An Evening in NYC!

Last Thursday night, as I was preparing for bed, a text from my friend Kristen popped up on my phone. She’s one of my friends from college, and one of the people I always stay in a hotel with when I go to Anime Boston. I knew she was coming down from the Boston area to NYC for an event that weekend called Bookcon. Kristen’s text said that the friend who was going to Bookcon with her wasn’t going to be getting in until very early Saturday morning, so would I like to come into the city for dinner on Friday? I usually only see Kris once a year (at AB) so of course I immediately said yes!

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before, but despite the fact that I live only a 30-ish minute train ride outside of NYC, I only make the trip in a few times per year. There’s just not a whole lot there that feels like it’s worth making a frequent hassle. And when it’s as hot as it was on Friday, that desire drops even more. NYC (or at least Manhattan) is kind of gross in the best weather, but in the summer it immediately turns me into a disgusting, sweaty, sticky mess, and I hate that. But getting to see a friend that I very rarely get to see makes everything worth it.

My office has special summer hours that allow us to leave at 3pm on Fridays. I wound up leaving half an hour late because of some urgent work that came up, so after rushing home to change out of my work clothes, I wound up arriving at Penn Station at around 5:30. Kristen and I met by the TGIFridays in the big main area — she’s not as familiar with Penn as I am, so I figured it was a landmark that would be easy for her to find.

Her bus had gotten into the city around 1pm. She’d checked into her hotel and then gone to lunch with a friend from the area that she’d met at NYCC. He’d recommended some interesting bookshops for her check out, which is what she’d been doing until it was time to come meet me. He’d also suggested a few restaurants, and the first one she mentioned sounded intriguing to both of us, so we set off for Turntable Chicken Jazz, which is located in walking distance from Penn, in an area known as Koreatown.

We picked Turntable Chicken because they supposedly have really good Korean-style fried chicken (which is supposed to be awesome), but when we got there and looked at the menu we both decided to eat other things. Kristen got seafood fried rice, which she said was really good, and I got the seafood pancake, which was very greasy, but very worth it. But the best thing we ate was an appetizer we shared that’s called Corn Cheese. It’s a simple dish of yellow corn cooked with cheese, butter, mayo, and onion and it. was. AMAZING! And prices were actually pretty reasonable for the area of the city we were in, which is always a plus.

To top it all off, the decor inside Turntable Chicken is really neat! It was too dark to get a good picture, so I’ve borrowed this one from their website.

turntablechickenjazz33st.png

From here, Kristen and I took a little stroll through the rest of Koreatown, ducking into a bookstore where they also happen to have a lot of KPop CDs and merchandise. I’m not sure of what it’s called, but I do know it’s just a few stores down from a bakery called Tous les Jours, which I just found out when I pulled up their website is a decently sized chain! They have a lot of cute little pastries, and beautifully decorated cakes.

After all this wandering, we wanted to go someplace that had air conditioning, so we decided to explore the flagship Macys at Herald Square, since we were right near it. This is the Macys that the annual Thanksgiving parade passes by, and I had never been inside before. There’s really not much to say — it’s a department store, but super massive. There’s a lot of different merchandise to look at (there was a whole large area just full of nice furniture!), and there’s multiple places to grab food (including a small, but proper, McDonald’s).

I became fixated on finding out just how many floors there were, seeing just how many escalators up there were, and Kristen (bless her heart) was game to answer that question with me. Not only did we discover that the Macys has nine floors, but the upper four or five of them were unexpectedly connected by these old wooden escalators! You can’t tell from this picture, but even the side walls of the escalator were wood.

20180601_192247.jpg

After Macys we made our way over to Times Square, even though we both know it’s awful tourist bait. We popped into the LINE store, which is full of merch based on the characters from a popular messaging app. There were a lot of cute things in there! I wanted to include a picture of my favorite character in this post, but I can’t remember its name and Google is not being helpful at the moment. So instead, have this nice picture of the sunset! Not quite Manhattanhenge, but still quite lovely. (Evidently we missed it by just a couple of days, bummer!)

20180601_195900.jpg

Kristen’s picture was much better than this, because it wasn’t taken on a 2 year old phone, lol.

After this, we walked over to Kristen’s hotel to continue our chit-chatting. We were just longing for a bit of quiet and air conditioning — even though it was starting to get dark, it was still quite hot. Along the way we stumbled across the theater where Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is happening.

