Monday, January 2, 2017

April: Conferences and Family

She is definitely not beautiful. Her cracks and wrinkles are echoes of a beauty that once was. She is definitely not young. Her lilting curves and grey shores are well traveled. She is definitely not paradise. Her drooping dressings and dusty ornaments have lost the luster of excitement that once drew the young and beautiful to her. She is definitely not fast. The fastest men may visit her once a year, but their adrenaline rapidly fades leaving a slow-moving, tired city. Daytona was clearly once a beautiful, vibrant, fast-paced city in paradise. That was probably in the 1950s. She has not been updated since then. Her well-worn buildings are grayed from the competing forces of rain, wind, and sun. Her decrepit streets ache for action that will never return. Daytona is definitely not beautiful, but you can tell she once was.

At the beginning of April I trekked the three hours across Florida to Daytona beach to mentor four groups of undergraduate students at an undergraduate conference at which they were presenting. As I drove into Daytona, I kept expecting it to get better. I kept thinking that I must just be on the wrong side of the town. It never did. I stayed in a run down little hotel room that was moist with stale sea air. The air conditioner was working overtime to keep the room cool despite its rusted edges. The tile floor was clean, but when I walked on it, I could not help but think there was sand all over the bottoms of my feet. I was joined by some friends that night J and G and we sat on the beach staring at the stars over the black ocean chatting about life, school, dreams, love, and destiny. Juxtaposed with these conversations were brief breaks when tiny children who were vacationing with their family at the same hotel mustered up the courage to come talk to the strangers on the beach. They would make themselves fall over laughing as they asked us questions like "do you love him?" "are you married to me?" "are you magicians?." Kids are funny creatures. The next morning we found ourselves at the Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, a beautiful campus near the beach that played home to some of the brightest minds. Over the next ten or so hours, we listened to different presentations on human factors and applied psychology. Overall, the conference went smoothly, and I beamed with pride as I watched my undergraduate research assistants clearly articulate their studies and findings to professionals in the field. I was so proud to see this young minds I had helped mentor critically thinking and responding to questions they had not prepared for. It also filled my heart to find out that my research assistants were all friends, sharing a group chat, inside jokes, and helping one another through the daily struggles of undergraduate life. I drove home from Daytona with a sense of accomplishment, pride, love, and a strong desire to never visit Daytona again.

A few short days later, Kim and I were on a plane to Los Angeles for another conference, the biggest annual conference for IO psychology, SIOP. We both presented our studies, and networked with colleagues, and reconnected with friends who have graduated or who attend different institutions. The conference was held at the convention center in Anaheim and happened to overlap with a national youth cheerleading competition. So for four days, there was a healthy mixture of adults in suits and dresses, and tiny makeupped seven year olds with big hair in leotards running around. One afternoon, as Kim and I were walking back to the hotel from the convention center, I heard my name shouted from behind.  I turned around, shielding my eyes from the Californian sun, and saw Mike, a former employee of my dad's waving me down. Mike is a very large man, somewhere between 6' 3" and 6' 6", and a solid 215-245. His wife and kids were there too to cheer on the youngest child,and only daughter, in her cheerleading competition. What a small world!

One of the nights of the conference, my cohort plus my Kim minus the Kim in our cohort who unfortunately had to stay home, journeyed out to an outstanding wine and tapas bar. We spent the next few hours reflecting on how far we had come over the past three years and looking forward to all the changes we could expect over the coming three years.

The last night of SIOP we attended the closing reception which served up a wide selection of traditional Californian food (flatbreads and sliders) and some solid Beach Boys cover music. About half an hour into the closing reception, after doing the twist and downing a pork slider, Kim and I had to hustle off to a Dave & Busters to meet up with her friends and mentors from her masters program at Cal State. We had a blast playing arcade games, eating more food, and catching up with/meeting old friends. At the end of the night, we gave all of our hard earned tickets to a random tiny child, assuming he needed them more than we needed some plastic tchotchke.

The next day, we packed our bags and checked out of the hotel in Anaheim. While we were in line to check out, I answered a phone call from my mom panicking since they had come to pick us up from Las Vegas in their RV. They had come by the hotel, and we were not ready yet, so they were forced to circle around, making very tight turns in a very large vehicle with an attached trailer. We hurried through the checkout process and managed to jump into the RV while my parents parked, briefly stopping traffic. Over the following four hours or so, we trekked across the desert enjoying the view of dunes, and the opportunity to rest and catch up with my parents. Unfortunately, my parents had not yet figured out how to work the air conditioning in the RV, so the enjoyment was capped a bit by the heat, which was kept in check only by a strong, warm breeze through the open windows. There was nothing to do but laugh and enjoy the hilarity of the situation of four adult humans and two large adult dogs driving through the desert in a forty something foot bus without air conditioning.

