The First 10,000 Miles

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In September 2016, I reluctantly gave up my 20 year old Ford station wagon. I didn’t want to get rid of my car, but after years of reliability (I was the third in my family to drive it), it had suddenly decided to need repairs almost every single month. We were coming to a crossroads where the station wagon was coming up on its biennial inspection, and it needed a costly repair that wasn’t life threatening, but which caused the “check engine” light to be constantly on. This little light will cause you to instantly fail inspection.  So after some consideration of all my various options, I decided to go in on a car lease, and my 2016 Nissan Rogue came into my life. It was a big adjustment (being high off the ground being one of them!), but I’ve come to love it dearly.

Recently my Rogue and I drove our 10,000th mile together, a landmark crossed while I was looking for parking at my friends’ apartment complex. (It somehow feels appropriate, lol.) I thought it might be nice to look back at some of the places my car took me in our first 1.25 years together, which also kind of serves as a 2017 retrospective as well! So without further ado:

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This is from Halloween at Target. I’m at Target at least once a week, usually popping over during my lunch.

 

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In October ’16 I housesat for my Aunt, looking after this big boy named Romeo.

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Work. Every fall the people who run my office building put one of these outside both buildings in the complex. I call it the Sacrificial Altar.

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These weird mosaics are in the lobby of the school where the community center housed guitar lessons.

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I was only gonna include one picture from each place, but this bizarre painting in the music room at the school was too good to pass up, lol.

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My favorite locally-owned burrito place!

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This isn’t a place I went, per se, but I this spring I discovered the quiet joy of spending my lunch reading in my car.

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The field that I park in when I want to run away from home, but don’t have the time. I remember I texted this picture to someone and they said, “Don’t get lost.”

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A sad day at the beach, when I really just needed to run away from home and actually did it. Perhaps someday I’ll blog about it.

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Jury duty! Which I actually weirdly enjoyed, probably because I mostly just got to sit in a corner and devour a book all day.

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A happy day at the beach! There were a few of these in this particular town.

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In September 2017 I took a vacation alone for the first time — two nights in one of my favorite faraway shore towns!

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A trip so good it deserves two pictures in this little retrospective. I’ll try to remember to blog this trip soon!

 

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Spent one Friday night on emergency trip to Ikea to replace my beloved lamp, which I smashed in a stupidly clumsy accident. 

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Countless visits to my friend’s apartment to visit them, and their two lovely little bean boys. So precious. ❤

 

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This is from my office’s Christmas party last week! The fancy restaurant we were at had this massive, beautiful tree in the foyer, so you know I had to strike a pose.

As human beings, we mostly tend to take pictures of good moments, so this photo set doesn’t really betray how hard 2017 was for me. But the fact that I was able to revisit all of these good moments when I looked back for these pictures gives me a little hope that next year could have even more positivity in it.

–Krys

Frosty the Snowman is a Terrifying Tale

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(The only picture I’ve ever taken that encompasses both “spooky” and “snow.”)

Yes, that blog title is a bit of a mouthful, but I couldn’t think of a more concise way to get my point across. (Typical of me, eh?) There’s a radio station in my area that spends December playing nothing but Christmas music. It must drive the DJs crazy. But sometimes I’ll switch it on in the car, because the songs are good for perking up my mood a little sometimes. It seems as though every year I realize a different song has serious underlying issues in the subject material. This year that song is “Frosty the Snowman.”

If this blog post were an essay for one of my Literature classes back in college my thesis statement would be, “Frosty the Snowman is a harrowing tale of witchcraft and death, surely resulting in serious mental trauma for the children involved.”

Over dramatic, you say? I’m from New Jersey. I don’t know any other way to be. Lemme break this shit down for you.

Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul,
With a corncob pipe and a button nose and two eyes made out of coal.

We start off innocently enough, if we disregard the awful grammar construction. A snowman! Hooray! Everything’s going well.

Frosty the snowman is a fairy tale, they say,
He was made of snow but the children know how he came to life one day.

