Saturday, October 2, 2010

If One Could But Go to Brighton!

A little sea-bathing would set me up forever.

Well, in my case, on a wet, foggy and rainy weekend, sea-bathing in Brighton was out of the question...luckily I did for once bring along my trustworthy camera, got it a little wet, and brought back a bit of this gray English seaside resort to set me up forever.

But aside from the beach, it kept secret charms in antique markets and cute little houses and a perfect spider web!

I'm still regretting this beautiful, elegant opium pipe I found in a charity shop I somehow I didn't manage to buy. (But I did buy a DIY dipping fountain pen holder and some tips, and beautiful blue ink, so all is not a total lost!) And, of course, there's nothing like dreadful weather for a truly authentic and weirdly delightful English atmosphere.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Midnight Walk (Or: How I Fell in Love with London)

It is perhaps, tonight, that I’ve fully let myself fall in love with London.

A long day of class and suffocating inside had lead to an imprisoned and eventually depressing night of cross-stitching, reading and half-hearted attempts at blogging. And, of course, the later the hour, the greater my melancholy and sense of doomed loneliness became. I needed a cure, and staying in the cramped quarters of the dorm was not the answer. So I walked.

The familiar path toward the Thames was not the most enchanting of London streets, it being a main road, and already desolate at this hour of the night. But a bright orb of a full perfect moon lit up a mostly cloudless, velvet sky, and with the soundtrack of comforting songs, I could at least let my sadness slip in silent tears in peace. I wondered if strangers noticed, but likely not, and that was okay. It was a delightful balance, that of the pleasure of the night air, and the slight danger of reality—playing a game of I wonder when/if I’d get run over or mugged. I, usually lacking sense of personal safety, at least followed traffic signals even when I didn’t have to, and made the slightly cautious decision to veer away from the darker, smaller streets.

And, in time, I came to the river. The sight of it was a near instant cure (though even the journey there had helped), and the motions of the dark waters, the sprinkling of blue and white lights woven in the trees across the water, and the silhouettes of buildings I already recognized well bade me to take in a deep breath of precious relief. I walked, slowly, down the riverbank. This was the same stretch that I had walked through a few weeks ago, amongst crowds to watch the midnight carnival parade and await the explosions of fireworks above the river. Now, the bank was entirely deserted, except for the ghosts of imagined figures I thought I glimpsed in red telephone booths, or waving from boats. The heavy, brooding masses of the docked boats seemed only inviting, their entrances unguarded except for a few easily stepped over chains. I passed the old monuments and touched their intricate metalwork, smiled at the sights of the dragons guarding the boundaries of the old London city. On my side of the river, too, outlined in subdued lights towered the majestic and elaborate architecture of old, made all the more wondrous by their contrast to the modern neon signs on their opposite side.

It was a pleasure like few others, and when I reached the entrance to one bridge, I turned around to begin my walk toward the other. London is quite a romantic city, especially at night, in this light. The empty, old-fashioned benches along the river begged for the warmth of two bodies entwined, nestled scarves and clasped hands. My real romance was in New York, but it struck me that if I could allow myself to be seduced by the magic of this city, I hardly needed a real romance. I could play pretend. And it wouldn’t be hard, would it, to create a three-month affair to remember? Not with those glittering lights and enchanting buildings as the backdrop. The birds quietly bathing in the river might have agreed.

So, it was, back towards Waterloo Bridge, and when the expanse of both sides of London came into view, and the glowing face of Big Ben smiled next to the bright lights of the London Eye, the dimly visible outlines of the palaces held their eternal ground, I felt weak and dizzy at the impossible beauty of it all. Even the National Theater, so plain and strange, too modern, in the daytime, at night, cast in its coats of bright lights, and its outdoor terrace, its expanses spotlighted, empty, became a place of make believe.

When I found my way to the bus stop on the other side of the bridge, I sat next to a couple who smiled and said hi. Sing us a song, he said. Really? I asked. We would love that so much, she said. They were both smoking cigarettes. I promised to look through my iPod for a suitable performance, uncertain. They made small talk, I told them I was studying literature and writing. Do you write stories then? He asked. I said I wrote many. Do you want to tell us a story then? I said I would. That I knew I was good at. It took a few moments for me to think. Telling stories are hard, she said, you don’t have to tell us one if you don’t want to. Oh I can, I reassured. Just give me a prompt. Tell us a story about people waiting for the bus, he said.

As prompted, I told them a story. Two people waiting for the bus, a boy and a girl. I told them it’d be morbidly depressing and they were okay with that. He pretended to lie on the road, in front of a slow moving milk truck. The driver said something to us, I couldn’t make out what. Probably laughing. So I told them a story about a girl in a floral dress, cold, alone, writing in a notebook. And a boy in an university sweatshirt, who watched her, and tried to ask her questions, offer her his jacket, a cigarette. But she always looked up, smiled, and said no. He asked her what she was waiting for, and she said, nothing. He said you can’t be not waiting for anything. He suggested possibilities: a bus that didn’t run during the night, the newspaper, a sunrise. But she shook her head, smiling, clutching her arms together in the cold, I’m not waiting for anything. He kept asking questions and she kept answering them the wrong way. His bus came, and he got on, sat at the very back so he could watch her from the back window, still wondering. He watched her until she was a barely perceivable figure, slowly rising to walk to the railings of the bridge, pausing, disappearing as the bus drove further. And he realized then that she had been telling the truth, she was waiting for nothing, and she would be there all night.

