This is Why: A City for All Seasons

It was hot this past weekend in NYC. H-O-T-T hot. What to do on a Sunday afternoon with no plans? A quick trip to the beach, of course. New York City has miles of beaches easily accessed by subway. Pretty incredible for the most urban, most densely populated major city in the U.S.

If we need to make it a quick trip, we head down to the western end of Brighton Beach, a 30 minute ride away on the Q train. It’s fairly quiet, fairly clean, and convenient to tasty Russian food.

If you want to party at the beach, Coney Island is a short walk away. Here, the umbrellas are ruffle-to-ruffle, reggaeton is blasting and vendors are selling everything from homemade churros to flowering mangos on a stick.

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Our chosen spot near the Ocean Parkway entrance

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Large, festive crowds in Coney Island

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This Is Why: An Ode to Subway Reading

Most New Yorkers would be hard-pressed to say they enjoy their commutes. They’re usually too long and the train too crowded; fellow passengers can be loud and obnoxious; someone’s taking up too much space or sneezing on you or–dear god–clipping their fingernails (yes, this happens).

But sometimes, even a long commute can feel blissful. I’m lucky to be able to travel on a fairly uncrowded train, and the 40 or so minutes I read before work can feel as relaxing as a deep tissue massage. I’m pretty easily motion sick, and the subway is one of the only modes of transportation on which I’m able to read. And I read everything: long-form essays, historical non-fiction, young adult literature, food magazines, fashion magazines, science articles. Often, I’m so into the story, I nearly miss my stop. It feels like a a bit of a brain workout and gets me mentally prepped for the day. I actually exit the train with a smile on my face.  A smile! On the way to work! I’d pick that over the stop-and-go of a car commute any day.

Reading list

Current reading list (usually not smiling after reading that top book, though)

*This is Why showcases moments that remind me why I love NYC.

This is Why: The Theater!

That title is supposed to be read like this: THA THEE-AY-TAH!

For over a century, New York City’s Broadway district has been churning out the liveliest productions in the country. People from all over the world flock to the Great White Way to fill the seats of Broadway’s 40 theaters.

This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending opening weekend for the first Broadway revival of Pippin–a show that first premiered 40 years ago. Back then, the show–a Bob Fosse-choreographed parable about the joys of ordinary life–quickly accumulated a devoted fan base.

And they came back in droves. The excitement in the air was palpable. It was electric. When the curtain was raised, the yelps and woos that accompanied the opening notes threatened to drown out the actors on stage. People were excited! And even though I knew nearly nothing about the show, I became excited, too. The audience’s mood was so infectious, I felt like a committed fan 30 seconds into the first act. An only-in-New York moment to be sure.

Broadway posters

Broadway posters

Image via Broadway Tour; made available under Creative Commons license

Pippin the Musical

Music Box Theater, 239 West 45th Street

*This is Why showcases moments that remind me why I love NYC.

This is Why: Signed Books

There are so many writers who choose to call New York City, and specifically Brooklyn, home. And while “so and so lives is Brooklyn with her husband and two sons” is now a book jacket cliché, it also means if you live here too, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see your favorite writer speak when they release their new book. There are author events every day of the week. Author events mean lots of copies of signed books. Signed books make great gifts.

I never took to a Kindle. I love the tangible nature of a book: the flipping of pages, the yellowing paper. Local bookstores, author events, people lining up to get their books signed–it all reminds me that other people do, too. Also, seeing an autographed copy of a book makes the story seem real, labored, a project that someone took months, probably years, to cull and craft. It can give an aspiring writer hope that her signature might also one day live on someone’s bookshelf.

Here, a signed copy of Russ & Daughters (upper left corner), a signed copy of Eight Days (upper middle and bottom middle), and a signed copy of Benediction (middle right) at the Community Bookstore.

Autographed books on display at Community bookstore in Park Slope

Autographed books on display at the Community Bookstore in Park Slope

Signed books are available at bookstores large (yes, I mean Barnes & Noble) and small all over the city. One of my favorites is children’s bookstore Books of Wonder in Flatiron. They have a huge selection of signed books. A great place to find a gift for a young reader.

The Community Bookstore, 143 7th Ave.; 718-783-3075

Books of Wonder, 18 West 18th St.; 212-989-3270

 

*This is Why showcases moments that remind me why I love NYC.

This is Why: SoHo on a Weekday Morning

On the weekends, SoHo, the warehouse wasteland-turned artist mecca-turned upscale shopping destination, is somewhat of a mess. Tourists and brave locals crowd its sidewalks and fill its stores. Walking down Broadway on a Saturday at 2 p.m. can feel like snaking your way through an oversold outdoor concert. Weekday mornings, however, are bliss. The side streets especially are devoid of all but a few people. It’s the best time to enjoy the charms of the cobblestones and cast-iron facades.

Here, a walk up Crosby Street.

soho

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*This is Why showcases moments that remind me why I love NYC.

This is Why: A Glimpse of the Sunset on a Dreary Day

Today was a nondescript gray day–the kind of day that populates February and March in NYC. I was ready to write it off until I caught a small peak of the sun from a Manhattan-bound Q train. The sun’s rays descended below the cloud line and behind the Brooklyn Bridge at the precise moment my subway car barreled across the Manhattan Bridge. It seemed as though the scene was prepped for my enjoyment specifically, to lift me out of my winter doldrums. Well played, New York.

The sunset as seen from the Q train passing over the Manhattan Bridge

The sunset as seen from the Q train passing over the Manhattan Bridge

*This is Why showcases moments that remind me why I love NYC.

This is Why: Collective Urban Experience

When my brother and I were kids and it snowed at our house in the suburbs, we’d go outside and play while our parents took photos. Sometimes, we’d have a snowball fight with neighbors. When the roads were finally plowed, maybe we’d make it to a local park for sledding. Overall though, our experience was family- and neighbor-centric.

When something happens in NYC, whether it’s a snowstorm or a transit strike or a Giants’ Super Bowl victory, the entire city experiences it together, for better or worse.

After an 11 inch snowfall last weekend, our local park, Prospect Park, was packed with people. There was sledding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and casual strolling. And everyone was noticeably giddy. During times like these we feed off each other’s positive energy, and that’s a lovely thing.

Sledding near the 9th Street entrance in Prospect Park

Sledding near the 9th Street entrance in Prospect Park

*This is Why showcases moments that remind me why I love NYC.

This is Why: Subway Opera

Oh, just another evening spent listening to opera while waiting for my train to arrive, thanks to Opera Collective.

This city is filled with talented street and subway musicians.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Tom Swafford

Colin Huggins

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

The Union Square station is one of the best stations in the city for catching live performances. It’s sprawling, so on any given night you might encounter up to half-a-dozen musicians.

*This is Why showcases moments that remind me why I love NYC.

This is Why

New York City is addictive in the best possible way. When you’re gone, you miss the rush of it, the untamed energy, the possibility. There are also moments when it rips you apart, leaving you rocking in a corner in the fetal position, crying for “mama”.  And still you stay because each day has the potential to be a revelation.

It’s a place of duality and unexpected things. Yes, you may have spent your morning dodging discarded toilets and getting closer to your fellow subway passenger than you do to your spouse, but you can end your day with a free piano concert in Washington Square Park, dollar duck buns at a stall in Flushing, Queens or a Russian dinner and cabaret show in Sheepshead Bay.

After it kicks you around, the city always finds a way to remind you why it is you’re here.

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*Stay tuned for a “This is Why” feature, which will allow you to share in the moments that remind me why I love NYC.

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