Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Day 11: The Boss's Daughter

Photo of the Day: Lincoln Center Reflections

Today was a slightly surreal day, thanks in large part to a visit from the organization's Vice President of Hot Chocolate--also known as my boss's four-year-old daughter, Lola. The girl is adorable (as plainly evident from the photos below) and extremely precocious and brought a ridiculous level of energy to the office. She reminds me of the girl who played in the movie Matilda and strikes me as the intelligent, resourceful type that could survive alone in the city (think Home Alone 2: Lost in New York). Lola is also an aspiring artist specializing in pictures of rainbows, and she drew me a lovely custom piece to display in my cubicle. After work, some of my co-workers and I took a field trip with Lola to the American Girl Store a few blocks away since her father promised her a reward for being so patient all day. While I spent most of my time trying to not look too creepy as the young, single guy holding a camera amidst the sea of prepubescent girls, I was still able to admire the store as a marvel of experiential marketing. There was a cafe where you could sit and eat with your doll, a hair salon with $30 styles for your doll, a doll hospital, and dozens of intricate displays featuring the latest products and characters. My co-workers informed me the bathrooms even had hooks in the stalls where you could place the dolls while you used the toilet. How's that for staying on brand?

Afterward, my boss treated us to a free drink at the happy hour at the Rink Bar in Rockefeller Plaza. While I think I played it off coolly, I was definitely geeking out about the opportunity to sit right in the middle of the iconic plaza and feel very sophisticated.

Later that night, I went to a small group hosted by Talida and Tim at the Tisch Illumination Lawn at the Lincoln Center. They're starting a new Bible study series about living out the gospel in the city, so they began casually with a pleasant evening picnic at one of New York's finest cultural centers to catch up on everyone's summer. As an added bonus, the Metropolitan Opera was hosting a free Summer HD Festival in the adjacent plaza and broadcasted opera performances right next to our meeting site, so we had classy music to boot. It was great just meeting new people, and as part of the kickoff, they asked each of us to reflect on what brought us to New York and why we chose to come here. It was encouraging to hear all the diverse reasons that people come to the city and why they stay. I'm really excited about the potential in this new group, and I hope I'll be able to continue to regularly attend.

The adorable Lola, the vice president of hot chocolate.
Lola and her daddy braving the streets of New York.
Lola in heaven at the American Girl Store in Manhattan.
An entire hair salon especially for dolls with styles considerably more costly than my own.
Props to American Girl for having Asian babies!
Yes, that's me on the left trying to look a little less creepy (and failing miserably) by hiding behind a doll.
Lola enjoys happy hour with us at the Rockefeller Center's Rink Bar with a virgin pina colada. Note the famous gilded statue of Prometheus in the background....so cool!
Picnic at the Tisch Illumination Lawn at Lincoln Center.
The beautiful reflection pool in front of the Tisch Illumination Lawn.
The plaza in front of the Lincoln Center.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Day 10: The Food Cart

Photo of the Day: The Best Halal in Manhattan

Made it to Day 10 and safely made it into the double digits! You may have noticed that a good chunk of my photographs consist of food, but that's because it is one of New York's main attractions. I haven't even really started hitting up the truly "great" places yet! Today I tried some halal from the famous food cart at West 53rd Street and 6th Avenue. I had no idea a food cart could be so popular, but literally dozens of people have recommended this specific location to me. It's a simple platter with pita bread and chicken and lamb over rice and lettuce topped with a creamy white sauce, but the sum is greater than its parts as they all mix together into a delectable medley. Later than night, I grabbed dinner at The Kati Roll Company, which serves Indian tacos served on flat bread and stuffed with spiced meats. Though I'm usually not a fan of Indian cuisine, it really hit the spot.

My Photo of the Day was supposed to be a lot more interesting than food since my co-worker invited me a live storytelling performance hosted by The Moth tonight. These StorySLAMs take place all over New York every couple weeks, and this time it just so happened to be nearby in Greenwich Village and have a captivating theme. Unfortunately, despite arriving nearly an hour early, we weren't able to fit into the bar where it was hosted and were turned away at the door. The line for this event literally wound all the way down the block. Who knew that storytelling was still such an honored performance art? I'm looking forward to going to the next one and arriving early; it sounds like such an unique and fascinating concept. Instead of leaving the evening as a total bust, we stopped by the cozy and intimate Shade Bar and had some fun conversation over a beer.