Nearly right on cue, then, my bus came. They thanked me for the story and bid a hurried goodnight. What’s your name? He asked. I told him. My name’s Sonny, he said. They waved from the bus stop as the bus began to lurch forward, and I waved back.

I couldn’t stop smiling all the way home (and overhearing, and understanding snippets of the conversation the two cute French boys who sat in the seats next to me helped). All my nuisances and complaints about the city seems so pathetic in this light, and perhaps, unlike New York, which is a whirl of excitement and adoration the moment you set foot on the island, London is the sort of lover that takes time to appreciate. The longer you learn the shapes and whispers of the streets the more she opens her arms, revealing infinity of history, beauty, & darling, fantastic life.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Music Monday: Definitely Not a Nashville Party

Miley Cyrus- Party in the U.S.A.

So I still haven't quite found the proper soundtrack to my adventures in London yet (mostly I've been too concerned with marveling at the beauty of the buildings and being lost)--Belle & Sebastian feels too tired, all the Robyn I frantically listened to in New York seems too frantic, my collection of French pop drifts through my head now and then, but feels like it'd be better suited when I head to the streets of Paris. What, then? The Cure, The Smiths, sure, but that feels outdated. Maybe it'll take another week or two to find it, but in the meantime, there's this. (And no, it's not a joke, though a bit of a remainder from California.)

NYU threw us a get to know your fellow NYU in London students/come to the LCKSU waterfront bar social on Saturday night, where it seemed like the DJ tried a bit too hard to play songs she thought were American. (Think "Bad Romance" and "California Gurls," and later, inexplicably, "Don't Stop Believin'") Familiar, sure, but so was everyone I saw, and even the free Budweisers as part of our package. I get the feeling that we didn't come to London for a taste of American culture.

Luckily, I stumbled across the an indie dance night upstairs, and free from the confines of familiar faces and accents, with the spiked and pink haired DJs playing infectious songs I hadn't heard a hundred times before, I could dance without fear, and even chat with strangers and make friends who knew next to nothing about NYU. It was rather elating, and a bit like what I imagined my experience to be here all along. But best were the moments when the DJ played songs I knew, be it The Cure's "Close to Me" or Daft Punk's "Digital Love" or a familiar anthem from Sleigh Bells, when I could sing along to the lyrics and smile at my new friends, who were also singing along. It wasn't Miley's Britney or Jay-Z, but there is something fantastic in dancing to a familiar song in an unfamiliar place, this faint sense of belonging, of comfort in release.

"Party in the USA", I think, more than just an absurdly catchy pop song, hints at something bigger. The inevitable discomfort and anxiety of new beginnings, and finding solace in something so simple as a song, and finding delight in that reckless dancing, is very much a real and wonderful delight. And though that was far from a party in the USA (and, surprisingly, not as many girls here wear stilettos), the comfort of a song I love made everything feel that much easier.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sunday Love: Anna Gillette

This is a long belated post, but I did a photoshoot with the lovely Anna Gillette a while back, (a mutual friend, Wendy, my talented illustrator for that darling monocled cockatiel you see up there, introduced us) au naturel, I loved Anna's work the instant I saw her portfolio, and was delighted to model (plus, we soon learned that we had a shared love of taxidermy and morbid beauty). The entire shoot was done with various experimental film polaroids, and there is something so wonderful about the process that made the whole thing all the better. Here are some of my favorites from the shoot...

See the rest on Anna's website, and visit her Flickr for more of her dreamy work.

Friday, September 3, 2010

On London (and a rough start)

The journey to London had not been easy. In fact, things started getting hard even before I left. There was the matter of various health issues (including an unpleasant and far from poetic infection on the toe and some bloody procedure that accompanied it the day before my departure), losing my wallet (and quite a bit of extra cash aside from that, and mysteriously a single slipper), and a seemingly endless stream of things to get done before I rushed off. September first went by too quickly, and instead of the joyous sendoff I envisioned with all of my friends, farewells came as one small thing after another. My last few hours in New York, after the panic of the week before, the boyfriend and I had a lovely dinner at Balthazar, then we rushed home (where the car service was already waiting outside), to stuff my last few belongs in my suitcases, and it was off to JFK, where there was hardly enough time for anything except a seemingly too short, tear stained goodbye.

The process of landing, immigration, suitcases and waiting for the NYU bus didn't make anything easier. Weary, jet lagged, sick from the plane, all I could remember were the luxuries of New York. The journey to the residence took forever (interspersed by spells of sleeping and not), and when I arrived, the tiny room with its twin bunk beds (sans bedding) and lack of storage space seemed hardly welcoming. The next two days weren't much improvement: everything was daunting, expensive, intimidating. Practical issues abounded, and the constant stream of introductions and reintroductions and the company of NYU students simply made me feel like I was repeating Freshman year. It felt like everything I had built up in New York had shattered, and I was helpless, small, desperate for approval. I hated it. Hated the sickening essence of being locked in this bubble I was so ready to leave behind...hated the lack of excitement and the slow climbing dread I felt.

Bloomsbury, where I'm living, is a beautiful part of town, and though full of charming buildings at every corner, quaint shops and discoveries, I was far too focused on all my problems to notice any. I walked past Russell Square endless times to run errands, but still hadn't stepped inside the delightful park. I headed off with strings of NYUers to places I didn't really want to go, not thinking, not noticing. My suitcases sprawled across my tiny room, unpacked, daunting. I was in terror of being run over on every street, looking right and left and back each way again, convinced of my inevitable doom. The British accents I heard around me only reminded me of the American accents that imprisoned me everywhere else.

