Monthly Archives: May 2016

A Word on Flaking…

Photograph by: Stephany Hansm

Photograph by: Stephany Hansm

Since I moved to NY, I have felt myself become much more selective with the people I choose to make time with. This is the result of many different influencing factors which I don’t believe are exclusive to this city – but in a way I think they are amplified by truly embracing the New York City lifestyle to its fullest. I am talking about age, maturity, growing responsibilities, and little extra time – which do not always grow hand in hand.

Today I am particularly talking about flakes: people with the ability to chronically cancel plans at the last minute while coming up with great excuses. If you have a habit of accepting plans with friends and bailing at the last second, please stop. Unless what you want is for them to label you a flake and then stop inviting you to things – in which case, keep canceling. Hope they get the message. My policy for accepting invitations to events/plans I am not interested in going to is: NOT TO ACCEPT. Wait, that means saying no upfront? Yes, say no… I know its scary and you have a fear of never getting invited again, but you can do it. Doing that will save you and the other person so. much. time. Apologize, say you are not feeling up for that particular plan or day, maybe offer up an alternative some other time.

Photograph by: Elizabeth OtaolaPhotograph by: Elizabeth Otaola

On occasion I invite friends out for drinks and they will immediately say: “Thank you for inviting me! Tonight I just want to stay home, but have fun.” Will I stop talking to people that do this? No! Because I understand the feeling. If anything, I appreciate that kind of honesty. On the other side of the spectrum we have the person who constantly says no to plans and never offers an alternative. This person does not want to hang out with you; and if they do, they suck. At life. Please don’t be this person. I will stop inviting people to things if they make a habit of flaking, even if I enjoy the company of these people, flake enough times, I will no longer invest my time in trying to see them. This should work for everyone else.

Flaking is something that I have seen myself put up with less and less for the past year; and therefore, I hold myself to a higher standard as well. I believe my word should be worth gold – even for the little things; and so I try my best not to cancel on friends and family, especially not regularly. I hold myself accountable – you should too. Life is already messy enough; don’t overcomplicate yourself with flakes.

Snapchat by: Elizabeth Otaola

Snapchat by: Elizabeth Otaola

#thoughtsoftheday

Cheers!

In 2016, We Are All Still Lookin’ Swell

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As you can possibly tell, I have not written in a while – at least not on this platform. I have been distracted by the warm weather, the beach, and the morning walks with my dog Sake – whom does not seem to mind trying to run into upcoming traffic (but that is another story). I excused myself from posting because I took a very very long break from New York City, and will be promptly returning to start my new projects.

I think it is self-evident that we are now in a new year, I don’t think I need to point that out but I am doing it anyway.

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Initially, the days leading up to the NYE party I succumbed to the cynic approach of looking at this date like an overhyped, exaggerated affair – and well… it is, truthfully. After all, the only thing that is changing is a couple of numbers on the calendar. Perhaps you will have to throw out your old office calendar and buy a new one (if you still use those things). Part of the fact I was feeling this way may be due to the fact that I knew my NYE party was going to be far from “epic.” It was simply not going to live up to the standard set on the previous year – where I danced until 6am overlooking the Swiss Alps; and then followed my tiring evening with a very, very short skiing morning (because I almost fell asleep on the slopes). No. This year was going to be dinner and sleep. I knew that beforehand.

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What I took away was that the quality of my New Year was definitely not going to be set on the basis of a party on a Thursday night. My NYE may not have been epic, but 2016 can be epic based on what I do with it. We simply should not put so much pressure on a party. With that said, I do have to recognize that the start of the New Year, and the meaning it has for us, does serve an important purpose. It is the time of year where we sit down and reflect on our past year (or past years in my case). Our successes, our failures, the changes in our lives, and what has stayed the same. This is the time where most of us evaluate if we are taking our lives in the right direction.

Even though my life changed in the past year (aka I graduated and moved from Boston to New York), I do not think those changes where a consequence of me actively participating in my life. I believe those changes where a consequence of events that were set in motion years ago, and therefore all I had to do was follow the guidelines.

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Five years ago my life was very different that what it is today, I was different; but the major changes happened in the first three years. In that case I believe I have to take back control. Because if I am to look at my life and think it is successful, I have to see changes; I have to see evolution; and when I don’t see it, I have no one but myself to blame.

On that note, I would like to look to the future and take control over my day to day. As I said on a Facebook post earlier this week: I need to embrace the possibility of failure and be fearless. I recommend that to anyone who is scared to make a change in their life. Because it may be painful and scary at the beginning, but the results can be #fantastic. After all, we know that we regret far more the things we did not do, than the things we did do.

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#letthisyearbelectric

Cheers.

You’re still glowin’, you’re still crowin’

Photo by: Elizabeth Otaola

Photo by: Elizabeth Otaola

It wasn’t much of a feeling but more of an expectation. The expectation of arriving to a place and then feeling you are not meant to be there. The expectation of having a certain experience but then coming into an unexpected reality. That was my weekend in advance. I previewed something that was at odds with myself.

