Manhattan, I Love You

Monday, December 29, 2014

Chapter One. She adored New York City.

Chapter Two: New York City loved her back.

Chapter Three: She falls madly in love and he loved her back.

Chapter Four: Chapter Three didn't happen or at least hasn't happened and I'm fine with it. Today's subject isn't about romantic love, or rather it's not about romantic love with a man. It is in fact about romantic love for New York City.

New York City has given me all sorts of wonderful material on life. It has given me inspiration, strength and creative freedom, but it has also given me insurmountable feelings of distress and anguish. I've learned that life can be such a polarizing experience, but I've learned to embrace it and love it, because we've been given a chance to live, so live it now. Live it today.

I frequently hear about how people adore New York City, but New York City hasn't loved them back. So I'm assuming this is a common theme with this grand city, but I feel like this can occur in any metropolitan city. It is crowded and populated and I think that fuels the idea of feeling isolated, even though when one is constantly surrounded by people, it can be the most alienating feeling in the world. Over the course of my time here, I've learned to accept this feeling and I'm now very comfortable with my solitude.

The greatest thing about New York is that it's constantly in momentum, it's moving, pushing forward every second of every day. There's no time to stop, breathe, look, appreciate and that gets exhausting and overwhelming. Now, I take my time to stop and breathe and look at my environment, because I don't want it to all be over just like... that. I want to take in as much as I can, before it's too late. The end is always near and sometimes it feels palpable. Sometimes I feel too acutely aware of my mortality and it paralyzes me. This isn't the city's fault though, I've always felt aware of death.

Nowadays, I'm not so much afraid of death but rather afraid of time. Michael Caine expresses this idea in Interstellar: "I'm not afraid of death  I'm an physicist, I'm afraid of time." and I understand what he means - at least I hope I do. Time is terrifying, because we can't make more of it. Time runs parallel to everything, but once our time is over, it's just over. Time will continue to persist, but eventually it will end. My time, your time, the universe's time. All I can do it make my time count. Every waking moment needs to count. Maybe not every waking moment, but the time that I'm conscious is the time I need to make something for myself. Make time for myself, my aspirations, my career, my family, my friends and others.

So why do I think life is worth living? That is a very good question. For me, well, I know a few things that make my life worth living... I would say... Woody Allen and his humor (forget his controversies, just his contribution to film history is enough to make me believe life is worth living), Roger Federer and his elegant tennis skills, George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, Louis Armstrong's voice, Moonlight Serenade by Glenn Miller, Franz Schubert's Trout Quintet, Cherry Blossom season, Autumn in New York, Kiri Te Kanawa's recording of O mio babbino caro, Arthur Rubinstein playing Chopin, Do not go gentle into that good night by Dylan Thomas, the melting clocks by Dali, old black and white photos of a simpler time, Before Sunrise by Richard Linklater, Sure Thing by David Ives, Constellations by Nick Payne, seared scallop nigiri sushi from Senryo... Just to name a few...

And I don't see any particular person's face at the end of it. Unlike how Isaac sees Tracy's face in his mind and he realizes why life is worth living. I'm not there. I don't know if I'll ever get there. I love my family and friends, without a doubt, but you know that one person that you envision seeing at the end of it all? I don't see anyone. I don't know where they are, but that's up to the universe and the cosmos. The answers are up there. I'll be patiently waiting. It's all in the timing.


This is Why Life is Worth Living

Thursday, December 25, 2014

"You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time." ― Angela Davis

As I'm sitting on my couch and listening to Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker on this Christmas Eve, I ponder to myself, how have I spent my time this year? Has it been a productive year? What have I achieved? What have I seen, watched, smelled, tasted, touched, heard? I am suddenly filled with all kinds of emotions and memories and I feel excited and overwhelmed. Although, I'm scared to feel disappointment in my lack of achievements, so I'll focus on the nice things (no naughty things today).

I must say overall I had an incredibly fulfilling year and I'm so grateful to even acknowledge that. I hate to take things for granted, so I must give credit where credit is due and I give most of the credit to this incredible city we call New York City. Sometimes I still need to pinch myself to remind myself that I live here, okay, I know that sounds cliché, but it's true. I still feel excited to be here. I still feel compelled to look up and discover new sights. As much as I enjoy seeing something spectacular and grand, I absolutely relish the times I see something ordinary, because there's always beauty in ordinary and common sights. And I enjoy everything in between.

