UES Observations

Above the department stores at 59th Street, between the banks of the East River and the horse-drawn carriages of Central Park, South of East 96th and the gateway to East Harlem… lies an area of New York City expected to maintain a certain level of class.  Glamour, allure, style… No- I don’t mean fashion magazines.  I’m referring to a highly coveted neighborhood in the borough of Manhattan: The Upper East Side.  A step above, if you will.  And I will.  What other area of NYC currently has a hit CW show based around the propensities of its population?  Where else can you find the trendiest martini bar next to a divey Mexican joint, a café founded in 1898 happily sharing a wall with Barnes & Noble…  Dolce and Gabbana just 2 blocks West of yet another Gristedes market… (Westerners – this is a grocery chain pronounced “Griss-tee-dees.”)  

I have noticed, in my now five months as a resident here, that the only divide in this neighborhood is the way we view ourselves: Properly Stylish? or Stylishly Proper?  Lexington Avenue partitions this swanky district, and even seems to guide its population one way or the other in the question of style and properness.  
West of the divide, one can find hoards of roadkill- I mean- mink coats on both women and men; diamonds and gold and rubies – oh my; blonde haired babies being pushed in fancy strollers by African au pairs.  But most importantly – walking down Madison Avenue, it’s easy to spot that the people here are truly “Properly Stylish.”  Pearl necklaces, along with other timeless fashions, guide the style and grace of patrons at Aureole.  And don’t even get me started on the fashions these residents’ pooches are sporting.  You know that you’ve hit rock bottom when you actually covet the puffy fur-lined vest that that Italian Greyhound is wearing.  Can animals wear fur?  Between Fifth and Lex, the answer is a firm “yes.”
Now over to my neighborhood – yes, the “Stylishly Proper” area.  While maintaining a luxurious air, the residents of the four avenues East of the 4/5/6 subway line rule the streets with a younger, hipper, more realistic approach.  Think of a class that realizes the value of money, works hard every day, and takes advantage of a sunny afternoon.   Here is where the street vendors thrive… what would I do without $5 pashminas in every color?  I actually saw coats on sale for $20 a few days ago.  It is clearly evident, perhaps because this side of UES is quite younger, that we are still a little thrifty, but we like to look good.  Incorporating a deal of class with the understanding of current trends into the reality of “now.”  Stylishly Proper.  Of course, the canine fashions are not lacking over here either…  
Is it bad to walk through a Petco and ask yourself “Could I maybe fit into that sweater?

Pardon the inter- ruption… I don’t mean to interfere with your plans for the day, but I… I have something to say.  Oh, and check out the art to the right…. love it.

  1. Walking around with a four-month old kitten in a knapsack on your person is not generally regarded as “normal” by Upper East Siders.
  2. Upright Citizens Brigade trumps all other improv comedy schools.   
  3. The Ritz (well I’ve only seen the first half so far) is extremely funny and entertaining, and would be even better if I were a 50-year-old gay man.
  4. I have gotten pretty good at making auditors laugh (with me, not at me) – while still not getting a job in a show.
  5. New York gets kind of cold in November.  What will January be like?
  6. It is not as easy as I thought it would be do wash all of my clothes in one day.
  7. Like I said, UCB trumps all others, and one reason is this, which talks about the SNL performance at the UCB theater last night, which raised money for the Writers Guild Strike Fund and figuratively smashed poo in the producers’ faces. 
  8. The Lower East Side has some very interesting live music venues.  Some notable names include “The Living Room” and “Arlene’s Grocery.”  Good times. 
  9. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is an outstanding piece of literature, but according to my roommate, not a very good Broadway musical. (This is not to be confused with Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein, which is reportedly the best musical in the history of musicals.  I have tickets for the December 30th matinee!)
  10. When you find a good pair of boots at Steve Madden for 20% off, you should buy them in two colors.  I know I did.
  11. Another reason to defend UCB’s superiority is the fact that there will be a (and you are soooo lucky to know about this before the fact) live performance of NBC’s Emmy-winning TV show 30 Rock tomorrow evening, also at the UCB theater to raise money for the writers who struck out, I mean – are striking.  Check out this desperate craigslist post.
  12. I learned how to do links today.
  13. In an effort to emphasize how amazing UCB is, I will inform you that I signed up for “201”, the next course in the series of classes formed by some of NYC’s best comics.  I love these classes, and hopefully one day, can show you- whoever you are- that I am funny.
13 is my lucky number.  That’s all folks.  
Oh, here’s something cool you should watch if you like indie rock – an awesome artist named Levi Weaver, who I saw last year at the Imogen Heap concert and is coming to my town next month.  And yes, we are myspace buddies – and we message back and forth like BFFs.  For ser.