What did it take to wake up? An email from my boyfriend (every reminder of him brought more tears, my comfy apartment, the familiarity of New York)? A breeze that stirred me just so, to look up, and notice, and remember where I was? At some point I stopped to take a deep breath. I took a walk. It was a small thing, pointless, really, but it was that: buying four tangerines from a fruit vendor on the street for a pound, stepping into an unfamiliar grocery store and marveling over the tea selection, staring at titles that were still familiar in a bookstore, looking at intricate churches and architecture, French windows, little red flowers in pots on windowstills, the green of the parks, the slower pace of London. I took a breath and remembered why I was here. Remembered London's history, culture, beauty, all that was waiting. The British friends I'd yet to meet, the familiarity I'd yet to achieve. I took it slower, soaked it in.

It's the night of day three, a Friday night, and I've made it through unpacking, through buying a few necessities, sleeping through orientation, stumbling through lunches, and had time to explore a bit, finally, the way I should have been. This afternoon I stopped by a sidewalk cafe to have a somewhat proper meal: English tea and a croissant (and it seemed entirely likely that that'd be something I survived off this semester). And walking through the narrow streets, I noticed the buildings, heard piano music coming from behind delicate white lace curtains at a room on a lower level, passed through bookshops, narrow alleys that seemed too historical to exist now, in between modern shops. I stumbled into a discount bookstore where every book (including an array of classics I'd been meaning to read) at £2 each, and then, found the British Library. Where I found the literature collection that took my breath away, and standing in front of those glass cases, beneath which, the exquisite handwritten manuscripts of Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Oscar Wilde, Chaucer, Shakespeare spread...the history of literature so close, I trembled and remembered exactly why I was here.

When I wandered back to my room I was in a far happier mood, floating on the discoveries I was making on every corner, delighted that I could find my way back at all. This evening my roommate and I went out for dinner (tip for future travelers: don't ask for still water but for tap...water will cost you £3 and make you want to die), and another walk that took us to Soho, Oxford Street, and the nightlife seemed marvelous, the shops energizing, and the city so alive in a way different from New York. Every pub on every street looked packed, and though the long stumbling walk back was not as fun, London shines a new light, and I can hardly wait to make its proper acquaintance.

Next week, classes start. I'm hoping desperately NYU's program upholds London's rich intellectual tradition, and if not, I'll seek elsewhere. Next week, I've arranged to meet a few locals (through lots of proactive attempts at socializing with strangers online!) and might, perhaps, get better at knowing how to cross the streets. I expect to be taking my books to plenty of these parks outside, and I'm giddy already envisioning the rest of London (and Europe) to discover.

PS: do you live in London? Around there? Drop me a line please! I'd like to be friends.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

California Gurls

I've just returned from a lovely, lovely vacation back home in San Diego (sleeping in too long in my familiar comfortable bed, welcome old traditions and friends, irreplaceable home cooked meals and comforts, a startling beautiful ocean, amazement at the skintight, too mini dresses and stilettos in downtown San Diego, petting miniature horses at the zoo (!), and all with the accompanying fresh eyes of the boy--who is a first time visitor, and in fact apparently the first in his family to ever visit California) and got back to a wet, cold New York. Feels like I've never left at all...except there's already the impending deadline of London, a flurry of preparations and panicking and last goodbyes with friends.

I'll probably be busy with preparations and leaving, so postings here might be a bit sporadic until I get settled in London. In the meantime, I've been obsessing over Katy Perry's absurd, superficial glamour of the golden coast in "California Gurls" (a far cry from its historical painful reality, of course). The video, as the song, is wildly addicting, and the celebratory approach to the hard to believe emptiness of California girls is somehow exquisitely delightful. A perfect song for the summer...and the impossible reality of the summer's end. What have you been doing all summer? And what are you looking forward to in the whispering hints of fall?

Friday, August 13, 2010

All About NYU: Part V, Should I Go?

When it comes down to the ultimate decision making time, after you've received that marvelous purple postcard bearing the word congratulations! And weighing between other universities, priorities, dreams versus the obligations of reality, how to decide if NYU is really and truly worth all its weight in appearance...the decision is obviously, always, yours, and personal circumstances might play a far greater role than any stranger's description of the NYU student who would thrive, but, from my understanding:

Don’t come to NYU for a liberal arts degree if it means getting into tens of thousands of dollars of debt. NYU’s prestige isn’t really going to get you a job (experience, professionalism, and relentless drive will). The NYU experience, while, no doubt, unique, is likely not worth the years of regret and tears and poverty you’ll have afterwards. Also, don’t come if you are not (and don’t think you could be) independent, or have always fantasized about college frat parties and any sense of community. There is no sense of community save one of general cynicism and mild resentment. Without independence, you simply cannot survive here.

Why should you come to NYU, then? If, you’re one of those people who grew up hating your hometown, if you’ve always wanted to live and experience every aspect of the city, if you’re not afraid of obstacles, hard work, competition, if you’re desperate for excitement, if you can make concessions for life’s comforts for a life of unpredictable surprises, if you want experiences like nothing you’ve had before, if you’re not afraid to be embarrassed and learn silly new things, if you’re not afraid of disappointment, of shattered hopes and dreams, if you’re willing to give up almost anything for the opportunity that only New York City offers: then, come to NYU, because it will be a center of countless opportunities you haven’t even imagined before, it will be diverse adventures and meeting people you can’t believe exist. It will be what you make of it, what you force it to be, it’s a lover who needs to be tamed, who needs an equally strong match. If you’re not afraid of being alone (and it won’t be forever), if, even while reading all of this, the harsh reality and exaggerated nature of the university, you still feel the fire burning your insides screaming that you belong, then it’s not a matter of the quality of your department or the quality of living.