Fire escapes in Greenwich Village.
I'm usually not a big fan of Indian food, but Kati Rolls are absolutely delicious!
The menu at The Kati Roll Company was very descriptive and informative.
This is just a small segment of the line we waited in for nearly an hour. Who knew storytelling was still such a popular performance art?
A really beautiful red church door that we saw walking to the subway station. I wanted a good picture of it, but I was too lazy to cross the street.
Heart shadows on the sidewalk guide my way home.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Day 9: The Church, Part 1

Photo of the Day: Afternoon Worship Practice

Today I visited Living Faith Community Church with Talida and Tim, but before I get into details, may I say how refreshing it was simply to attend church? I have to confess my quiet devotional times have been rare to nonexistent since arriving, so it was really wonderful to worship with fellow Christians again and bask in God's goodness and grace.

Interestingly enough, the church, a plant of the famous Redeemer Church, rents its meeting space from Temple Beth Sholom, a Jewish synagogue in Bayside, which makes for an interesting if not beautiful setting. The congregation is predominantly composed of young Asian families and professionals, so I felt right at home. The hilarious Pastor Stephen Ro led the service with a dynamic sermon from Genesis 50 that illustrated how God is in control of our lives, just as he was in Joseph's time. He really challenged me to think about my purpose and why God has lead me to this new place at this time. Pastor Ro pointed out that just as God used Jacob's secular job to save lives, so can we he also use our vocations to lovingly reach out to his people. I haven't really had an opportunity to reflect much since arriving in New York, but I think I need to spend time with God and get a clearer understanding of his vision for my life this year.

Aside from church, I got a few errands on my checklist done. I visited the laundromat for the first time, and I ironed a whole bunch of my dress shirts that were still wrinkled from the trip here. I'm still not completely settled, but I'm as close as can be expected. At this point, I really am very mentally and physically drained. My co-worker's recommendation was to take any offer to explore New York and find friends quickly, which I think I have done, but I'm really not used to this type of social marathon. I think I need to slow down this week and spend intentional time alone, or at least use my time more wisely.

The sermon today at Living Faith Community Church was based on Genesis 50. It's very convenient having the Bible on your phone, but I do miss having pages to flip. I might have to invest in a book version again soon.
My ride was assisting the worship team with projector slides, so we arrived extra early to watch the band practice.
There was a meeting after church, so Talida and Tim dropped me off by the Flushing subway station. However, I decided to grab a quick lunch first while I happened to be in an area renowned for cheap Chinese food.
Reason No. 127 to love New York: Peking Duck for only $1 a bun.
My $3 lunch. Not the best Peking Duck I've ever had, but still quite delicious, and who am I to complain at these prices?
My schedule today included doing my laundry. I accidentally used the expensive washers--rookie mistake.
I am so tired. I've been trying to socialize and assimilate as quickly as possible, but I'm exhausted and will need some quality alone time soon.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Day 8: The Park

Photo of the Day: Forest in the Urban Jungle

Today marks the one-week anniversary of my arrival to New York. Despite my ongoing ignorance and naivete about this city, it feels like I've been forever. I wonder when it will get to the point when every interaction I have is no longer about recommendations of places to eat and things to do and analyses of the New York lifestyle. Honestly, I miss having casual conversation about the random day-to-day.

Despite my body's insistence that I stay home and catch up on errands today, I decided to meet up with some colleagues and make my inaugural visit to Central Park. My No. 1 tip: wear sunglasses. Not because Central Park is terribly sunny (though the weather was gorgeous), but because it's the best place in the world to people-watch, and you very likely will find yourself staring. My favorite part of our stroll was stopping to watch the Central Park Dance Skaters, a club of roller skating and rollerblading enthusiasts who rope off a part of the sidewalk, crank disco tunes, and boogie down on four wheels. Some of them donned ridiculous outfits or performed magic tricks or balanced stuff on their heads. I swear my happiness quotient jumped by a billion points just by watching their joyful performances. The rest of the park was lovely if not spectacular; I enjoyed seeing the iconic sights, but it wasn't as stunningly gorgeous as I was expecting. It may have had something to do with the crowds that turned out because of the pleasant weekend weather.