20180601_201404.jpg

I haven’t actually read the play, but I did read a plot summary online when it first came out, and I utterly reject it, lol. I can’t believe they took over the outsides of three different buildings for that awful black spiky mass. And if we zoom in just a little closer…

20180601_201414.jpg

What the fuck is this trashfire? It somehow makes me view this play even more negatively than I already did.

Anyway, I didn’t want to stay in the city for too much longer, but Kristen had told me her hotel had a really neat lobby. She was not wrong! This photo is also borrowed from the hotel’s website and makes it look brighter than it really was — the lighting was actually a little darker and more moody which is why I didn’t try to take a photo myself.

d-ph-10-06-rgb-1000x5241.jpg

Kristen’s actual room was a little lacking interior design wise, but it was a basic room in a big city hotel that’s not part of a chain, so it was kind of to be expected. At least it had air conditioning! We sat and talked for a little while before I headed back to Penn to grab a train home. I was pulling into my driveway by 10:30.

So all in all it was a quick little trip, but I got to go to a few places around the city that I hadn’t been before, eat some good food, and spend some time with a good friend that I rarely get to see. Definitely a very good use of a Friday night!

 

My Cosplay History!

Ever since I got back from Anime Boston, I’ve been wanting to do a post about the cosplays I’ve done so far. (Well, actually, fun fact, this is the post I wanted to write the week of the con, but I didn’t have time due to travel prep, etc.) I’m not nearly so prolific or skilled as any of my friends who cosplay, but I’ve done some good work over the years (and, in all honesty, some really, really bad) and I want to share it with all of you!

1934671_59071685683_8138734_n.jpg

A babby, with the Staryu that still hangs on her wall.

2009 — Misty (Pokemon): I didn’t call this Misty costume a cosplay at the time (not sure I even knew the word then?), but thinking back, it really was my first one. For years my high school held an event for seniors at the local bowling alley called “Midnight Bowling” (actually held from 10pm to midnight). The tradition was for each lane to dress up in costumes around whatever theme they wanted, with costume prizes awarded at the end of the night. My friends and I dressed up as the gym trainers from the first Generation of Pokemon. No one seemed to understand who we were; a fellow student asked me if I was Ash, and I wasn’t sure if they were being sarcastic. (If you’ve watched my YouTube at all, you may recognize Staryu from my art wall! We cut our characters’ distinctive Pokemon out of cardboard for props.)

1934671_59071590683_6607905_n.jpg

All of the pictures from this night are blurry and dark, because bowling alleys are blurry and dark.

Most of this costume was borrowed — my shirt was a friend’s graphic tee turned inside out and I borrowed the suspenders from my older brother’s girlfriend even though they were the wrong color because I didn’t have the means to get red ones. My hair was the wrong color and way too short to do a proper ponytail. At least my bag was red! And we had a fun night bowling together, as I recall. (If you’re curious, no, we did not place in the costume contest and the group that took first place was a group of boys where one dressed as a pimp and the rest dressed in drag. Tells you a lot about my high school, doesn’t it?)

10400069_96876235683_836445_n

Oh no.

AnimeNext 2009 — Lucas (Mother 3 / Smash Bros.): This Lucas cosplay was a travesty. My friends and I decided to cosplay characters from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but their alternate color versions. I don’t know why I went along with this instead of doing my own thing, since my friends were cosplaying characters recognizable regardless of color palette (Fox and Pit), whereas without his red and yellow shirt, Lucas is just a random small blond child. I had never worn a wig before, and we styled it the morning of the con. Instead of, I dunno, buying a striped shirt, I painted stripes on a white shirt, using masking tape to mark them off. Except, surprise, the blue fabric paint bled under the tape, so I tried to fix it with white paint, and it was just a huge mess. The only thing I like about this is my Rope Snake! I sewed him by hand out of an old t-shirt, and I think I still have him in the attic.

p6190007-e1524536678699.jpg

Me with two Dark Magician cosplayers, because I have always been, and will always be, YuGiOh trash.

AnimeNext 2010 (Female Trainer from FireRed/LeafGreen): This is probably my favorite work! I did a lot of sewing work on this one, hemming a skirt I bought on eBay, making the blue shirt, altering a t-shirt into the black undershirt, attaching the red parts to a borrowed hat, and making the bag entirely from scratch. I bought some fabric, decided what dimensions I wanted, and went from there.

img_1353.jpg

I don’t do “angry face” very well, lol.