What NYU, really, truly offers, is outside of the university itself. Yes, you might get a few life changing professors. Yes, you might meet classmates who will alter your perception of the world forever. But ultimately, you will learn to live alone, to be a New Yorker, learn the taste of blissful success (even in small moments) and the bitterness of failure, unforgiving, cold, failure. You’ll learn how to live, and hardly how to live in a college, but in the world. You’ll learn much about humanity--suffering, kindness, and just inexplicable acts of humanity. Don’t expect NYU to be your magic ticket to anything. Expect to work for what you want, and hard, and expect for it to hurt, and to cry and hate everything you might have done. But in the end it’s a university that is rewarding in its freedom, its loose hold that lets you step off the pavement in stiletto heels, bruised bloody knees and a broken ankle, and lets you struggle with tear brimmed eyes until you can walk again (albeit, with a significant higher doss of New York irony and disenchantment with all that the city offers).

Thursday, August 12, 2010

All About NYU: Part IV, Social Life

With few sports or extracurriculars that students actively, and collectively engage in, NYU leaves far more room for individual exploration. And by the end of Sophomore year, nearly every single friend I had from Freshman year was living off campus, working and interning and living a life seemingly entirely distinct from that of a typical college student. You will probably find Freshman students to be, generally, more friendly and open, eager with bright shining eyes and confused directions at the start. But after that golden period of ecstatic introduction passes, many settle into friend groups and routines that feel impossible to break into. Tisch students, especially, form very tight collective friend groups.

Friend groups tend to shift and alter with living location, personal interests and schedules, and though enthusiastic orientation staff will convince you that the friends you make Freshman year will be your FRIEND FOR LIFE, and though occasionally this does turn out to be the case, most likely your friends from Freshman year will fade into a slew of lukewarm acquaintances you’ll learn to want to avoid rather than embrace in later run-ins on campus.

Freshman year social life tend to include stereotypical NYU activities: falafels and dollar pizza from St. Mark’s, marveling at the beauty of Washington Square in the fall, attending 18 or 19+ college freshman oriented parties and clubs (though I’ve never actually gone to any), trips to the Brooklyn Bridge or the MET with a special misty eyed significance, staying up late playing board games in dorm rooms (this sounds impossible but actually, inexplicably, always happens). This dissolves into various individualized paths, from going after every obscure and bizarre event listed in Nonsense NYC to fixedly over studying and panicking, to desperate hunts for glamorous internships (that inevitably end up filled with long hours and endlessly refreshing Twitter until that blessed six o’clock release).

Then it’s all a blur of house parties in the East Village, Bushwick. Weekend brunch at a scattering of restaurants, weekend nights scouring bars that don’t card. Occasional performances and events (that probably won’t actually be attended out of laziness, night of), fewer day trips, long afternoons spent between napping and half hearted watching a TV show (here, the hip favored show is Skins, and on the other end, Gossip Girl). Shopping (of course), whether it’s hip designer boutiques or the bigger stores down Broadway. After Freshman year, except for the most enthusiastic, there tends to be a period of anti-social tendencies, when even the thought of meeting a friend for coffee becomes dreadful (or perhaps that was just me?). At some point there tends to be some sort of disillusion, frightful realizations of reality and people’s intentions that might not always be the best.

But really, social life at NYU is hard to categorize, and though I suspect many would find similar echoes as my experience (and conversations revealed the same), there are just as many happy giddy NYUers who never experience a moment of anxiety or self doubt in their life. Well, not true, but can dismiss the negativity enough to go on deliriously happy (these are the types of people who gets picked to be your grinning orientation leaders! And hence, a cotton candy, rather unrealistic and overly optimistic, presentation of the university.) What is absolutely integral is the ability to self initiate, for unless you get sucked into one of those constantly existing and buzzing social friend groups, without any effort on your part, you’ll probably end up spending most weekends alone in bed with FroYo and leftover pizza.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

All About NYU: Part III, Dorms, Food & Facilities

This all mostly becomes irrelevant after Freshman year (as you will be much happier living off campus and be paying much less for--usually--better conditions, and you probably won’t care for the meal plan after having to indulge in it every day for the first year), but NYU Freshman dorms are nice as far as college dorms go. Without comparison as far as their locations, mostly basic, sometimes with wonderful views, but mostly what you’d expect of a college dorm room: repetitive furnishing, bland walls awaiting posters and photos. The newer dorms are shinier and apartment style, especially, do resemble a clean, minimal, dorm like apartment. RAs keep a (relative) close eye for incoming students, ensuring that not too many leap off of Bobst (the library) or transfer, though inevitably, some will.

Dining options are quite extensive, but not necessarily always appealing. Most of the Freshmen dorms have a dining hall or food options attached, though my Freshman dorm, Brittany hall, lacked it (as well as air conditioning or a kitchen! But it did have a ghost or two, so I suppose that made up for things).

The infamous Bobst library is not known for its aesthetic appeal--it sits in an ugly, heavy, brown-red building with dark, long stripes of windows down the sides. The inside feels oppressive and depressing, and during midterms and finals time gets extremely, extremely crowded. I prefer the lower levels of the library, which are newer and with less of a foreboding atmosphere. It’s a good resource as far as research goes, and Bobst has extensive online collections with nearly every major research center. Though their own selection seems a bit confused...copies of occasional obscure forgotten texts, yes, but lacking in seemingly basic novels.

