Middle child


I’m getting married!!! The wedding is in September. It is mid February right now. And while that sounds almost-a-year away, 192 days does not feel too long to, well, plan EVERYTHING!!! Invitations to design, music to book, favors to make, food to decide on, chairs to find, places to reserve. Not to mention a dress to buy!

I am missing not being in Jo’burg for the planning with you, my troop of slaves/sisters/bridesmaid. Part of me conjures up images of us paging through magazines long into the night, giggling over dreadful ideas, collaborating over craft production, group cake-tastings, dress trials. Not to mention all the planning with the groom-to be: learning to dance, food tasting, musician testing… However, beyond the emotional tie, New York must be one of the greatest cities to be a bride-to-be. From trunk shows to countless bridal expos, deisgners at your finger tips, every vendor for every wish you can conjure up, an entire industry created for no-expense-spared weddings.  While I certainly do not fall into the latter category, the extensiveness of wedding frenzy in New York is almost palatable.

My fellow engaged work mate and I watched Bride Wars somewhat ceremoniously. The same engaged-mate and I attended The Wedding Party at the Palace Hotel, a mind boggling expo of all things wedding, from fashion shows to gelato carts, calligraphers and cakes. I realized engaged-mate and I are becoming bride-nerds when we signed up for a Victoria Secret focus group to discuss underwear and find out “what type of bride are you”. Flirty, natural or traditional? All brides of the world can be boxed into three categories. Nonetheless, we walked away with generous voucher so we were smiling.

This weekend marks my debut into the world of THE dress hunt. Accompanied by mom, we are paying visits to designers, salons and more designers in order to find THE one (read find THE one that mother-of-the-bride-to-be is going to make). I approach this weekend with much excitement and a fair does of anxiety. I mean, the dress is everything right? Well, no, not everything, but I am secretly hoping I will experience a similar legendary “When I met him I just knew” that I felt for the groom-to-be.

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As I was waiting outside a quaint little health shop while my dinner was being prepared amongst alfalfa sprouts and gogi berry concoctions, I was imagining how I would describe the scene to you… In fact how I would describe the walk from my apartment, across two avenues, and down one street in order to pick up my health pizza (sounding decidely unhealthy sitting next to its menu-neighbor of homemade silky fofu). The route from A (my apartment on 11th Street and Avenue C) to B (the health restaurant serving, and I quote, “innovative organic cuisine” on 10 street and Avenue A) entailed a walk through Nigeria, past Hipsters Paradise (sidestepping the Middle East and Italy-ville in the form of cafe Vinieros on the way), with step or two in wonderland (or did the man in a full velvet suit, pointy shoes and a top hat and the lady in a bo-peep dress wonder into my land?) in order to get to the above mentioned oragically innovative restaurant in the heart of the East Village NY. I must say however, that while I waited for the above mentioned health pizza I sat next to a man on the bench outside who ordered three separate and consecutive servings of the same flavour soup, I thought I might have detoured through the nuthouse too (especially when I discovered it had been enriched with dulse, basil and a dash of propolis that boosts the body’s healing power…). And all of this in 15 minutes on Sunday while I pop out to get some dinner…

Welcome to my world. The inexplicable city of NY where the bizarre becomes the everyday and normality is but a rumour. It keeps you alive. On your toes. An adult’s playground which prevents you from ever submerging into the mundane. Nutcases are your neighbors and inspiration is your daily bread.

Last weekend while I headed out to the Mets’ stadium to watch them take on the Yankees in my first baseball game, I read Elwyn Brooks White’s take on the city on a poster in the subway. Being part of the category “the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something” this resonanted with my love for this place:

“There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter–the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these trembling cities the greatest is the last–the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion.”

Who knows which were natives, commuters or settlers in my dash outside for dinner on this summer’s night, but the passion was as evident as the humidity.

According to the Chinese, the year of the Golden Pig occurs only once every 600 years. One could thus say it’s a significant year. 2007 was a significant year for me. I should have seen it coming because throughout 2006 I kept thinking it was 2007.

It was a year of extremes: I cried my eyes out and laughed til I cried. I had some of the best days of my life, and the worst day. There was no specific changing event: no deaths or births, or moves to another country. But there were many moments that changed me or at least revealed something new. I danced with with more abandon, I visited new cities. I became more adventurous. I got very little sleep. I had my heart broken. I lost my best friend. I fell in love. Twice. I realised that not everything is possible but also learned that you are never given a wish without the power to realise it. I spent my first Christmas away from my family. I made friends I want to keep forever. I questioned myself. About many things. And didn’t find as many answers but realised that’s life. I don’t know if I would say I grew up, but I got to know myself a bit better.

As you know I have just finished studying. I’m looking for a job. I’m moving apartments. And I have no idea what is going to happen. A perfect way to start a new year. I just have to figure out what I want to wish for…

Happy 2008 sisters!! Wishing you the wings to fly high, the vision to dream widly, the heart to love deeply, and the spirit to embrace all the beauty in life.