Weekends in October

Today I had the pleasure of a free day. After a lazy morning indoors, I retreated out to the wild streets of upper Manhattan. And I mean wild. I got at least three scornful looks from Botox-injected Park avenue princesses within ten minutes – probably directed towards my $2 rubber flip flops paired with my $20 Target dress. [It’s pronounced “Tar-jaay”] I couldn’t care less on this day. After a pleasant walk down Madison Avenue to the East 70’s (note aforementioned scorning session), I ventured into the area of Central Park infested with New Yorkers who just can’t get enough of the outdoors. At first I thought it was a rare breed, or even tourists – these people who were always lounging in the grass, playing frisbee, or roller skating down the sidewalk… but I realized that that is just how many Manhattanites actually behave. Unlike California, where great weather is hardly scare, New York experiences a solid “Winter” which excludes this sort of outdoor gallavanting. The people of the East Coast seem to be more appreciative of a beautiful early autumn day, and not a moment of precious sunshine goes to waste. (Note: The picture here was taken this afternoon by the Boathouse in Central Park.) After my enjoyable excursion through the park this afternoon, I couldn’t help but wonder how it is I got so lucky to end up here. I strolled back to the 77th and Lex subway station and chatted with my brother, Kyle, about what a beautiful day I had. I guess I should go outside as much as possible to enjoy these last days of summer (trust me, it’s still hot enough here to consider October 7th summer) before a chilly breeze will set itself propelling through the streets of the spectacular city. Happy birthday Dad!


Firstly, I want to say: Use this map if anyone is ever name-dropping Manhattan neighborhoods. You can nod your head in agreement, and maybe even catch them in a mistake, like “Ohh… actually my friend, Ashley Anne Harrell lives in Yorkville, Burrough of Manhattan, New York City, New York State, United States of America, Earth.

With that, here are some of my recent observations – whether in Yorkville or Chelsea…

My Neighborhood:
1. The “park” on the corner. This outdoor seating area is technically considered a park, but is just a little concrete area with some flowers growing in boxes around metal benches. There is a man who sits there all day, harassing the little old ladies who come to sit/watch/talk. I think the man looks a little creepy, a little annoying… but the ladies shoot it all back his direction. I think this is single senior behavior.
2. Construction. New York City public transportation boasts the arrival of a new subway line – to be finished by 2013… Well they are doing their first round of construction slash demolition right at the corner of my block. My next-door neighbor told me that 2nd Avenue used to be lined with beautiful old trees, which were removed shortly before the jack hammering and bull-dozing began. I’m not complaining on this one, because it’s an advancement for the city – but it just sucks that the neighborhood lost a lot of it’s “charm.”
3. Traffic. It’s different than California, folks. Taxi drivers will kill you if you get in their way… think – Frogger. Because of all the construction on 2nd Avenue, a lot of the sidewalks have been moved and destroyed, so this makes street-crossing a sticky situation. And there are traffic cops… but they don’t do much. Look both ways.
4. The massage parlor downstairs. It’s a seedy little joint next to Koito Sushi (Koito makes Brian think of the word “coitus”). When you walk by this place, you notice the pink curtains and neon sign which is mysteriously always displaying “open.” The most distressing feature of this business is the video feed that runs 24/7, displaying someone’s legs being massaged. [shudder]
5. Water tower. There are always people working on it. I can see it perfectly out my window.
6. Koito Sushi. How can they afford to always have half price sushi? Why don’t they just change the prices on their menus, and instead they are just a cheap sushi place?
7. Strollers. We all know you have a baby – in a stroller… but, can you please get off your cell phone and move over to allow others to walk on the sidewalk? I think it’s an upper-east-side thing.
8. Key Food. They always have a decent 6-pack for $3.99.
9. Crowe’s Nest. While on the subject of beer, this is an Irish bar with charm and some good happy hour prices… and awesome accents! Not bad for a half block away.
10. Sixth Floor Walk-up It’s not as bad as I thought!

