Reading on the New York Subway

Again I am posting about something else I found online, but the internet is just so full of fun stuff. This photography project Underground New York Public Library encompasses 4 of my favorite things:

  • Reading
  • New York subway
  • Photography
  • Reading on the subway

This project is pretty awesome and touches on so many topics, while somehow still managing to be straightforward and simple. At first sight it is a tumblr of various photographs of people reading on the New York subway, with the caption naming the book and author. But go a little deeper and it’s much more than that. It’s street photography and all the questionable ethics that go along with it*, it’s people we see everyday, it’s people learning, it’s getting lost in a good book, it’s connecting with strangers, it’s capturing the various walks of life that make up NY, it’s introducing us to new books and authors, it makes NY feel a little smaller, it brings up the book vs e-reader dilemma, it’s relatable, it’s hopeful (maybe because it seems less people are reading these days, and these images capture all ages, genders, ethnicities reading), it’s “like meditating” (I agree with this, because looking at the photos I’m reminded of how soothing it is to get lost in a book), it’s friendly, it’s inspiring, it’s a calm moment among the chaos of NY, and the photographs themselves are full of talent.

The subway seems like an obvious and perfect choice for this project in New York. I’m sure the same could be done in parks or cafes, but the subway is just so New York. Reading is obviously a big part of the subway for a lot of people, including myself – it’s where I get most of my reading done because it provides time, a familiar atmosphere, is generally pretty quiet, and maybe the movement of the train is soothing. I’ve actually gotten on the wrong train when reading on the platform, and have almost missed my stop because I was so engrossed in a book. I’m sure I’m not the only one..

*I struggle with this and often miss out on photo opportunities due to feeling like an intruder on someone’s life. P, a talented and curious photographer who likes to capture people on the streets, told me he bought a portable printer so that when he took a photo of a stranger he could give them a copy right then and there. I thought this was a great idea, as it breaks down barriers and makes the subject feel special.

M

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Just Here’s Fine

As noted in a previous post, I enjoy chatting with cab drivers, on the rare occasion that I do take a cab. Sometimes I want a quiet ride, and sometimes they want a quiet ride, but it’s nice to at least test the waters with small talk and see where it will go. People are interesting and you may learn something, hear a great story, get some (unsolicited) advice, or a tip about the city. Plus it’s just friendly to talk to someone you’re sitting in a car with.

So, it’s fair to say I really like this project I recently stumbled upon, Just Here’s Fine: a look at the lives of London’s cab drivers. The artist, Victoria Hannan, shares a photo and brief bio of cab drivers from around London. Each driver is completely different, has a different reason for choosing this job, has their own routine and habits, has their own crazy stories.. things you would never know by looking at all drivers as the same person. Victoria breaks each interviewee down into their own person.

Everyone has a story and a life you don’t see, especially if they are in a profession where only formalities are exchanged: “I’m going to Penn Station, thanks”, “Can I please have a medium iced coffee with skim milk?”, “Do you take credit?”, “No, there will be nothing else, thanks for your help.”, “We’ll take the check.” Most of these interactions are strictly business with no room for anything else, which is fine, but it’s nice now and then to get to know people as, and make them feel like, more than just the person who hands you your morning bagel or drives you from point A to point B. You never know what you will get out of it, even a “hello, how are you, beautiful day” and a simple “thank you” will probably brighten their day as well as yours, and maybe it will be passed on to the next person. Cab rides seem to provide opportunities for a more extensive conversation, which is maybe why the artist chose cab drivers as her subject for this project.

If you’ve ever visited a Trader Joe’s (if you haven’t you’re really missing out) you know well how the interactions at the checkout lines go. The cashiers are all so freakin friendly and chatty. It’s obviously a prerequisite to be able to start a conversation with a stranger. They offer more than just a “Hi.” I’ve been asked how my day is going, what I have planned, and have found myself joking around with the cashier. It makes some people uncomfortable, admittedly including myself at times, because we unfortunately live in a society where not talking to people we don’t know, even if they are helping us or sharing an experience with us, is normal, but I love that Trader Joe’s does this. I feel like they’re breaking people’s guards down one perfectly packed recyclable bag at a time. One time the cashier saw I had the makings for “guaco”, ie guacamole, in my basket but was missing cilantro, and offered to go get it for me because he knew exactly where it was and “you can’t have guacamole without cilantro!” He left me at the register with a line forming and went all the way to the other side of the store to get it so that my guacamole wasn’t missing cilantro. He wasn’t even going to get to eat the guacamole! It’s these little gestures and interactions that restore faith in humanity and makes us feel connected, which is why I’m really enjoying Just Here’s Fine.

Positive Thinking

I came across this article the other day and it has been on my mind all week. It’s meant to help you improve a bad day, but I think it should be a guideline for life in general. It’s short, to the point, and so true.

#4 made me laugh out loud – it really puts things in perspective! And #7 is along the lines of how a good friend is trying to live her life – imagine life how you want it and it’s more likely to happen than if you’re thinking negatively.