HOLD THE FUCK UP. Last I checked, snowmen weren’t supposed to come to life. The second verse and already everything is frighteningly off. Most wonderful time of the year? I think not.

There must have been some magic in that old top hat they found.
For when they placed it on his head he began to dance around.

I’ve watched enough Supernatural episodes to know what’s going on here. Clearly Old Frosty’s top hat belonged to some guy who was so attached to his damn hat that when he died his spirit stayed attached to it. So of course there’s dancing when the hat is placed upon the snowman; the spirit has been given a corporal form and can now move around as he pleases.

O, Frosty the snowman was alive as he could be,
And the children say he could laugh and play just the same as you and me.

These are some stupid children. If my snowman came to life, I would run the fuck away. Even when I was still a dumb curious child myself. Although I guess I was a particularly well-read child, so I suppose I might’ve read something that taught me to know better than to just chill out with possessed snowmen.

Frosty the snowman knew the sun was hot that day.
So he said, “Let’s run and we’ll have some fun now before I melt away.”

Here Frosty is telling the children about his imminent death in the hope of eliciting sympathy so he can convince one of them to allow him to take over their more stable, permanent form.

Down to the village with a broomstick in his hand
Running here and there all around the square saying “Catch me if you can.”

The broomstick is an obvious allusion to the ritual that Frosty will have to do if one of the children is willing to give up their body as a vessel for Frosty. He’s running around playing tag with the children so as not to lose their interest — once he collects the other materials for the ritual he will lead them out of town under the premise of playing tag.

He led them down the streets of town right to the traffic cop.
And he only paused a moment when he heard him holler “Stop!”

The cop knows what’s up. He sees the alarmingly alive snowman and steps in to save the stupid children. Frosty hesitates now that the law is involved.

Frosty the snowman had to hurry on his way.
But he waved goodbye saying, “Don’t you cry, I’ll be back again some day”

Caught in this scheme, Frosty is forced to flee the town and accept his demise. But there is also an obvious threat here. It is unclear who Frosty is promising to haunt (the current children? the police? future children stupid enough to put some gross hat they found on the ground onto a snowman?) but it is clear he doesn’t intend to just leave well enough alone and pass on to the other side. Frosty the Snowman will return to wreck havoc once again. Beware.

Those poor children have had quite a day. They think they’ve been having a good time, but sometime they’ll realize that something was a bit off. They accidentally made a new friend who was the product of dark forces, and sure he was friendly to them, but what kind of new friend makes you constantly chase them? And then he fucking died? What?

Thumpity, thump, thump; thumpity, thump, thump.
Look at Frosty go.
Thumpity, thump, thump; humpity, thump, thump.
Over the hills of snow.

I honestly don’t even wanna know what the fuck this bit is about. No thanks. I want nothing to do with Frosty’s thumping. I’m good.

(Merry Christmas, everyone!)

Ghost Story (A Response to “Cat Person”)

I know it’s a bit of a hot topic right now, and therefore probably being talked about to death, I have some thoughts about Kristen Roupenian’s short story called “Cat Person” that was published by The New Yorker recently. It’s about a young woman named Margot who meets and eventually goes on a date with a man named Robert, before cutting off contact with him. The two characters are actually quite unlikeable in a number of ways (she’s fatphobic and unable to be straightforward and he is in some ways the worst stereotype of a fedora bro, just for starters). Roupenian has taken these two characters and made quite a compelling story about them; they feel human in their flaws. I’m simplifying the premise quite a bit because I really do think you should read it (especially before you read this blog post as there naturally may be spoilers).

I’ve already read through it twice, and could see myself reading it again. It’s a piece of writing that’s got its hooks into my mind in a way unlike anything else I’ve read recently. I think it’s because there’s a certain universal quality to “Cat Person,” particularly for women, particularly for young women, particularly for young women who want to date men. I happen to fall into all three of those categories so the story resonated with me quite a bit.

