Humans of New York Does a World Tour & I Cry in Public

Screen Shot 2014-08-10 at 4.55.55 PMI have been following the Humans of NY guy for a while. If you’ve been living under an internet rock for the last few months, Brandon Stanton is a photographer located in New York City who walks the streets of the city taking portraits of people going about their everyday lives and asking them questions. He then puts the pictures and stories up on his incredibly popular website and on social media where he has amassed more than 8 million followers. While it might seem simplistic, he’s giving the world an opening to really see the people of New York City.

Since his blog hit it big time – I mean he has a book out that I totally bought for my stepmom for Christmas last year – he’s had the chance to do some cool things like photograph the Met Gala for Vogue and ask his questions of people like Anna Kendrick, Neil Patrick Harris, and Bryan Cranston.

Right now, he’s partnered with the UN and is doing a world tour and photographing the people not of New York. The photos coming out of Iraq are incredible, and the stories are, for the most part, heart breaking. The people captured talk of war, loss, family, love, and longevity. I have to make myself finish the stories sometimes because I’ve teared up a sentence or two in. They are a strong reminder that I have it pretty good here – something I have never denied – and that my petty problems like unemployment while I can still pay for an apartment in one of the most expensive cities in the US are small and selfish.

I guess the only reason I’m sharing all this is to make the small portion of people who read this who maybe weren’t already following Humans of New York make an effort to do so. He’s everywhere. And the pictures he’s sharing and stories he’s telling are a reminder that the world news you may only see on TV is about real individual people who are surviving any way they can.

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Oy this is short

I’ve been saying “oy vey” a lot lately. There’s no reason. It’s just been my expression of choice for confusion and exasperation.

Everyone seems to have paired up? All my friends are suddenly part of a couple? Hilariously, it’s not a new thing. It’s a thing that has always been true. And I really enjoy the significant others whether they are male or female. Sometimes I’m actually closer to the significant other than to the person I originally became friends with.

Don’t judge me for ending a sentence with a preposition.

Is it loneliness? Is it the desire to be around other people that makes other people scoff when I claim introvertedness? I really am an introvert. I regain my energy from alone time. I feel better after a morning on my own than I do after a week of hilarity with the best of friends.

But yes, I’m single and though I have delightful friends who I consider +1’s all the time and who I drag to every single social event I’m forced to attend, I’m still walking to the farmers market alone (gag me) and sitting around wondering what to do on a Saturday night.

When did everyone pair up?

How does that happen?

#stunted

#StrongIndependentWoman

0bcaac22c449f145f4991d47dd019dadA hundred years ago, I’d be gainfully married and probably toting about a passel of adorable, always filthy, rug rats with disarming smiles by thirty one. But it’s 2014 and no one gets to auction my hand to the highest bidder anymore. I have been single for the entirety of my adult life as a result. Revoke my feminism card (HAHA I’d like to see you try) but there are some things I find difficult to do and they almost always lead to stories like this.

Even admitting that much is difficult for me to say aloud. I pride myself on being overwhelming self-sufficient to the point of obnoxiously capable. I have moved myself from state to state with only hired hands – mostly because there are some things even brawny men-types need four hands to move – and I am comfortable working a cocktail party on my own, bouncing from person to person and conversation to conversation. All these details aside, I’m only 5’3 and there are – I’m going to say it again – some things I can’t or am no longer willing to attempt if only to preserve what little flexibility and goodwill my body will still allow me.

One of these things involves my air conditioner. It’s not a terribly intimidating thing but it weighs about half as much as I do or feels like it to me. This summer, for the first time, I asked for assistance with installation. My considerably taller and stronger and more male friend came over and lifted it into the shoulder-height (for me) window and locked it in place with the window frame. I was grateful. My room would again be cool and breezy.

And then night fell. I turned off the lights. I comfortably rolled over under my light blankets with the fan running. I was generally looking forward to a peaceful night of comfortable sleep.

*ping*

That’s when I discovered the horrible truth.

*pingping  ping*

Directly above my shetland pony of a hand-me-down AC unit that has seen me comfortably if loudly and not all that attractively through previous summers sits a monstrous beast of an AC unit that belongs to the apartment above. It cools a much larger and hotter dwelling. There are small children who run to and fro through the rooms creating heat and generally running amok. Condensation builds and it drips down because science and gravity will it so.

