RIP, Rizzoli

New York, I love you. But not today.

afterlight

I just learned that my favorite bookstore—Rizzoli on 57th Street—is shutting down. The 95-year-old townhouse will be demolished. In its stead will be some shiny, towering skyscraper. And I am pissed.

Here’s the thing: You, as a city, are incredibly irritating and maddening. You drive a girl to drink (overpriced margaritas, usually) with your millions of people and crowded blocks and subways and pollution. But your magic lies in the cozy, charming places that embrace us, that make us feel sheltered and safe and a little less alone.

Rizzoli was one of those places for me. As you know by now, I am a book girl. So when I was a New York newbie, with a boyfriend in grad school and friends far away in different cities, I would escape to Rizzoli’s third floor and peruse the books I couldn’t afford (because of your sky-high rent, of course). After a solo day at the movies and treating myself to lunch, Rizzoli is where I’d end up, flipping through biographies of women I aspired to be like. When I was heading to Paris for the first time, Rizzoli is where I went in search of travel guides. And in that bookstore, beneath its grand chandeliers, is where my Allende obsession continued and my Fitzgerald infatuation began.

Now, I walk by that store every day on my way to work, often with my nose pressed against the window admiring the latest displays. And never mind the fact that we’re losing a historic bookstore: We’re saying farewell to one of your city’s architectural landmarks, a century-old townhouse that got its start as a piano showroom. It literally pains me to imagine that little gem demolished and replaced by scaffolding and yet another West 57th Street glass building.

Tonight, I said goodbye, and tomorrow, I plan to join the rally that will, to put it nicely, give you and your businessmen the middle finger. I know that these things happen, and I never imagined I’d be so attached to a place, but here I am. And here’s hoping I’ll find another great escape just as perfect.

 

The Things She Carries

phone

For me, one of the marks of a great interview is when I think about it long afterward. The most recent one to do it for me was a Vogue video Q&A with New York’s ultimate sweetheart: Sarah Jessica Parker. The interviewer fired off 73 questions while SJP gave a mini-tour of her West Village brownstone. The decorating voyeur in me loved every bit of it; from the footage, SJP’s home felt homey and eclectic. It got me thinking: Our homes can tell our stories even more than our outfits–and sometimes, even ourselves. If someone stopped by my apartment with a video camera, how would I want them to feel? I’d hope bright and cozy, surrounded by books and bits from my travels.

My favorite question was when the interviewer asked SJP what the coolest thing was in her living room. She said her (agreeably, very cool) light-up globes. Of course, that inspired me to look around to decide what the coolest thing is in my living room. It was a hard decision—after all (most likely to the dismay of my clutter-free mother…sorry, Mom!) I don’t think of keepsakes as kitsch; instead, I see them as relics, reminders of the moments in our lives that might otherwise get lost in the shuffle. In my living room, I’ve got everything from a Beyonce concert photo book (“Heeyyy, Ms. Carter!”) to a flag from my first adult trip to Puerto Rico—not to mention shelves and tables full of books. But in the end, I realized my answer to the “coolest thing” question would be the vintage rotary phone I found at an antique shop in Hoboken. It sits atop a stack of books on my desk, and I often look at it while I’m writing and wonder who might’ve used it almost a century ago. It reminds me that beautiful things are timeless, and will last long after we’re gone.

It might be time for spring-cleaning, but I, for one, am holding on to all my mementos. If someone wandered into your apartment or house, how would you want them to feel? What would you tell them is the coolest thing?

 

 

A Spot of Tea

Image

I recently realized that the older we get, the more most of us wish we had paid a little more attention in school. For some, they wish they could remember more of their math lessons; for others, it’s literature, and for me, it’s history. When textbooks popped open to learn about wars and presidents, my head always went into the clouds. But as an adult, when I pass by major landmarks, I find myself constantly Googling. It makes me wish I could remember some of the trivia that was probably right there in those textbooks.

One of my biggest history fascinations in NYC has been The Plaza Hotel (which, for the record, was built in 1907, took two years and $12 million to build—unprecedented at the time.) So when one of my best friends invited me to a birthday tea party there hosted by her lovely mother, I was excited for weeks, imagining all of us dolled up, soaking in the grandeur like it was the 1920s. And it was grand, indeed. We had a three-hour, Eloise-themed sit-down in the Palm Court, an ode to the six-year-old star of the children’s book series. Of course, there was tea, plus mini-peanut butter and jellies, scones, and tiny cupcakes on three-tiered servers.

