Summer in the City: MLB All-Star Game and Culture for Free

Just two months ago, my humidity-hating, sweater-loving self was dreading another sticky summer in New York City. Thanks to a number of recent events, however, I’m changing my tune.

Saturday night, I went with a group of friends to the Mariah Carey/New York Philharmonic concert on the Great Lawn in Central Park. I hadn’t worked myself up with excitement over this show; while I don’t dislike Mariah Carey, I don’t know much of her music beyond “All I Want for Christmas is You,” which she is unlikely to sing in July. But, it was free, the weather cooperated, and I tagged along with some Mariah-loving friends.

It turned out to be more of a New York Philharmonic concert (Mariah only sang three or four songs), but it was wonderful. Some of the Phil’s set included classic New York songs such as “New York, New York” and the song from On the Town (which I guess is also titled “New York, New York”? Never pondered that before.), and some of the score from the recently released 42.

My favorite part, though, was former Yankees manager Joe Torre reading “Casey at the Bat,” the famous baseball poem, with the New York Philharmonic providing musical accompaniment. I had no idea this would be part of the program, and when the number was announced, I winced and thought it might be a little cheesy. On the contrary. Torre delivered the poem perfectly, and the Phil’s background music – mimicking players’ movements and crowd excitement with its sound – added an element of emotion to the story I’d never felt before with just a straight reading. (My iPhone video of the last part of the performance is too big to deal with here, and I’ve had trouble uploading it to YouTube. I’m a little surprised MLB hasn’t put the entire thing online, but this clip will have to suffice for a link. Just trust me; it was great, and indelible New York memory for me.)

Hope and me at FanFest

Hope and me at FanFest

Thanks to a friend who works for a PR firm handling lots of ASG-related events, I scored two tickets to the All-Star FanFest at the Javits Center. I forced my sister, only marginally interested in baseball, to come with me (though we did clear up the difference between a no-hitter and perfect game for her, so it was a success) and we enjoyed the experience. I would have found FanFest to be the absolute coolest thing in the world if I was a wide-eyed 12-year-old, for whom baseball was a relatively new obsession, traveling to the game with my dad who’d be willing to fork over $$ for a cool new t-shirt and autographed baseball. I may be a little too old to be blown away by the spectacle, but it really was a cool set-up, and they had some especially great displays on the history of the Mets and the Negro Leagues.

Plus, since I wasn’t going to the Home Run Derby or the game itself, I loved getting to be immersed in some part of the All-Star experience while it was in New York. I live right off the 7 line, the train that’s carried thousands of fans to and from Citi Field the past few days, so it was cool to see all this – baseball-crazed kids toting loot bags through FanFest, tourists sporting their team jersey, thousands of passengers trickling onto the 7 train for the ride out to Flushing – happening in my backyard.

Aside from ASG events, I’ve also been able to enjoy a couple of NYC music events in Central Park lately. Yesterday, the New York Philharmonic played its annual show in the park, so I made another trip up to the Great Lawn to hear the performance. Then, tonight, the Metropolitan Opera performed various selections at the park’s SummerStage, and it was lovely. Just enough of the day’s heat had subsided that it wasn’t totally miserable outside, and I loved how the show featured only three singers, each performing a number of songs, like the Met was giving a few of its young stars a chance to really show their chops. My favorite part was their final number before the encore: a three-song West Side Story medley.

Both events were absolutely free, too (as was the Mariah concert)! Amazing free music, enjoyed in the company of friends on a warm summer evening, under the shadow of skyscrapers. This summer in New York is turning out to be about as perfect as it gets.

A Brief Summary of the Last Two Months

Last week, when Twitter unveiled its new profile design, it dawned on me that I hadn’t posted here in nearly two months. As of yesterday, it has officially been two months, and while last week was the “wake-up call” – if I voluntarily share this URL with the entire internet, I should probably keep it current – I’ve honestly started and and abandoned at least ten drafts since I last posted.

Each time I tried to write something, I told myself the post was too detailed, too emotional, too this, too that. I didn’t want it to be a photo album of my summer in New York, and I didn’t want it to be twenty paragraphs on how much my life has changed since I last posted. So now, it’s this awkward “my blog is still here!” post. That’s what I get for being inconsistent.

Anyway, without being too photo-album-y and too emotional, I’ll make it a little of both and share a brief summary of what the last two months have held – if only so I can get past all that information and free myself to write with a fresh start.

When I last blogged, Ichiro had just become a Yankee. I remain traumatized.