I wasn’t satisfied with the shirt though, so when I eventually brought this costume to Anime Boston in 2011 and 2012, I just wore a blue tanktop. By the time I brought it to AB I’d also resewn the felt onto a properly white hat, and I might’ve just worn red Converse with my leg warmers too, because I remember at one point the fabric top of the shoes mysteriously shrank and became very uncomfortable to wear (I don’t think it’s that my feet got swollen, because even though I’m fat, none of that fat is in my feet).

IMG_2174.JPG

Hauled this bad boy out of storage for its closeup, since it’s not properly shown in any of my pics!

The bag held up remarkably well through the three different cons I brought it to, although it’d need patching/remaking to put it to heavy, all-day convention use again. The skirt also no longer fits, and I want another try at doing the top properly. And I guess if I was gonna do this costume thoroughly, I’d have to get a really long brown wig, but I don’t like wearing them, so probably I won’t. Maybe I should get my act together and try and revive this for AB next year?

AN2011a.jpg

Spooooky.

AnimeNext 2011 — Bosses from Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: This is the most impressive cosplay I’ve done by far, and getting to do it with a group of friends made it super fun! It definitely wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t have friends that were waaaay more artistic than I am. One or two of them (or three? my memories have faded) did up the designs, we acquired our individual materials, and then worked together to get the costumes done. It was a very collaborative effort; most of the costumes were worked on by more than one person, at least a little. For instance, I vividly remember painting that lantern brown. Someone was usually playing Wind Waker in the background while others worked on costumes — this summer is definitely when I fell in love with this game.

AN2011p.jpg

Another friend of ours dressed as Link.

I portrayed the boss of the Forbidden Woods, Kalle Demos. We used an old dress of mine as the base, and the sleeves are from a high school graduation gown that someone still had. The flower around the neck, is actually just a collar, so the whole outfit is relatively easy to put on, although I remember having trouble with the hat slipping around. I still have this one in the back of my closet, and last I checked it still fits! I’d wear it again, but doesn’t really make sense out of context. (If you want a look at the official art of the rest of the bosses, I’ve got a link for you here.)

img_2148-e1524620905253.jpg

“And then I said, ‘OATMEAL? Are you CRAZY?'”

AnimeNext 2012 — Pinkie Pie (MLP): I had a very brief My Little Pony phase between 2011 and 2012. I originally tried to have this costume together for Anime Boston 2012, I even brought it to the con, but when I started putting it on, it just didn’t feel right, so I decided to revise it before wearing it. Part of that was restyling the twintailed wig I’d bought into a single ponytail, which was a mistake because it was incredibly uncomfortable to have all that weight in the back and the wig kept slipping back on my head.

IMG_2140.JPG

Ta-da!

I honestly wasn’t too crazy about this costume overall, except for the bag, which I sewed by hand again. This one worked out a little better than the Pokemon bag, because I made the strap wider and the bag smaller. I really felt that my costume was kind of mediocre, especially because my friends did AMAZING cosplays for this con. It made me not want to cosplay anymore, because I just felt that my crafting skills just weren’t up to snuff, and I didn’t feel invested enough in cosplaying/going to cons to put the money/effort/time into improving. After Pinkie Pie, I didn’t cosplay for six years. Which brings me to….

IMG_1968.JPG

2018 — Ariel (The Little Mermaid): This was a dream costume of mine. I’d even researched how I could do it back when I was more seriously into cosplaying. But this year for Halloween I was hosting a costume party at my house, and I saw Torrid carrying this dress, and the rest was history. I brought this to Anime Boston 2018 as well, and it was a big hit! If you want to read more about this costume, check out my post about the Halloween party, since I’ve already blathered on long enough in this post.

So there’s my cosplay history! I have some cosplays I’d maybe like to do in the future, but, again, it’s a matter of having the energy/skill/creativity to pull them off. Plus, I’ve kind of gotten too accustomed to just wearing comfortable clothes at cons (aka, the one con I go to annually) to feel much desire to go fussing about with cosplay again. So we’ll see what happens in the future!

–Krys

Thawing

When the long winter ends, and the first really nice warm day arrives, you ache to be outside. So when you’re finally released from your day of work, you acquire provisions and drive to your favorite field.

20180413_173014.jpg

It’s a simple pleasure to sit in a sun-filled field on a warm evening, a breeze caressing shoulders that have finally been able to shed their cardigan exoskeleton. The sun slowly sinks toward sleep behind the trees as the air is filled with the scents of warm grass and the cigar that a stranger is smoking a ways away from you. You’re not even sure if your grandfather smoked cigars, but somehow the scent reminds you of him, which in turn reminds you of how he loved taking you on your childhood Disney trip so much that he talked about it until he died. But the bittersweet sadness of this memory is whisked away on the wind before it can properly take root and ruin everything, thank god.

