Monday, April 11, 2011

The New York I Actually Know. And Will Miss.

I moved to New York City from Lambertville, Michigan, four years ago. I knew at the time that this new chapter of my life would be an incredible adventure, and was smart enough back then to start and maintain this blog.

I have experienced both the absolute best and lowest worst times in my life to date here. I've done things I never imagined I'd ever do - both good and bad, unfortunately - and have come out on the other side a completely different person.

Professionally, I got rejected over and over again in the cutthroat publishing industry even after attending a competitive publishing course at NYU, but eventually landed a job where my food options and experiences expanded threefold and I ate for a living at the most amazing restaurants in NYC.

And just living in the city of opportunity opened up doors for me to accidentally become an actresssing in a bandbecome an artistendure some barbaric beauty proceduresplay basketball with the greatest people ever, and have many one-night stands. I also found my soulmate.

And now it's time to go - ironically in the same timeframe as the faceless woman at B&N

The New York I "knew" was the second post on this blog. I wrote it before moving here, and re-read it right before writing this post. Time has passed and I wanted to set the record straight:

Assumptions I made about New York that proved true (with small incorrect parts struckthrough):
  • It's HUUUUUUGE!! 
  • Our apartment will most likely be the size of a walk-in closet where we'll cram all our stuff in every corner of the dark and dirty, roach-infested place. Since our apartment will be so small, we'll have to trade in our German Shepherd mix in for a Chihuahua.
  • Instead of squirrels, we'll see rats.
  • The city will be a place of many colors - a sea of yellow taxis and people of all races. 
  • Starbucks will be the only staple on every corner.
Assumptions that now make me laugh (comments from today in italics):
  • I always need to be on my toes watching out for muggers, rapists, and all around bad people.
  • I'll most likely get flipped the bird more than I actually see birds. People will be regularly shoving, yelling, and belittling each other because there will be no elbow room anywhere. 
  • The buildings are probably so tall that they block out the big blue sky that I'm used to seeing in Ohio. And the only color I WON'T see is green, as in trees or grass. (Might have been true had I not moved four blocks from Central Park.)
  • I'll stick out like a sore thumb because I don't have the model looks nor am I anorexic. In addition, I don't own many designer clothes and can't justify spending the money it will take to wear the labels that most everyone else will be walking around in: Prada, Gucci, etc. (Everyone just wears black. All the time.)
  • If I'm hungry for a basic sandwich, I'll need at least a $10 bill. Since I'm not willing to spend $10 every time I want lunch, I'll probably lose tons of weight! (Only $10, Erika? HA! And losing weight with the amazing restaurants here? HA!)
This small-town girl is leaving the big city both against my will and willingly because I know it's time. I've grown into my own here, spread my wings, got a pretty sharp edge, and had some all-too-real life lessons, but it's time to grow in different and hopefully positive ways. Besides, I've got another big city waiting for me. 

This now small-town girl at heart is on to the next big city...

Monday, March 21, 2011

A walking contradiction at a stoplight

I don't know how many of you know this, but Katy Perry wrote the song "Hot and Cold" for me and my life. But she shortened some of the lyrics to make it flow better musically. And I agreed because she's the musician; I'm just the inspiration for the song. It could be a true story.

"You change your mind / Like a girl changes clothes." If the line were actually, "You change your mind like a girl changes clothes as she's trying to decide what to wear for a first date with a guy she's been persuing who FINALLY said yes," then bingo. I could be in the middle of a sentence - like ordering from a menu at a restaurant - and change my mind as I'm saying, "I'll have the pepperoni pizza, well done with a... no wait, let's go with the Greek pizza with a side of oh hey the Hawaiian pizza looks good; I'll have that."

