- Chantez et vous trouverez votre chanson -

Life isn't about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.
     -George Bernard Shaw

It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves- in finding themselves.
      -Andre Gide

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Burnt and Burnt Out...Long Beach

Summer is officially here.  Whew, I'm beat.  I took a beating from the sun and got very little sleep this weekend in Long Beach, Long Island and I loved every minute of it.

Long Beach is a fun little beach town in Nassau County of Long Island just about a 20 minute drive (or LIRR trip) from my area of Queens.  It's a cute little town that's nothing like the city...yet it's still just a short commute, and the people there (young and old) love a good time.

Two examples:

1. One night we headed out to Saloon, and were drinking within a mixed crowd of folks in their mid-twenties and some in their mid-fifties.  I'll admit, as part of the mid-twenties grouping, those fifty-something party animals provided a dose of humor for the night, but hey, when I'm around that age, I still want to have places to go out with my friends and have a good time!

2. As we walked back to our car after a weekend of sun and a little too much fun, an old couple sitting on their porch laughed at us and asked if we had a good night last night. What kind of old folks say that?? haha

There's an active boardwalk full of bikers, joggers and walkers, plenty of little coffee shops and restaurants, and even a town parade on Memorial Day.  On the other hand, there's a long strip of bars made for bar-hopping and, this is key, they are all within walking distance from the houses... perfection in my book!

Summer is a celebration in Long Beach, as it should be.  There were constant barbeques to attend, the beach was always lively (but not too packed), and the West End where I stayed had a college-anything goes-laid back vibe.  The houses in the West End are typically small bungalows stacked close together and parking can be difficult, but the bonus lies in their community feel and close proximity to the beach.  Everyone sits out on their porches and chats with neighbors on nice afternoons, and the beach is literally only a block or 2 blocks away.

Things to note when heading to Long Beach:

- You will need to get a  beach pass from a kiosk on the boardwalk to head to the beach for the day (or bum one from a resident in the area with a summer-long beach pass).

- Parking can be tight on the West End near the "state streets" (Indiana Ave., Louisiana St., etc.).

- Breakfast (or lunch or dinner) is cheap and good at the West End Coffee Shop at W. Beech and Georgia Ave.  On busy weekends, expect a bit of a crowd in this cute small town diner.
1042 W. Beech St.
Long Beach, NY 11561

- Bring your volleyball!  Lots of people set up nets on the beach and love joiners interested in a game.

- Saloon at Indiana Ave. and W. Beech St. is a fun bar with a mixed crowd of young and old.  They often times have live music or karaoke.  
1016 W. Beech St.
Long Beach, NY 11561

-Ever wished you could do the Pleasantville-small town stereotype of riding a dainty bike with a basket and a bell?  Now's your chance.  The boardwalk is long and the small alley streets are free from traffic making Long Beach a biker's paradise.

- Minnesota's Restaurant & Tavern at Minnesota Ave. and W. Beech St. is known to have the youngest crowd in Long Beach.  I found it to be a really good time (but then again, I'm only 23!).  
959 W. Beech St.
Long Beach, NY 11561

I've only been to Long Beach three times, but I hope to go a lot more this summer.  Anyone else have other places to recommend in the area?  

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mr. West lands at the Garden

Kanye West. Rihanna. N.E.R.D. Lupe Fiasco. MSG. Stunna' shades. Glow in the Dark.

Yes, I was there, and it was A-MAZ-ING.  Jealous?  You should be.

Last night, on May 13, 2008, Kanye West's much anticipated Glow in the Dark Tour took over midtown.  By 6:30pm, the bars surrounding Penn Station were crammed with eager concert-goers sporting "Stronger" glasses and neon clothing.  By 8:30, they had packed out every tier of Madison Square Garden and were jumping to the sounds of N.E.R.D.

The concert lasted a little over 4 hours, but the flow of the concert was so fast paced, time flew. Arriving close to 8:30pm, I was amazed to realize I had already missed Lupe Fiasco.  All I'm going to say is...I really like Lupe and was not very happy to learn I had missed his performance.  

Turns out, in his true diva-like fashion, the 3 headlining acts were only to perform 1/2 hour sets to leave more time for Kanye.  And, you know what?  That's fine with me. Kanye, you are an amazing performer, you put on a great show, and I love you for all your "modest" ways, haha.

N.E.R.D. really got the crowd pumped up...I loved the designated "rockers" on stage, and Pharell busted out some fun dance moves (kind of like a cool Carlton dance).  They played their current single, "Everybody Nose" and older hit, "She Wants to Move" among others.

Rihanna had a great set.   The stage had jagged neon-lighted levels, and she first appeared in a black dress with a tulle skirt large enough to comfortably house multiple people.  She eventually rid of the heavy skirt and donned skin tight black leather leggings with a Madonna-esque (Read: cone boobs) red patent leather jacket.  I gotta hand it to her-- I would not look good in that.  Every song she played was great, although a friend pointed out that she did not sing "Shut Up and Drive."  I guess you can't fit 'em all in when you're only on stage for about a 1/2 hour.  Chris Brown also made an guest appearance for the "Cinderella" remix of "Umbrella."  All together now, 1, 2, 3 awwwwww.