*pingping ping pingping ping*

It dripped right down onto my AC unit, and it wanted to drive me completely mad.

“No,” I said to myself that night, lying in the dark and not giving into my insomnia over a few little noises. “This will not stand. I will find a way to fix this tomorrow.”

And this is where the #strongindependentwoman hashtag was born. Because I’m a capable, independent female, and I will not impose on my friends any more than is absolutely necessary. I am resourceful. I am a problem solver. I am the glue that holds shit together dammit, and I will not be beaten by a little dripping!

Fast-forward 20 hours, and I have done what I thought was the impossible: the AC unit sat on a towel on my bed, and I was only slightly dripping with sweat. I proceeded to launch myself through the window (talk about an ab workout) and was sitting half inside, half outside with the window sill digging into my butt, a roll of duct tape around one wrist and a flimsily constructed barrier of hand towel plus plastic wrap clenched between my knees. It was a success! The towel would cushion the sound, the plastic wrap would keep water from dripping through the towel as happens when water strikes the same place again and again and again, and the duct tape would hold it all together and attached to the metal grating around the window unit.

See? I Can Do It Myself.

But then I had to get back inside. And let me tell you, 5’3 sitting in a windowsill that is shoulder height is a precarious place to be. I slid and slouched forward, stretching forward with a toe to get a foothold on the radiator.

Gravity took over.

I slid faster.

My hip caught.

Thinking back, I probably could have broken my neck if I hadn’t arched back to keep my chin from hitting the window, or my leg if I had hit the bed at a slightly different angle. I don’t always think these #strongindependentwoman things through all the way. A spotter probably would have been a good idea.

My #strongindependentwoman-ness got me a bruise the side of a grapefruit on one hip, a twisted joint that made walking around for the rest of the night fun, and a scrapped palm. The bruise is now pleasantly yellow and gross now and almost dips below the line of my one pair of shorts.

Then I got to heave my trusty shetland pony of an AC unit back into the window. It was a matter of independent pride dammit.

Perhaps next time I’ll just suck it up and ask for help? Or I’ll break out the #strongindependentwoman hashtag again and the more social media-connected of my male friends will conveniently show up before I do something stupid.

But also, when I’m being pestered by pings next summer, I’m going to ask my dad why he hasn’t found me an eligible suitor I can marry for love not money yet.

Image via Pinterest

ALWAYS THE HOSTESS…Never the Siren

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Ok so: I’ve pretty much determined I’m always going to be the hostess and never the siren.

I get it.

I’m pretty okay with it.

Except when I’m not.

It’s hard for me to be one of those people that always talks only to the person they most want to talk to. Label me whatever the hell you want to but I identify as empathetic. If I meet you in a group, and we know each other, and we chat for a few minutes one on one, I’m probably going to concentrate on chit chatting with everyone that I don’t know. It’s just what I do.

I DON’T KNOW HOW TO BE DIFFERENT.

I’m not saying this is why I’ll be alone forever in this internet age but sometimes it feels like it.

Now I’m going to go watch some Mama Mia.

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Verklempt & Barrel

I almost cried at Crate & Barrel today.

tumblr_inline_mrcrmrLF7e1qz4rgpCan’t believe I’m writing that down for the world to read. You see, I don’t cry*. No really, the last time I truly cried was when my mother died more than ten years ago. I may get verklempt over something and choked up over a sad scene in a movie or book, but I don’t cry. Tears don’t run down my face. I don’t bat my eyes prettily.

When I do cry, it is a sweaty, red faced, snot filled experience.

That is not what I did today.

The asterisk with “cry” up there is because I am an angry frustrated crier. When dealing with customer service that is completely and totally horrible (like the bank who charges me $14 in fees at completely random times – and I have put them on a calendar and tracked the dates – that always fall on the Thursday before a pay day when I have $5 in my checking account…and then charges me an addition $35 in overdraft fees) I will get completely choked up on the phone. When moved to rage by anything from a work situation to sleeping through my alarm to almost missing an appointment, my first reaction is to get so close to the point of crying that I might actually pass out before a tear traverses my cheek.