I haven’t been in Margot’s exact shoes, but I’ve been in similar ones many times. After reading “Cat Person” I couldn’t help but think how if maybe I was more outgoing, or more conventionally pretty, then I could be another Margot. It definitely also made me consider all of the potential Roberts that I have dodged. For instance, every man on every dating site who has responded to me in abhorrent ways when politely turned down.

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A screenshot of an actual OKCupid interaction of mine. I know that maybe I shouldn’t have continued responding, but I was in A Mood this day.

I have a few different stories I could tell (and originally did tell before I made substantial edits to this post), but probably the place in my dating life where my experience most intersects with Margot’s is with a person that my friends and I call The Ghost. He earned this nickname by ghosting me in the summer of 2016. We’d been on a few dates and hung out a few times before he disappeared. The last time I saw him that summer was when I went over his house after being sent a dick pick that I’d indicated I didn’t want via a gentle joke (“Let’s just wait until we see each other in real life to show all that~~ ; )”) and then telling him that he shouldn’t get too excited because I was on my period (a lie texted to him in a state of mild panic about being out of my depth in this situation, as his actions to that point had left me unsure if he was actually romantically interested until he offered me the dick pic).

Up in his bedroom he gave me a backrub that evolved into him touching my breasts and kissing my neck while I reacted awkwardly and stiffly because it was the first time I’d gotten any kind of action in three years. It wasn’t that I didn’t want it, I was just out of practice and nervous. We texted a little after that, but when he finally fully dropped off the map it wasn’t a surprise; I figured he’d lost interest because of the way the whole backrub thing went down. It was disappointing because he was smart and funny and cute, but life went on and I thought I’d never speak to him again.

But in the spring of 2017, we wound up reconnecting. I’d been dating someone between December and April, before my then-boyfriend ended the relationship seemingly out of nowhere. I’d deactivated OKCupid when I was in the relationship (duh), but after a few weeks back in Single Land I reactivated it, figuring that by the time I’d glued my shattered heart back together and was actually ready to properly date again, I’d be comfortable with the idea of talking to new people again. The first night of my reactivation I spotted The Ghost’s profile and thought that maybe I’d send him a message, just to say hey and see how he was doing, because in our last few texts he didn’t seem like he was doing too mentally well. But I was on the fence considering the way things had turned out the year before, so I decided to sleep on it. Lo and behold, in the morning I woke up to a message from him.

We got caught up with each other and decided to meet up again, starting from scratch with a coffee date (or in my case, a smoothie). The solid banter between us was still there. He made me laugh, a lot, which was something I desperately needed in my life at that point, as I was experiencing deep depression because losing my boyfriend had made me realized how generally dissatisfying much of the rest of my life was. I figured that if I was going to do the rebound thing, that it might as well be with someone I already knew. I needed a distraction from my troubles, and I saw how The Ghost could provide one for me, even if it didn’t work out long term. Which, who knew, maybe this time it would?

So eventually I went to his house again. He offered me another backrub, but I said something like, “Well, shouldn’t you actually kiss me sometime?” Because despite everything that had happened the year before, the damn guy still hadn’t tried to kiss me at all. So I got to finally actually make out with him. It happened standing up, which was kind of weird to me, and also he cut it short when he started to get hard. Maybe he figured I wouldn’t be willing to do anything about it that day? Or maybe it was because his parents were just downstairs. I don’t know, I didn’t ask. Regardless, I was disappointed because I love making out, and have quite happily done it for extended periods of time with happy willing partners even in situations where sex hasn’t been on the table for whatever reason.

But there was one more disappointment: kissing him had brought the discovery that he was actually a pretty terrible kisser. Now, I wouldn’t say I’m an expert on kissing, but I’ve never had complaints from any of the six guys that I’ve properly made out with. The Ghost kissed very hard, without ever varying the amount of pressure he used, without varying the angle too much, and he didn’t try anything even slightly saucy like biting my lip or slipping me tongue. And he also completely neglected my neck, which is a Very Important Location for me. But I thought that he could perhaps be teachable, that next time if I just showed him how I wanted to be kissed by kissing him that way, then he would adjust his methods accordingly. So I invited him over my house the next time my mom was out of town. I knew that I didn’t want to have sex with him yet, but figured that the absence of a parental figure might open up some other spicy opportunities.

