Summer Brain Dump

I have no way of prefacing this except by saying it’s July now, and I haven’t written or debriefed about life in a meaningful way since May and a lot has happened in that time. And tonight I finally felt like writing it all out.

I have to move again, which sucks. No other way to put it. Our current landlords raised our rent $900/month ($300/person/month next year) so we had to find a new place. The good news is, our new apartment is in the same neighborhood. And, our rent will be cheaper. And, I get to stay with my wonderful roommates. The bad news is, we have to move everything from one apartment to the next. Little expenses keep coming up for things we took for granted in the old place that don’t exist in the new (like a toilet paper roll holder!). Plus, it’s summer and it’s hot and miserable and all your stuff is getting moved around. I sound really grumpy about this, don’t I? Well, I am a little. I told my roommates that if, this time next year, I have to move for any dramatic reason (i.e., another massive rent hike), I will recognize it as a sign from God that I am supposed to leave New York City. No sane person can tolerate four moves in as many years.

Perhaps moving is a little bit of my motivation for writing tonight. All my stuff is in boxes. Evidence of an upcoming transition is right in front of me. I want to write down what’s happened lately so I don’t forget it once things start to change.

So, item #1. Summer obsessions. I never notice it in the moment, but with a few years, months, or even weeks in the rearview mirror, I start seeing how clearly defined a certain time was by the cultural obsessions gripping me in that moment. At the beginning of June, I started an obsession with the WTF with Marc Maron podcast, which has carried me through the entire summer so far and taken up a lot of my cultural-obsession real estate. It started with Maron’s interview with Terry Gross, host of NPR’s Fresh Air. I’d known about WTF for awhile, even listened to a couple episodes, but the show re-entered my mind when I was doing some podcast research for work and I decided to listen to the Terry Gross episode on a run. They’re magic together, and it was the first time I appreciated Maron’s real skill as an interviewer. I was hooked.

The podcast has been a welcome companion on some of my summer travels. I got to visit LA for work and polished off his chats with Jason Schwartzman, Parker Posey and John Mulaney on the plane. I was in LA the same day he interviewed President Obama and relished the national conversation surrounding that episode. I started my Maron fandom just early enough that I could listen to the Obama episode as a devotee, not a bandwagoner. (Recent gems have included his interviews with Constance Zimmer, Ed Asner and Vince Gilligan, and the Obama post-mortem episode he recorded with his producer.)

Sir Ian McKellan is the guest on today’s episode, and he asks Maron about who typically listens to his podcast. “I don’t think I have a demographic; it’s more of a disposition,” Maron replied. I smiled when he said that because it made me think of a paragraph that caught me from his email newsletter earlier today: “It rained a lot here in LA the other day. We needed it. I get weird when it rains. My mind drifts. It’s not necessarily bad but it’s not great. I can’t really put into words what happens but there is sort of a romantic, hopeless feeling to it all and it’s okay. I need it. It’s a deep feel. I don’t think I could live somewhere where it rains all the time though. It would be hard not to become goth.” I pretty much identify with every sentence there, which I think means I am of the target disposition.

 

 

Another cultural interest this summer – I don’t know if I’d call it an “obsession” per se – has been the new movie crop. It’s a good summer, in my estimation. To date, I’ve seen Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Love and MercyInside Out and Amy and would recommend each one. (I saw Amy just this past weekend and it’s all I can think about, really. Incredibly well-told and sensitive, but watching it, your heart breaks for the brilliant Ms. Winehouse.)

To mark my 25th birthday earlier this month, I made a list of 25 things I want to accomplish in my 25th year, and one was to write about each new movie I see this year – whether it’s a new-new movie like the ones listed above, or a new-to-me movie, like Philomena, which I watched on the plane ride home from my trip to London and Paris (more on that later). I have some catching up to do in the writing department, but I feel like I’ve seen some meaningful films in the last couple months.

Item #2. The Europe trip. It was freaking amazing. I’d never been to Europe before but had been dying to visit. I really need to write a whole post about the trip – I have notes and thoughts scribbled everywhere but I should pull them together before I forget too much. Already, I find myself remembering little things here and there that I already started forgetting – meals we ate, cool subway stations I liked, that kind of thing. But the larger feeling is still intact. I hadn’t really gone somewhere new since moving to New York three years ago. I went to Disney World, or Portland, or Chicago – all places I’d already been. So it was invaluable to experience something completely new. To be somewhere with a language barrier. To spend almost two weeks away from the city, all its responsibilities and assumptions.

