Beach Weekend

This weekend, I went to Virginia Beach with a big group of friends. What was billed as a long weekend wound up feeling more like a legitimate vacation. We left Thursday evening on a bus to Richmond. After spending Friday at my friend’s parents’ house there, we drove to Virginia Beach for the rest of the weekend.

Even after only two and a half days there, it almost felt routine. Wake up, have a cup of coffee, head for the beach. Spend all day reading, soaking up good music, deepening old friendships, creating new friendships…and working on covering up awkward tan lines from an old bathing suit.

It was a break from my New York routine that I needed more than I realized. And it was a chance to spend a whole weekend appreciating an amazing community of friends.

A few random tidbits, because I’m still on a vacation high and if I don’t write them down now, I’ll forget them:

Richmond, VA is a really cool city, especially if you’re into Civil War history. Friday evening, we drove around the city checking out notable spots. Driving down Monument Avenue, you pass incredible statues of Confederate notables like Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis. My personal favorite destination was the state Capitol building and this statue of George Washington, which sits outside it. So elaborate, with so many connections to various figures in early America (hey, Meriwether Lewis).

This song made it onto someone’s beach playlist and now I’m addicted to it.

On our flight back this evening (yep, we took the bus down and flew back to maximize beach time), I flipped through the Sept. 1 issue of the New Yorker and laughed so hard at this week’s fiction: “The Referees,” by Joseph O’Neill. A quick, funny read if you need one. “What does this e-mail even mean? She wants to recuse herself? Who is she, Sonia Sotomayor?”

So now I’m back in the city, unpacking and watching Silver Linings Playbook (It’s become my unofficial summer movie. I play it all the time. Just so dang good.) and thinking about how I don’t just feel refreshed after this vacation. I feel completely reset. Tomorrow morning and the week ahead will bring what it may, but I feel new. And it’ll already be Tuesday.

My Feelings Exactly

To the Strand Bookstore employee who wrote this recommendation for Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin:

photo (8)

Those are my feelings exactly.

I am well over 100 pages into the book (701, to be exact), but that’s still how I feel. It may have taken me a few months to get there (I’m a slow reader already, and 750 dense pages don’t help speed things up), but I’m almost finished, and while I want the satisfaction of saying I read the whole thing, I really don’t want it to end. Like the Strand employee, I still want to spend all of my free time reading it. I still want my arms to hurt from holding it on the subway (slow reader, out of shape…the fun never stops here).

I know finishing a 750-page book is no accomplishment in the grand scheme of reading, but even more than being able to check this work off my list (by the end of this week, I hope), I feel as though I’ve come to know Lincoln, and some of the “rivals,” like William Henry Seward and Edwin Stanton, very closely. I’ve come to understand a time period in a much deeper and more complete way than I ever would have through a high school or college textbook.

Fifty pages from now, the book will be over and Lincoln, who seems to be in his prime right now as he starts his second term, gets the Thirteenth Amendment passed and starts working on a plan to negotiate peace with the Confederacy, will be gone. I only wish I was that Strand staffer who is just starting out.

P.S. – If you’re in New York, the Strand has several sparkling new copies of Team of Rivals just begging you to buy and read them. Do it!

Lincoln, Perception and Storytelling

After months of anticipation, my sister and I saw Lincoln this past weekend, taking advantage of the movie’s early release in New York City theaters. While I’ve always taken a particular interest in the Civil War when it comes to studying American history, Hope is the real Civil War buff and had been beside herself with excitement for weeks at the idea of seeing her favorite time period gloriously displayed on screen.

To our surprise, she was underwhelmed, while I absolutely loved it. Sure, it dragged a bit at the end, and I found the opening scene (in which Union soldiers recite the Gettysburg Address back to Lincoln during his visit to a battlefield) to be a little cheesy, but I just couldn’t (actually, still can’t) get over Daniel Day-Lewis’ tremendous performance as the president. Not to go all Roger Ebert here, but I have never been so convinced that an actor really was the person he was portraying. Obviously, there is no way of knowing whether he’s doing a spot-on impression of Lincoln’s voice, gait and mannerisms. But assuming tremendous research went into making it as accurate as possible, I don’t know how someone couldn’t be blown away by how real it seems.