While in Vegas we spent most of our time relaxing, chatting, and working out at my parents' kickboxing gym. One night, we walked along the strip together, eating dinner by the large Ferris wheel that offers spectacular views of the city in the desert. But all too soon, it was time to say our goodbyes and head back to Tampa to finish up the year.

Back in Tampa, as April came to a close, we celebrated Kim's birthday. I surprised her with a day of Chicagoan food. A Culver's Custard had recently opened in Tampa, so we went there for lunch, and more importantly, a Portillo's had opened in Brandon. Kim had been dying to go to this Portillo's since it opened in February. We made the thirty minute drive to meet some of our friends at this behemoth of a fast food restaurant. Kim's excitement and ravings were justified. The hot dogs, and Italian beef sandwiches, and chocolate cake were amazing. Thank you snowbirds for bringing your food franchises down to Tampa with you!

Overall, April 2016 was a furiously busy month, but I would not have it any other way.  Cheers to the daily adventure.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

March: Friends, Family, and Zombies

The trees seemed to be reaching for them, the shadows curling their gnarled fingers toward them. There was something in these woods. If they could only get out. The heavy crunch of their feet on broken twigs and rocks as they ran through the steamy forest echoed in their heads, matching the pace of their quickening heart beats. Sweat rolled down his back, sending shivers through his body despite the heat. Then they heard it, the snarl and scratch that meant something was around the corner of the trail. They turned, not knowing exactly what they would see. As they rounded the corner, they were greeted by three freshly-made zombies. They had to pass them. There was no way around. As they tried to run through, they were snagged. The zombies were too fast, there were too many of them. They were done.

In March, Kim and I had the pleasure of running a Zombie Run 5k through the woods/swamps. We were not quite risking our lives, but we were risking our flags. We each had three flags that represented our lives.  Zombies were placed throughout the path with the sole purpose of stealing our flags. Sadly, neither of us made it the whole way without losing all of our flags. But, we did learn a bit about ourselves. I learned that alternating sprinting and running is pretty miserable, especially with a twisted ankle. Kim learned that in the case of a zombie apocalypse, maybe she should not run in front of me, since I may or may not accidentally push her toward them... 

As part of the Zombie Run, we were also supposed to have a color run in the afternoon. Unfortunately, pretty intense thunderstorms rolled in and the color run was canceled. So, looking like we just survived a zombie apocolypse, complete with caked on mud, sweat, and fake blood, Kim and I went to Panera and worked for the rest of the afternoon.

One might think that surviving a zombie apocalypse would be enough excitement for one month, but Kim and I were not quite satisfied. We were happy to have one of my best friends from high school, Graham, come and visit along with his friends. Being only an hour away from Disney and Universal has made Tampa a prime place to visit. While in town, Graham, friends, and I went to the beach and searched for seashells and sunrays. It is crazy how you can not see someone for the better part of a decade and then when you do meet up, it is as if no time has gone by. 

Not only were we visited by Graham and friends, but my Aunt Mabel and Uncle Ken and friends had their annual beach trip. Once a year, they drive down from Newfoundland, Canada to St. Petersburg, Florida. It was a great chance to catch up with family that I do not often get to see. We chatted family, politics (it was the day Marco Rubio suspended his presidential campaign). One day, we will definitely have to make the journey up to the mystical rock in the ocean.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