Image

Staring up at the vaulted glass ceilings and looming palm trees, I felt like I could’ve been Zelda Fitzgerald on a tea date with Scott—before tea turned into orange blossoms spiked with gin. But I was glad to be me, in a pretty dress surrounded by other women (in pretty dresses themselves) who uplift and inspire me. (And crack me up. Seriously, we need a reality show.)

girls

I think tea is now officially, well…my cup of tea. And not just because of the magic of the Plaza and the comforting drink (which had me briefly considering making the switch from coffee before I asked myself Who are you kidding?), but because of the idea of taking a break from your day to sit down with friends to eat, drink, and enjoy one another’s company—no cell phones included. Why can’t we all sit for tea with our girlfriends more often? Frolic in the fountain outside like the Fitzgeralds once (allegedly) did? Wander the hotel’s hallways like the mischievous Eloise?

True to my inner nerd, when I got home (well, after a champagne after-party at my apartment, because what’s tea at the Plaza without a Gatsby-like moment?) I did some research, and discovered the hotel offers a free 45-minute tour of the Renaissance-style chateau. Who’s down to go with me? If you come, I promise we can sit down for tea afterward.

Image

The Art of Fine Dining

Spinach, goat cheese and herb pizza from ABC Kitchen

Spinach, goat cheese and herb pizza from ABC Kitchen

[WARNING: Do not read on an empty stomach!]

I love food, but I’ve always been a picky eater. Before I moved to New York, my palette was pretty much limited to Latin food, French fries, and cereal. I hated the word foodie and rolled my eyes at photos of plates on social media. But I admit it: The city has opened my eyes to a whole new world of eats (and, therefore, the necessity of the gym).

Restaurant Week was earlier this month, which meant some of the city’s hot spots offered special pre-fixe deals. One night, I attended a “strangers dinner” at Jean Georges Vongerichten’s Perry Street restaurant in the West Village. The idea is that the host invites two people, each brings someone the host doesn’t know, and so on. While the conversation and wine were delightful, the food stole the show: roasted squash soup with mushroom and sourdough, onion-and-chili crusted beef short ribs, and banana cake with salted caramel ice cream. Absolutely divine; so fantastic, in fact, it was even more delicious than Drake on Saturday Night Live.

That evening at Perry Street inspired me to reflect on some of my favorite New York dinners— perfect timing, because the next day an out-of-towner asked me for my top three NYC meal recommendations. Here’s what I told her—I hope you can try them out, too. Bon appétit!

Potato gnocchi with sweet corn and summer truffles at Park Avenue (960 Park Avenue, but currently relocating): This restaurant changes its name every season (Park Avenue Spring, Park Avenue Summer, etc.). When I visited two summers ago, I couldn’t even pronounce gnocchi (FYI, sounds like “nyo-key”) but these potato dumplings in a frothy sauce literally blew my mind.

Spinach, goat cheese and herb pizza at ABC Kitchen (35 E. 18th Street): In my prior life, you had to hold me down to get me to eat goat cheese. (I’m big on texture, ok?!) But this dish made me a convert: The cheese and herbs sit atop a perfectly simple, flaky crust that I could demolish just about every day.

White truffle risotto at Marea (240 Central Park South): At my day job, I tried various samples with truffle oil and truffle salt (truffle salt popcorn is my favorite!), but my first foray into freshly sliced white truffles was at Marea, where they were finely shaved onto a creamy, rich risotto. This was the most buttery, sumptuous dish I have ever had—no lie, I shed a tear at the end. Who knew good food could make a girl cry?

 

An Ode to Kanye’s “The College Dropout”

Image

Yeezus concert, Madison Square Garden, 11/24/13

10 years ago, I was that high school kid riding the bus to school every day when all of her friends had cars. The ride was about an hour each way, and to fill those two hours, I’d listen to music. Discman in hand (Yes, Discman—it was the Stone Ages…) I’d sit with my knees pressed against my chest, listening to mixes I’d created from downloads and my parents’ CDs.

I learned that certain albums would become the soundtrack for different parts of my life, and Kanye West’s The College Dropout set the tone for the latter half of high school. I’d never heard a record like it: His distinct voice and lyrical wit gave a breath of new life to samples from artists like Marvin Gaye and Chaka Khan. The passion I felt as he rapped with a wired-shut jaw on “Through the Wire” gave me goosebumps. “Spaceship” helped me get through long days in classes I didn’t care about. “We Just Don’t Care,” became my anthem for hope, and of course, “All Falls Down” was full of aha-moment gems like: “It seems we living the American dream, but the people highest up got the lowest self-esteem.”

And so, thanks to those early morning bus rides, my love affair with ’Ye began. A decade later, I’ve seen him perform live six times. Late Registration became (ironically) the soundtrack for my freshman year of college; Graduation, for early morning inspiration; 808s and Heartbreak for the laying-in-the-dark emo moments (hey, you know you have them too!); My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy for long walks in the city, and Yeezus for intense workouts at the gym.