I loved that I've slowed down to actually pay attention to looking at my surroundings. I catch myself looking up and appreciating the architecture of the city. There is something so romantic and poetic about the architecture here, but I'm only an amateur. I can throw out names like Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Frank Gehry, Norman Foster, Richard Meier, I.M. Pei, Ray Kappe, Jean Nouvel, but the only reason why I know these name is because of television shows (Million Dollar Listing New York, shhh!) or pop culture. Well, everyone knows Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier and if they don't, they should! Wait, why didn't I take Introduction to Architecture in college? Damn I missed my chance. Suffice it to say, I am an architecture enthusiast. I enjoy documentaries about architects notably How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster? The documentary starts off with Norman Foster participating in a cross country ski competition. Excuse me? What? I want to be doing that at that age. I can barely run a mile now. I hope to learn more about architectural styles and the history of architecture.

I spent some good money on cultural endeavors this year and I'm proud to admit that. I traveled to Poughkeepsie to see Josh Radnor in an incredible Richard Greenberg play called The Babylon Line. I saw him again on Broadway in Ayad Akhtar's Disgraced, which was jaw-dropping, shocking and moving. I met Mindy Kaling and took a photo booth photo with her thanks to a Bliss Spa event! I saw James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men, Greta Gerwig in The Village Bike, Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig and the Angry Inch (thanks Sasha for taking me) and Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson in Constellations (best play I've seen in ages). I watched three tennis matches at the US Open and I finally saw my hero Roger Federer play tennis in the flesh. I saw Aladdin on Broadway with my high school BFFs Vicky and Mary (no Diana sadly) and met both Aladdin and Jasmine in person (okay fine, the actors) for a Broadway charity event and I blushed so hard. To end the year, I saw the American Ballet Theater Production of The Nutcracker, after having seen it 10 years ago in London - I was truly in awe and in tears.

On top of that I saw so many films in theaters. I saw almost all the Best Picture nominations for 2013 films in theaters, except for The Wolf of Wall Street, because I refused to pay to see a three hour film about "that" world and lifestyle. I know the Oscars is all about movie industry politics, so I shouldn't take anything too seriously, but that's for another discussion entirely. I watched a lot of independent films, which I love, because I support independent filmmakers and movie theaters. I've already started watching the Best Picture nominations for 2014 films and I'm halfway there. I've already spent a large sum of my income on my so-called cultural endeavors and that doesn't even cover half of the plays, musicals, operas, ballets and films that I really want to see. So I've written a list of my cultural agenda for 2015 and I realized I need a sponsor or some grant that will allow me to pursue these endeavors, because I cannot afford to feed my mind. Why does it cost so much to care about art and culture in New York City? Again, that's a topic for another day!

I smelled some truly intoxicating scents this year. This year has been a glorious year of scents, because I finally got myself L'Ombre dans L'Eau by Diptyque. When I first discovered this scent, I instantly fell in love. It felt so special and unique, unlike anything I'd smelled before, but I knew I had to wait before I really deserved it. Now that it's my signature scent, I still love it and in fact, I love it more everyday. I don't think I'll find any scent that can beat it, but I've found other scents that are different that intoxicate my senses and I'm glad. Notable mentions: Wood Sage and Sea Salt by Jo Malone, Mandarin and Ginger Lily by Trish McEvoy (thanks to BG salesgirl for politely shoving it under my nose, it definitely caught my attention) and Crystalline Eau du Parfum by Bvlgari. All in all, my nose enjoys smelling heavenly scents and is becoming a bit of a perfume connoisseur.

My taste buds were delighted by different flavors. This fall, I embarked upon a hunt to find the best ramen in New York City, so I started a #RamenFriday #RamenProject. It was a matter of getting personal recommendations and doing some online research and going out on the field and trying the best ramen. It was definitely a search and an adventure and I slurped on some divine bowls of ramen. I had an unfortunate incident with one bowl of ramen, which was disgusting and I shall not mention the place here, but it was not good. Watching Mind of the Chef and hearing David Chang wax poetic about ramen made me appreciate the art of ramen and Japanese cuisine all over again. I'm still obsessed with Masterchef and Gordon Ramsay and I still kind of dream about the idea of competing on the show... Hmm... I also ate paella, tapas, seafood, Sichuan, Xi'an cuisines, Italian food at Eataly and I hope to continue to feast on glorious food next year. I hope my wallet will have enough cash to spare for arts and culture AND food in 2015. Help me.