February: The Show Goes On

The warm rays of sunlight caress his cheek through the glass of the car's window. The afternoon was beginning to fade into evening, but there was a certain palpable energy hidden within the calmness. They were returning to his house from a day of socializing with friends and watching a college lacrosse game. He was newly single and certainly not expecting to find a life-long romantic partnership in someone he had thought was firmly in the friendzone. But as the little Chevy Cobalt zipped through the streets of Tampa, their conversation turned toward the future and his best friend revealed that not only was she willing to date younger men, but that she would be excited to have kids one day, if it happened with the right man. Still unsure of whether this was heading where he though it might, he could not help but awkwardly stutter out "wait, am I the right man?" Could this be real? They were firmly just friends. Of course there had been attraction here and there, but it was never more than a fleeting thought because they wanted different things out of life. Right? But here they were, talking about a shared vision of the future, with all the reasons they could only be friends mute or nonexistent. "Yeah, you are." She wryly said, trying to pay attention to the road, with her heart hammering in her chest. "Well, then, let's just get married. I'm serious. Let's do it." And he was. In the briefest of conversations, his whole world had been flipped upside down. He knew that this woman was his soulmate, that she was not only his best friend, already, but that she was beautiful and brilliant, and now she wanted kids and was actually attracted to him too? Why, wait? "Things need to happen first, like dating, for example." she said. She was taken aback by his abrupt forwardness and earnestness. "Well, ok then! Let's date." And thus began a romance to rival the likes of Cleopatra & Mark Antony, Orpheus & Eurydice, Marie & Pierre Curie, Jack & Rose.

A little over a year later, Kim and I celebrated our first anniversary of dating on Valentines day. Kim surprised me with a day trip to Lettuce Lake Park, a local wildlife and nature reserve. We wandered around the boardwalks above the lake and swamps, trying to spot gators or turtles or birds. Mostly, we just talked and enjoyed the beautiful weather. Kim had also surprised me with a picnic lunch of Publix sandwiches (the food we ate on our first date). We sat and watched other young couples milling about the park, playing with frisbees, half-heartedly sneaking sips of wine from bottles donned in paper bags, or just laying down enjoying the warmth of the sun and each other's company.

Later that month, I trekked down to St. Pete beach to finish filming the independent movie I was starring in. The director, my costar, and I spent the early afternoon filming outside of a pizza restaurant that had agreed to let us film on their patio. That evening, we were set to film in the apartment of a friend of the costar. In between shoots, I found myself wandering down to the water and working on some of my coursework for the last semester of classes I would ever take. The final shoot took a while to set up in the apartment that overlooked the water and park where a Blues festival was beginning to pick up some energy. The sultry melodies echoed their way up to the upper balconies where we stood, waiting for the sun to set so we could film. Hours later, the film was finished, the festival had quieted, and the reflection of the moon was shimmering on the water below.

This post may be a bit short, but February is a short month, after all.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


The ocean glimmered, reflecting the faint pink hue of the new rays of dawn. The sun rose over the port of Tampa, greeting thick clouds of smoke and chaos. Shops and homes were burned to the ground or reduced to rubble. Bodies lined the street of innocent Tampa residents who sought to flea their homes as the call of "Pirates" echoed throughout the city in the pre-dawn hours. Still trolling through the streets, through the thinning smoke and the thick smell of blood and death were the pirates, the crew under the command of Jose Gaspar. Jose Gaspar, the man, the pirate, who invaded Tampa. Or, at least that is how the story goes.

Our friends, Kim and Will, in typical Gasparilla Garb.
Every year in late January, early February, the city of Tampa congregates along Bayshore to celebrate the historic--and yet entirely fictional--event of Gaspar's pirate invasion of the town. Early in the morning, all the boats of Tampa sail out into the bay and then sail back in for The Invasion. Supposedly (for I have never actually witnessed the invasion, it is much too early for my liking), there are reenactments of ship battles and fights between the shopkeepers and the pirates. The area president of Wells Fargo, for example, partook in The Invasion, taking over his own bank! That is how Gasparilla, Tampa's annual tradition that looks a bit like a pirate Mardi Gras, starts.

Dave and Hector enjoying post-gasparilla brunch
Elysia and Kristen at Cicio's Cali.
This year, we were blessed to have many friends visit us for Gasparilla. Kim's friends from home Aimee, and Elysia and Hector came down and stayed with her, while our newest couple friends Kristen and Dave stayed with me. The morning of Gasparilla, we all prepared ourselves, applying eyeliner, dawning pirate costumes of varying degrees of authenticity, and making pacts to make it to the parade this year! Kim's house is a short walk from Bayshore so we host a get-together for our friends there before the parade. Many friends (and some strangers) joined us in celebrating this year. At some point during the day, we made friends with the next-door neighbors who share a fence with Kim (think Wilson from Home Improvement). This young couple had two friends over who were dressed as if they were attending the Renaissance Festival. That said, the homeowners were super friendly offering to share dessert-drinks with some of us, and even gave me a meatball sub to eat because I mentioned that they smelled delectable!

