I’ve been thoroughly enjoying some lazy days until work starts up next week. Writing, reading, crafting, cooking, and lots of putzing around…it’s great to be back in the Midwest.

One of my last days in New York I found Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom for a really good price, and I’ve been slowly making my way through it for the past 2 weeks.

The writing alone is enough to make me keep reading, but I am most interested in the deeper, subtler conflicts within Franzen’s characters. I am having a hard time deciphering a lot of it, but that’s usually how it is with the best kinds of books, I think.

One quote from Freedom I have been thinking a lot about lately:

“The personality susceptible to the dream of limitless freedom is a personality also prone, should the dream ever sour, to misanthropy and rage.”

Rage, one New York Times reviewer writers, because “we helplessly collide with others in equal pursuit of their sacred freedoms, which, more often than not, seem to threaten our own.”

And that’s one of the reasons Freedom is such a hard, sad book to read. It is a story of a family in which each member is individually chasing after what he or she wants (or at least what they think they want). Repulsively selfish, and yet so human.

I’m balancing the sometimes-dense prose of Freedom with C. S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, which, though much lighter on a sentence-by-sentence level, is still taking me awhile to get through because I am dog-earring and marking and copying down half the book! Every time I read it I re-remember things that I never want to forget, but always manage to. Like this, written from the perspective of one demon to another about God and humanity:

“When He talks of their losing their selves, He only means their abandoning the clamor of self-will…He boasts (I am afraid, sincerely,) that when they are wholly His, they are more themselves than ever.”

And what would you know, Freedom and Screwtape Letters, written decades and oceans (okay, an ocean) apart, are beginning to speak to each other. Each is informing my experience of the other…one of my favorite things about reading.

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Our last few days didn’t go exactly as planned, mostly because Christian was busy preparing for a job interview (!!!). It was all very last minute and he felt pretty conflicted about the job (a scouting assistant at a literary agency) but his internship boss really encouraged him to at least do the interview, so he did! The interview went well, but he decided not to move forward with the next step in the process because the job just wasn’t for him. Even though it would have been fun to brag about “my boyfriend who works on 5th Avenue,” I’m grateful that he’ll be close-by next year : )

Anyways, we still found time to have some fun our last couple days! First, we went to the Brooklyn outdoor flea market in Williamsburg. Everything was so weird and beautiful, but a tad expensive (especially compared to the Goodwill in Wheaton!).

The market is right on the water, so we got some ice cream from a vendor and people-watched for awhile. (Christian got butter pecan flavor, and it was literally like licking thick, sweet butter. SO GOOD.)

Later that day, I met up with a friend from California (who moved to NYC last year), and she took me to the church where the lead singer of The Welcome Wagon (a small, good band) preaches!

On Thursday, Christian and I decided to look up some cool shops online and then go try and find them. First on our list was “Tender Buttons”… a store that sells only buttons (thousands of them)! I was really excited about this one, until we got to the address and it didn’t actually exist. I’ve been trying to think of a button-related pun to convey my disappointment, but I’ve got nothing.

We pushed through the heart-ache and set out in search of Obscura Antiques & Oddities in the East Village.

It was a really cool neighborhood, and we only got lost 3 times looking for the store. After hours (okay, an hour) of daydreaming about what kinds of crazy, obscure treasures we were about to encounter, we finally got to Obscura. And it had a metal grate over the window. And it said “For Rent.” Right about this time is when Christian asked me how old the website I found all these “cool stores” on was. (I have since looked it up, and it was only from 2011!)

Anyways, we decided the neighborhood was pretty cool in spite of its lack of Antiques & Oddities, so we walked around for awhile.

We watched skaters in the park,

Went inside record stores,

And I stopped to take pictures of cacti.

We spent Friday, our last day in NYC, going to the Chelsea art galleries with our Contemporary Art Class.

an elementary school we passed in Chelsea

Alex Prager

This sculpture freaked us all out…it looked so realistic!! I couldn’t bare to take a picture with his face showing, mostly because I was afraid to get too close. (You never know what could happen… the art scene there is pretty weird…)

Tony Matelli

My favorite gallery was the one below, with work by Ernesto Neto. He made all these rope sculptures that you could run through. The “floor” was made of a bunch of black ball-pit-esque balls, so it kind of felt like a grown-up McDonald’s Play place.

We came across another “interactive” piece at a different gallery, where we went through this maze (which was eerily similar to going through a car wash, except there were loud TVs involved), and then at the end there was free orange juice! My favorite type of art.

We spent the rest of the day packing and cleaning our apartments and saying goodbye, and then Christian and I celebrated with a 10pm dinner of delicious Chinese food from around the corner.

While we were waiting for our food, the owner rode his motorcycle right into the store and parked it there. And yes, that is a cleanliness grade “B” in the window. A perfect last night.