You know what I love to touch? (Okay that doesn't sound awkward). I love to touch fabrics. Yes, fabrics. I love to touch beautiful clothes at department stores and really touch and look at a garment. I like to see how it's constructed, how does the fabric feel, what's the weave, the texture, examine the seam and hems. It's quite obsessive. No actually, I'm not that obsessive, but I'm making it sound that way. I appreciate clothes and I enjoy quality fabric. Also, I'm obsessed with furniture. I love furniture. I could devour furniture. I cannot afford furniture, but I love to look and touch furniture. To imagine someone designed and built a beautiful chair. Take an Eames chair for an example - modern, simple, yet complex in its design and ergonomics - a truly designed object. I become ecstatic every time I'm in a Design Within Reach store. I just find design to be such a fascinating part of life. Being exposed to designers like Charles and Ray Eames, Massimo Vignelli, Eileen Grey, Le Corbusier (again), Philippe Starck makes me so excited about design and not in just an artistic sense, but the engineering and ergonomics behind design.

My ears have been extremely happy about listening to a lot of classical music and jazz. Currently listening to: Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Schubert, Rachmaninoff, Beethoven, Brahms, Oscar Peterson, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Sidney Bechet and more. I should probably start re-listening to opera and going to the opera (before the season ends). I haven't been paying attention to pop music genre or even indie bands and I'm really fine about it - I don't feel like I'm missing out. I'm listening to the Vienna Boys' Choir right now and I'm feeling like I'm walking on air. After four summers in New York City, I finally went to the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor's Island with Caro and it was an experience. There was live music led by Michael Arenella, a super dapper gentlemen and his Dreamland Orchestra, which is the most beautiful name I've ever heard! We were transported back to the twenties, just like in Midnight in Paris, except we experienced it. The Roaring Twenties is one of my personal favorite decades, because I'm a huge fan of The Great Gatsby. I couldn't believe I was in a place where everyone was dressed up and dancing like it was 1920! I can't wait to go back next year.

I know my senses were very fulfilled in 2014. But one thing was missing throughout the year and it's something I would prefer to not write about. Because it pertains to this void that exists within me. A void that is hard to describe when I'm in it and something I would prefer not to focus on when I'm out of it. All I'll say is that as humans we have our ups and downs. During the ups, it feels amazing to be alive and we're happy and grateful. But during the downs, it feels empty, isolating, alienating and numbing. Even when life is isolating sometimes, you can always count on some amazing people out there. There aren't many, because friends don't come by easy. Friends do, but best friends don't. I'm so grateful to my best friends and you know who you are. I love you wholeheartedly and cherish our friendships. Thank you for everything. You amaze me.

So there are seven days till 2015 and I wish everyone a glorious and Merry Christmas and wishing the next seven days will be a time to spend with your loved ones, to celebrate life and love on this beautiful planet we call home.



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

This is a place for open minds. This is a safe place to broaden your horizons and find your voice, well, my horizons and my voice, but I'm open to hearing from you. In fact, I'd love to hear from you. This is a place to start a dialogue, a conversation, a rapport, because isn't life just a long dialogue betweens strangers, friends, family, lovers, humans? Sometimes dialogues are fast paced and uninhibited and sometimes there are moments of silence and contemplation. I'm here to discover all the complexities of life, yet savor and cherish the moments of simplicity.

#whyislifeworthliving is a lofty question. Of all the geniuses that have walked the earth and people who are literally changing the world at present, who am I to tackle such a question or concept? I'm not an expert at anything, but my brain is curious and I hope to be curiouser and curiouser every day. I want to dedicate myself to discovering the pleasures of life and documenting the moments and things that make life worth living. There (hopefully) will be monumental moments that are life altering and there will also be the unassuming and common sights that have the potential to move you to tears. I hope to document them and everything in between.

There is so much to know about our existence and my thirst for answers needs to be quenched. Through this journey, I want to learn and absorb as much as my brain will allow. I will be the first to admit, I'm not and was never an academic and it has taken me some time to develop my thirst for knowledge, but having said that, I'm proud of who I am and who I've become and I'm just looking forward to continuing to discover who I am and unfold my potential as a human.