A little before two, we meandered down to Bayshore to watch the parade. Floats filled with pirates, who are actually some of Tampa's most elite citizens, passed by as the crowds cheered and begged for beads. Some people even brought lacrosse sticks to maximize their bead-catching abilities. As the parade began to wind down, we trickled back toward Kim's house. I had one job: "Don't Lose Aimee." When we get to Kim's house, guess who isn't there? Aimee. We had become separated during the departing process and instead of leaving all together, Aimee was left to wander home with some new friends. Aimee arrived at Kim's a mere few minutes after we did, and I avoided the doghouse.

 The rest of the evening was spent playing games and chatting at Kim's as friends came and left. At some point in the night, Kim's cat "Kitty" ran away. A fact, we did not discover for a few days. That emotional rollecoaster of an extravaganza lasted for about a week, as the hunt for Kitty went on in vain. Until, one day, Kitty deciding she had had enough of the streets, longing for the lap of luxury she was used to, hunkered down in the cat trap we had set up on Kim's front porch (complete with Kitty's favorite blanket and calming cat pheromones).

Kim and Aimee at Cicio's post-Gasparilla.

Alas, all great things must come to an end, even Gasparilla. And all great things must have their appropriate endings. Every year, we have a post-Gasparilla brunch at Cicio's Cali in North Tampa. Their bowls are delicious, the live music is always outstanding, and it feels like it's healthy (or at least healthier than the alternatives).

All in all, this was a rather entertaining, yet tame Gasparilla. Previous years saw strangers attempting to crawl into Kim's car through her passenger window as we drove through the crowded streets, insisting we take them home. That is, until we started rolling the window up on them. Or friends locking themselves in the bathroom for multiple hours. Shenanigans. But, what can you expect for a holiday designed to celebrate the day a fake pirate supposedly took over your city?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

January: A New Beginning

Moments before midnight December 31, 2015

It starts with a kiss, as do all great stories. Amid the bright booming fireworks and the joyous cheers and general cacophony, a boy and girl are locked in a deep embrace. The moment lingers as they share warmth and love, both feeling electrified with passion. Then, the moment passes, they pull apart and join in the celebration of the new year. 2016 would be quite an amazing year, especially if it started off like this. Little did we know that our kiss would mark the beginning of one of the best and busiest (and most challenging) years of our lives!

Some context. I am now a 25 year old doctoral candidate in Industrial-Organizational Psychology. I study teams in the workplace and how to make them better. I last used this blog as a way to chronicle my adventures during my undergraduate days, with my last update taking place right before I started my senior year of college at Washington and Lee University. It has been a little over four years since that last post, and I have had many adventures since then. Moving forward, I want to keep this blog as a way to reflect on my life as it is. A sort of diary. I have spent many hours lately fearing growing old and having never lived an extraordinary life. That is, until just the other day when a dear friend pointed out that our lives, in fact already are extraordinary. The opportunities and daily adventures we have, though riddled with challenges and mundane tasks, are still the stuff of dreams for many people. Part of my fears, too, are stemmed in my poor autobiographical memory. I have come to realize that my brain lets many of the events of my life just slip by, washing over it like a wave that retreats. This wave may make some lasting impressions or changes, it may have stand out among the millions of waves of experiences crashing over us every day, but generally, once it recedes back into the endless ocean of time, it's gone for me. Reading over my previous posts I noticed two things: 1. I was rather immature in both my writing and my perspective (but what is to be expected of a 20 year old). 2. I have only the vaguest memories of many of those posts. Some of the people and events mentioned are just shadows of a wave that passed by years ago. I now fear growing old and not being able to remember the extraordinary life that I am currently living, and thus, I have taken up this blog again.

Enjoying the Las Vegas strip before 2016 starts
We started our journey through this recent year at the very moment the clock struck midnight on New Years Eve. My girlfriend, Kim, and I were in Las Vegas celebrating. My parents live out there now, and we had taken two weeks to visit them for the holidays. Not wanting to waste an opportunity to celebrate New Years in one of the three most iconic places to do so, we went to the strip. After hours of wandering around the strip, admiring the lights and the people and the food, we found ourselves buffeted to a viewing area for the fireworks outside the Bellagio. There we stood waiting eagerly for 2016 to begin. It was freezing, quite literally. Kim looked radiant in a very well fitting dress, but because the desert nights are unfathomably cold for a place that can reach 120 degrees during the day time in the summer, she had worn "the warmest coat in the world." This coat is my dad's, but is worn almost exclusively by my mom. It can keep you toasty in sub-zero weather. I was bundled up in a peacoat and blazer. That said, I was much colder than Kim, and both of our legs were freezing. Fortunately, the excitement of the moment, the almost tangible buzz of life around us kept us warm, or at least distracted until 2016.