So we’re making out on my bed. Tops come off, a bit of groping is happening, but pants (trousers for you Brits) are still on. My eyes are closed, my mouth is focused on varying my kissing in the hopes that he’ll mirror me. (Fun fact: he doesn’t.) I feel him adjusting something around his waistline; I figure he’s getting hard and trying to make himself more comfortable. I happen to open my eyes and glance down and that’s when I realize that, no, he’s actually taken out his penis.

I experience a moment of hesitation and mild annoyance. (Note to all men: ask if it’s okay before you whip it out, for god’s sake. Never assume that willingness to see your penis is implied.) There’s a quote from “Cat Person” that when I read it, it felt so strongly connected to this story I’m telling you now: “…the thought of what it would take to stop what she had set in motion was overwhelming; it would require an amount of tact and gentleness that she felt was impossible to summon.” At this point I could’ve told The Ghost to put himself away, but I figured it was easier, less complicated to just roll with it.

So I summon my inner flirt from the depths of my soul (she’d gone to sleep because the kissing was so bad) and I say, “Do you want me to do something about that?”

He says, “With what?”

I reply, “With my hands?”

He consents, and I’ve just barely begun to execute the handjob when he says, “It’s dry.”

I hesitate, brain scrambling for an idea, and hitting on, “I’ll spit on it?” But before I can say the words, he starts kissing me again and jerking himself off.

I am baffled, because his penis is STILL DRY no matter who is jerking it and why would he not prefer the woman who gave him the erection in the first place to do the tugging?????? And yet, I say nothing and just let it all happen, hoping he will come quickly so this can all be over with. I try to facilitate his orgasm via little caresses and a whole variety of kissing styles that he responds to with the same kiss over and over. He doesn’t use his free hand to caress any part of me at all. I feel a deep, painful longing for my ex.

When The Ghost finally comes, some of his semen gets on my blanket despite my best efforts to keep it clean by keeping him on his back. I give him some tissues so he can clean himself up. He gets dressed without offering me an orgasm too. I’m so turned off at that point that I wouldn’t have accepted, but the fact that he doesn’t even offer frustrates me and seems unfair. However, I say nothing to show my displeasure, because I don’t want to make a big deal of the situation. I firmly believe that if somebody manages to give you an orgasm, making a proper enthusiastic attempt at reciprocation is the polite thing to do (even if an orgasm doesn’t actually happen, because although lady parts can be finicky sometimes, it’ll still probably at least be pleasurable for your partner). He may have done the work for himself, but I would have totally done it for him if he hadn’t gone off on his own strange little path. As I discovered for the first time in the relationship I’d just gotten out of, I enjoy the odd sort of power that I feel when I give a handjob, the weird joy of being the boss of my partner’s orgasm, and The Ghost had robbed even that small bit of pleasure from me.

After he went home and I thought about the encounter, I realized I was frustrated (in more ways than one), confused as fuck, and like I was owed something. The physical aspect of a relationship isn’t the most important part to me, but I do need to be compatible with my partners in that way, so knew it would never work with The Ghost because his kissing was just so terrible it was basically anti-arousing. But I didn’t have the heart to tell him that, so when I texted him goodbye I used the good old standby, “I don’t want to lead you on, so I need to tell you that it’s just not clicking for me the way I need it to.”

He responded, “Ok, well thank you. I hope I wasn’t an ass.” And I reassured him that he wasn’t an ass, because he wasn’t. The Ghost did treat me well as a human being. He had some quirks that I could have lived with if we had continued to date (like his repeated applications of hand sanitizer in situations where he hadn’t even gotten his hands dirty?). However, his bedside manner was just too fucking terrible to tolerate. But I’m non-confrontational by nature, and also don’t like to hurt people who don’t deserve it, so I took an easy, vague way out of the situation. And thankfully, he easily accepted it and hasn’t contacted me since.

