Musings of a Chicago-Born New Yorker

Posts tagged “Brooklyn

A Chicago-Style Girl Goes Home

As soon as I wrote this post title, I started thinking, “what is home?” I thought that and other existentialist things that I won’t share because those thoughts make me sound even weirder than I normally do.

But seriously, When I think of home now, I think of three things:

1) Our apartment in a brownstone in Brooklyn

2) The soup kitchen I volunteer at in The West Village

3) The dining room table at my parents’ house

The fact that 2 of my 3 “homes” focuses around food may help explain why my weight is hovering around 15lb heavier than a healthy BMI.

But anyway…

Only a tiny bit of Chicago feels like home to me now. I’ve been talking about this trip a lot. A family portait (yuck, but also kind of cool), another wedding (blech, but also kind of cool), and Memorial Day with my family and Easy’s family (completely cool, only positive feelings towards that one–see Christmas 2013 in Gramercy Park) add up to a great weekend getaway. Throw in a thrice rescheduled dinner with one of my best friends and a double birthday dinner with my girls and you’ve got an action packed weekend.

So why am I not super excited for this trip?

Eh, a big part of me would just rather stay home. Which is New York City. I’m will always be a Chicago-style girl. Big city + Midwestern sensibilities – red state restrictions = me. But New York is home.

So this weekend, I’m not going home. I’m going to visit my friends and family. This make my blog’s name all the more appropriate. I’m not a Chicagoan anymore. I’m Chicago-style (Chicago-ish? Chicago-adjacent?).

Easy and I haven’t decided for certain if this NYC thing is permanent. Hell, four years ago, I couldn’t even imagine myself living here. Of course, I blame that on being only exposed to Midtown and Harlem. If I’d gone straight to Chelsea and the Village on my first trip here, I may have never left.

Back to this trip though. I’m packing in an awful lot. First up is a double birthday dinner for my girls. There will be 8 of us dining at Ruth’s Chris in Chicago. One of the birthday girls has never been and really really wants to go. So we’re making it happen. The birthday girls don’t know I’m coming in to town though, so I’m just showing up at dinner as a surprise, which is why this post is publishing almost 24 hours after being written.

Next up is a family portrait. My parents, my brother, Easy, some cousins, and my aunt and uncle are all cramming into one shot. I think it will be one of the few photos we have of members of both my mother’s and father’s sides of the family that’s not at a wedding or funeral. We’ve decided to wear combos of red, navy, and white. Should be fly.

Yup, I just said fly. I’m an 80s baby. Deal with it.

Then I have a dinner with one of my best friends. Seriously, like every time I go to Chicago, we’re unable to hook up. Between my short stays, he work schedule, family obligations, etc. we kept cancelling on each other. But not this time. We have reservations at Cantina Laredo, which is an amazing Latin restaurant in downtown Chicago. Check it out if you’re in the area, totally worth the valet/effort to find parking.

Then Easy and I hop in my mom’s car to drive to St. Louis for a wedding. These are friends from when he lived down there when we started dating. We were considering just staying in St. Louis, and the four of us were going to do this Honeymooners thing. That would’ve made a completely different life for us. The St. Louis version of Easy and myself were interesting people, different from who we are in New York.

Eh, no use wondering what if, right? The NYC versions of us rock, and we have better looking calves from all the walking anyway.

Then back to Chicago for Memorial Day where we will eat BBQ and left over birthday cake from our nieces/cousins. Two words. Atomic cake. Google it if you don’t know. Because you need to know.

I really cannot wait for the BBQ. Can someone explain to me why I have to travel to Williamsburg to get good BBQ? And for that matter, why do I have to travel to Harlem to get good soul food? And to Flatbush to get good jerk chicken? New York is such a melting pot, but they really fuck up food the entire rest of the country has mastered. Excuse my language, but I really feel pretty strongly about it.