"And you / Overthink" was shortened from the original line "And you / Overthink to the point that the wheels in your mind are on a spin machine powered by solar power and located directly on the sun's surface." It doesn't stop. It's why I change my mind at the restaurant - I overthink my choice. It can't be just what I'm in the mood for; it has to be which comes with the best sides, that I haven't eaten in awhile and is reasonably priced that pairs the best with what I chose to drink, which I decided on while not thinking of what I was going to order. Ironically, I get in trouble for not thinking as well. I just think it's because there's too much crammed into my head at once swirling around as if in an endless tornado that never ended up dropping Dorothy in Oz.

The lines "Cause your hot then you're cold / You're yes then you're no / You're in and you're out / You're up and you're down / You're wrong when it's right / It's black and it's white / We fight, we break up / We kiss, we make up" pretty much stayed the same because how else can you explain a walking contradiction (except in the song "Walking Contradiction" by Green Day)?

One minute I feel so strongly about something - like I really truly feel it and have myself convinced that it's absolutely, positively, and without a doubt right. And shortly thereafter, I have myself convinced just as much if not more about the exact opposite. This unfortunately applies mostly to big decisions, which makes it nearly impossible to make any because I'm constantly second-guessing myself. I just can't seem to be able to make a big decision and stick to it.

"Someone call the doctor / Got a case of a love bi-polar / Stuck on a roller coaster / Can't get off this ride." I have come to realize how stupid it is when people compare their lives to a roller coaster - meaning life's ups and downs - and hate that I've actually used this cliche myself in the past. First of all, the "up" parts of a roller coaster are just something to make you anticipate what's to come: the way more fun "down" part. Nobody thinks the downs in life are better than the ups, and I can't speak for anyone else, but I enjoy pretty much the whole ride when I'm on an actual roller coaster.

Therefore, while the beginning of the line absolutely did not change one bit because nothing is more accurate than saying I have a case of a love bi-polar, the original line ended with "Was on this roller coaster / But was forced to get off the way fun ride."

If only life could be a roller coaster. Then, first of all, it'd be on a set course with no chance of diverting onto another one. Sure, there would be some snags along the way - the levers might jam or you might get stuck and at a dead stop once in awhile - but at least you'd know where it was going at all times. I'd choose a roller coaster's ups and downs before I'd choose the ones that come with life. Too many unknowns, unanswered questions, and important decisions that I can make but can't.

I'm a walking contradiction at a stoplight. Awesome.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I will remember you

I had to say goodbye today to someone who, in the grand scheme of life, I have known for barely even a measurable amount of time.

What made this particular goodbye especially hard is that this person, Nick, was there for me virtually every second of the most difficult period in my life.

He was the first person who spoke to me while I was in the midst of the bewildering "how did I get to this point in my life?" speech with myself, the person I vented to when I was angry or upset, and the person I would seek out with tears in my eyes when I didn't want to cry alone.

And now - for reasons I understand, but find hard to accept - we're going our separate ways. I am grateful that today I had the opportunity to thank him for how much his friendship has meant to me in such a short time both out loud and in a heartfelt note that I wrote him, but the fact that I still had to say goodbye still stings.

It's almost enough to cause me not to want to get to know someone - almost - because saying goodbye is always the most difficult, tear-producing moment for me, along with the feelings of loss for a period of time after the fact. But I'd never trade the time I spent with my friend.

But I sincerely wish Nick the best, and know he'll succeed in life, and think Sarah McLachlan says it best with the refrain from "I Will Remember You":

"I will remember you / Will you remember me? / Don't let your life pass you by / Weep not for the memories."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Straight Poker, Texas Hold 'Em... and Penny Drop?

"So, what game are we playing?" I ask my mom, whose turn it was to deal the cards on the Ray family's annual poker night.

"I don't know yet," she said, as she continued to deal the seven players around the table more and more cards. "But the ante is a dime."

"OK, that's enough," she continued when each player had four cards. She then proceeded to put the rest of the deck in the middle of the table, and flipped up four cards so they each were face-up and surrounding the deck.

"We're betting on Kings in the Corner?" I ask bewildered, since everyone else who had dealt had chosen a poker game, whether it be straight poker, Texas Hold 'Em, Blind Baseball or Follow the Queen.