When I tell the story of The Ghost’s visit to my house in real life, using my vocal chords instead of dozens of typed out words, it’s a comedic tale. But “Cat Person” made me consider this situation more seriously. I identify with Margot, but because she is unlikeable, I worry that I am unlikeable, even though many of her actions are ones that woman do all the time to survive encounters with men, and also to avoid further unwanted ones. I do, in a way, feel bad for not being more honest with The Ghost, but if I’m just following the patterns of all the female ancestors in my DNA, who did what they had to in order to survive with as much of themselves as intact as they could, am I really so bad? Because at the end of the day, I want to survive as intact as I can.

Visting NYC!

I took my last two vacation days this year right after Thanksgiving, to give myself a longer weekend, and keep me out of the office for a total of just about a week. I decided that I would spend one of those days in New York City. I live just a short 40-ish minute train ride from the city, but only go maybe once or twice a year because I don’t know my way around very well, have a slight anxiety about the potential of crime happening to me there, and while I usually have a good adventure in NYC, it’s just such an exhausting hassle.

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I had a doctor’s appointment in the morning, where I knew I’d also be getting blood drawn for labwork, so I didn’t have breakfast until just before catching the train. I popped into the locally owned bakery under the train tracks for a hot cocoa and a bagel. The cocoa was kind of meh, but the bagel was real and fantastic. (If you’re from out of state and ever visit me, I will take you for a real Jersey bagel, because they’re just not as good anywhere else!)

After I ate, I bought my train tickets and went up to wait on the platform. While I waited for the train, I popped in my earbuds and did not take them out until I got off the train when I came home. I usually only kept them in one ear, and didn’t play the music too loud so I could still hear things around me, but honestly, it was so nice to be in the big grey city with pleasant music playing, and it actually made for a few somewhat funny juxtapositions during the day (like Lady Gaga’s “Judas” coming on while I was looking at religious art).

My goal for the day was to explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art (aka, The Met). The last time I’d been there, and the last time I’d been in the city in general, was in late February. It was a good day, which eventually has become a bit of a painful memory. And one of the great things about my brain is that sometimes it has trouble letting go of pleasant-turned-painful memories of a place unless I’m able to sort of cover up those associations with new memories. It’s weird and kind of dumb, I know, but I’d been fixated for some time on making a trip out to The Met to do a memory replacement of that day. However, the need was not so great that I wanted to deal with weekend crowds, which is why I was devoting one of my two weekdays off to the endeavor.

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I don’t understand how city buses work (although I learned this year that you can use your Metrocard on them!), so after I got off the train in the city, I rode the subway up to the Museum of Natural History and wandered through Central Park, as The Met is just on the other side of the park. Along the way I found this lake, which I think is not The Lake with the Alice in Wonderland statues and stuff, but if there’s anything I love it’s a good water feature.

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I also found this beautiful tree. I love trees with bright yellow leaves like this.

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The line to get into the museum was mercifully short (where on the weekend you might wait half an hour or more). This selfie with the Temple of Dendur is my proof that I actually went on this day trip and didn’t just pull these pictures off of Google, lol. When I was at The Met in February we wound up looking only at historical artifacts and it wasn’t until we got home that I realized that we hadn’t actually looked at any paintings or anything like that, so viewing actual art was my main goal. But I still had to stop and visit the Temple.

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For those unfamiliar, the Temple of Dendur is an actual ancient Egyptian structure that was brought to the museum and rebuilt brick by brick. It’s amazing to me that something like this can still exist and still look so nice! Thank god for curators.

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It turned out The Met was running a big exhibition about Michelangelo’s whole life, featuring a lot of his drawings. The big showpiece for me was this one-quarter scale display of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Around this room were little displays where you could see sketches that actually corresponded to parts of this painting.

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The exhibition also featured work by Michelangelo’s teachers, students, and contemporaries. This statue wasn’t particularly well marked as to who made it, but look at that hair! That is such a beautifully detailed piece of rock!