American novelist Thomas Wolfe said “One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” It’s a welcoming thought but I didn’t feel I belonged from the moment I stepped off the plane. I felt overwhelmed. I felt excited. But I felt like a stranger in a city of strangers. The other school of thought says you have to earn your stripes as a New Yorker. Well, the 25th of this month marked, to the day, my arrival in New York two years ago. And I now feel I belong. This amazes me. I have been living in New York for two years!!! I had the dreams that many have of experiencing New York  but I never imagined it would be the city I would come to call my second home.

So I would like to make a toast, to the greatest city in the world:
Here’s to waking up one day and seeing the beauty in the city’s dirty streets
Here’s to once living in a room with one window, and to views of brick walls.
Here’s to thinking a studio the size of a walk-in closet is a great find.
Here’s to my five-floor walk-up.
Here’s to hailing down cabs in peak traffic. In the rain.
Here’s to cab ride stories. And to the enviable driving skills of the drivers.
Here’s to cheering with the audience at Bryant Park when New York is mentioned in a film.
Here’s to wearing black.
Here’s to knowing where to get the best cup of coffee.
Here’s to the best bagels in the world.
Here’s to Saturday brunch in the village. And runs along the Hudson. To late night dinners and later night parties.
Here’s to a city that never sleeps.
Here’s to the delicate intricacies of the different neighborhoods. To countless cities on one island. To discovering a different world on your doorstep each day.
Here’s to getting around without a map. To knowing which way is uptown. To understanding the subway.
Here’s to the one train. To the art of jaywalking. To waiting inches away from speeding traffic rather than waiting safely on the sidewalk to cross the street.
Here’s to New Yorkers. To those that make you laugh. And cry. To those that drive you insane. To those that make you know why you live here.
Here’s to my Mexican flower vendor, my Israeli grocer, my fellow South Africans, my Italian super, my Korean postman, my Japanese flatmate, my Canadian best friend and my American friends, my Chinese laundry guy, my favorite Croatian bartender, and my Indian newsstand man. To the strangers. And the people I’ve yet to meet.
Here’s to the firemen. And the gentlemen. And the whistles of the builders.
Here’s to fire escapes. And rooftops. And to Central Park.
Here’s to not noticing sirens anymore. To a silence that never is. To sweltering summers and subzero winters.
Here’s to extremes.
Here’s the changing colors of the Empire State Building at night. To the lights above the skyscrapers, the closest thing we have to stars. To infinite possibility.
Here’s to you, New York.

This is a true story. It happened (or is happening???) to some one you know. Yours truly.

Jamba Juice is a smoothie chain. My favourite drink is a medium carrot and oragnge juice. Yummo. Ok, so last week I go into Jamba and am told about a special offer- get a free smoothie if you buy a Jamba card for $25. The card works like a voucher so I thought why not… They don’t expire and I go there often enough. Going through the process, the machine (or whatever it is that activates these cards) refuses to work. So I said, don’t worry about it, I will just buy a single medium carrot and orange juice. The lady serving me felt so bad that the card didn’t work that she gave me the juice for free anyway!

A few days later I go back to the same branch and, recognizing me, the lady said the machine is now working and I can get the card. Great. Especially considering I had already had the free juice. But she gave me another free one anyway.

A day or two after that I pop into another Jamba branch (going through a carrot-orange obsession at the mo) and order a medium carrot and orange juice. They by mistake made a a large (which in American terms is HUGE), apologised and gave me the large at no extra cost.

The next time I go to Jamba, yet another branch, the exact same thing happens.

And wait, the story does not end there…

Yesterday I ran into Jamba before calss to get, yes, you guessed it, a medium carrot and orange juice. But alas, they had run out of carrots. The lady that was serving me (the original one) felt so bad that she gave me a voucher for a free smoothie next time I go in!

Here is a little poem for you. Someone gave it to me…

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look will easily unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

Oh, they do care.

Having interned as a trend spotter in New York for a season I am fully aware of the industry involved in searching out the coolest looks on the street to inspire next month’s look of the moment. I spent many a day on a street corner in Williamsburg or downtown Manhattan taking pics of the genius style found in this city. I still enjoy blogs like Facehunter and The Satorialist, and sites such as Refinery29 to see what’s happening in street fashion in New York and beyond.

So the other day when I came across Ugly Outfits New York, I have to admit (with a bit of guilt) that I had a little chuckle. This blog documents, in their words, “every wrong ensemble in New York City” with the aim to “school the fashion retarded” and eliminate all the uggs on the planet. Genuis I tell you- Until the day I see myself (God forbid) on their pages!!!

People say that you can wear what you like in New York City and no one cares. I agree you can wear what you like, but they certainly do care.

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