Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day 100: The Gingerbread

Photo of the Day: A Sweet West Side Story

A momentous occasion: my 100th day living in New York City! I'm utterly surprised that I have managed to maintain this blog for so long, but despite my occasional griping, it's been a pleasure sharing my journey thus far with you. To commemorate the achievement and reflect upon my first few months, I'd like to start this post by sharing 20 lessons I've learned about living in this city. For anyone moving to New York, these are my tips and truths that will have you integrated with the locals in no time!
  1. Crosswalk signals are merely suggestive aids. Real New Yorkers can gauge distance and speed well enough to slip right through traffic, angry honking be damned.
  2. Tourists are to New Yorkers what rubberneckers are to Houstonians. There is a perception that New Yorkers are rude and unfriendly on the street. But think about it this way: instead of cars, New Yorkers use their feet for their daily commute and simply want to get to their destination as fast as possible. It's very irritating when pedestrians stop in the middle of the sidewalk to look around, just as when ignorant drivers hit their brakes and block traffic flow as they pass a roadside attraction.
  3. New York pedestrians and drivers will never live in harmony. Ironically, most people switch between the roles and will invariably and hypocritically engage in the same annoying habits they themselves hate. It's a vicious cycle.
  4. Allow an extra two hours for transit if taking a subway after 11:30 p.m. If riding the subway on a weekend, be prepared for your usual train to be completely rerouted or skip your stops entirely.
  5. The announcements made on the subway are utterly useless because hardly anyone can understand them. It takes years of training before you can translate the garbled, monotone dialect of the train operators.
  6. Subway benches are designed to seat three, but you always feel like a bit of a jerk squeezing into that middle seat.
  7. Bus schedules are meaningless.
  8. New Yorkers will never agree on the best burger or pizza or cupcake. But everyone has an opinion, specifically when it comes to these three particular food items.
  9. Every New Yorker is a foodie at heart.
  10. Houston Street is pronounced HOW-sten Street. Silly New Yorkers!
  11. New York City is known for being diverse, but it's also segregated. The city is a salad bowl, not a melting pot. The ethnic vibe change entirely from street to street.
  12. Trying to cut through Times Square is never a good shortcut. Also, avoid Times Square on New Years Eve at all costs.
  13. Despite being geographically adjacent, it is an royal pain trying to travel between Queens and Brooklyn.
  14. If it's raining, forget about being able to find an available cab. Better hope you brought a raincoat or umbrella.
  15. Walking down Manhattan streets on a rainy day requires the instinctual ability to constantly adjust the height of your umbrella. Otherwise, you'll get tangled up in the already-grumpy crowd.
  16. Get a good backpack or briefcase, because you have to carry your stuff with you everywhere. If you don't have a car, like me, there is nowhere to stow your things, so plan to bring everything you need for that day with you.
  17. Due to the cold weather and lack of storage options, a coat check is not just a luxury—it's almost a necessity.
  18. Every single person I've talked to about New York living has warned me about the awfulness that is winter, which tells me it's bad. Though it's gotten cold, I haven't yet experienced the full force of this awful frigid phenomenon. On the other hand, Christmas in New York is magical.
  19. It never gets old seeing places you regularly live and work show up as locations in movies and television shows. Last weekend's Saturday Night Live featured a segment shot by the benches where I eat my lunch.
  20. Any show set in New York City is chock full of inside jokes and homages that only local residents will truly understand. Living in in this city has taken these series to a whole new level. I feel like I have to re-watch all the old episodes of Friends, Seinfeld, and How I Met Your Mother to catch the hidden local nuances and references I missed the first time around.
After another predictably busy workday, I failed to do anything really special to celebrate my 100th day. However, I did meet up with friends after work to visit the annual Gingerbread Extravaganza at Le Parker Meridien hotel, where popular local bakeries compete to raise money for a food rescue organization. This year's theme was "Movies Made in New York," with entries featuring West Side Story, Ghost Busters, Stuart Little, Big, King Kong, and A Night at the Museum. Afterward, we ate at the Burger Joint, a decidedly dive but delicious aberration in an otherwise swanky hotel. My cheeseburger was juicy and delicious, even better than Shake Shack (see Day 86: The Cans) thanks to the chargrilled flavor, slightly crispy bun, and cheddar cheese. With a satisfied belly, I headed to Tuesday night small group to end my evening.

King Kong goes on a rampage on the gingerbread Empire State Building.
A gingerbread re-creation of the America dance number in West Side Story.
A Ghost Busters-themed gingerbread house.
A few props from the movie Big in gingerbread.
My ooey, gooey cheeseburger from Burger Joint. I rank it better than Shake Shack, contrary to the opinion of my friends.
Cutting through Bryant Park on my way to small group.


  1. yay Congrats! Happy 100th! Cool Gingerbread pics. I also like the Bryant Park pic. :)

  2. Thank you, thank you, and thank you. :)

  3. Congratulations on 100 days!! I love reading your blog.. please keep it up! :-) all of the stuff you're writing about makes me wish I could experience NYC during Christmastime as well!

    Le Parker Meridian! Home of Norma's and the Wazaa... mmm.. best breakfast I ever had! Very nice gingerbread shots. I like the Big one, but the cool stuff in that display doesn't seem to be made from gingerbread.

    Oh man.. that burger looks SOOOOO delicious. I want some!

  4. what a GREAT list! May I pass this onto visitors to the city? =D

    glad that NYC is treating you well~

  5. Really enjoyed reading these observations! As a native New Yorker, its cool to see my city in the eyes of someone new in the 'hood :-)

  6. @Michelle: Thanks, Michelle! Well, at least you'll be in Philly. We should go to a Christmas event there, and you can be featured in my blog! What is Norma's and the Wazaa? Is it expensive?

    @Mei Ling: Absolutely you may! Thanks for forwarding this post along...I like it when I get readers. :)

    @Glennis: So true...as a local and insider, it's always so much harder to notice the little quirks. As they say, your own culture is most invisible to yourself. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  7. congrats on your 100 days :) does it feel longer or shorter to you?

    and i have to ask - do you now fold your pizzas lengthwise? that's actually a brilliant strategy; i'm always losing toppings off the sides of my overloaded pizzas!

  8. Thank you! Mostly longer, but it varies depending on the situation.

    I do try to fold my pizza lengthwise when I can, mostly just to fit in, haha. The downside of folding pizza is that all the grease (and sometimes toppings) pools in the middle and drips out the back. I also tend to take a few bites off the tip before folding; I've just found it to be easier instead of trying to get to fold lined up with the point.