Alternative study centers include some of the upper floors of Kimmel, the supposed student life activity center. Floors nine and seven have lounge/study areas by the open windows, which do present a rather gorgeous bird’s eye view of Washington Square Park and up. There are study lounges in Silver, the main CAS academic classroom building, and peppered elsewhere in the department buildings. I’d advise finding a nice department and nestling there, rather than vying for a spot in the already unpleasant Bobst. (The NYU Law School is especially nice, if intimidating). The school certainly lacks that grand, traditional campus appeal, but its scattered resources are, more or less, apt for most student needs.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

All About NYU: Part II, Academics


NYU has a just below 30 percent admissions rate, which seems relatively undaunting compared to Ivies and other near Ivy names. However, there is the matter of money to consider if you do get in, and whether that tens of thousands of loans price tag is worth it. A certain level of competence is expected, of course, as NYU is still a rather acclaimed university, but its standards are not at all impossible. If you have your heart truly set on the university, with a passionate essay, an unique talent, and an independent spirit, and solid academics to back you up, you should not be fretting about receiving that purple postcard in the mail.


I can only speak for CAS, so remember that experiences/expectations/quality of classes vary greatly between schools and even between majors.

I’m an English major and a Creative Writing minor, have taken a few Psych courses, and am otherwise oblivious to the rest of the university. CAS has quite a reputation for its core courses, a few of which you can test out of (language requirements, math and science), but most of which are unavoidable and really beat you in shape to what NYU is all about. The most notorious of those is the innocuous and tedious sounding Writing the Essay—but far from your high school essays, WTE is a rite of passage, that necessary staying up until four AM frantically typing a delirious draft filled with grand intellectual ideas, endless deadlines and three final products that determine your worth as a college student. (Or, as another NYU expert called it, the biggest ego boost afforded to Freshman. Hey! You’re in college! You can write long elaborate essays about real subjects!)

Also par for the course: a study on a specific World Culture, and Conversations of the West, a philosophy/classics course designed tax your ability to stay awake during lecture and write long essays about entirely irrelevant things. A few more required courses that you can wriggle your way out of with the right departments and appeals, and that comprises the heart of CAS academics. As you might guess, none of these classes (except maybe WTE, and always a brilliant professor) will probably dramatically change your life, or really contribute much to your college experience except increasingly irritating headaches.

The English department is good (if not all that brilliant). Required survey lectures are massive and boring, but if you get lucky with a smaller class (and avoid certain self-important professors who only care to preach his own theories) you might be in for some rewarding intellectual conversation...or be baffled by the banality of your supposedly equally brilliant classmates. It’s a somewhat popular major, so you’re likely to find gum chewing, iPhone on desk, blond hair twirling girls who are always late, though a bit less when you get into the smaller, upper level courses.

I can't speak enough praise for the Creative Writing department. The required intro to fiction and poetry class wasn’t half as painful as I expected, and although stuffed full with people wanting easy GPA padding, or convinced that they are writers when they are, in fact, entirely incompetent (adverbs and passive tense with every other sentence), not altogether unpleasant. The Advanced and Master workshops require an application to get in, but the two workshops I’ve been (taught by Irini Strauss and Marcelle Clements) have been absolutely wonderful. The professors actually, deeply care about the students’ work, are honest but encouraging, and often teach as much about life, and life as a writer, as about technique or craft. Am not sure the workshop model is necessarily the best, but at least interesting, if not entirely useful. Visiting faculty includes Johnathan Safran Foer, Zadie Smith and Junot Diaz. Those workshops are naturally harder to get into, but absolutely worth the battle.

Picking the right (and best) courses at NYU often feels like a game of Russian roulette, and even after scrutinizing RateMyProfessor and CAS's course reviews might reveal mixed messages. It's better to take a course by an interesting professor than base your decisions based on subject alone, as certain professors can make the most fascinating topics into the driest, most excruciating three hours of struggling to stay awake and feigned legible notes of your life.

Monday, August 9, 2010

All About NYU: Part I, An Overview

I remember when it was the ultimate fantasy: an university that, while not as prestigious as its uptown counterpart, carried a weight in the Hip factor that made it all the more appealing, Washington Square Park (the fat squirrels, the marvelous people) as a playground, a shopping trip to Soho (where the affordable but wildly stylish stores I could only read about in fashion blogs lined the two sides of Broadway) too accessible in the breaks between classes, and most of all, of course, New York City at my fingertips, and the delicious independence that came with it.

So, I suppose it should be no surprise that I’ve received the flurries of questions and emails about NYU, from tips of admission to hint of school life. And, as promised (though much, much delayed and with apologies), I will endeavor to provide the best perspective I can from a university I’ve gained an intimate knowledge of—if not solely based on my own experiences, then the stories and misgivings from friends, transformations and lifestyles witnessed first hand. But be warned: this isn’t what the admissions office advertises, and certainly not a comprehensive indication of what your experience might be. It’s simply my version, and if there is one thing you realize from all of this, let it be this: there is no definitive NYU experience, and realizing that you make your college life what it is will influence absolutely everything about it.


This information is easily found on NYU’s website, of course, but for brevity’s sake, NYU breaks down into a number of smaller colleges for specific fields. CAS is the biggest school of general liberal arts (where I go), Tisch and Stern are the notorious and esteemed film and business schools, respectively (each rich in stereotypes and dramatically different lifestyles), Steinhart is the misc education/arts school, and Gallatin is the make-your-own-major wonder child of an ambitious and (seemingly) diverse university.