And then after lots of good food, we get on a plane back to NYC. That will make 5 days, 4 nights in the Midwest. By Tuesday, I’m going to feel sooo ready to come home. So perhaps I’ll write another post called A Chicago-Style Girl Goes Home. But that one will talk about street food and easy taxi/subway options and volunteer opportunities and lack of allergy sufferers due to the lack of trees and wifi everywhere and people who don’t care if you accidentally step on their foot and a beautiful nighttime where outside of every window looks like Christmas will all the twinkling lights coming from every office window.

That run on sentence (so sorry!) just gave me clarity. NYC is like a new relationship right when you go from limerence to being fully in love. At that moment, their dirty drawers shouldn’t even bother you.

I think NYC’s dirty drawers count at the stinky homeless man who coughs up part of his lung on the subway and you just know he has tuberculosis. I am in love, but I’m not stupid. NYC’s dirty drawers bug the hell out of me. I don’t want TB. You can’t donate your organs and tissues if you’re contracting TB from a random stranger on a train.

That being said, hopefully my love is long-lasting. After all, it’s not blind-to-logic love. It’s just enamored, full-hearted love. A love that says Chicago can suck it. Because you’re #2 now.

Disclaimer: this only applies to the cities, not their sports teams. Bringing Phil Jackson to the Knicks is a step in the right direction, but really it just makes me think of the early 90s and his 3-peat with Jordan & Pippen. Da Bulls Da Bear Da Sox


On Embracing New York City

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

I can’t imagine living anywhere else but here.

I used to feel like I could never live in NYC, but that was back when I never ventured outside of two neighborhoods: Midtown and Harlem. I know I’m a black woman from Chicago with dreadlocks, but Harlem is just not really my type of neighborhood.

I go there for food and music, then I take my butt home.

And Midtown is a work neighborhood for me, not a play neighborhood.

I used to think we’d live here for like 3-5 years then go live in Europe for a few years, maybe have a baby there. Then when our kids were old enough, we’d try living in Honduras as well. I wanted to be a world traveller, with roots all over.

But I can’t imagine living anywhere else but here.

I feel like a Chicagoan through and through. That city vibe mixed with some Midwestern sensibilities describes me pretty well I think.

But if a tornado sent me to Oz and I clicked my heels three times to bring me home, I would probably wake up in Greenwich Village and have to take the subway back to Bed-Stuy where our brownstone is.

I’m telling you, if I won the lottery tomorrow, I would fill a suitcase with $10 million, go ring the doorbell of my dream home in the Village. When they answered the door, I would hand them the briefcase and say, “here’s a bunch of money, you don’t live here anymore. I do. I’ll be back in a week for the keys. Thanks!”

And because $10 million is a slight upgrade to the current value of that house, they would take my deal and buy another building up the street that is currently for sale.

That’s right. My dream home costs almost $10 million dollars. Stupid Greenwich Village that stole my heart. Why couldn’t I fall in love with a nice neighborhood in Brooklyn?

I feel that it’s important to say that I do love where we live in Bed-Stuy. I like that it has a really eclectic feel. The developers are moving in though, and those folks always end up raising rent. We already have the Zagat rated restaurants that people travel to for dinner, lunch, and brunch.

New Yorkers love their brunch.

Nice restaurants plus developers mean that before you know it, there will be a real organic produce store in the area. I’ll finally be able to get fresh cilantro that doesn’t spoil on me in less than 24 hours.

There is a house up the street from us that sold for $325,000 in January of this year that is now on sale for $1,450,000. If Easy and I stay in this neighborhood and purchase a home, we’re going to have to go the foreclosure route. I can’t believe they were able to get a house on that block for that cheap.

Since we’ll probably never have a million dollars lying around, that’s going to be our only option.

Luckily, that’s a problem that’s years ahead of us.

For now, we’re renters and city explorers.

Which brings me back to the ways I like to experience this city. Over a month ago, I mentioned a couple of different NYC things I wanted to try. Guess what? I haven’t done any of those things yet.

I ought to be ashamed of myself.

I still intend to get over to the Whitney Museum. And I’m internet stalking BBQ Films so I don’t miss their next event.

So I will redeem myself.

In the mean time, I have done other things.

I found the one barbeque joint in NYC that didn’t piss me off. It came recommended by someone who’s from Tennessee. And they were right about how good it is.