Rants and Kardashians aside (although, full disclosure: I love a good Kanye rant, and I’m maybe, kinda, sorta coming around to him and Kim) Kanye is, as he himself has pointed out to all of us, a genius. His music has helped me feel confident enough to dream out loud, to go against the grain, and to be my own biggest champion—and it all started with an album that’s just as relevant today as it was ten years ago. Now that’s a classic.

Let It Snow

Is there anything more magical than New York City covered in freshly fallen snow?

Image

Growing up in the ’burbs, snow meant sledding down the driveway, followed by hot chocolate in our PJs. Now, it still means hot chocolate in my PJs, but only after trekking home in a North Face and three pairs of leggings, hoping not to get sprayed by slush as a cab speeds past.

I’m lucky enough to be able to walk to and from work every day, but during the winter, I tend to half-jog with my hood up, head down, and hands in pockets, eager to get inside. But tonight, I decided to keep my head up and eyes open.

Image

Boy, was it worth it. Manhattan at night after a snowfall is eerily quiet; with only the occasional taxi whizzing by, it was like the city had whispered an invitation for me to enter a secret, sparkling world. Instead of getting lost in thoughts about my work to-do list, I noticed a tiny purple mitten lying on cobblestone; a lone couple walking next to Central Park’s ice-covered turtle pond; light glittering off of benches blanketed in white. With no chatter or cars or cell phones in sight, I was struck by the sudden feeling that I could be in any year, whether it was 1920 or 2014. This Fitzgerald quote popped into my head: “New York had all the iridescence of the beginning of the world.”

Image

Now, I’m back home in my PJs, safely inside and sipping snow-day hot chocolate. Even though I’m cozy and warm, I’m filled with the memory of floating through the city’s poetic, shiny streets, and I can’t help but feel eager to get out there again. My fellow city dwellers will curse me for saying this, but here’s hoping there’s more snow coming soon. Yes, it’s cold, and wet, and inconvenient, but damn, it’s beautiful.

Hurry Up, Inner Peace!

Image

My version of meditating: Coffee, books, and ‘zines.

*EDITOR’S NOTE: Coincidentally, a few hours after I published the below post, a friend sent me a piece written on xoJane called “It Happened To Me: There Are No Black People In My Yoga Classes and I’m Suddenly Feeling Uncomfortable With It.” (I’m not going to dignify this with a link, but if you missed it, Google.) The writer had trouble focusing because there was a heavyset black woman in her class. Apparently, it was the black woman’s first time at yoga, and she spent most of the time staring at the writer with “hostility.” The writer felt the black woman was “judging and resenting her,” and the experience made the writer hyper-aware of her “skinny white girl body.”

By the time I finished reading, I had a knot in my stomach. As I touched on in my post below, exercising with a group of strangers—especially when it’s your first time—takes courage. But it never once occurred to me that my race, or anyone else’s, was a factor for my classmates. What disgusts me even more than the writer’s privileged, condescending essay is that xoJane even allowed this post to go up—clearly, a cry for page hits.

Newsflash to the writer: I’m black, I’m not skinny, and I have been to yoga, multiple times. But you can save your pity, because I am not a fan of the practice, and it has nothing to do with the fact that I’m black. However, if we ever find ourselves in the same class together, I apologize in advance for making you uncomfortable.

(Original post follows)

—-

Confession: I hate yoga.

This might not sound like a huge revelation, but in New York, there are two types of fitness freaks: Runners, and yogis. And I am neither, especially not a yogi. Yes, I have given it a try a few times, but I’m convinced it’s just not for me.

Don’t believe me? Ok, fine. Here’s a peek at what a typical yoga session is like in The World According to Arianna:

15 Minutes: Instructor is twisting my limbs into something resembling a basic pose. Ouch! Hey, lady: My leg doesn’t bend like that.

30 minutes: She’s returned, and now she’s spinning me backward. Apparently, I was the only person facing the wrong way.

45 minutes: Praying to the yoga Gods that the girl behind me doesn’t notice I just passed gas. Darn that downward facing dog.

60 minutes: Where am I? What’s happening? There are people rolling up mats…oh, right. We were supposed to be meditating, and I fell asleep. Oops.

I’ve had yoga enthusiasts tell me I just need to keep going back to learn the moves, I haven’t found the right guru, and I should focus on quieting my mind. Alas, it’s impossible, for I am the girl who’s too impatient for inner peace. I’d rather find it by losing myself in a good book, or getting my heart pumping through cardio or kickboxing. (And no, not running. It’s tedious, hurts my shins, and reminds me of being one of the slowest kids in PE. When my co-workers recently invited me to join them for the Brooklyn half marathon, my answer was a quick and polite HELL NO.)

Whatever the case, I’ve officially decided: A yogi I am not, even if that makes me the only one in New York City. Perhaps when I’m a bit older, calmer, and more peaceful, I’ll try again. Until then, I’ll be burning brain cells and calories while watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians on the elliptical.