don't see yours in the poll on the right, leave it in a comment!

<3 Leigh

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Runaround Sue

For those of you following my blog who checked for last week's update to no avail, I apologize. My excuse, though admittedly not a very good one, is that my dad was in town for the weekend and although I started a draft last Saturday, I never finished it and during the week I was been busy with, well, life.

But starting this weekend I'm back on track with my promised weekly updates. Thanks for bearing with me!

And, onto the post:

So, in stark contrast to last post's described torrential snowfall and this weekend's unending downpour, last weekend was absolutely gorgeous. Fluffy clouds floated harmlessly in the bright blue sky and the sun shined through the buildings, radiant and warm and wonderful. Seven days before it had been snowing buckets and last weekend it suddenly seemed like spring.

Of course now the temp's dropped to the low forties and the rain's been steadily coming down since 3 p.m. yesterday afternoon.

But, for the moment, it was nice. I'm half convinced my dad brought it up with him from Texas.

It was the perfect weekend for him to visit and I loved having him here. On top of how great it was just to see him, my days were filled with delicious brunches and dinners that I, on my measly assistant salary, could usually only salivate at the thought of. 

Sunshine and crab cakes. Yes. It was a good weekend, indeed :)

It was also perfect running weather, which was great for him. My dad recently set a goal to run 1,000 miles in a year and is currently posting his progress on his own blog.

So, Saturday and Sunday we went to Central Park and ran what I call the "baby loop" at the southernmost tip of the park. It's about 2.5 miles and, honestly, with a belly still full from a wonderful brunch, was about all I could handle. But, I was glad I got to be a part of his 1,000 mile experience-- if only for 5 miles of it.

My Dad has had huge chunks of his life where he's been a dedicated, card-carrying marathon runner. While I can say that while I have, on occasion, run, I am not and have never been a true "runner."

I've been an off-and-on runner (or slow jogger, rather) for about four years now. I'm a finicky runner and run in the spring and the fall, when it's not too hot and not too cold. I run some summer evenings and I always run outside. Treadmills are to be avoided like the plague. They remind me too much of hamster wheels. I can't get past the fact that no matter how "far" I run, I'm in the same place the whole time. The concept is just unappealing.

A consequence to my treadmill boycott and my aversion to harsh elements is that because I'm so dependent on good weather for my runs, I've never run consistently for more than a few months at a time. 

But, inspired by my Dad's renewed dedication, I've decided to renew my own running hobby. And for reals this time. No quitting when it gets too hot, too cold, or too wet. That's what shorts, gloves, and windbreakers are for. (Says my new, super-runner ego.)

I started out running on my own a few days a week at Central Park until I felt pretty comfortable with that. Then, a few of weeks ago, I joined a group of coworkers who run over their lunch hour. 

For our first run we were supposed to meet at high noon on Tuesday. It was cold and snowing a little. But I fought the urge to bail and headed down to the locker room 11:45. Once in my sweats, hat and gloves--my runner uniform--it was easier to accept my fate.

We joked and laughed while we stretched. Only three of the usual twelve runners had showed up. Apparently I'm not the only one with an aversion to cold weather runs.

Once outside they set out on their "warm-up" lap. A 2-mile stretch along the river. I noticed these runners really ran, whereas my previous pace of preference had been a slow jog. But, practicing the art of self-deception, I told myself the pace wouldn't really make that much of a difference. Two miles was nothing. I could do two miles in my sleep.

For the first few minutes, I really did keep up and everything was hunky-dory. Then, all of a sudden, I sort of wanted to die.

I fell behind, hoping no one would notice.

No such luck. Noticing my duress, one of my coworkers began to hang back with me, God bless him, and attempted to strike up a conversation, presumably to take my mind off of my failing lungs. 

He proceeded to ask me a series of questions about myself and I proceeded to give one-word answers indiscriminately.

"Where are you from?"


"What brought you here?"


"What department are you in?"


When it became apparent that I had two choices, to turn back around, or to suffer a premature death due to hemorrhaging lungs, I did what anyone else would do: I gave up.

"Go ahead...(without me)!" I panted and waved him on with my hand.

"Are you sure?"

How cruel, I thought, to ask me to answer a question in this state.

"Yeah...turning back...see you....'round!"

And, somehow, I managed to turn around, still running, until I'd built up enough distance between us I was sure they wouldn't see me walking back the rest of the way to the building.

So, not exactly the running debut I'd anticipated. Needless to say I was more than a little embarrassed at what could only be called a massive fail.

But, knowing that I could never face these people in the elevator again otherwise, I've kept at it. 

And, while I'm still not the best conversationalist in the group, I have now successfully completed the 3.5-mile River Run (their shortest route) twice. My lungs somehow remained intact, despite all feelings to the contrary. So for now it looks like I may actually stick with this running thing, if only to stave off the quitter's humilation I'd feel if I give up now when people will notice.

Tomorrow I may even head out for another 2.5 Central Park loop-- if the raindrops shrink from grape-sized to raisin. 

Which brings me to this week's Question of Utmost Importance posted on the right of the screen: What's your protective rain gear of choice? I find that no matter what I put on, all the walking I do here leaves me soaked.