The place is called Fette Sau. I had some amazing dry rub ribs there last weekend. It’s definitely going to be a What’s Hot… post.

The food was so good that the 2 hour wait in line to get it was totally worth it. A week later, I still feel like it was totally worth it.

The main reason I’m trying to hard to embrace New York is because it hasn’t disappointed me yet. This city is amazing.

And once you get over the fact that the entire city smells like pee from May-October, nothing can stop you.

For instance, Easy and I had a date day this past Sunday. We went to the Brooklyn Museum, which was an exercise in patience to get to. The traffic was insane. They have several places all lumped together: Prospect Park, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Zoo, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Art Museum, and I want to say there’s a children’s museum over there too.

But we made it through and paid only $12 for parking.

Coming from Chicago’s museum campuses, that’s an amazing price. When we got inside the Brooklyn Museum, there was a suggested donation of $12. I was like, What?!?!

Had we gone to pretty much any major museum in Chicago, parking would’ve been $20+ based on how long we stayed, tickets would’ve been $25+ based on the day of the week. We paid $36 instead of like $75. Score one for NYC actually being cheaper than Chicago.

When we got into the museum, it turned out they had a really amazing exhibit called Witness. Unfortunately, they didn’t allow photography inside.

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There were moments where I wished I knew or cared more about art so I could be more familiar with the people quoted as having opinions that matter on the artwork. But overall, it was very moving.

I could decide if I wanted to look at the art then read what it was about or the opposite, so I tried both. Some of the pieces were really moving no matter what order I took them in. At one point, I had tears in my eyes. Not the oh-isn’t-this-so-beautiful tears, but the we-have-some-fucked-up-history-in-this-country tears.

I feel blessed I didn’t have to live through that time. I’m proud of myself that I care enough to pay attention to the history because I’m not really a history person. There were only one or two specific events in the Civil Rights struggle they mentioned that I wasn’t familiar with. I made notes of the events with plans to look them up later.

It’s not a pretty history, but it’s powerful. I would say that knowing what I do about the 1950s and the 1960s and what it means to people who look like me who lived through that time gives me a strong desire for fairness. It’s probably why I care so much about LGBT rights. I know a lot of people don’t see the two issues as comparable, but I sure as hell do.

The part of the exhibit that really stole the show for Easy and I though was this video they had on loop. To me it’s not really a museum exhibit if you don’t have a video on loop.

This video was of Nina Simone singing this amazing song on a Dutch TV show.

We sat there and watched it then watched it some more. I think because Easy is a jazz musician, seeing that performance there in the context of all the other Civil Rights art felt very profound.

Easy’s favorite piece was actually a self portrait of a man wearing a superman t-shirt and rocking a fantastic afro. It was part of the Black is Beautiful section. It’s hard to believe there was a time when people really had to make straight up ad campaigns to teach my people that they are beautiful, but it’s true.

I guess that’s not so crazy seeing as how I couldn’t be in the Army right now with my locs, but that’s a whole other issue, and I digress.

I’m getting back on topic, and that is embracing New York City. I’m looking forward to doing it more. Summer stage, sporting events, museums, restaurants, and live music. I want it all.


Chicago-Style Girl’s Workout Plan, I Wanna See You Workout

If you scroll down to the very bottom of my blog page, you’ll see a few things.

There is the standard search box you’ll see on all blogs, but I’ve cleverly hidden it in plain sight so you can’t easily find it, bah ha ha. Actually, I just didn’t know where else to put it because I didn’t like the look of it on my right tab column.

There is also a job disclaimer that my people request we put up so that my words are not associated with the company. I totally get that, but I’m such a huge fan of donation, I’m happy to claim my words as my very own. Go sign up for organ donation people!

But the other thing you’ll see at the bottom is the MyFitnessPal Ticker and My Tracy Anderson countdown. Both are at the bottom so as not to depress me on a daily basis.

The Tracy Anderson 90 day countdown ended August 16, 2013. That counts as a super-duper fail. I didn’t get past Day 10. It’s just so hard. Whine whine, fill in whine here.