"No, I'm making this game up," she said, seriously, turning to my uncle, who was on her left. "OK, David, you either can pick one of these cards that are face-up, or a mystery card from the deck to complete your five-card hand. What do you want to do?"

"Wait, wait," I interjected. "You mean this isn't an actual game? You're just making up the rules as you go along?"

"Yes," groaned the group in unison, as if it were a point that they had already argued, lost, and accepted as the norm whenever it was my mom's deal.

"Seriously?" I asked the group, which, in addition to my mom, consisted of three aunts, an uncle, and a cousin. "You guys are just going to let her do that? OK, so when it's my turn to deal, I can just make whatever cards I have in my hand wild cards so I end up with five aces?"

"No, you have to tell us the rules before you look at your cards," my cousin, John, said. "Otherwise, that would just be ridiculous."

"Oh, and this isn't?" I responded, watching my mom try to explain her game to the group as she was creating it, adding more and more "rules" as each player took their turn.

"It's more fun this way," John said. "We should put this up on YouTube."

"Um, that's OK. I'd rather keep this in the room," I said, shaking my head as my mom seemingly arbitrarily declared one of my aunts the winner of the $0.90 pot.

After playing two rounds of actual poker - thank God - it was my Aunt Linda's turn to deal.

"What game should I choose?" she asked my Uncle Chris, who was hovering around the table watching us toss around our nickles, dimes, and quarters.

"You should play Penny Drop!" he said. "Here, let me deal."

"Penny Drop?" I asked, glancing at my Uncle David. "I don't think I know that one."

"It's because it's a game he made up," he replied, as my Uncle Chris dealt everyone five cards and then laid the rest of the deck either face up or face down in rows in the middle of the table.

"Another made-up game?!?!" I exclaimed, dumbfounded. "Are you kidding? You guys are acting like there aren't enough versions of poker to keep us entertained for a few hours!"

Yet my half-hearted protests were drowned out by my uncle, as he explained the rules of Penny Drop. Basically, you choose up to three cards from your hand that you want to exchange to get the best poker hand that you can. But to be able to exchange each card, you have to drop a penny from a height of at least a foot onto the cards in the middle of the table. Whatever card the penny lands on is the one you have to exchange your card with. If the penny lands on the space between the cards, you have no choice but to keep the card you wanted to exchange.

After a brief argument as to how high a foot above the table was - which was settled after my cousin Becca brought out the measuring tape - everyone took their turn dropping a penny using their own tactic to try to make it land on the card of their choice, whether that was putting some spin on it, dropping it flat, or catching the card they wanted with a penny bounce.

After narrowly snagging a queen that completed my straight after a short debate as to whether the penny was truly touching the card by the slightest hair, I ended up winning a pot worth at least several dollars, and ended the night $2.35 richer.

OK, fine. Penny Drop is something I can at least accept as a "legitimate" poker game, but only on family game night. At least that one has rules that aren't created up until the end, right mom?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Something to remember him by...

I know that every time I set foot on the basketball court, I'm risking getting hurt. This is even more of a concern because I play in a co-ed basketball league; meaning I play with guys who are not only much taller and stronger than me, but also much more aggressive.

But it's a risk that I'm willing to take because I love the game.

And it's still a risk that I'm willing to take, even after tonight.

Tonight was a frustrating set of games. We work quite effectively as a team, just lack height overall. So when we're up against a team with a guy taller than our tallest guy - 5'10" or so - we tend to struggle under the basket. Tonight was an exception in that we struggled every single time the other team's best male player drove to the hoop.

So during a timeout, I had the brilliant idea to suggest that I suck it up and take the charge. Now mind you, I am well aware of what a charge is. And I was fully prepared to plant my feet a foot away from the basket, put my hands up, and wait for a guy more than six feet tall to barrel full-speed into me.

In theory, the plan worked perfectly. On the very next play, the guy dribbled past my teammate, drove to the hoop, and went in for what had been the easy lay-up all night. What was different is that to do so, he had to knock me down. Thank God the ref called the charge, because I was not about to have done that and then not gotten the call.