Among students, the most frequent NYU-centric topic of conversation is the hefty tuition (a bit over 50K per year, which is comparable to most other private universities) and the legendarily terrible financial aid that accompanies it. It’s also known for being a hipster breeding ground, fond of pretension, and flocks of Freshman generally irritating to New Yorkers and upperclassmen everywhere. That and of course, its ultimate appeal: a nonexistent campus generally circling the heart of Greenwich Village, and its ever expanding ties/annoyance to the rest of the city.

Mostly what people attend NYU for is for the chance to live in heart of New York City, and you’ll find few natives in the pool of students. And for those less fond of city life, and wanted either some experience the university itself offered and/or were forced to attend from lack of better options, it generally turns out to be a big more of a disappointment than it would otherwise.

It’s a big university, but that does not mean that you’ll be missing out on any of the awkward and unlikely run ins of the hook-up from Welcome Week two years later on a crowded subway train on your way home. It does mean that you probably won’t feel at ease instantly. And will probably get lost, a lot. And will be intimidated by the subway and the whole big stretch of the rest of New York. But that passes quickly enough, and anyway, chances are if your sights are set on NYU, you are probably not craving the intimate small college experience and don’t mind a bit of adventuring to find your way from one class to the next.

Tomorrow: getting in and academics, and for the rest of this week, elaboration on anything from dorms and food to social life and whether the university may or may not be worth it. In the meantime, email me (tweexcore at gmail dot com) any specific questions or concerns you might have, and I'll do my best to see what I can clarify!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Things That Seem Okay At First But Are Really Not Quite Good Enough

+ That new street style blog by the girl with the big bangs and black lined eyes who sat a row behind you in your comparative lit lecture Sophmore year and who won’t stop asking you become to become a fan of her poorly shot photos of people who look kind of familiar and like the sort of people who gets recruited to work for American Apparel on Facebook.

+ The all organic, fresh herb roasted chicken sandwich with the exotic sounding vinegar dressing that costs $13.95 at the deli across the street from your office that everyone raves about and which you always feel vaguely guilty for buying knowing it is a bit bland and for half the price you could buy something from Subway you’d like much better, but won’t for fear of being judged.

+ The cutting edge hip, intellectual web journal that mastered the art of typography and white space in design but which features articles that either rehash recently printed features in the New York Times or might better suit the Self Improvement section at Barnes and Noble, only with everything written in reverse so that it’s ironic and witty when really it makes you click over to check your Twitter again instead.

+ The blazer you bought last weekend from that high street shop and which looked like something by that much admired (and recently deceased) designer your lover won’t stop talking about in the bright dressing room mirrors but which is just slightly too short and with buttons that look a bit too plastic to wear out without feeling embarrassed, but which you also feel too embarrassed to take back and so save for evenings when you’re sure you’ll only wear it in the subway and will take off and stuff away at the earliest possibility.

+ The poem your roommate wrote, asking for your evaluation of whether it’s good enough to warrant him quitting his day job in PR at a medium sized start up about the shadows of the moth’s wings flapping weakly against the fluorescent lights and how it mirrors his futile resistance, that you think might just be a combination of images from an Annie Dillard essay you suggested to him and buzzwords from his company’s profile, and plus an existential angle from the latest Charlie Kaufman film he watched.

What's on your list?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Little Obsessions

Lately it's the smallest pleasures...

Tea candles and delicate flower pins, sultry aerial jazz/cabarets, a colored stone on a pretty necklace, thin elegant cigarettes.

Intricate lovely stones from Evolution (a store of taxidermy, shells & butterflies, bones & beautiful rocks), and Anna Gillette's beautiful polaroid from the photoshoot (warning: there is nudity!).

The loveliest Caitlin Shearer prints, defiant, melancholy eyes, skinned knees, soft hair and tender peak of pink rosebuds on uncertain breasts.

Long trips to the library, reading in Bryant park, and walking back to the subway carrying a heavy stack of writerly books...and feeling suddenly and entirely convinced that there can be no other future, no other reality than this, a self conscious literary aesthetic.

An oversized perfect flower in hair, lingerie so decadent and exquisite from nowhere else but Agent Provocateur, platform mary janes that look just right.

And mostly, this boy. Absurd conversations and days in bed, a smile or a certain look in the eyes. The trace of a bony wrist, soft warm skin, laughing and crying all at once, countless stories told and remembered and forgotten, tables sat across, glasses drank from, fingers laced, streets walked, nights slept, arms linked, and life blissfully forgotten.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Music Monday: But I Just Want to Hold You When the Music Ends

Allo Darlin' - If Loneliness Was An Art

Theirs is a world of cardigans and Polaroids, unfeigned sweetness and cooking metaphors for love, Woody Allen references and soft dreamy colors, ukuleles and self aware pop that melts your heart. It’s twee in every respect, but with a slight wink of reality, with simple, sweet lyrics not so far from imagined conversations and muted shy smiles. Camera Obscura without all the melancholy. C86 without all the noise.