Positive Thinking: 7 Easy Ways to Improve a Bad Day

1. Remember that the past does not equal the future.

There is no such thing as a “run of bad luck.” The reason people believe such nonsense is that the human brain creates patterns out of random events and remembers the events that fit the pattern.

2. Refuse to make self-fulfilling prophesies. 

If you believe the rest of your day will be as challenging as what’s already happened, then rest assured: You’ll end up doing something (or saying) something that will make sure that your prediction comes true.

3. Get a sense of proportion.

Think about the big picture: Unless something life-changing has happened (like the death of a loved one), chances are that in two weeks, you’ll have forgotten completely about whatever it was that has your shorts in a twist today.

Continue Reading… 

M

Travel, A Growing Experience

I recently discussed this with a friend who just returned from 6 months of travelling through India, and who I met while we were both living in Argentina. Throughout our own travels we have each realized what an amazing growing experience traveling is, whether you are looking for it to be that or not. No matter where you travel to and for how long, you will find yourself in unfamiliar territory and be forced to adjust. Add a foreign language and culture to the mix and you’re in for a real treat. When taken out of your comfort zone, you have no option but to just figure it out! On top of that, you return home with a new perspective on your surroundings, your belongings, your day to day experiences, and life in general.

Lost? In your own city, you’ll probably pull up Google Maps on your phone. In another country odds of having a smartphone on you are slim so you have to learn to be comfortable asking for directions, even if it means talking to strangers, speaking in a different language, in streets you aren’t familiar with. Another learning experience that can come out of being lost is NOT asking for directions, and instead see where you end up by wandering. You may stumble upon a cafe or market you wouldn’t have otherwise. If anything you get to see more of the area.

Don’t speak the language? You can get pretty creative when communicating without a mutual language. Hand gestures, drawings.. it’s amazing to see this creativity prove to be successful in getting your message across. And you’re bound to pick up a few words of the language along the way.

Flight delayed, train cancelled, no rooms left in the hostel, passport stolen? Gotta figure it out somehow. It may not be pleasant at the time but you will certainly look back on it as a learning experience, maybe even with a laugh, and will feel a little more confident next time it happens (because it will).

Returning home you will have more appreciation and respect for other cultures, you won’t be nervous to ask for directions, dealing with customer service will seem like a cinch because it’s in your own language, you’ll learn, and prefer, to live with less, you’ll walk more, you’ll be more patient with tourists because you’ve been there, you’ll have learned more about yourself in many ways, you’ll be more appreciative of the comforts of home, and you’ll be more comfortable meeting new people and talking to strangers.

There are a million and one reasons why I love traveling, but the growing and learning experience is a big one, and well worth it.

Do you have any growing experiences from your travels?

M

PS – These experiences can also occur while exploring cities throughout your own country, like P did with the frog legs restaurant in DC. It’s a matter of stepping out of your comfort zone.

Meridian Hill Park

In each city I’ve lived I have my outdoor happy place, that part of the city I can visit that is good for my soul. I have my favorite cafes, restaurants, etc. as well, but there’s nothing better than fresh air and sunshine (weather permitting) to increase the happiness levels. In Buenos Aires it’s Parque Tres de Febrero (the rose garden! the palm trees! the lake!) and in Brooklyn it’s Grand Army Plaza area, which includes the Brooklyn Museum, the beautiful main branch of Brooklyn Public Library, and an entrance to Prospect Park. In DC it’s Meridian Hill Park, and lucky me I got to go back there this weekend.

Meridian Hill Park is politely tucked away in NW DC, right where the neighborhoods of U St., Columbia Heights, Mt. Pleasant, and Adams Morgan meet. Although smack in the middle of some busy areas, it does a good job of being fairly isolated and is therefore a wonderful escape. Multilevels, waterfalls, ducks, statues, green space, shade, sunshine, and built in stone benches all make for a gorgeous space. On Sundays you’ll find a talented drum circle going on, and most days you’ll find people sunbathing, reading, running, picnicing, tightrope walking, doing yoga, and everything else you can enjoy in a pretty park. On my short weekend visits back to DC I usually don’t have time to do everything I’d like to, so it was a pleasure to stroll through the park on this visit. Do you have a favorite outdoor spot in your city?
All photos taken by P
M

Things that made me smile this past week

Sitting outside with beers, Jenga, and $1 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup S’mores with good friends at a beer garden in Philly

Celebrating Mother’s Day with my family

Weekly Zumba class

Grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s

Making beer bread for potluck night with my neighbors

This website and this website, make me laugh everyday

Hearing this song for the first time in awhile, which brought back memories of Buenos Aires

Baby elephant at the beach, so cute

And things I’m looking forward to this weekend…

Cheering my friends on in the Brooklyn Half Marathon

Googa Mooga Festival in Prospect Park

More spring weather

M

That girl

As anyone that has read the handful of posts that have gone up on this blog, we’re still without a definitive theme. Seems like the baking/cooking posts are most popular, which we love posting about (and eating, obviously). So bear with us as we [hopefully] continuing tossing up some more culinary experiences along with whatever we feel like 🙂