And I don’t have access to a scale anymore. I intend on getting this cool bluetooth scale that goes with the fitbit.

Image via Amazon

Image via fitbit

These were my intended birthday gifts. They still are my intended gifts, even though my birthday was three months ago. The husband and I are working it out.

Perhaps if I can avoid Queens in general and potholes specifically, I would’ve had my birthday gift by now. Stupid Geico insurance deductible.

Moving on. Because I don’t have access to a scale, I have no idea what I weigh. But I’m almost certain I’m at my highest weight ever. Seeing as how I never really effectively kicked off the weight loss in the first place, that’s less upsetting to say than you’d think.

Working 4p-midnight is detrimental to my life plans. I’m not a morning person, so I struggle to get up before noon. I’d have to get up and start working out by 10 am to have enough time to really workout and get to work on time. And now that I’m helping babysit at the home I volunteer at, there’s even less time. Weekends are out because of the soup kitchen and church.

I know. Excuses, excuses.

Having said all of this (what kind of jerk has 300 words of introduction?), I have a plan to kick-start my new healthy New York life.

This plan includes spending money, but not a lot of money.

Amazon Local has all these great options for things to try. Normally, I would look at it for deals at restaurants and cool live events. But then I thought, why not use it for purposes other than taking in hundreds of calories in food and alcohol?

There are some really great deals available now too.

When I was in search of adventure the other weekend, I considered finding a rock climbing place, but didn’t pursue it because most indoor places do belay, and you need a partner.

Guess what? Amazon Local has a deal on the one indoor rock climbing place in Brooklyn. I checked out the website for Brooklyn Boulders, and it looks pretty cool.

While I was looking around for deals, I also came across a yoga/pilates studio, a kickboxing class, and a ballet/zumba studio. All of these sounded interesting, but I decided to go with the kickboxing because that’s one I’ve never done before, but always found interesting as a concept.

So I have pre-paid (at amazing discounts by the way) for a whole day pass at Brooklyn Boulders and 10 kickboxing classes at Village Kickboxing Fitness. Y’all know I love me some Greenwich Village, so any reason is a good reason to spend more time there.

Image via Amazon Local

I’m hoping that pre-paying will really encourage me to make it happen. I have until the end of July to use the promotional offers, but I intend to get started on them within the next few weeks. It’ll give me something to do while the husband is gone for the month of February.

I used to rock climb at this place that was in a south suburb of Chicago, but that ended when I grew my nails out for the wedding. You simply can’t rock climb effectively with long nails, and I grew them pretty long y’all.

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But now they are shorter, though still nice. If I really like the rock climbing, and if I can find someone to commit to actually going with me, I’ll keep the nails short.

With any luck, rock climbing and kickboxing will add some variety to a workout that I already enjoy (but, ahem, never make time for), and I can finally get back on track with exercising.

I’m doing okay diet-wise. I’m not on a “diet” per se, I use the word diet simply to refer to the food I choose to eat. I’m doing this pseudo vegetarian thing now. I barely eat meat anymore. I certainly haven’t lost the taste for it, I just choose better options, like black beans or chickpeas for protein.

And if I’m successful with my 30th birthday bucket list (which I promise to write a real post about soon), I’ll be able to add tofu to my list of protein options.

I don’t do too much in the way of frying, and I haven’t eaten any fast food aside from the occasional french fry in months. I just feel better when I’m not eating all that processed food, you know?

So I am going to risk the craziness and officially reset the 90 day countdown. Just so you know, this is not a 3 month thing, it’s 90 days of working out. I have to assume that I’m not going to work out more than three days a week.

Let’s be honest here I don’t have the time or the motivation.

But I’m going to set a timer for 90 workouts at three days a week. Maybe some weeks I’ll do more and that will balance out the weeks I’m sure to do less. I will also count those kickboxing classes and the rock climbing, which could turn into a membership as well.

So yup, I’m spending money in an attempt to look and feel better. If I were rich, maybe I’d be getting liposuction and hiring a personal trainer. I guess it’s a good thing I’m not rich because that just sounds like too much, right?