Prior to seeing the movie, I decided to start reading Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s 2005 book upon which much of Lincoln‘s plot is drawn. I still have a ways to go with it, but I’m glad I read a little before seeing the movie (for, say, some background knowledge on characters like William Seward, Lincoln’s Secretary of State) and am finding it easier to digest with some mental image (albeit not the “real” thing) of characters and places described in the book.

I’m on page 142 of 754 so there’s still a lot to digest, but I have been struck by two facets of Lincoln I never knew existed:

  1. Master storyteller. If nothing else, Lincoln is worth  it for the scene in which the president tells a story about Ethan Allen and a George Washington portrait in an outhouse (just trust me). It’s not just worth it because the story is laugh-out-loud funny; the way Daniel Day-Lewis delivers (and, I want to believe, Lincoln delivered) it – timing, emphasis, everything – is riveting. And as I read the book, I’m intrigued by all the mentions of Lincoln as a masterful storyteller. He grew up listening to his father regale friends, neighbors and travelers who boarded at their Kentucky home, carefully remembering every detail and re-telling the stories for his own friends the next day. Goodwin called it a “passion for rendering experience into powerful language.” From what I can tell so far, nearly everyone who made contact with Lincoln was smitten by his stories and the way his face lit up as he told them. I suppose I always thought of Lincoln as a no-nonsense, serious man, but I like knowing he was much more than a stoic face looking back at me from a Mathew Brady portrait.
  2. Savvy PR man. Lincoln believed you only are that which you are perceived to be. No matter what’s on the inside, people will like or dislike you (or vote for or against you) based on who they think you are, not who you think yourself to be. To me, this is a huge part of why companies invest in public relations: They want to control how they are perceived. To Lincoln, it was a driving factor in his political pursuits, primarily because he desperately wanted history to remember his name (mission accomplished), and knew that wouldn’t happen unless he made a name for himself in modern times. He seemed to believe, writes Goodwin, that “ideas of a person’s worth are tied to the way others, both contemporaries and future generations, perceive him.” I love that quote. Whether or not that’s how it should be, that’s how it is, and Lincoln played the political game with that in mind. I really don’t have much interest in modern-day politics, but I’m eager to learn more about how Lincoln’s rise to the top was aided by his deep understanding of perception’s importance.

My copy of Team of Rivals is already littered with highlighter marks and Post-it notes as I organize my thoughts, but I might turn here in the coming days and weeks in order to archive and consider them more fully.

And just for kicks: The Lincoln trailer, if you haven’t already seen it; background on how Lincoln came to life in the movie, from Diane Sawyer’s interview with Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis; and if you need to be convinced that this movie is worthy of your time, Ebert’s review.

Last real home game as a student. Pass the tissues.

As a born-and-raised Oregonian, the Civil War football game has played an important role in my life. My dad is an OSU grad, and he took my sister and me to a few Civil War games growing up. Most were at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, but he took us to one at Autzen (2003, I believe) – the picture of Hope and me decked out in OSU gear with Autzen in the background is ironically hilarious now that I’m a UO fanatic.

Anyway, the Civil War is always a special game, especially when you’ve grown up in the state and have bragging rights on the line.

Today also marked my last official game as a UO student – the Pac-12 championship game, which I will attend, doesn’t really count in my mind – and it’s causing me to freak out a little.

Honestly, going to football games and following the team has been my favorite part of college. The memories created inside Autzen – falling in love with college football when GameDay came in ’09; storming the field after securing a Rose Bowl bid in the 2009 Civil War; going crazy during last year’s Stanford contest; yelling, “It never rains in Autzen Stadium” before every game; clapping along with the fight song – will stay with me forever.

When college begins, you never really think it will end. Up until now, life and education have come in manageable four-year chunks. Now, it’s off into the great unknown. (“Fears for the future” could be a post in and of itself, but you get the idea.) Who knows if I’ll be at all the games next fall? Who knows if I’ll even make it to one? Will I ever watch games from the same angle again? (Literally; I can’t imagine looking at Autzen from a different perspective after sitting in the student section for four years.)

Of course, I know I should be happy that the biggest problem facing me at the moment is how I’ll handle myself without a student ticket to Duck games. But it’s a strange feeling, knowing that I’ll never have quite the same relationship with the Oregon football team.

All nervousness aside, it was a beeea-u-tiful day in Eugene and the Civil War was a blast. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking:

My roommates Shannon, Katy and me on the walk into the stadium. (Yeah, this is Instagram'd. Judge me.)