This morning I was watching the Today Show.  My aunt prefers this to all of the morning shows. And I’ve found that it’s a great way to catch up on all the lost pop culture one may miss while being abroad (I’ve recently returned and, let me tell ya, there is SOOO much important stuff I have been missing out on: the Call Me Maybe phenomenon, Princess Kate’s wardrobe, Howard Stern on one of those “star” shows, the 30 Rock marriage …).  It is entertaining, I’ll give you that.  I’ve been stuck in front of the tv for almost two hours now absorbing everything.  Oh, and I got an iPhone.  Not to actually use it per se as a phone, but to take photos (it’s a hand-me-down iPhone 3 and I just found out about Instagram … see how far behind American culture I am?!).  Well, one of the Today Show’s hosts is in Cannes for the film festival and I was playing around with the iPhone camera Instagram thingy and was thinking about something … which I’ll describe in a moment.  First, here’s the photo I got out of the Today Show:

It was an interesting scenario.  In the center of the four wine tasters is one of the Today Show hosts (apologies for not knowing her name).  To her left is, I believe, a vineyard owner, describing how rose wines are now all the rage in France and drunk more than whites.  On her right are two prominent Cannes attendees.  I believe the woman is associated with Conde Naste travel and the man is Jean Paul mmmm … a famous designer that has been invited to judge.  Hidden behind them was a security guard that at one moment was checking his phone and most likely texting when he was caught by surprise by the little girl there on the left – it was rather amusing, having this big, serious guy react in an almost aggressive way just before realizing it was a little girl checking out the sand around her feet.  Top notch security they got there.  (I guess you had to see it …)  Anyway, after watching all the “news” on the show and all the “interesting” and “important” stuff going on in the [American] world today and the “pleasure” in and “appreciation” for fine wine and the “luxury” of being in France along the coast immersed in all the celebrity glamour, I most envied the little girl in the background.  I’d rather be her – in her world and her appreciation for being there in Cannes at that moment by the Mediterranean coast…

P

Arranged Marriages

I am not one who takes cabs. I far prefer hopping on the subway for a fraction of the cost, and this has been true in each of the 3 cities I have lived in over the past 10 years. Sure, if I’m with a group who wants to take a cab I’ll join, but if I’m solo you will only find me in a cab if I’m either running very very late or coming home by myself late at night. Or the two times in Buenos Aires when a cab substituted as my moving truck.

When I do take a cab, however, I enjoy chatting with the cab driver. If I’m with a group of more than 3, I’ll always hop in the front. I’m interested in hearing other people’s stories and feel awkward sitting quietly while another person drives me around. In New York cabs conversation can be difficult due to the partition, which makes the driver and passenger feel very separated. This didn’t get in the way of my cab driver last Tuesday night.

It was a coming-home-by-myself-late-at-night kind of situation plus a dead phone that made me cough over the money for the Manhattan to Brooklyn door to door service. I knew I wanted a safe ride home but I had no idea I was looking for dating advice.

My cab driver was from Bangladesh, moved here 14 years ago, and brought his wife over a couple of years ago. I dug a little deeper into the relationship, mainly because I was curious how they managed living in different countries while they were married, and I found out they were in an arranged marriage. A few years ago he was ready to get married so his mom, the rest of his immediate family, and relatives researched the female options for him over in his home country, weeding out the bad apples, and came up with this woman who is now his wife. He met her and liked her, went home and told his mom so, and a couple days later they were married.

In America, arranged marriages are completely foreign to us. It’s just not the way we operate when it comes to love. In countries like Bangladesh, the way we find love is completely foreign to them.

“You have it hard here. It’s very difficult to make the decision all by yourself of who you will marry and spend your life with. It’s a lot of pressure on one person. You don’t have the community helping you make sure you meet the right one,” says my cab driver.

Hmm. When you put it that way…

He strongly believes in your siblings, mom, neighbors, etc. playing matchmaker. They check out the potential spouse’s family, where they’re from.. Maybe it’s even someone you grew up with. Each of your matchmakers gives their opinion on your behalf and you have no say until you are finally introduced to the group’s choice.

And the divorce rate is lower in his country than America, he tells me. I ask if it’s illegal or looked down upon, thinking that is the reason. No, it is legal, and some people do it, but rarely. So much thought and research has gone into finding the right person for you that love does come. He values his marriage, telling me that when each party works so hard all day at their job, they should come home to happiness, not fighting.

I had never discussed arranged marriages with someone who was in one himself. The conversation was fascinating to me, shedding a whole new perspective on relationships. As a single woman I certainly pondered this cab ride afterwards. Although we like to think we know ourselves better than anyone else, it does seem like a lot of pressure to choose your mate for life all by yourself.

On the other hand, although we don’t have arranged marriages in the States, do we really make this decision alone? No, I don’t think so. Most of us are lucky enough to have family and friends who we go to for advice. They meet your significant other eventually, and either volunteer their opinion or are asked for it. I don’t think any of my friends have felt “alone” in their search for a mate. I value my friend’s and family’s opinions greatly. However, after hearing about my cab driver’s experience, I think I will value getting my friend’s opinion on guys I date even more. It doesn’t hurt to have a second (or third or fourth or fifth) opinion.

M