Since then:

  • The biggest change over the past two months has been switching jobs. I could go on and on and on about how much I loved and learned from my experience as a Mets media relations intern (and in a later post, I might), but in mid-August, I accepted a temporary position with Sports Illustrated’s communications team. It was the right fit at the right time, and while it was difficult to say goodbye to an awesome group of co-workers and a press-box view for Mets games, I love where I’m at right now. I do a mix of traditional media relations work and social media promotion for the magazine and SI.com. (Shameless plug: Follow us here and here.)
  • Another big move: My roommate and I signed a one-year lease on our apartment. It was probably the most real-life-adult thing I’ve ever done, and it feels great to be settled. It sounds cheesy, but in my mind, signing that lease meant I really made it in New York. Of course, not much about my current situation is guaranteed to last forever, but there was enough permanence about the move to make me feel like I accomplished a big part of my longtime goal to live and work in NYC.
  • I’ve been a little homesick. (Disclaimer: This is the emotional section!) At first, I felt guilty for being homesick. I thought, I’m in the coolest city in the world! Even the worst day here should be better than the best day somewhere else. That’s a pretty stupid way to think, because sometimes it stinks to be relatively alone (compared to the big community I found in college) and away from all that had been familiar for the previous 21 years. I’m feeling more comfortable with New York life each day, but going through some tough bouts of homesickness shifted my perspective on several aspects of living and working in the city.
  • In the past month, I’ve seen my sister quite a bit. She’s in her second year at the United States Military Academy at West Point, located 80 minutes up the Hudson River from NYC, so it’s been nice to visit her and have her come into the city, especially with the rest of our family so far away.
  • What else? Oh, college football season started. The Ducks are 4-0 and #2 in the nation. Enough said.

There are countless other experiences I haven’t mentioned – amazing meals, great talks with old friends, making new friends, exploring the city – that aren’t necessarily landmarks, but moments composing an unforgettable time of transition in my life. I wish I had time to do them all justice with a few more sentences, but there’s too much happening right now to dwell on the past. That’s a big part of why I wanted to write this all down. The past is in the past, and I’m eager to move forward while writing about the people, places, ideas and obsessions I encounter along the way.

From Birthday Cakes to Press Box Views: A Lot to Love

Exactly two weeks ago, I was sitting at a PDX gate, waiting to board a JFK-bound red-eye.

Now, I am sitting in my Queens apartment, wondering why we didn’t position our futon closer to the air conditioner.

In the span of two weeks, I’ve basically changed everything about my life (at least the kind of stuff you change on your Facebook “About Me” section and Twitter profile; new city, new workplace, etc.). And while I still want to write about that change (but not in a sappy, emotional play-by-play style), what currently strikes me is how much there is to love about where I am right this second. Here’s my list of the moment:

I love…

…that it’s after midnight and I’m watching a Mariners game, live on MLB.com. (I love this for two reasons: 1) Late night baseball rocks and 2) I’m not geographically blacked out from watching the M’s via MLB.com At Bat apps.)

…that for my birthday on Sunday, my friend bought one of the most delicious cakes I’ve ever tasted:

…that I get to write a short piece for the next installment of Mets Magazine.

…that Newsweek published a special edition about the Beatles (and it only caused my love for Paul to grow).

…that I can sit on our fire escape and look out into a courtyard at the center of a few apartment buildings (inevitably leading me to dream up a Rear Window-type scenario in which I innocently spy on interesting neighbors, then realize that’s only endearing when Jimmy Stewart does it).

…that this is my standard view for New York Mets games:

…that sometimes it gets so hot, I find myself sprawled on the futon, moaning like George Bluth, Sr. when he installed a hot tub in his attic. (Okay, I don’t actually love the heat. But I do a pretty good “Mikey, my eyes!” impression. And this was mostly an excuse to insert an Arrested Development clip.)

…that my roommate and I share an “organized chaos” mindset when it comes to apartment cleanliness: Livable, but with a few dirty dishes in the sink.

…that my sister came to visit on Saturday before heading up to West Point for summer training.

…that earlier tonight, I became the Foursquare mayor of my favorite neighborhood Chinese takeout spot (after only two check-ins!).

…that I live so close to Starbucks, my computer thinks Starbucks’ Wi-Fi network is the default.

…that I get to live, work and play with awesome people who have helped ease my transition from one coast to another.

In New York, this list could be endless. Whether you’re in NYC or not, I’d love to know what’s making your day.

P.S. – You may notice my blog URL is now paigelandsem.com. That’s right: I graduated to the big kids’ world of legitimate domain names. You can still access the site via theopinionpaige.wordpress.com, but it’ll automatically redirect to https://paigelandsem.com/.

First Step into the Future

File under “sentences I never thought I’d actually write”: In a few days, I will be a college graduate living in New York City and interning for a Major League Baseball team.

For weeks, I’ve been afraid to talk about my post-college plans, in part because a) I still feel like I’m only old enough to be a high school freshman; b) there were so many pieces of the puzzle to fill at school (writing my thesis, preparing to graduate, etc.) before I could concentrate on the summer; and c) a handful of people needed to hear from me in person before I blabbed about it online.

All those issues are now taken care of, so I can officially say I’m heading to New York City immediately after graduation to intern in the New York Mets’ media relations department. (And I do mean immediately – my flight leaves mere hours after I graduate on Monday).