It was Sunday afternoon and I got ready to go to a music festival. I was one of the few attending that was ignorant of the DJs performing – I suspected most people attending knew exactly what they were getting themselves into. I did not.

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I was invited by my very close friend Patricia and her boyfriend. I love them both but I was basically 3th wheeling it. Great. I chose not to let that get to me. I also knew that one of the attendees was an acquaintance of mine – let’s call him “Norway” for now – whom was going with 10 of his closest northern European friends. Norway was surprised to hear I was going to the festival. “It’s a European thing” he said; “You Latin girls don’t dance to this music.” Oh baby don’t you know that us Latin girls dance to any music?

I have to say however, the crowd was very different with what you would find in a Latin party, even an upscale Latin party. A sea of man buns, frosted tips, Scandinavian blond hair, beautiful tall men with shaved legs, girls with blue lipstick, thin but no curves. Everyone wearing sneakers and drinking beer. I don’t like beer.

We. Had. An. Epic. Time.

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The sun was shining and the music shook the floor while we pumped our fists from 5pm to 10pm. When the sun stopped shining the colored lights lit up the crowd. We jumped. People asked me if I was “on” something. I had half a beer and gum. My friend responded we were “high on life,” which sounds so incredibly cheesy but we were. Norway playfully mentioned I shouldn’t move my hips because Europeans don’t dance like that (and it is European music). I said “darling, if the beat allows it, I will move my hips.”

We stuck out. Strangers pointed out that we looked like Latinas (they said “but it’s a good thing”). Not sure what about our looks gave it away quite honestly. Maybe not our look, but our stride. We realized having a good time depends solely on you and the company you keep. The attitude you bring to the dance floor.

We kept dancing. Wait for the drop. Wait for the drop; and we clapped our hands as part of the electrified crowd.

A Constant State of Change

Photo by: Isabella Yitani

Photo by: Isabella Yitani

Today I am thankful. Thankful that I have the privilege to be here. That I have the privilege to write this post – as imperfect as it might be. I am thankful that I was born into a family that provided me with the opportunity to travel; to get to know other cultures other than my own; to learn a language other than my own. I am thankful for the chance to get an education, and to know, that if I fall, my family will be there to catch me. I am thankful for the support they give me each day to find my passion – pursue my dreams. They encourage me yet they do not pressure me.

You see, I come from a strong Venezuelan  male-dominated catholic family. By male-dominated, I do not mean to say misogynistic but that there is a majority of men in my family, however, they do hold the typical patriarchal latin values. I am the oldest in my household with two younger brothers, but I am also referring to my extended family (cousins, uncles, grandparents, etc.). Growing up in this family, there was always a sense of competition among the boys; and I wanted in. I wanted to prove I was capable of doing all of what the boys could do, and maybe more. I hated pink and even wearing dresses (that has changed over time because I realized these were just symbols). I wanted my brothers and cousins to not see me as a girl who needed saving but as someone who could protect herself, and even them.

Photo by: Marisabell Ball

Photo by: Marisabell Ball

What does this have to do with anything I stated in the first paragraph? You might wonder. Well, it is that strive to prove myself, to prove that I can do more, it is precisely the need to prove that I can be more that has gotten me to come to NY on my own after college to make a life for myself here. Maybe after a few years I will leave, but that is another subject.

All of my travels, my education, and adventures that have been facilitated by my family, have ironically led to me becoming estranged from my family’s beliefs  and culture. I have seen, learned, and absorbed values and ideas from across the western world. I have heard and become familiar with the politics of other countries. Experienced socio-economic differences. Seen and tested gender rules in each place I have visited, in each city I have lived in. This constant process has caused me to question my views, to study them, to change them and solidify them.

Photo by: Elizabeth Otaola

Photo by: Elizabeth Otaola

While living in NY, I have seen the diversity. I see it everyday. There are a thousand different views on religion, gender rules, politics, and economy. With the mish and mash of the city comes a certain acceptance that your neighbor probably disagrees with you, and that is alright. An opinion that might have been shocking in my native city, is quite ordinary here.

My extended family is in town, I feel a sense of belonging with them; but it is now that I can feel the difference, the clash. The people that in a lot of ways I am closest to and feel most comfortable with, view the world differently than me. Many of them abhor a lot of the ideas which I have adopted; while they admire my independence and my “free spirit,” as they say. Yet I hold my tongue when it comes to religion and other controversial topics, because I know they will look at me with different eyes in their disagreement. With that, I have learned to accept that many opinions will not change, I have learned to practice patience and detachment.

I am thankful for my family, and I am thankful for my difference. For my “espiritu libre.” Strive to feel the clash, strive to connect with the differences. Strive for constant change.

The struggle is real… for foodies on a budget

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So… Food. Normally one of my favorite topics… or things to do rather. Walking around New York City is an awakening to the senses. Yes. Sometimes it can be quite painful (or disgusting) – but most the time it can prove quite wonderful. The smells come alive in New York every day: the smell of pizza on one corner and the smell of freshly baked cookies on the next. Sound good? This would be paradise city for Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. Thank God that’s fiction; and thank God New Yorkers walk everywhere otherwise are waistlines would not remain in place. If only we could be satisfied by just the smell.