Kanye was a-maz-ing, as previously stated.  His nearly 2 hour, uninterrupted set was a rock opera (or rap opera?) of sorts.  The plot: His space ship crashed landed on a planet with no creativity. Oh no!  As the set went on, he kept chatting with his robot spaceship, Jane and attempted to sing more and more powerful songs to bring creativity and boost the power of the spaceship to get back to Earth.  He opened with "Good Morning," worked through songs from all 3 albums and closed with "Homecoming."

Here's my sum-up.


- Missing Lupe.

- Not playing "The Glory."  I don't know if anyone else likes this song, but it's my fav from the new album.  I was really hoping he'd play it...it's my ringtone and all!

- I didn't glow.  The concert was called the "Glow in the Dark Tour."  We all wore bright and white clothes, and bought the white stunna' shades at the concert so we could glow properly.  I expected black lights or something all through the Garden, or something to that effect.  So, tell me Mr. West, why didn't we glow? 

My fav moments:

- "Hey Mama."  This song was a wonderful song before the tragic death of his mother earlier this year, and obviously now it means that much more to him.  Great song, great voice, just beautiful.

- "Jesus Walks."  Always been a favorite song of mine...it's just such a powerful and awesome-sounding chant.  It was very cool hearing it live.  It merited the obligatory phone call held out toward the stage to my brother who was (not very happy) sitting at home in Pittsburgh.

- "Stronger."  Obvi.

- "Gold-digger."  Almost 2 and 1/2 years later, this song is still so much fun.  I loves me some hilarious gold-digging bitches!

Sooo glad I was there.  This was a concert not to be missed.  Want more details on what you missed?  Check out this article on Billboard.com.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

One Year Later

Over this weekend one year ago, I was graduating college.  (Cue in major bout of depression)

So what has changed?  Well, just about everything.  A lot of my friends have moved back home and I've fallen into the routine rut of the working world, but I have real money and I don't need to "study" anymore.

Congratulations to the class of 2008.  I know in some ways, you can't wait to get out of school, and it feels good to be done with classes and papers and lectures, but trust me, appreciate every last second of college life.  Over this next year, I promise you will wish on multiple occasions that you could run back to the dorms and do it all over again.

Here are my thoughts on what to expect during the next year:

Things can still be fun, but they will never be the same.

Whether you stay in the area of your school, or move back to your hometown or elsewhere, you will not see your friends near as often...even if you live only a few blocks away.  That said, when you do get together, it is just like old times (in a good way).

Even the slacker friends that barely rolled out of bed to get to class will find a job and clean up their act (on the weekdays at least!)  It's amazing what a suit does.

You will compare every major celebration to how it was the last 4 years...and 9 times out of 10, it will not live up to how it was then.

You will suffer through applications (if you're going to grad school), or resumes and the dreaded job search that everyone warned you about, and it will be more time-consuming than you ever thought possible.  But, eventually, if you keep working at it, you will succeed.  I promise.  

You will live for the weekend.  In college, you lived for the weekend, too...but really, if you wanted to go out on a Wednesday and skip class the next day, you could.  Now you will live for the weekend so you can sleep in...also so you can go out to the bars, but c'mon, I don't think that will change for awhile.

You will slowly stop wanting to go to the cheap college bar you lived at 4 nights a week, and desire to go to new and cooler places.  You will also realize it is possible to go out with less than 10 people, and that the world will not end if you stay in on a Saturday night.

You will have real money!  It will not be near as much as you dreamed your starting salary would be when you were in school, but hey, it's something.  Please don't blow it all.  It's hard, trustttt me, but save part of every paycheck.  (This only applies to those of you looking for a job. If you're going to grad school, sorry.  You'll still be poor.  That's what you get for still semi-living the college life.)

You will probably have a mini life crisis.  RE: What am I doing with my life??  Why did I major in that?  How do I find a job?  Where did my fun life go??  Someone tell me what to do please!  Take it one day at a time, and life will unravel in front of your eyes.  You don't need to know everything at age 22.  Live and enjoy being young. You will make mistakes, but you have plenty of time to make up for them.  We're young; that's what we're supposed to do.  

I hope I've imparted a little wisdom.  It's definitely an adjustment to leave the safe and simple community of college, but you will make it in the real world.  Sometimes, you miss the good old days, but keep in mind that there are still plenty of good memories to make.  Life is what you make of it; enjoy your days.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Little Love for Queens

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Sometimes, you do things that make you appreciate where you are, and remember why you choose to live there.  

This weekend I visited Flushing Meadows Corona Park for the annual Cinco de Mayo festival.  Flushing Meadows is the largest park in Queens, and 1.5 times the size of Central Park.  The park is well known due to its proximity to Shea Stadium and the World Tennis Center as well as its famous structures: the Unisphere that stands as a symbol of Queens and the ancient towers leftover from the World's Fair that we all know as an "alien launch pad" in Men In Black. 

Ironically enough, this park is right in my backyard...about a 10 minute drive away (yes I drive, one of the perks of being in the outer boroughs!), yet I had never been there until yesterday.