20180413_173018.jpg

You lie on the old soft blanket you keep in the trunk of your car, reading a good book, and feel real deep peace steal over you for the first time since the long season of storms began. There is sweet music around you — someone calling their dog, the breeze shaking the still leafless tree limbs, and yes, actual music, Latin rhythms softly coming from the radio of the stranger with the cigar.

20180413_175909.jpg

You’ve experienced all of these individual sensations before, but somehow taken as a whole, all at once, it feels lovely and new. You can’t remember the last time your heart felt so light, but as your skin warms up, you feel part of yourself blossoming like the yellow flowers on the bushes by your office. The cold times have passed, and it feels like this is actually the proper start of the year, that enchanted time when everything feels possible.

20180413_170249.jpg

The world is coming alive around you, and it perks you up to no end.

(I hope you all are getting to enjoy nice weather too, where ever you are!
— Krys)

 

 

Anime Boston 2018!

20180331_100333.jpg

This year I spent my Easter weekend up in New England, at a very special event — Anime Boston (hereafter referred to as AB). This is a convention held in Boston that is devoted to the appreciation of Japanese media and pop culture. It’s run by the New England Anime Society, and has been held annually since 2003 and it. is. HUGE. It’s not quite big enough to fill the massive convention center where the famous PAX East is held, but in 2017 there were nearly 26,000 attendees throughout the whole weekend.

It’s crazy to think that it’s been eight years since my first AB in 2011. I missed a few years between then and now, but this year was my fifth time attending. Some people, like some of my friends, go to multiple conventions in a year, but AB is the only one I go to. There are other conventions that look cool (like MAGFest!), but they’re either super far away and have hotels that get booked up super fast, or are waaaay larger than I’m comfortable with (coughNYComicConcough).

20180330_102507.jpg

The view from our hotel room!

AB is large enough that there’s almost always something interesting going on, or cool things to go look at. I really enjoy going to panels and getting my education on. They always schedule a wide variety of topics, and as soon as I get the convention schedule I fill it up with circles to highlight the panels that have caught my eye. I keep an eye out for panels about things I already really love. For instance, Revolutionary Girl Utena is my favorite anime, and Froborr’s panel about it this year was FANTASTIC. I’ve been to other panels of hers in past years, and her analysis is always really good and enlightening!

I also always circle panels about things that I know nothing, or only a little about, but which sound interesting. This year in this area of things, I went to a panel talking about the different types of visual kei bands, one about various Japanese composers (beyond just anime composers), and one about the history of ninjas and how media gets them wrong. This panel was a major highlight for me — the presenter was really animated and entertaining, on top of really knowing their shit!

I’d also marked up my schedule with panels about Japanese folklore, history, and culture; panels about famous creators like Studio Ghibli and Osamu Tezuka (one of my favorite guys); and panels hosted by voice actors. And also a panel on Japanese professional wrestling leagues, which I was super intrigued by when I saw it on the schedule. But I obviously didn’t get to go to all of these panels — sometimes multiple cool things are scheduled at the same time (or at weirdly early or late times), and also in the last couple of years I’ve found that something that really helps my happiness and energy level over the course of the weekend is making sure to take plenty of breaks.

20180330_125359.jpg

As Ariel on Friday, sitting on the floor to rest and eat my lunch.

These breaks were most often in the form of sitting on the floor in some corner to scroll Twitter on my phone, but this year I also found myself going back to my room every day at around 3pm to have a rest from all the crowds and noise. This is one of the two big things that made me feel super elderly during the weekend. The other one was overhearing two girls talk about my first anime like it was one of the oldest things ever; I originally watched it around 13 years ago. I have rarely felt so ancient in all of my 27 years, lol.

 

When I go to AB, I also spend a good chunk of time wandering around the Dealer’s Hall and Artist Alley to fritter my spending money away. If you’re unfamiliar with the terms — the Dealer’s Hall is where vendors sell various official merchandise, while the Artist Alley is filled with fan artists and other small scale craftspeople. I didn’t buy too many things for myself this year, mostly just birthday presents for my friends. But I did get this nice notebook from Maya Kern, and this gorgeous Utena print from Etherelle. I also splurged just a tiny bit on this Rise figure because my love for Persona 4: Dancing All Night knows no bounds.