So: Marsha sits at the kitchen counter, fingering a sky blue and white striped mug with one hand (trimmed lemon yellow nails) and chin propped in the other, eyes at the sunlight from the window, the small brown bird singing his silent song on a quivering branch outside. Daydreams float by on puffs of clouds. She dreams of the boy who will dance with her, hand in hand to the sha la las of the chorus, who kisses her cheek to convince her that she’s pretty (she’s not. Just sweet). She wants just to lean her head against his after the local band strums the last chord on that wood guitar. When the breeze stirs stray strands of her loose brown hair tied back with a pink string, she closes her eyes and imagines him soothing it down, a boy who’s awfully scared and hurt, a lonely heart, two lonely hearts beating in tune to one day be together.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunday Love: Ricor

There is not much I know about Taiwan based photographer Ricor aside from the haunting impression of her pictures, so ethereal and soft, with incredible dreamy delicacy and a softness, a lingering beauty in the soft tresses of hair or the imprint of a softened dress. But perhaps that is enough, to step into her world of light and wonder for a quiet Sunday afternoon. Perhaps the mystery is just as much a part of the appeal...

More at her website and flickr.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Where the Summer Goes

I own you an apology. Four months of silence (sans my sporadic postings on Tumblr), and suddenly it’s hi! I’m back! I could make the usual excuses: but life got in the way, but the end of the semester became shockingly busy, but my emotions ran on overload, but I focused solely on fiction, all of which would be true...none of which justify. So, I turn to a fast forwarded recap, and promises of a future rich in updates and regularity.

Since March: I finished Sophomore/Junior year of college, gathered yet more pages of convoluted literary criticism to store in a musty folder to slowly disintegrate, thread through periods of bliss and contentment with the small daily rituals of my life, and then sudden plunges of self loathing, fear and despair, clutching to sheets at 3am with tear stained cheeks pressed against sympathetic pillows. I read books, fewer than I’d have liked, and sometimes not the right ones, sometimes not finishing them. I made decisions to quit poisonous affairs and began new ones. Oh, and, I fell in love.

Which is ridiculous, unexpected, and hard (or rather impossibly easy but hard to do well) to write about. It crept up, between weekends spent in bed, conversations without end, drunken confessions at mediocre parties. It took a strange conversation from a stranger from Omegle for me to realize it (he, somehow, recognized my feelings better than I). And it took: nerve wrecking obsessive thought, countless melodramatic reimaginations of the scene of confession (always with a bleak and tragic end), thousands of words written in various journals in panicked blue or red ink, and the incredible boost to clear minded and suddenly optimistic thinking that somehow only plane rides inspire, to finally reveal it. It was terrifying, and, I learned, well worth the pain.

It was the start of summer, then, which was a desperate roller coaster of ups and downs, wavering between constant regret and moments of sudden, convinced ambition. I’m still not sure it’s reached any sort of stability--any moment, tomorrow, this afternoon, a little line from an email, an unexpected phone call could still change absolutely everything. Unlikely, of course, but the structure of my life feels like a frail thin rope, spinning according to the whim of the wind and apt to snap at any moment. This is hardly the lazy days and careless nights of last summer (I suppose nothing can quite replicate that feeling of the first summer in New York), and instead wrought with tensions and deadlines and responsibility, all topped with the constantly looming deadline of August 31: my flight to London for the next three months.

I’m torn between wanting to slow down time, erase every bad decision and instead fully soak in the atmosphere, the luxury of this, before plunging into that other world, and wanting to leave now, today, all the small frustrations and irritations tossed away with the heat and humidity of the city, to gloomy gray skies and old bookshop lined streets, Paris a weekend train ride away. I suppose it hardly matters what I feel--it’s a settled affair, and for now, so is New York.

Anyway! What you can look forward to on the blog, from now on: very likely, a site redesign, or at least clean up, songs & photos & stories & such three times a week (including a much delayed, extensive expose on NYU you may or may not have been awaiting), and my full attention on anything you’d like. Want to ask for advice? Email me: tweexcore at, and let me know if you want the question to remain anonymous (or ask on tumblr). I always adore your tips, suggestions, and comments, especially when I’m reshaping the site toward its absolutely best! As always, comment, subscribe, and recommend at will. I am nothing without you, my wonderful, wonderful readers!


Monday, July 19, 2010

Music Monday: Home Is Where I'm Alone with You

Edward Shape and the Magnetic Zeros - Home

What do I know about Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, or this song? Not much, save that once a friend had it stuck in his head, and sitting across the table on a hot summer’s day, in the safety of the shade but still the oven of the warm air, he performed a surprisingly accurate rendition of it, in the same cracked, country twang as the real singer of the band, drumming the beat with his fingers on the table. Later I heard it played at yoga, somewhere between the strained hold of a warrior pose and the smooth transition into downward dog, and felt this clap of recognition, of pure happiness at the opening whistled melody, and these comforting voices, now no longer a strange private performance but a full song. I still could not recall the name of the band, except that reminded me vaguely of the Magnetic Fields and was overly long.

Later I heard a friend play it while lounging in his cozy Harlem apartment, and when he sang along with the same chorus, the swell of the celebratory cheer, and then trickling came the charming dialogue of the bridge, the sweet strange little narratives accompanied by foot tapping guitars and whistles, I knew that the deed had been done: I had fallen slave to the melody, the infectious good nature of the song, and I would not relent unless I tracked it down and made it my own. And once I had--I fell more and more under its spell. A love song, a two character performance, girl-boy harmonies (but this isn’t the sentiment etched sweetness of Stars or the melt in your ears strawberries & marshmallows of twee bands), country accents and playful strings, and oh, those whistles! How simple, barefoot on a summer night--yes, it’s exactly that, running through expansive & scratchy grass fields, biting into over ripe apples, laughing with linked arms, and falling deeply, deeply in love with you. Just like that.