Wish me luck, y’all. Here I go again.

Day 90 is… August 27, 2014.

Damn, that seems far away. But it’s not really because that’s with me exercising only 3 days a week, so that’s 30 weeks. I think that’s a more reasonable goal because it lifts some of the pressure to try an exercise 6 times a week, which I was never able to sustain except when unemployed.

And if I”m doing it over that period of time, it will hopefully become a real lifestyle change. The Tracy Anderson Metamorphosis program continues after the initial 90 days, and she has a pregnancy workout plus a post-natal workout. So none of my life plans should interfere with the success of this.

I’ve written myself into excitement for the possibilities. If I do the home workout 3 times a week, swapping out one day every two weeks for a varied activity, it could work.

I can attempt running again once it’s warm outside. I have this amazing book Born to Run, available on Amazon to thank for even feeling like I could do this cause I kinda hate running. Read this book, and you’ll feel like you could become a supermarathoner. Or at least make it around the block more than once.

I can also try ballroom dancing again. You should try to polka for more than 10 minutes straight and tell me that’s not a workout.

Maybe I can even go back to hot yoga, which I truly loved deep down in my heart.

Any day now, or rather in like 7 months, I’m going to look and feel amazing. You just wait and see. I can’t wait to start complaining that none of my pants fit anymore. Well, that’s actually a current complaint because they’re kind of tight, but I’m hoping for it to turn into a complaint that they’re too loose.

Day one begins today. Anyone want to join me on MyFitnessPal so we can encourage each other?


I Don’t Want To Wash My Clothes, And You Can’t Make Me

The husband and I have always had issues with washing clothes. Neither of us like doing it. I probably like it a bit more than he does, but it’s just so time consuming. The only apartment I ever had that came with a washer and a dryer was lovely. I washed clothes once a week and kept everything hung up and in its drawer.

You know our brownstone in Brooklyn doesn’t have a washer and a dryer. There are a number of Laundromats in the area, but none of them are terribly close. They are all a number of blocks away. Even when I only have one load of clothes, it’s still a large effort to get it done.

I haven’t washed clothes in a few weeks, which isn’t unusual for me. The problem is that I threw away half my clothes when I moved to NYC. I was so proud of myself for downsizing. I didn’t even consider the lifestyle change needed to make it work.

I was at the point that when it was time to pack to go to Chicago and Atlanta last weekend, I didn’t have enough clothes. I actually packed some dirty clothes that I had to wash as soon as I got to my parents’ house.

Awful right?

So I’m still adjusting to being a New Yorker, having less closet space, having less clothes, and washing the clothes I do have more frequently.

I have all the essentials at least: Tide pods, Downy dryer sheets, a laundry bag, and that roll-y cart you see everyone in New York with.

Even with all the ease I’ve provided for myself, it’s still not working for me.

I intended to wash clothes right when I got back from Atlanta, but I didn’t feel like it. Then I intended to do it yesterday, but the location I chose to go to was closed and it was too late to go anywhere else. This working Monday-Friday 9-5 thing is messing up my body’s natural clock.

The tiny part of me that likes doing laundry likes doing laundry at 10 am. That isn’t an option unless I get up on Saturday to do it. This week, that isn’t an option because I’m starting my other volunteer work.

I’m just gonna have to bite the bullet and make it happen. Argh, sometimes I really hate being an adult. Which isn’t even really fair to say because I’ve been washing my own clothes since I was big enough to load the machine. My parents didn’t play that.

I think it’s safe to say my nesting phase is over. At least when it comes to properly organizing my drawers and closets. Maybe I’ll get that feeling back when I finish unpacking our apartment. I’ve made some good progress and I really should take advantage of the fact that the husband is out of town for another three weeks and get it all done.

Until all of that happens, I’ll be showing up to work in quite questionable combinations. Like today. I’m wearing a blue button up blouse, an orange wife beater, and a brown stretchy asymmetrical hem skirt. It’s an odd combination, believe me. The shame of having to look at myself in the mirror ought to motivate me to wash clothes quicker than waiting on the nesting feeling to return I think.