My diplomatic, restrained Internet voice tells me to discuss this in diplomatic, restrained terms such as “I’m extremely excited” and “I’m grateful for the opportunity.” Both statements are true, but to be honest, I’m WAAAAY more than excited and grateful. Really, I’m beside myself at the thought of spending my summer at a baseball stadium in New York City, and have to thank a million people who helped open this door for me.

This will only last through the regular season, so a whole new set of “what are you doing with your life?” questions will emerge in a few months. For now, I’m eager to graduate, get to the city, work hard, learn a ton and hopefully launch a career in sports PR. The future feels bright.

Life, Post-Whirlwind.

The last two weeks have been nothing short of crazy.

Since my last post, I have:

• Turned 20
• Seen my mom and sister in person after nearly a month
• Attended baseball games at Citi Field, Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park
• Sat in on a satellite media tour (in which the editor-in-chief of Bicycling does several short interviews with morning news anchors in various cities)

Whew. It’s been a whirlwind, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Tour de France started Saturday, so Bicycling had a lot on its plate. If you’re like me, you associate “Tour de France” with “Lance Armstrong,” but there are a lot of other great riders out there who I am excited to follow this year, like Lance’s bitter rival and defending champion Alberto Contador of Spain.

We’ve been doing a lot of work to promote Bicycling’s coverage of the Tour de France: its website features tons ofslideshows, previews, rankings, analysis and videos. I created a list of notable and reputable cycling bloggers and am now reaching out to those bloggers – basically, showing them how Bicycling is covering the Tour and letting them know that we’d love for them to take advantage of those resources.

It’s awesome, because I get to practice pitching and communicating with media while learning how to pitch bloggers and traditional media differently.

On the morning of my birthday, July 1, we went to a studio in Manhattan where Loren, Bicycling‘s editor, basically sat on a set for three hours and did short interviews with morning news anchors in different cities (known as a satellite media tour, or SMT, in the PR world). She previewed the Tour de France,

Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel was doing an SMT in the same studio that morning - you can see his being announced on the left screen. Loren is on the right.

answering their questions about the race, Lance Armstrong’s chances, doping, etc. My main job was to record the questions she was asked and just soak up the experience while hanging out in a posh “green room” filled with muffin trays. I was able to see and hear all of the interviews through a screen hooked up in the green room. My view:

Despite not being the world’s greatest socializer, I’m doing a pretty good job of keeping busy and getting out into the city with friends. Lately, I’ve been a baseball fiend, seeing Mets, Yankees and Red Sox games (all in one week). I went to the Mets game with a couple of friends – the Mets lost, but it was fun to see their new stadium (it opened last season) and be part of an enthusiastic crowd. Sorry, Yanks fans – I’d take a game at Citi Field or (gasp!) Fenway over Yankee Stadium game any day.

Going to Fenway Park was ridiculously cool – it’s kind of like a baseball Mecca. (Yankee Stadium is, too, but I have

An outside shot of Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox.

been to the new and old stadiums before this year so the excitement has worn off.) Fenway is old with narrow concourses, but Sox fans are great, the atmosphere around the park is fun, and singing “Sweet Caroline” in the middle of the 8th inning – a Fenway tradition – embodied everything that is great about baseball.

Tuesday night, I saw the Broadway performance of Mary Poppins because the housing service I rent through was offering cheap tickets. Yes, it was a little cheesy and geared toward a younger audience, but it was fun, especially the part when Bert tap-danced on the ceiling.

Thursday was my 20th birthday. Birthdays are so much better because of Facebook. Of course, they wouldn’t be the same without the customary phone calls and birthday cards, but opening Facebook to find bunches of notifications from friends and extended family is a sweet reminder of how many fantastic people are in my life and how blessed I am to have such dear friends.

The day was made even sweeter because I got to see my mom and sister. I hopped on the Bolt Bus to Boston after work and met them there so we could spend the long weekend together in a city we’ve never explored. (Bolt Bus = free Wi-Fi and electrical outlets = glorious.)

We toured MIT, which my sister is considering for college, saw the Sox game and walked the Freedom Trail (which I highly recommend – educational and enjoyable, especially if you’re into American history). The Freedom Trail can be a bit of a trek and ye be warned: climbing to the top of the Bunker Hill Memorial will leave your legs in pain the next day.

My sister Hope (left) and I with the Paul Revere statue on the Freedom Trail.

Another cool Boston spot is the JFK Presidential Library and Museum. It’s situated on a beautiful spot overlooking the bay. You can’t go wrong in a museum where they feature a bunch of Jackie’s outfits, Frank Sinatra music and old Walter Cronkite live footage.

After getting in last night, I headed downtown to watch the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks display on the Hudson River. I didn’t get too close in an attempt to avoid a huge mass of people, but I watched from a sidewalk and had a pretty good view. Even more impressive than the fireworks, though, was this (pardon my crappy phone-quality picture):

The Empire State Building decked out in patriotic colors.

Speaks for itself. Hope you’ve had a relaxing 4th of July weekend, and thanks for reading!