Enjoying the beautiful scenery and homes in Palm Springs

A few days later, while still visiting my parents, we took a day trip to Palm Springs, California. We wandered around this aging town that served as a retreat for celebrities during the Golden Era of Hollywood. It had the occasional threads of life and new blood that ran through the city, but the magic of yesteryear was ubiquitous. We went through shops (where I picked up my favorite hat, a grey fedora-style hat that actually fits my oversized head), and neighborhoods, admiring the beautiful houses and backdrops.

Tasting some wine and cigars with the parents and Kim

We stopped for exquisite wine and cigars at Fame Tobacco & Wine, enjoying people (and dog) watching. We were surprised to find a film festival taking over the town during that week. We tried, in vain, to watch the celebrities walk the red carpet at the awards ceremony that night. We were able to find the location, and saw limos bringing some of Hollywood's rich and famous, but we had no patience or time to wait in the excruciatingly long lines that buffered us from the red carpet viewing area.

Brewery tour and tasting with Kim, the boys, and Bob at Cigar City Brewing Co. Tampa
Returning to Tampa, we hit the ground running. Classes started back up, my thesis was finishing up data collection, my role as a kickboxing instructor was officially starting, and filming for the short indie film I was in was also beginning. We were home for barely a few days when I was semi-surprised by some of my fraternity brothers who flew in from Virginia, Maryland, and California! We toured the Tampa History Museum, visited the Korean Family Spa: Shangri-la, and toured Cigar City Brewing. It had been a few years since Kim and I had been on Cigar City's tour. They had upgraded from their initial one room tour in which a small group of guests were able to taste green beer, and watch the brewers hand stir the vats of beer. Now, the tour took us into three different buildings, included a tasting of five different kinds of beers, and was led by a jovial man named Bob. He regaled us with tales of inter-brewery competitions and bets that resulted in beers like "Florida Man Loses Bet."

January ended with Tampa's greatest tradition: Gasparilla! That said, I feel like it deserves its own post. In the mean time, cheers to the daily adventure!

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Wrap Up

Let me begin with the fact that this is not the last blog post.  This is, however, the last post about my string of adventures.  In about a week, school starts again and the rate of adventuring goes down dramatically.  I might be getting a job at WalMart so that might be an adventure... fingers crossed right?

Anyways, let me start where I left off, a lot has happened so kick back and get ready to read quite a bit.  After my buddy left, I got an opportunity to attend a concert in Long Island thanks to my second job with Altrocklive.  The review of the concert will be up in the next few days.  So, I won't go over the details of the concert too much, but some of the people in attendance were pretty entertaining.  The concert was for The Dirty Heads and Matisyahu, a very reggae feeling.  This type of music apparently draws in a very diverse crowd.  There were high schoolers and retirees bouncing to the music together.  And, unsurprisingly, the interesting people in the crowd were the older people.  There was a father who was trying to update his facebook status about the concert but couldn't spell "reggae" and tried multiple times and finally gave up and just said "concert."  Another set of older people were watching out for their incredibly drunk friend who was making a bigger fool of himself than a fratboy at a tailgate.

Not much happened for a while after that concert.  I was supposed to go to another one, but they didn't let me in since I wasn't 21, so I ended up standing in the rain trying to get ahold of the band's PR guy who finally got in touch with the bouncer to say that he hadn't heard of me, despite the fact that I was on the list.  Later that week, my boss and fellow writer from Altrocklive came to a music festival in the city and crashed at my place.  After they found my apartment, we walked down the street to get some subway at the 24/7 subway restaurant! (I love NYC).  The writer, born and raised in Boston, mentions to the cashier at subway that he was scared to be in the Bronx.  If there was a way to ask to be shanked other than saying "please shank me" that would be it.  But, I guess someone up there was watching out for this kid, since the cashier sort of chuckled and rolled his eyes.  The following night the guy I stayed with in Huntington, WV came to visit NYC with his friend and they crashed at my place.  They had some funny stories about their experiences downtown and were clearly worn out from all of the walking. 