The place that felt newest was Versailles. Of course London and Paris felt new, but they were still cities. I could at least understand how they felt, in a way. Versailles was out of this world. I couldn’t believe I was on my own planet. There were gardens that stretched on forever and rooms walled with marble in a shade of purple that I can’t get out of my mind.

What struck me most about London was the constant juxtaposition of old and new. You get that in New York to a degree, but in London it’s amplified. It’s an awesomely designed Tube station in the shadow of a tower built in the 1000s. And it’s like that all over the city.

I fell in love with the museums in both cities. The Victoria & Albert Museum and Tate Modern especially drew me in during our London leg. In Paris, the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay. I discovered some new-to-me artists whose work I want to further explore, like the illustrator George Condo whose wry sketches fascinated me at the Tate, or the post-impressionist Felix Vallotton at the d’Orsay (that museum in particular had a layout conducive to better understanding the timeline of certain artistic movements).

There is oh-so-much-more to talk about when it comes to that trip. It whet my appetite for travel and I can’t wait to visit Europe again. In the meantime, I’m trying to take the wonder of that trip and apply the same feeling to my normal life. That’s going alright so far.

As “summer things” go, those are the biggest items. My head feels clearer having them down on the page. And now I need to finish packing.

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Trips to Heaven, Lessons in Humility and Dates with Duane Reade

Well, the first week at Rodale is done! So far, it’s been wonderful. I have already begun real public relations work and work with some cool people. Making the transition from student life to working world is difficult to say the least, but I’m getting there.

The week fit nicely into three sections:

1)    Trips to Heaven

Okay, so not real heaven, but it was as close to heaven as you can get: the Rodale office supply closet. On Friday morning, I got to go “shopping” for office supplies to keep at my desk. I may as well have been a kid in a candy store looking at all of those staplers, binders, paper clips, folders and Sharpies in one place.

Here’s a little snapshot of what I picked up on my shopping trip:

With dry erase markers, I can now utilize my white board!

Another cool trip I got to take was to the Museum of Arts and Design, where an exhibit called “Bespoke” is currently on display. The exhibit features some pretty amazing custom-designed bicycles. You couldn’t take pictures, but the detail that went into creating those bikes was obvious. I went with two other PR people from Rodale because the museum was hosting a panel discussion that night about bikes as a form of urban transportation and the editor of Bicycling magazine (a Rodale publication that I’m doing a lot of PR work for) was moderating.

My admission ticket for the Museum of Arts and Design; please note the very official-looking "Landsem, Paige" e-mail printout above the ticket.

2)    Lessons in Humility

The combination of being in a huge new city and starting a (semi) real job forces you to learn a lot of lessons right off the bat.

A lot of these lessons could have been learned the easy way if I had just sucked it up and whipped out a map; I am trying so hard to be one of the locals, who always knows where she is going. But, I’m not a local and I don’t know where I’m going. So, I get lost. I go the wrong way on the subway.

More than once this week, I was forced to stop and ask for directions and be the helpless idiot from out of town who can’t find her MTA subway card buried in her wallet.

Thankfully, I haven’t made any really bad mistakes that have permanently damaged my pride or reputation (although I did write “devise” where I meant to write “device”, which was pretty embarrassing). But, I have learned that it’s important to take a step back and remember that you still have a lot to learn – and plenty of time in which to learn. You don’t have to be a local or a smart PR person right away. You just have to be humble and willing to learn.

3)    Dates with Duane Reade

If you haven’t been to New York City, Duane Reade is the convenience store on every corner. It’s basically Rite-Aid or Walgreens, only it’s called Duane Reade. I can honestly say that I have purchased something at Duane Reade every day so far except for Friday. That may be sad, but it’s the truth.

And aside from Duane Reade, I’ve also had dates with some other local restaurants; it’s been fun exploring the lunch spots around the Rodale office. While I’ll start bringing my lunch to work, I’ve been able to try out a deli right next to the office, a great little Japanese/bento place in the building and a nice Italian restaurant just a few blocks away. All were great – now it’s just a matter of keeping myself away from Five Guys Burgers and Fries down the street.

That’s about it for now. I’ll leave you with this picture of the top of the Chrysler Building at night, which, while taken with a lame cell phone camera picture, is still kind of cool.

The Chrysler Building at night, along with the steady stream of cabs.

Thanks for reading!