The Cinco fest was so much fun!  It was a beautiful day, a beautiful park, and so many families were out.  Little kids were whizzing by on skateboards and bikes, men were playing cricket and soccer, and even some pot-bellied old Mexicans were getting in on volleyball games.  Spanish was definitely the first language for most of the people around us.

As we got nearer to the actual festival, foreign ballads lofted over from the concert stage, and the food stands came into view.  Yummmm.  We sampled as much as possible -- arepas (sweet cornmeal pancakes filled with mozzarella), chicken empanadas (one of my favorite Spanish foods) and tamales (steam cooked corn dough stuffed with peppers wrapped in corn husks). We tried on sombreros and pretended to fit in, and it was a grand ol' time.

It's times like this that make me really step back and appreciate the borough I've made my home in.  Queens is the most diverse community in the country.  That's something to be proud of.  Living in a place like this, there is such a great opportunity to try and appreciate, if not understand, the cultures surrounding you.

A smattering of the cultures in the borough I call home:  

Chinese - Flushing, Queens is a miniature version of Chinatown in Manhattan.  When traveling down Main Street, the signs suddenly change to Chinese characters only...kind of difficult when trying to find a particular restaurant.  I tried a "hot pot" meal for the first time in Flushing a few months ago, and it was so interesting.  You order everything raw...chicken, shrimp, beef, blood (eeek, who knew people wanted to eat that?!).  It comes to the table in heaping plates, and you sit around the table and cook your food over a communal "hot pot" of sauce. Personal party rooms hooked up with karoke add to the vibe. 

Hot Pot City
40-33 Main St.
Flushing, NY 11354

Disciples of Sri Chinmoy - A large group of around 300 devout European followers of Bengali guru Sri Chinmoy call my neck of Jamaica home.  They shun drinking and honor extreme athletics and discipline for the guru, once called by the Wall Street Journal, "the stunt man of the spiritual world."  Each year, the disciples run the longest foot race in the world.  Called the Self-Transcendence Race, each participant runs 3,100 miles...long enough to cross the country and then some...yet the race course is a single city block.  They loop around my neighborhood from 6am to midnight everyday for nearly 2 months, logging at least 57 miles per day in a goal to move beyond themselves and do the near impossible through meditation.  Amazing to see.

loop around Thomas A. Edison Vocational Technical High School
165-65 84th Ave.
Jamaica, NY 11432
June 15- August 5, 2008

Japanese - I had never eaten sushi until college.  I had never eaten Thai food before college either.  Kyoto has both, and their lunch special can't be beat.  The intimate seating and decor are very calming and zen, and I can always find something unique and tasty to try here, no matter what kind of appetite I have.

153-11 Union Turnpike
Flushing, NY 11367

Jewish - Jamaica Estates and Fresh Meadows both have large communities of Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish families.  In fact, the Jewish community center near my apartment was supposedly featured once on The Nanny.  You know..."the flashy girl from Flushing, the Nanny named Fran..."  The neighborhoods in J.E. and F.M. are immaculate.  It's quiet, the streets are tree-lined, and everyone goes for strolls.  I love walking through the neighborhoods and checking out the beautiful old homes.  Cunningham Park, a large park in the area, is my fav for summer jogs, picnics, frisbee and having catches.

Cunningham Park
Union Turnpike near the intersection of Francis Lewis Blvd.
Fresh Meadows, NY 11366

Czech - The last remaining original beer garden of the city is located in Astoria.  Called the Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden, this beer lover's paradise is a piece of NYC history.  Try out the thick and delicious Eastern European brews, and try the Czech food specialities.  The beer garden is the place to be all summer...get there early or don't expect a seat in the large picnic-table filled outdoor oasis.

Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden
29-19 24th Ave.
Astoria, NY 11102

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Baby's First Expensive Bag

I did it.  I bought my first expensive bag. (thank you New York tax return!)

It's a Kooba Lola, and it's beautiful.  

I've always been very interested in fashion, but never really able to afford (or bring myself to pay the incredible sums) for the brands I like, especially when it comes to handbags.  But, after a year of debating and mulling over brands and styles, I finally decided to buy a Kooba.

Maybe for some, Kooba bags are inexpensive, but for the Pittsburgh native, just of of college, underpaid career woman that I am, they are pricey, and definitely not an everyday purchase.

I consider Kooba an in-between luxury brand: more expensive than Coach, yet less expensive than say, Chloe (dream brand that I hope someday to afford...ahhh wishful thinking).  And, to tell you the truth, I'm not always about the labels; I don't really like Coach handbags.  They seem too prim and proper for me.  Kooba's bags, on the other hand, are slouchy, soft leather with excellent detailing,  and just my style. 

I may be hooked now.  I sort of want another Kooba bag...the Harper.  Hmm....maybe if I get this supposed tax rebate, I'll go for it.  This could get dangerous. 

I'm debuting the Lola tomorrow, and I'm pumped.  During my commute, my F train neighbors will be so jealous of me nodding off clutching my beautious cream tote.  And maybe, just maybe, I'll feel like a true, respectable and fashionable New Yorker as I strut to work in Soho.