About a week later, my friend Lisa, from Colorado, came to visit me.  She'd never seen NYC before and wanted to do all of the touristy things. So, I re-opened vacation bootcamp.  We made a list of everything she wanted to see, we bought the NYC pass that allowed us "free" admission to a wide variety of sites for 3 days.  The first day, we do the Statue of Liberty, Battery Park, and Ellis Island.  If you've ever waited in line for the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island, you know why it took us a whole day to get it done.  Granted, we started at noon, but whatever, the lines were long.  Yet, magically, we got to cut the lines.  What should have been an hour and a half wait turned into 30 minutes.  It was nice.  Granted, that thirty minute wait was followed by another thirty minute wait and another fifteen minute wait, but still an hour and fifteen minutes is better than two hours and fifteen minutes.  At Ellis Island, we hustled through the sites, to try and stay on schedule, but when we got outside, and saw that the line wrapped half-way around the island (seriously) we realized that whatever our plans were for that afternoon, they just got cancelled.  In line, we met a mormon girl who apparently was around 26/27.  I started flirting and asking her about her world travel, then suddenly the conversation halts when she drops the "my husband" line.  Whoops.  Since then, I almost always check for a ring first. 

After we got back to the city, we hit up a restaurant that our pass got us a discount at as well as a department store, where I bought THE most comfortable underwear ever (Lucky Brand Boxer Briefs).  We also went to Madame Tussaud's wax museum in Times Square.  That was potentially one of the best places we went to that entire weekend.  It was so much fun getting to take pictures with fake celebrities.  Getting to act out scenes we wish would happen (Kissing Angelina Jolie and pushing Brad Pitt out of the picture). 

That night, we worked our way up to the top of the empire state building.  It is a beautiful sight up there.  I love NYC.  I was able to tell some Australian women which river was which, and what they were looking at.  But, the downside is, the grates around the observation deck make it hard to take pictures, but it's still breath taking, especially at night. 

The next day, we got an early start so we could hit a lot of sites.  We started at the Intrepid, a retired aircraft carrier turned museum.  It was pretty sweet, but made me realize that I would never cut it in the navy, particularly not on a sub (we also got to tour the Growler, a submarine).  The World Trade Center monument was absolutely gorgeous.  There was a taste of sad beauty to it.  The cascading water, the peaceful trees in the bustling city.  Knowing that so many lives were lost right there.  It was an amazing and touching experience.  Next, we hit up the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).  We did the bootcamp tour, not stopping for anything.  We saw Starry Night and some other pretty famous pieces, and unlike in Italy, you're allowed to take pictures, which was cool.  Once we left MoMA, we grabbed lunch in Central Park and walked an obscene distance up through the park to the Museum of Natural History.  By the time we got there, we were pretty delirious.  All of the information, we either already knew, or didn't care to really learn.  So we hustled through, motivated by a sense of obligation to see everything we could possibly see.  When we left the natural history museum, I went back to the Bronx to do some work really quickly, and Lisa went to Mass at St. Patrick's (apparently the largest Cathedral in the Western Hemisphere).  Quickly, however, turned into not so quickly, because, as it turns out, the train that we were both banking on taking us directly where we needed to go, doesn't run on weekends, or at least not on that weekend.  So, Lisa showed up just as communion started, and what should have been an hour and a half turned into three hours. 

Anyways, we meet back up in Times Square and head over to the Spy Museum, which is apparently closed.  We missed it by 20 minutes.  If it weren't for that stupid train!  Oh well.  We walk back through Times Square to Rockefeller center and go up to The Top of the Rock.  It's an observation deck surrounded by Plexi glass, not fencing.  It offers spectacular views of the city, including views of The Empire State building, something you can't see from the Empire State Building.  Personally, I'd suggest hitting up The Top of the Rock instead of the Empire State Building if you ever visit NYC because the views are better and the lines are shorter.  Also, you'll have an opportunity to practice your French.  There seemed to be an odd conglomeration of French people at this building, with whom I attempted, and barely succeeded, to communicate with, in French.  Anyhow, we left the Top of the Rock and walked back to Times Square to walk through Ripley's Believe it or Not.  It was cool, but not that cool.  Nothing really amazing, believe it or not. 