My throat tightens. My sinuses empty and squeeze between my eyes. I can’t speak because I physically cannot inhale enough oxygen to form words.

So I almost cried in Crate & Barrel today. In a very #firstworldproblem situation, the sofa I have saved my money to purchase for my new apartment is not, as I was assured, something they stock that I can just buy and have delivered within the week. The sofa that I want is a special order that takes to 8-10 weeks. So I’m going to spend a lot of time getting acquainted with my floor until July.

BUT I didn’t cry and that’s really what matters. I kept my proverbial shit together, and I chatted up the customer service man who saw my face fall and my forehead scrunch and thought he was going to have a Grade A freakout on his hands.

I worked in customer service for years, and I absolutely refuse to take my ire out on the people who have to deal with dissatisfied customers. What is the point in ruining someone else’s day by having a meltdown at them for simply doing their jobs?

Crate & Barrel employs some lovely people. He was very helpful. He can’t make my couch get here any faster but he can give me a “moving” discount and waive my shipping fee and “turn my frown upside down”. No those words did not actually cross either of our lips, but I think we both thought them at one point during the transaction.

I’m going to go sit on my floor now and read a book.

I expect I’ll be doing a lot of that this summer.

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Online Dating…but for friends and books

The most glorious thing about living in NYC is that I get the opportunity to actually meet a lot of my online friends in real life or IRL as the kids call it these days. It started practically the moment I got here with brunches and coffees and invitations to birthday parties for people I only knew by pseudonyms in boroughs and neighborhoods I was completely afraid of and convinced I would need a cab to keep myself from getting both lost and shanked in the process of getting to and from the party.

I am from the Midwest. Any neighborhood I didn’t already know or hadn’t been walked through by a friend was potentially terrifying to me for the first month I lived here. Don’t judge me. I’m now that person who walks on dark streets with her headphones in and a preternatural sixth sense when another human being is within ten feet of me.

In addition to quickly becoming a regular rider of the NYC subway and navigator of the bus system, the friends I had only known through 100×100 pixel avatars and pseudonyms soon became my closest friends. Two years later, I’m still doing this. I collect friends I make through the internet the way other people date online. They get to know people. They go on dates with many of them. Then they whittle it down to one person to date. I just never do the whittling.

It’s kind of awesome.

I have friends here in NYC from every background both professional and personal. They work in all kinds of industries and have all kinds of interests. The great commonality seems to be that almost everyone I catch in my net of friendship is a big fan of books, so when a new friend looks me in the eye and says, “Rachael, you absolutely have to read this book,” I take it very seriously.

I’ve been known to stop at a bookstore on the way home and pick up a copy even.

Sometimes when I don’t have the time – or the $25 a brand new hardcover costs (so many of my friends work in the book business and rave about brand new releases they get to read for free and then I get all jealous and it’s sad) – I just wait until I come home and download it to my e-reader.

I have a Kobo. It’s awesome. They do not sponsor me in any way, shape or form, but I talk them up to everyone I know. I am pretty psyched that I basically buy e-books from my favorite Brooklyn bookstore, Word, instead of the evil monopoly named after a large river in South America. And the interface is really friendly and paper-like. It’s great. You should get one.

This is all a really long set up to tell you a simple fact: I just finished reading The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld because Erin Morgenstern told me it was beautiful. And she was right. The book is incredibly beautiful. It deals with the worst ideas, most inhuman topics, and brutal people in stunning, gorgeous ways.

I couldn’t stop reading it even though there were definitely times that I desperately wanted to abandon it. I got off the train last Friday night and went to meet some of those online friends for drinks completely still stuck in the scenes I had just read. They were so disturbing that I dwelled on them all night, talked them over repeatedly with those friends, and sighed about how I still wanted to finish reading it.

And I just want to thank the internet for bringing this now IRL friend into my life. For that moment when I saw a notification scroll past above my right hand when she followed me on Tumblr as I was reblogging away. And then the pop-up on my phone when she followed me back on Twitter. And I giggled a little bit because I’m a total fangirl (which she already knows so it’s not embarrassing to put it in type…she kind of wrote an awesome book) and because I am notoriously unrestrained in the number of times a day I post to social media platforms. I hit the tumblr limit with regularity. I can never believe that cool people choose to keep following me when I know that my feeds dominate their dashboards regularly.