This isn't a great angle, but the UO and OSU marching bands played the national anthem together. The UO band formed an "O" and the OSU formed an "OS," like their logo.

Celebrating a Duck victory with friends. Won the day.

Brooklyn, Skylines and Stalking Liz Lemon

Eight weeks down, two to go.

What?!

Somehow, eight weeks flew by and left me with just two more weeks in New York City. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ready to go home, but I’m also sad that time has gone so quickly and am determined to make the most of what remains.

I’ve failed at blogging this past week, so here’s a recap of what’s been going on in the Big Apple:

Last weekend, my dad visited! It was great to spend time and explore the city with him. Our first stop on Friday afternoon was the Museum of Modern Art. It’s not far from where I work, and admission is free after 4 pm on Fridays, so we walked over and looked around for a while after I finished work.

My dad (sporting Oregon State gear, as always) and I at the MoMA

I’m not an art connoisseur by any means, but I really liked seeing Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans in person.

Me with all the Campbell's soup you'd ever want.

We spend most of Saturday exploring Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, which was awesome. I hadn’t really had the chance to venture into Brooklyn, so exploring it with my dad was a lot of fun. He took a walking tour of Brooklyn back in June when he helped me move in, so he was able to tell me a little bit about the area’s history. One of the area’s most impressive landmarks is the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Arch, which commemorates the sacrifice of soldiers and sailors in the Civil War. My dad explained that the statues on the top of the arch are facing south, as if to rub the northern victory in the Confederacy’s face. Awesome.

The arch in Park Slope. Statues of Lincoln and Grant on horseback are on the inside.

We also walked around Prospect Park, looked at some cool hipster clothing stores (I guess that was mostly just me) and explored the neighborhood, which mainly consists of old brownstone homes. These houses are beautiful and historic – I have long-term plans to live in one of them.

Brooklyn's brownstones; a far cry from the apartments of busy Manhattan.

I think I’ve picked this one as my future home…52 Berkely Place:

A pink brownstone in Park Slope. I'll take it.

My dad and I also explored Chelsea Market, took the Staten Island Ferry and went for an exhilarating run (sense sarcasm) along the Hudson River. All in all, a great weekend with my padre in the big city!

I know this post is all about what I did on the weekends and not really about what I’m doing at work; I’m still loving my internship, but there aren’t really any great pictures and the stories aren’t as exciting. Unless you count the conversation I had with the guy in the cubicle behind me about the possibility of a Liz Lemon-Jack Donaghy relationship on 30 Rock. Turns out he loves Tina Fey, too.

Friday night, some friends and I treated ourselves to ice cream from Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, a cute little place that’s under the Brooklyn Bridge. There’s an observation-deck-esque platform next to the shop that gives you an expansive, breathtaking view of the city.

Looking out at the skyline, I had a serious New York City “moment.” No, Frank Sinatra did not come back from the dead and serenade me in the moonlight, but I could see the Statue of Liberty, lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges and the Empire State Building. Someone was even playing Frank’s “New York, New York” in the background. It sounds cheesy, but I took a minute to just stand there and take it all in. The city never looked better and I felt like a true New Yorker, at least for a moment.

And even though it’s not the same as being there, I took a video of the whole expanse with my camera so you could get a little taste of the view (you also get a taste of my mad zoom in – zoom out skills):

If you’re still reading this novella, you’re almost to the best part. Okay, it might not be as great as the shimmering lights of the New York City skyline, but if you’re a total nerd like me, it’s close.

Yesterday, I had the morning and afternoon free so I decided to explore the Upper West Side, a neighborhood I hadn’t really been to yet. I’m sure a lot of famous people live there, but the most famous of all is my hero, head writer of The Girlie Show and 30 Rock main character Liz Lemon. (Yes, my hero is a fictional character.)

Many 30 Rock episodes feature scenes in Liz’s apartment, and the shot shown before each apartment scene is the outside of an apartment building at 160 Riverside Drive, on the Upper West Side. As sad as it is, I actually looked up directions to the apartment on my phone while I was walking and took a little stroll past Liz’s place. I didn’t go right up to it and take pictures for fear of looking like a total lunatic, but I did grab a good shot:

I was in full-on stalker mode. Anything for a picture of Liz's apartment!

Anyway, now that I sound like a totally deranged person who stalks fictional characters, I’ll end this post. Thanks for reading about my adventures – I appreciate it more than you know!