New York City:
1. Male Attention. It seems to be thrown around every which way… I’m just not used to getting cat calls or sweet nothings whispered into my ears from passing strangers. Yeah… it’s sorta weird.
2. Buses. If you are talking on your cell phone while you swipe your metro card, and it’s expired, the bus driver won’t say anything.
3. Sudoku. Is a great thing to play while you ride the subway. I have it on my cell phone. But it’s annoying when the guy next to you is sorta looking over your shoulder and you think to yourself “Ohmygod does he see something I don’t?!” and so you frantically try to finish the puzzle as quickly as possible so as to prove your worth and intelligence to this perfect stranger. Or maybe that’s just me.
4. The Village. A fabulous place to bar hop – “Peculiar Pub” serves over 300 beers… seriously. And you have to try “Magic Hat” beer if you’re ever on the East Coast. It’s spectacular.
5. Upright Citizen’s Brigade. The best place in the city to see long form improvisation… especially since I start my improv classes there next week!
6. Trader Joe’s. Located in Union Square, this is the sole TJ’s in Manhattan. Great shopping, great prices, but I don’t recommend going at 6:00pm on a weekday. Actually I highly recommend that you stay far far away from it at that time.
7. Craigslist. Limitless possiblilities are available on that site… I found someone who gives out free tickets to movie screenings for film critics. She’s added me to her address book, so she now sends me an email every time she gets free tickets! Awesome entertainment for FREE – I saw “The Kingdom” two weeks before it came out… but it wasn’t that great.
8. Taxis. Just as they are particularly scary to see as a pedestrian crossing the street, these yellow machines are just as terrifying from the inside. But they can get you from here to there FAST. By the way, the picture to the left is from an extreme publicity scheme by HBO for Sopranos… hehehe.
9. Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts. This place has way more than the music library at UCSB – we’re talking CDs, sheet music, books, magazines, plays, dialect instruction tapes, videos, DVDs, so much! And it’s completely free to all NYC residents. The public library system here is unbelievable… I just can’t believe it sometimes.
10. Times Square Solicators. I hate when you’re trying to get from point A to point B in Times Square, and all these people keep coming up to you saying “You like comedy? You like comedy? Wanna go to a free comedy show?!” “NO!” I answer, “I HATE COMEDY.” Then they look at you like, “Really?” And you think to yourself, “I love sarcasm.”

Back online!

Note: This was written earlier today, so forgive the rants – but I have internet now! I guess you might have inferred that from the fact I am posting a new blog containing a recent picture…

Not having internet is a real pain. I have been able, from time to time, to pick up an errant wireless signal from an unsuspecting tenant – but unfortunately, this is not enough to allow me to work from my “home office”. I actually called Time Warner Cable this morning to cancel my service (Verizon is hooking me up today), and they told me that if I had signed up as a business account, I would have had my service set up immediately. Jerks. Okay, enough whining and complaining.

I live in New York City! What could be better than that? How about living in a fabulous apartment in the best neighborhood of New York City? Being able to see some of your best friends from college on a regular basis while living in a fabulous apartment in the best neighborhood of New York City? I could go on – but I will spare you. Let’s see… what has happened since my last update? Well, we finally got our furniture from Ikea delivered, including our new couch and dining chairs! We bought a dining table last week, and now our place is starting to come together. I have kept myself occupied with little projects around the apartment including painting the coffee table, installing shelves, and buying an air conditioner (thank God!). This weekend was a nice four-day vacation – Brian and I went to see Shakespeare in the Park, The Public Theater presenting “Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. It was fabulous! We got slightly dressed up and enjoyed our free entertainment, along with hundreds others who also waited in line earlier in the day for the free tickets. On Saturday, Jess and I got an excuse to act like tourists and walk through the park eating Mister Softee and taking pictures with Drew, a first time visitor to New York! That night, we went to a fantastic bar in the East Village, and enjoyed schooling two upstate New York brats on how to play Beirut like a Santa Barbarian. Sunday was a lazy day around the neighborhood; I went out for a walk along the East River and saw “Becoming Jane” at a nearby movie theater. Yesterday morning, my friend Nick Robertson arrived from JFK quite early, so he basically buzzed in, walked up the six flights of stairs, and crashed for a few hours. When we got up, we traveled into Brooklyn and met up with his new roommate, and his sister and brother-in-law. The five of us saw their soon-to-be apartment in Bushwick, then drove down to Coney Island for the real fun! After strolling along the decaying boardwalk and hitting up Nathan’s Original for hot dogs (I only ate one, not 66), we decided to shell out $6 for the Freak Show. Best six bucks I ever spent. Not only did I get to see a man stick a running power drill through his nose, a fur-covered Mexican walk a tightrope, and a tattooed woman breathing fire – I involuntarily volunteered to pull a three-foot jagged steel sword out of a woman’s throat. This was not a trick. She actually had it down her throat. [Shudder.] But I think the best part of this show was “Serpentina.” Especially when she dipped the 12-foot python’s head into her mouth. Good ol’ freak show fun. I ended the evening by heading back up to Brooklyn and eating pizza on Jenson and Jess’ rooftop. Quite a fabulous weekend, if I might say so myself. As for today, I’m patiently waiting for Verizon’s “self-installation kit” to arrive via UPS. As soon as I get that, I’m back on track with my normal life.

Kit arrived. I’m a happy gal.