The problem came, obviously, after the hit. Not only did my entire body weight land on my right elbow, but my teammate had come rushing after our opponent, jumped with him, and both of them fell with me. Along the way, the fall on my elbow was reinforced by the guy stepping on it while I went down. As if I needed to add insult to injury.

It hurt. A lot. I kept telling my teammates that I thought I had "two elbows" because of the huge lump that immediately formed next to my elbow from all the swelling.

Crap, I'm going on vacation tomorrow. I can't be injured for that, I thought.

But everyone's focus was on my bicep because it had immediately swollen in a footprint pattern. Yeah, that's a footprint. On my arm.

And even though I was the only girl available to play on our team, I wasn't about to force a forfeit and allow the other team to win. Especially after all this. So I spent the last four minutes of the game playing as best as I could while gripping my right elbow with my left hand. But we won. Score!

Afterward, I grabbed an ice pack from the ref and nursed my sore elbow while the guys on my team scrutinized my new bicep tattoo.

"Hey! This kinda looks like Rob's shoe," my teammate, Albert, said.

"What are you talking about?" I asked.

"Look," he said, holding my teammate's shoe up to my arm. The pattern on the bottom of Rob's shoe matched perfectly.

"YOU stepped on me?" I accusingly asked my teammate, who later said my arm had injured his ankle. Nice.

But the guys carried my bags for me as they walked me home, and gave me strict instructions on how to care for my swollen arm. Love my teammates. And I was no worse for the wear for vacation. I was just left with a weird tennis shoe tattoo on my bicep. Totally badass.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How exactly did I have THIS much fun the last 30 days?

"Honey? I love you," I told my husband as I was sitting at the kitchen table waiting for the computer to load and opening up a stack of mail.

"How much?" he replied.

"Um, a lot?" I replied trying to conceal the fact that the reason I randomly told him I loved him right at that moment just might have been because I saw that my credit card bill - the one I pay off every month - was in the, gulp, quadruple digits.

"No - how much is your credit card bill?" he repeated. "Just tell me."

"How did you know I just opened the credit card statement?" I asked, knowing that I was the one who got the mail that day and saw it was in there.

"I just do," he replied. "Tell me."

"Well, it might be a little more than normal," I said sheepishly, telling him the number.

"Erika..." he said, sighing.

"But doesn't it make you feel better knowing that I must have been doing lots of fun stuff the past month?" I said, laughing.

"Erika..." he repeated. But I did see a hint of a smile, so I think that means he's OK with it. Hopefully my luck will continue this time next month!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Just one more drink isn't going to hurt us

"I dunno... you really think we can handle one more?" I asked my basketball teammate and friend, In-Ho, as we sat outside Jake's Saloon after our basketball game with drinks and what turned out to be disgusting chicken and mango spring rolls.

"I'm not sure. We might regret it in the morning," he replied, as we both laughed.

"It's always that last one that kills you, right?" I say. "But... I think we should totally do it."

"Yeah, we can handle it," he agreed. "What's one more?"

"OK," I said, turning to the waiter. "Can we have another Coke and one more cranberry juice?"

"I'm almost embarrassed that we ordered that," In-Ho said after the waiter walked away.

"Who the hell cares?" I replied. "You're still recovering from a crazy drunken night yesterday and I don't want to drink alcohol, yet we still wanted to hang out somewhere, so we went to the bar and ordered virgin drinks. It's not like you HAVE to drink alcohol when you go to the bar. We're still drinking. Look... [I take a long swig of my juice from a straw] I'm drinking right now!"

"Yeah but it's not the same," he said. "Bars are kinda lame without alcohol."

"You know what?" I said. "You're kinda right. Apparently bars need alcohol so people will go to them. Because now I'm noticing how dingy this place is. But I still like hanging out with you."

"Yeah," he replied. "Me too so I guess it's OK."