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I did look at paintings as well, naturally. I saw people walking through the rooms, taking pictures of every single painting (you’re allowed as long as you don’t use flash). But this is the only picture I took. It’s a Van Gogh, and I snapped it because of the texture of the brush strokes and how they made me feel really bad and sad for Van Gogh. Poor Van Gogh.

After I left The Met, I took another walk back across Central Park, again, because I don’t understand city buses. When I’d been in the city in February, I’d spotted the top of some castle-y looking thing through the tree tops, and was curious about it, but sort of forgot until I accidentally came across it months later during a Wikipedia binge.

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Welcome to Belvedere Castle. On my walk back to the subway, I followed the signage that would lead me to it, because I really wanted to see it. Belvedere Castle is an architectural thing known as a “folly,” AKA a structure built for decoration, but appearing like it might be something more grand and important. It’s really just a mostly empty building — there was a visitors’ center on the ground floor, and then VERY narrow stairs that led up to the two observation decks. (So narrow that they’re only wide enough for one person — if you’re claustrophobic this may not be an attraction for you, friends.)

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The view from the Castle’s observation decks was amazing, though. Look at this picture postcard view!

I took the subway back to Penn Station, but did not hop on a train home just yet because I had one more mission I wanted to accomplish. But because I don’t understand city buses, I figured it was easier to take the subway back to Penn and then do the fifteen minute walk to the place I wanted to go.

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My route actually accidentally took me past the famous Macy’s Herald Square. If you watch the Thanksgiving Parade as religiously as I do, you’ll recognize this street. It definitely doesn’t seem like a wide enough street for all those massive balloons, but I guess everything probably seems bigger on television.

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This is the Empire State Building, viewed from the base. I’ve never been up it because it costs approximately a bajillion dollars (aka, $36 for the most basic ticket package, all that just to go up a goddamn elevator, fuck that). Regardless of the price gauging, it’s a nice building to look at!

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The is the Flatiron Building! Ever since I was introduced to Wagamama on trip to Boston in 2014 it’s been a place that I need to hit up when I go to visits there, because we didn’t have any down here. Until recently, that is. When I was in Boston in March, looking up the addresses on my phone, I’d noticed that they’d opened a couple of NYC locations! One is inside the door covered by that black booth on the lower right (I forgot to take a picture of the front, because I am an A+ blogger). When I was thinking about going to The Met, I knew I wanted to hit up Wagamama if it wasn’t too much of a pain to get to.

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I always get the chili squid. The spice on the squid is great, and the dipping sauce has a sort of hard to describe spicy, savory, sweetness. I love this stuff! They also used to have little servings of pickled vegetables that you could order as a side (the pieces were so small I had no idea what they were), but they’re apparently discontinued? Which is a bummer, because I love the taste of Asian style pickling, definitely a way better flavor than your typical Western dill, bread-and-butter, etc.

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And then I always get ramen, different kinds depending on what I feel like that day. It’s not as good as the small local place my friends and I frequent, but it’s still very tasty! And warm soup hit the spot after walking through the chilly, windy city (and also considering I was three hours overdue for lunch). This is the pork belly variety, and it was great. I need to try making the sort of semi-soft boiled egg they put in ramen, because I love the texture of it.

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After eating, I hiked back to Penn Station and hopped on the next train home. My goal was to be on a train home before 5pm, so I wouldn’t be smushed in with as many commuters, and could maybe actually get a nice seat — I met that guideline by about an hour. So it was a little crowded,  but not too bad. I took this picture from inside of the train, so it’s a little blurry, but I think it’s still pretty. (If you’re one of those people that makes fun of New Jersey for being ugly, I will assume you’ve only ever been on the highways and promptly email you dozens of the photographs I’ve taken over the course of my life as a way of proving you wrong, lol.)

All in all I had a great day! Although because I went from zero physical activity to two-thousand all at once I had sore legs and hip joints for days afterward. Well worth it, though. I should figure out how to get to more places in the city, so I can go on more different adventures!

–Krys