It felt really good to walk around and focus just on take pictures, though I am disappointed I haven't been able to work much on growing as a photographer lately. I feel like most of my work since arriving has been more or less "tourist shots," or pictures I just happen to snap on the fly while ogling the scenery. I was browsing this evening through the work of a really good photographer, and it just made me want to try harder and hone my own artistry. It may take a week or two until I finally feel comfortable enough in this town to really improve my skills, but hopefully I'll be able to provide you, my faithful readers, with more captivating images of my time in New York.

A tree may grow in Brooklyn, but a sunflower grows in Queens. =P
Decided to do a little self-portrait on the subway.
Columbus Circle, right at the edge of Central Park, where I met up with my colleagues.
The very crowded Sheep Meadow lawn in Central Park.
Central Park Dance Skaters showing off their moves!
The huge guy with the M.C. Hammer pants and rollerblades also performed magic tricks. How could you not love New York?
This lady was by far my favorite skater. She was probably well into her sixties, but she would bust moves like no other and experiment with really interpretive stuff.
The view of the New York skyline from the Turtle Pond.
The world-famous Bethseda Fountain by the lake in Central Park.
Because of the beautiful weekend, the park was insanely crowded, which probably detracted from my experience. As my colleague put it, Central Park is the collective backyard of all New Yorkers.
I love the way the light filters through the trees.
The view from the reservoir.
On the way home, I stopped by Magnolia, a very famous bakery further popularized by Sex and the City. I got a red velvet cupcake...mmmmm....
I got a recommendation from the lady behind us in line to try the banana pudding too. It was delicious, very light and fluffy. However, coming from Texas, I think I've had comparable or better.
Another street intersection on New York's West Side. I am told that Hotel Empire, the building with the neon sign in the foreground, is prominently featured in the television series Gossip Girl. We also visited the nearby Lincoln Center, but it was crowded and roped off due to an event, so I'll have to get pictures of it later!
I want to be a better photographer.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Day 7: Hoboken

Picture of the Day: Jersey Shore Night View

Despite being utterly exhausted after a week of constant lifestyle adjustment and little sleep, I accepted an old acquaintance's invitation to have dinner with her and some friends in Hoboken, New Jersey. We took the subway into this charming and bustling town at the very end of the Port Authority's rail line. After the grimy ruckus of Queens and the manic frenzy of Manhattan, laid-back suburban Hoboken was a welcome change of pace. The weather was gorgeous, so we waited for an hour just to score some outdoor seating at a little Italian joint called Leo's Grandevous, to which New Jersey native Frank Sinatra had friendly ties. The interior is a veritable shrine to the legendary crooner. I definitely felt a lot older sitting at the sidewalk patio sipping wine and having adult conversation. On the way home, I stopped by the waterfront and enjoyed the phenomenal view of the Manhattan skyline from the New Jersey shore.

I'm so thrilled that it is finally the weekend. I'm going to use this time to finally settle in for good, buy groceries, do laundry, and just find a familiar normalcy. If I get done early and this bout of beautiful weather holds up, I might also make my first trip to Central Park!

What the heck is this blurry, strange picture? Though you can't see through the crowds, there was a live concert featuring Katy Perry by the Rockefeller Plaza! I think it was for The Today Show. Obviously I did not have a very advantageous vantage point, haha.
It was Kate's last day of work today, so the few of us left in the office at the end of the day sent her off with a toast of champagne.
I finally get to see the Empire State Building up close.
The intersection by Madison Square Garden.
We passed by the Carlo's City Hall Bake Shop, the home and inspiration for TLC's show Cake Boss!
Hoboken City Hall.

Our view of suburban Hoboken as we dined on the sidewalk patio.
My Chicken Sorrento from Leo's. It was pretty good, but far too overpriced.