20180405_214514.jpg

Sorry the lighting is bad — I don’t plan ahead and took this picture at 9pm when I was writing this post, lol.

But more important than what I get to learn or see at AB is who I get to experience it with. AB is the one guaranteed time of year that I get to see my New England friends! I met some of these friends in college, while others are convention friends that I made through my college friends. We all chip in money to get a hotel room together. All things considered we don’t really spend that much time together during the weekend because we all have different interests when it comes to panels, but it’s nice to have friendly faces to go to dinner with at the end of the day and talk about the things we’ve seen and done at the con in between catching up on our lives at home like we’ve spent no time apart. They’re all very good people. ❤

20180331_202542.jpg

The only picture I took with a friend all weekend. She looks cute cosplaying a casual, grungy Keith from Voltron! I look a slightly less cute tired mess, lol.

There are a couple of other convention-related things that I’d like to talk about, like my history with cosplay, or what I consider to be convention essentials, but this post is already starting to get a little long, so I’ll mark those down as post ideas for later!

20180330_132806.jpg

I absolutely -had- to take a selfie with this adorable giant plush in the Dealer’s Hall.

 

Do you have any events like this that you enjoy going to? Or would you be interested in going to a convention like this? (I bet a lot of you would say you’d want to go to NYCC or SDCC, but I have the opposite of interest in those just based on their size, lol.)

–Krys

20180330_140151

(PS: These didn’t really fit in anywhere else in the post, but I just really wanted to share these hilarious Gakuen Handsome keychains I found in the Dealer’s Hall. It’s a media property where the characters are intentionally drawn horribly, lmao. Here’s a trailer!)

Distant Worlds Concert!

My birthday isn’t until the 31st, but this past weekend, my friends and I ventured to NYC for my birthday outing. On Facebook I’d spotted that the Final Fantasy Distant Worlds show was coming to our area again, and when I asked my friends if they wanted to go, they were totally down. We’d been in 2015, coincidentally also for my birthday, and the show was so good we decided to see it again.

20180113_135831

View of the stage from our seats! Taken before the show started, natch.

Distant Worlds is a touring concert series that performs orchestral versions of music from the long-running Final Fantasy video game series. While the orchestra plays, little movie montages play on a screen, with the footage corresponding to whatever game or character the music applies to. I’ll be honest here and say I’ve only partially played three of the Final Fantasy games (four if you count Crisis Core!), but the music is still fantastic even if you’re unfamiliar with the subject material and your friends just happen to have invited you along (as was the case with a friend’s girlfriend who came with us). Final Fantasy already has great music, but there’s something that’s extra great about hearing it performed by a live orchestra.

You might be saying, “Hey, if you already saw the concert, wouldn’t it be the exact same program? Wouldn’t that be boring?” Fortunately not! As of 2017, Distant Worlds has been happening for ten years, and they’ve built up quite a collection of orchestrations by this point. (If I’m remembering correctly, the conductor/director Arnie Roth mentioned that there’s something like 140 pieces of music in the repertoire. Woah.) There are certain classic songs that you can expect, but they don’t announce the program in advance, and I’m sure there are slight variations from city to city.  Additionally, 2017 was also the 30th anniversary of the Final Fantasy series, so they had some special, brand new arrangements to show off, including a new arrangement of The Opera from FFVI and a couple of songs from the recent FFXV.

In 2015 Distant Worlds was playing in Newark, NJ at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, which is in driving distance of where we live. But this year they were at Carnegie Hall, so we decided to make a little bit of a day of it in NYC. There were two performances, in the afternoon, and in the evening, so in the interest of being able to take our time, and not having to rush in a dinner before, and then rush to the train home after, we opted for the afternoon, with plans for dinner after the concert. Also, when we were buying tickets, the afternoon show had ever so slightly better seats within our budgets.

I’d never been to Carnegie Hall before, and I was surprised by how vertical everything was. There were many stairs. (There’s also an elevator, just so you know if you need it.) I’d thought there was one more balcony above ours, but I guess I misread the seating charts, because we were right up there by the ceiling! Walking down to our seats kicked my fear of heights into gear just a little bit, even though we were a good six rows back from the front!

20180113_134649.jpg

View of the back/side of the balcony from our seats. Look how close to the ceiling we are! Oof!