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Today however, I come to you not excited about food, but frustrated. New York City can be quite expensive housing-wise, but if you can control your eating habits, you can get by on a budget in the city. This is not so much for healthy eaters out there…or if you are like me and cannot resist the variety of smells. Yep, if you are willing to eat pizza everyday, you can get a slice for a dollar. What about healthy foods? You may ask; well friend, not an easy feat here if you are on a budget. Turns out Whole Foods (normally seen as an expensive grocery store around the country), is the 2nd cheapest grocery store in Manhattan. What. Yep. The cheapest would be Fairway. I know you are in shock at the moment; so was I. Whole Foods has been even beat out Trader Joe’s because of its deals. OMG I got four Fage Greek yogurts for five dollars!

Yes I am actually excited about Fage.

The thing is people; if you want to stay within budget in Manhattan, you cannot eat out all the time. This is easier said than done. NY has so many little cute places that I want to try! I understand, but then try going to the cheaper places – but let me tell you, they might not be the healthiest – or the prettiest.

Let’s face it though, we all know how the supply and demand law works. Everyone wants to live in NYC, everyone wants to live in Manhattan. Why else would apartments be so expensive in this town? It’s not like Manhattan produces its own food. So why do we do it? Because its New York.

Is that cheesy? probably.. but its true.

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A non-local becomes a non-tourist

We’ve all seen them wandering our streets – we may have been them in someone else’s streets. They walk around in big groups around town; parading themselves proudly. Badly dressed. Carrying big cameras around town. In extreme cases, they even they even wear matching T-shirts with the rest of their group. Yes. I am indeed describing the most stereotypical kind of tourist there is. That is the kind of look that gives Americans a bad rep when traveling around Europe. They are not only found in the old continent however, these hoards of tourists can be observed right here in the city; crowding the streets in Times Square; taking carriage rides; slow-walking in 5th Avenue.

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They will hardly ever venture downtown; hardly ever cross 30th street or above Central Park; and they will stay confined between Park Avenue and Ninth Avenue. If you wish to avoid them, don’t you worry, just stay out of this perimeter (unless you have to work there in which case…).

Those visitors who dare venture go beyond these streets and avenues I call travelers. Obviously these are people who want to explore the city beyond the tourist traps and the “NYC Landmarks.”

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I unfortunately, don’t have the luxury to say that I have never been a part of the first group. Ever since I have been stripped of the fear of traveling solo however, I believe that I have become part of the second group. Even if by traveling I mean going to the next town over on my own for a day. Wandering and getting to know a new city on your own; eating alone at restaurants. It can be an empowering experience with the right mindset. Even though I have been to New York many times before, I am rediscovering it now. I am getting to know it like a local. I still have a long way to go before I even recognize I live here.

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Strive to be in that second group, fight for it. We only have this life and possessing a thirst and hunger for knowledge and new things can prove tremendously fulfilling and exhilarating.

EXTRA: While writing this post, I was sitting downtown in a small shaded table. It was a very sunny and hot afternoon and two strangers approached me asking if they could share the shade of my table. I agreed. These two people had a Bohemian Brooklyn look to them. They were not natives to this town but I could tell they were travelers, explorers who have been in New York for a while. They were from Kosovo; one of them a recognized visual artist and the other one a diplomat. We talked for about an hour about politics, art, philosophy, romance, and traveling. It was by far one of my most unexpected/interesting afternoons I’ve had in New York. With that I learned, if you are social, smart and open to new experiences, NY has a lot to offer the creative and curious mind.

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The New York Speakeasy

Picture this: You dress up on a Tuesday night, ready to hit the town. You are wearing those brand new 6-inch heels, jeans, and a cute top (Guys bare with me). You look great – in your opinion. Your friend wants to meet up for drinks in Nolita, you still don’t know this neighborhood so it’s time to get to know a new part of town. Yay. You get to the corner of Broome and Lafayette, meet up with said friend (who is already a seasoned local even though he is Dutch). He walks you to this cheap-looking diner. Really? This is when you start thinking you may be a bit overdressed, and that instead of a mojito you will be getting tacos. This was my Tuesday.

Oh speakeasies, how well you fool me but how beautiful and lovely you are. As soon as we walk in the diner, we march down some narrow steps (I already mastered the art of walking in stilettos so this was a breeze), then we proceed to walk through the kitchen and finally we reached our destination: La Esquina. This dim lit prohibition-style underground restaurant/lounge brought the costumers back to the 1920s, but with legal and delicious cocktails (unlike the rough drinks of prohibitions). The crowd was hot and trendy; the music was even better with a mix of house and Latin (which is what I like baby).

The revival of the speakeasy as a word-of-mouth bar has made the going out experience a lot more exciting. There is always a little new spot to try, and it feels somewhat special to be included in the “little secret spot.” Now I have a mission to discover new ones… I already have a few names to go by and a few sketchy locations to check out before I reach my prize.

Stay tuned gente.