(PS: yes, I'm absolutely reviving this blog. And back to regularly scheduled postings soon! And expect songs every Monday as well as everything else!)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

All This Sunshine's Making Me Dizzy

It's spring. With each day of surprising sunshine New York peels off a layer of coats and reveals a teasing trailer of the future. Spring means people in parks and rising hemlines, picnic blankets and whisper of summer. It's not yet the non-stop gray showers of spring (but soon, I'm sure), this is merely a taste of delight, a sprinkle of pastels and cottons and wonders.

I spent all afternoon doing the reading I missed during break in Washington Square (still my favorite park), and little things I noticed mostly reminded me of other little things, the countless other times I've done the same exact thing. Like: a man approached someone next to me for a cigarette, and the vintage film camera dangling around his neck suddenly reminded me of Eddie the black photographer. Eddie asked for my picture in the park way back when. We went off on an impromptu photoshoot and he invited me to a movie I agreed to, I had no other plans for the afternoon. He showed me the notes for an inspirational self help book he was writing. Eddie worked two jobs, one as the security guard for a medical center nearby and one as a cashier at Duane Reade. He attended art openings and dance performances for people to shoot on his boxy old film camera. He kissed me on the cheek and I hadn't realized that  he might have thought our afternoon a date. He called, every now and then after that, but I had excuses, I was always busy.

One night in the summer months after I met him, almost forgetting who he was, heading home at Union Square at three or four AM after an exhausting (and dramatic) night, I heard someone call my name. I turned around on reflex and there was Eddie. We talked, but not for long. I went home. I forgot about Eddie, until now.

I wondered how many similar such instances I'd forgotten, things that seemed impossible and sparkling gems when they happened and now slipped away in the cracks of my memory like the cracks in the sidewalks. People and conversations and interactions. Once I met two punk traveller kids who hopped freight trains at Union Square and took them to Times Square. The red steps were closed but we had fun anyway and they spent the night at my apartment. My roommate hadn't been happy but they had some great stories. When we walked past another sleeping traveler punk kid on the street they found change to spare though they still needed bus fare.

Once I walked past a homeless man with the cardboard sign in his mouth and one eye a bloody pulp, seemingly hanging out of his eye socket. It was so terrifying and grotesque I couldn't glance back to make sure if I'd imagined it. I remembered how much I hated it, seeing violence, decay, this living nightmare on the street just as easily as a storefront or a happy puppy.

That's New York. I was reading a book about New York, an old New York, but still, a New York of connections and patchworks and unlikely reminders and occurrences.  Sometimes I forget--a lot, actually. But some days it's impossible to ignore, it's in the way the world awaits with a search at my fingertips, the way a smile or an overheard snippet of conversation lifts up my mood. It's the glimpses into unfamiliar apartments and imagining the stories I haven't heard. A love letter to New York, this? No, not just. A love letter to, oh, I'll allow it, the unfeigned adoration of this very life I lead, the frequency of the wonderful and the novelties in the routine that is not quite a routine, that is a delight in its familiarity and its flexibility.

I haven't absolutely figured out my summer plans yet, but spending it in New York, again, still sounds like an option I'd embrace. I'd miss this. I'd miss even simply sitting on the cold glossy floor of my apartment and laughing about something silly, walking to try brunch with massive portions, miss the history I'd evoke with every trip around the village or 14th street. Oh and, how could I forget, the people. The pink bubble of a blister against the hem of flats that didn't cause them, the ripped pattern of the back of black tights, sunglasses and colorful hair, wrinkles that illustrate a life worth telling, the voices and accents and limps and even if the rest of the world remains impassive, immune, these marvels will go on.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

*A Sort of Excuse

It's not that I have forgotten, it's just that I've been doing most of my writing here in the forms of bits and pieces of fiction and poetry lately. It's fun and it sounds pretty. But expect a proper update soon. I promise.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

On Poetry

What I mean is this.

It was five am at the latest, the first day of the new year. Minutes earlier, I'd been deliriously tired with my eyelids glued down and the need for sleep draping over my body like the tattered old blanket that rested there. Curled next to a girl from the party on the small couch, all of us drained from the endless night, when I turned and saw the bright white glow of the day peeking from behind a half closed curtain. Suddenly I was awake.

I didn't want to spend any more time in the uncomfortable dark room where my friends were already drifting off to sleep. I fumbled by that little streak of light to find my pen and notebook from the desk and made my way outside. The living room was nearly deserted, a stark contrast from the flashing colored lights and loud music that spilled from it not so long before. There was someone curled up half asleep on a loveseat, and the faint sounds of footsteps and door creaks from upstairs and elsewhere in the house.

I walked to the dining table and found a cigarette and a lighter among the small pieces peppered across the table. The painted glow of the sunrise and new day beckoned from the patio. I slid open the door to the yard and slipped outside, taking in a deep breath of the morning air. It was cold, a sharp chill that my thin cardigan hardly protected from (I didn't want to go searching for my warmer jacket in the mess of the rooms and couches and sleeping friends inside). I was alone, blissfully and wonderfully alone with the kiss of the sun and its melting colors dipping across the open sky, with the last few stars still sparkling and the moon still a visible pastel slice. It was silent except for the chirping of the birds, a light symphony I could appreciate.

I found a seat on a chair that overlooked the yard and opened my little notebook to write. It was integral that I had it, then, not that it ever left my side, the thin blue tipped ink and the fresh press of the paper. I smoked the lone cigarette (the playful wind kept blowing it in my face) and watched the lights of the sky and clutched my sweater ever so closer, and wrote.