My friends had wishlists of things they were hoping would be played, and all of their boxes got checked! Very lucky! The only thing I wished afterwards was that they had played Dancing Mad for us instead of The Opera, but I knew when they did The Opera we weren’t getting Dancing Mad because they’re both from FFVI and both very long. I just didn’t like The Opera as much because I couldn’t understand what the soloists were singing (it was in English, they were just a little drowned out).

(I hadn’t heard the Distant Worlds version of Dancing Mad before I pulled this up to embed it, so I’m assuming the excessive amounts of pipe organ and electric instruments would be an obstacle to live performance, but also I’m SURE they would’ve made a touring arrangement that doesn’t require it, because I’m pretty sure Dancing Mad is a fan favorite. Anyway, moving on, lol…)

There’s something about live music that I really love, especially orchestral stuff. I was a band student when I was in school, played flute for a decade, so I just love getting to watch and pick out what all the different instruments are doing, because sometimes when you listen to a recording you hear something neat, but don’t know exactly which instrument did it, and I’m a nerd who thinks it’s cool to know.

Also, my friends feel that when they hear this music live, they can feel the emotions better than when they just listen to a recording. I get where they’re coming from, and I agree with it to an extent (and so do all the goosebumps I felt throughout the concert!), but also, I’m not entirely wired like they are. Music doesn’t often make me cry, but there are certain chord progressions that plug right into my emotional core and make me well up.

For instance, To Zanarkand, from FFX. I’ve played a good portion of FFX, but got derailed by a tough boss. From the moment I first heard this in the game, I thought it was lovely. But something about this particular arrangement had tearing up pretty badly. The section between 2:19 and 3:00 especially gets me. This section isn’t exactly present in the original version. There is an undercurrent of those eighth notes (I assume that’s what they are?) in the original, but somehow just the way Distant Worlds builds them out and harmonizes them and spotlights them gets my tear ducts going. I’ve nearly made myself cry about three times while writing this post when I was trying to figure out the timecodes for the part I noted above, lol.

The concert closed with an encore that included One Winged Angel (aka, Sephiroth’s theme from FFVII). They used this as an encore at the 2015 show as well, so it’s probably what they always do as an encore, because they must know that FFVII is one of the most popular games in the series and that’s one of the most famous songs. They make it fun for the audience though, by encouraging them to sing along to each of the loud SEPHIROTH’s in the song.

(Although as I recall, the singalong was a little more extensive in 2015, with subtitles on screen for all the Latin, or whatever that is in there. The composer Nobuo Uematsu was there, and he pointed at us when we were supposed to sing. But I think they might not’ve had a chorus at that performance? Or at least not for the second half?)

After the concert we made our way to dinner. And since this was my birthday outing, you bet your ass I dragged my friend’s asses down to Wagamama. Luckily, they all liked it! I would’ve felt bad if any of them said they didn’t like it (and I trust them not to lie to me about that, lol).

20180113_175138.jpg

Give me some chili squid and I am a happy girl. The red stuff is some pickled vegetable that my friend let me have because I realized it was similar to the little pickled things you used to be able to order as a side.

And then we basically ran to the train. Not because it was really late, but because it was super cold! I was wholly satisfied with this early birthday outing, and everyone had a good time, which is something that’s important to me. And also, I looked hella cute. All in all, a great day!

20180113_175849.jpg

Me and the brick wall behind our table at Wagamama. My friends said the brick lighting makes it look like a texture from a PS2 game, lol.

(If you think you’re interested in seeing Distant Worlds live, you can check out their website here. Not sponsored, obviously, just wanted to make your life a little easier!)

 

The First 10,000 Miles

20171217_154549.jpg

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:

20160930_124007

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

 

20161001_181050

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

20161011_165959

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.

20161117_200221

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

20170309_211132

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.

20161203_194709

My favorite locally-owned burrito place!

20170224_121230

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.

20170224_173904

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.”

20170406_131711

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.

20170621_094053

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

20170731_120521

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

20170907_105807

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

20170907_192150

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

 

20171103_190922

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

20171202_154616

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

 

20171222_162048

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

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.

20171127_091241.jpg

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.

20171127_105800.jpg

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.

20171127_105844.jpg

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

20171127_112836.jpg

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.

20171127_113236.jpg

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.

20171127_123110.jpg

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.

20171127_123623.jpg

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!

20171127_130045.jpg

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.

20171127_132542.jpg

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.)

20171127_132821.jpg

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.

20171127_140639.jpg

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.

20171127_141141.jpg

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!

20171127_142426.jpg

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.

20171127_144054.jpg

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.

20171127_144650.jpg

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.

20171127_161829.jpg

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