The last day of vacation bootcamp was supposed to be relaxing.  We set aside this day to enjoy all the free cruises around the Island that came with our pass.  The first cruise was very informative.  The tour guide dropped info about all the sites we were passing, but Lisa was passed out and I was too tired to care.  But, when he said the deck was open, I hustled down to get some rays.  I also, managed to ask an Italian woman to take a picture of me, in Italian.  I was feeling pretty proud about my poor language skills, especially after she asked me where I studied Italian.  The second cruise, was technically a water taxi.  We sat on the top deck and enjoyed the sun and views.  The third, and unfortunately final, cruise was a tall ship.  A giant sailboat if you will.  We spent the entire time trying to figure out if the left-handed red head on board was Julianne Moore (we are roughly 90 percent positive it was).  We finished our tour of the city with a trip back to the spy museum, which was kind of a let down.  But, all in all, we had a great time.

The following week was filled with a bunch of interviews with MPH programs at NYU and Columbia and long work hours trying to prepare for the end of my internship.  I was leaving the lab between midnight and 4 AM for about a week in a row.  But, it all paid off.  The lab sent me off with a great ice cream cake and pizza for my birthday and last day at work.  My mom had a cake delivered to my apartment for my birthday.  And my friend and fraternity brother Scott organized a 36 hour extravaganza to celebrate my entrance into the adult world.

We started the evening of the 15th.  At around 11 pm, we roll up to this American food restaurant in Manhattan and order drinks.  The waitress acknowledges that I will turn 21 in an hour and says she'll bring my drink anyways.  After a short period, she comes back and appologizes saying that she can't serve me until midnight, but then it's on her.  I told her it was absolutely fine and that I really felt ok about it mainly because she had a British accent.  I asked her about Dorsett county (where some of my family come from) and she said it is absolutely breath-taking (I hear an adventure coming up!).  But I digress, the clock strikes midnight, she brings me my drink, and I am officially welcomed into the world of adulthood!  The crew strikes out looking for some bars to celebrate at, and we are joined by a pretty girl and her friend from Indiana.  She had red lipstick on.  Game over!  The rest of the night, I was flirting with her (she was actually my age, so it's ok).  We ended up going to two more bars and playing pool and then shuffleboard at them.  I was having a blast. The girl went home after swapping numbers with me and promising to continue celebrating the next night.  I began the long trek back up to the Bronx at about 5 am (it was still dark outside when I got on the subway).   When I got off the subway, at 6 am, looking disheveled, I was surprised to see that the sun was out.  I must have looked like someone who has been locked in a closet for years who finally gets released only to be blinded by the light of the outside world.  Needless to say, when I got home, I crashed, hard.  I woke up later, feeling well rested and ready to go.  All of the gang bailed except Scott so he and I walked Highline Park (an old elevated railroad track, turned eyesore, turned beautiful public park).  We then hit up a bar called The Blarney Stone (because who doesn't want to be Irish)?.  When the bartender carded me, she said "Sweetie, today is the 15th.  You can't be in here.  I need to ask you to leave"  I was like "NO!  It's my birthday I belong...oh you're joking haha thanks."  Then Scott and I headed over to Brooklyn to meet a few girls and go to all the "cool obscure bars."  At the first, we played a game trying to guess our bartenders names.  Ahh my computer is about to die.  I'll publish the rest soon I'm sorry!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pain and Pleasure

Quite a bit has happened in the last 48 hours. With the help of my best friend, I cleaned my apartment and cooked a four course italian dinner for the people who work in the research lab that I'm interning at over the summer.  I have limited cooking resources here in NYC, which mainly just affected the tiramisu.  Instead of a fluffy, light consistency, it ended up liquidy.  Tasty but more like tiramisoup.  At some point in the night, I ended up trying to whip egg whites with a fork, even though I knew it wouldn't work, because back in Italy, I watched a girl to the same thing for over an hour to no avail.  But, all in all, it turned out great and I felt like a real adult.

To explain the pain part of the title of this post, we have to jump back a couple days to the filming of the indie movie on saturday.  At one point, I had to walk into the ocean with my socks and shoes on...leading to my shoes getting soaked.  Which, was fine, considering I had ordered new shoes the day before, anyways, and was eagerly awaiting their arrival.  However, the new shoes didn't arrive on Sunday (shocker) so I had to wear my skater shoes, which tend to cut into the back of heals, especially when I end up walking around downtown with them on.  Monday, my shoes still haven't arrived, I wear my skater shoes to walk the two miles to and from work, making the wound worse.  Tuesday, new shoes arrive!!  But, as everyone knows, new shoes are not the way to avoid blisters...  So, last night, I ended up walking from the East Village to Time Square, about two miles.  By the time we arrived in Time Square, my heal looked, and felt like it had been shot.  But, I fought through the pain to enjoy limping around the center of the universe.