Candy-versary

May 11, 2012

A picture from our first date. He took me to The Museum of Jurassic Technology in LA.

Christian and I have been dating for 2 years! The other night I was going through a bunch of pictures, and I realized how cool it is that we have already gotten to spend lots of time together in 3 major U.S. cities (LA, Chicago, and now NYC).Of course, since LA is where we met, ours will always be a Californian romance in my mind.

Clockwise from top left: Ruby’s on the pier, Malibu, Dana Point, Huntington Beach, Venice Beach

Also, I couldn’t leave out the first picture ever taken of us. Here we are (pre-dating as you can tell from our mutual disgust) at the Griffith Observatory.

We don’t usually celebrate dating “anniversaries,” but on Wednesday we went to my (new) favorite store in New York and he bought me a pair of shoes. Before this starts sounding too sophisticated, I should explain that my favorite store is Dylan’s Candy Bar.

Candy and rainbows: the most aesthetically-pleasing combination in the universe.

And to prove just how serious I am, here are my new shoes:

Christian is already regretting buying them for me because I just told him I am planning to wear them when we fly together tomorrow. Muhahaha.

p.s. speaking of leaving, I can’t believe this is our last night in New York! I will post pictures from the past few days later…right now they make me too sad to look through. I am ready to go home, but I still feel a little heart-achy.

This morning, Christian, my roommate Hannah and I went to Coney Island. We didn’t look up any information ahead of time, so we were surprised to find it closed (we learned it’s only open on weekends). That wasn’t too much of a bummer because we weren’t planning on riding anything anyway, and I kind of loved that no one was there! The whole place was really eerie and haunted-feeling, and we all loved just walking along the pier in silence.

After downing some cheese/chili dogs, Christian and I decided to stop in Brooklyn on the way home (Hannah had somewhere to be).  First, we walked through Prospect Park, which felt a lot like the midwest to me. There were even some little kids having soccer practice.

And then we went to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. I have been talking about going here for weeks, and even though we missed the cherry blossoms, it was everything I hoped it would be 🙂

The “Children’s Garden,” where kids can plant things and watch them grow.

The best part about taking pictures on an iphone instead of a camera (mine has been malfunctioning for the past month or so) is that you don’t seem like as much of a snoop.

It seemed like all the little children in the entire park were congregated around the koi pond, shouting about each one they saw.

There were hardly any roses left in the rose garden…

…but these beauts made up for it!

The conservatory…probably my favorite part.

“The Desert”

Strangely enough, after 3 months, I still mostly just feel like a tourist on an extended vacation. Not because it’s been relaxing, but because it’s been so adventurous and different. Hard to believe it’s only 4 more days until home!

Yesterday, Christian and I went to The Cloisters, a branch of the MET that displays Medieval Art on the northern tip of Manhattan. Since we’ve never been anywhere near there, we had no idea what to expect (to give some perspective, I work off of 14th Street and our studio is on 27th Street…to get to The Cloisters, we took the subway to 190th street!). It ended up being one of our favorite areas in New York!

First, we walked through Fort Tryon park, with tons of gorgeous paths along the Hudson River.


The weather was perfect for the mood of the place… a little bit gloomy, with a nice chilly breeze. I kept saying that I felt like I was in a Jane Austen novel. (These days, pretty much any interaction with nature seems exaggeratedly awesome to me.)

When we got to The Cloisters (in the middle of the park), as soon as I a”Quiet Zone” sign, I got really excited. I have to admit that I’m not the best museum-goer (I though I would get better this semester, but no such luck), but I loved the atmosphere of this one.

A small garden in one of the courtyards.


After we left the park, we decided to be spontaneous and explore Washington Heights some more. After a few wrong turns, we found a small park under the George Washington Bridge. There were a few picnic tables and a few families, and we walked on the rocks and under the bridge for awhile until we got cold.

We must have said “I can’t believe this is Manhattan” fifty times to each other throughout the day. And also, “this is the best.”

So thankful to have a few more days of exploring before we go home.

SoHo & Our Reading

May 6, 2012

On Friday, before us writers had our reading and the artists had their show, our Contemporary Art Class went to some galleries in SoHo. It was a nice, fun way to walk out some pre-reading/show nerves.

I didn’t take any pictures of the reading, but it went well. We were all pretty darn nervous…It’s intimidating to present what you’ve been working on all semester, even if it is only for 5 minutes. The main thing I don’t like about reading my work out loud is that even can’t read it like I want it to be read, like I imagine it as I’m writing (dialogue is the worst…I hate hearing all of the character’s words in my own voice!) Despite all that, it was exciting to hear my classmates read their work, and I’m relieved to have mine over with 🙂