So thanks internet. I’m glad I met you back when I was 14 and picking out my first email address.

Yes I still remember it.

No I will not tell you the horrifically sappy thing it was.

Thanks for introducing me to what I fondly refer to as the Bookternet and awesome bookish folks (and cats). I stopped into Community Bookstore on my way home tonight and purchased a copy of The Magician King from Tiny. It will be my next bookternet recommended read.

You’re pretty great Internet. And I kind of love the home you’ve made for me.

Fievel & The Mistaken Deportation

Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 11.21.00 PMI recently moved. You may have seen me mention it elsewhere on the internet.

My new apartment is lovely. It’s a one bedroom in a gentrifying neighborhood of Brooklyn and is within walking distance of two of my favorite coffee spots in the borough. What more could I really ask for except the couch I’m really hoping to buy tomorrow? My lovely apartment comes with a small problem though. It’s a problem smaller than my thumb.

You see, my lovely building is surrounded by construction sites. The plots of land on either side of it are being turned into apartment complexes from the ground up. With my apartment on the ground floor, this has led to an influx of small furry creatures with very twitchy noses.

Now let me just say: I like mice. And I’m definitely one of those people who catches the intruding creature and releases it into the wild rather than smash it with a blunt object. I can’t. I just can’t feel its tiny little heartbeat and tiny little bones quaking underneath my hands and then squash it. It’s not me.

So when I found my crunchy peanut butter Clif bar nibbled on in my purse on Saturday, I thought to myself: I guess I’ll have to be more careful about where I leave the sweets in this house. It’s not like I’m living on the 3rd floor anymore, away from all the fauna.

I went about my business and thought nothing of it past that.

I emptied my purse. I shook the lining out over the trash can to make sure that each and every single crumb in the bottom of it – and $3 in quarters and change #WINNING – were no longer there to entice my furry roommates. If I stay spotlessly clean, they will stay away, right?

Monday morning dawned bright and clear. I got up and packed my bag for work. I dumped my purse on the stove top and threw a Tupperware container of lunch, a reusable coffee cup, a book and my keys into it. I went on my normal commute to work. It was an hour door-to-door.

I can only imagine the trauma and terror the little guy was experiencing BUT IT WAS HIS OWN FAULT.

I got to work. I shed my sweater, kicked off my flip flops and unloaded my lunch into the fridge. The lights flickered on. A window was opened. The morning was beautiful. I sat down at my desk and started reading through a backlog of emails from the weekend.

Don’t judge me. It’s important to unplug.fievel_mousekewitz_by_concretequeen-d3nb702

All was quiet.

Nothing was stirring.

Until it was.

I heard a rustle.

My purse moved.

I glanced to the side and saw it was sitting in the crevice between two desks. Perhaps the leather handle was just weighing it down and forcing it to move, I thought to myself. I picked it up and resettled it on the desk next to me.

Then it really moved. The nylon bulged towards me.

I knew. I knew right then. I had brought my furry little companion to work with me. Oh I had seen the nibbled holes in the purple lining of my bag but I hadn’t really thought anything of it. The bag had been upended and shaken out and moved all around, and there was no way that a mouse was still in that bag through the entire commute from Brooklyn to Hell’s Kitchen.

I lifted the bag and shook it. Nothing happened. I pulled the cloth lining out of the bag and upended it again, shaking to see if I could see something heavier in the cloth that I hadn’t before. THERE WAS NOTHING I TELL YOU.

Until there was. His twitchy little face emerged from the second largest hole in the lining. His whiskers quivered. He leapt from what I’m sure he felt was his death trap of a dungeon and landed on the carpet.

I won’t lie. I squealed like a child and jumped, one foot in the air after another, and got as far out of the way as possible.

My little visitor was no longer than my thumb. He was brown and had a lovely tail. I feel bad that he’s been forcibly separated from his family and taken as far from home as a building in Hell’s Kitchen. A small part of me wonders if he is traversing the walls and beams of the city, wearing a tiny blue hat and singing about the moon.

I just hope he doesn’t have a lady-mouse friend here in Brooklyn he will try desperately to get back to now that I’ve deported him from the borough.