The pleasure part of this story?  Dinner, a show, and a moment.  Dinner was 6 dollars per person thanks to Groupon.  If you aren't familiar with Groupon, it is an online service that allows companies to get coupons out to large amounts of people.  Stupidly good deal for both the customer and the company.  Anyways, my first groupon purchase led us to Empanada Bar NYC.  We each had a spicy chicken empanada, a curry empanada (both amazing) and for dessert, a half of a dolce empenada and cinnamon apple empanada.  We were warned that the dessert empenadas were hot, but little did we know, that the server meant they would still be hot after we finished eating our main course empenada.  Surprise!  The dolce empenada was filled with essentially sweet molten lava.  I think it was a chocolatey substance, but I couldn't really tell because I was in so much pain from the ball of fire that leaked out of the empanada and covered all of my fingers!  But, it was sweet, I'll give them that. 

We left the empanada bar, went to time square, where I had THE MOMENT.  I was crossing the street, and a relatively attractive red head girl was crossing the street towards me.  We made eye contact, I smile, she smiles, we look away.  We're still walking toward each other when we both look back and smile again.  Boom!  Awesome moment.  But, there's more.  We cross paths, get to our respective sides of the street and look back at the same time and SMILE AGAIN!  I chuckle, she giggles, and we both stop, grab our respective friends, and start telling them about the moment.  This belongs in a Jennifer Aniston movie.  As I'm talking to my friend I point and say "the ginger over there, is gonna look over here in two seconds."  Side note, it's surprisingly easy to spot red heads across a crowd, even one as large as the one in Time Square.  Anyways, two seconds later, she looks over smiles again and rapidly starts talking to her friend again.  But, I decided, that was enough of that, and to leave the moment as just that, a moment.

Sadly, my moment abruptly turned into some street vendor trying to sell us tickets to a comedy club.  "No thank...Wait, comedy club?  How much?"  I was suckered in.  We bought two tickets and started walking away when it hit both of us.  OH. MY. GOD.  THESE ARE PROBABLY FAKE!  We headed to where the comedy club was supposedly located and it wasn't there!  Seriously?   I blame the red head.  I let my guard down for a minute and boom, scammed.   "Wait, these tickets say the address is 300, this block is only the 200's.  Let's go one block more"  The address did exist, but it didn't look quite like a comedy club.  We walked in and said "umm, I think we have tickets, but we want to see if these are real... this is a comedy club right?"  "Oh, it is a comedy club, check with the guy out there to see if your tickets are real."  So we head outside and find two guys on the stairs.  One of whom had his pants unzipped and was tucking in his shirt.  He also happened to be going commando...and looked a bit like the australian guy from summerland/Jason Stackhouse from True Blood.  We asked the guy who wasn't exposing himself to the street, "Sir, are these real tickets."  "Well, those are real tickets anyone could tell you that.  They're real tickets, but not to this show.  Sorry kids"  My friend was so bummed, but it hits me...this is a comedy club...that is a joke...these tickets are real and this is a real comedy club.  Oh thank God, it's real.  I was so relieved.  My friend was still trying to clarify when the guy said "Kid, it's a comedy club, lighten up.  Yes it's real, come back in half an hour for the show."

We went and killed some time in Time Square (no pun intended).  Came back and got seated with 8 other audience members.  Of the 5 acts, not one failed to ask everyone where they were from.  Therefore, I can tell you that on one half of the room we had a Philipean couple from Canada who had been married for 30 years and a couple from Brooklyn who were of mixed ethnic heritage.  On my side of the room, we had a white couple from Calgary, Canada, a couple of guys from Denmark, and me and my friend.  If you're picturing this scene and wondering why all the white people are on one half of the room and the non-whites are on the other side, ask our waitress, or every comedian that night, because they all pointed it out. 

The poor Denmark boys got made fun of a bunch, as they were seated front and center, and clearly stood out.  One guy was told he looked like he was from kansas, and his friend looked like someone from Children of the Corn.  There were some funny jokes other than that, but I have no desire to share them, because I feel like they just won't be as funny the second time, especially since you weren't there. 

That's about it.  Pics are still on their way, including one of my battle wounded heal.  Cheers to the daily adventure.