November Round Up, and an Announcement!

Hey Folks! Welcome to this month’s round-up. We hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving and are, like us, already entrenched in full-on holiday mode as December rolls around the bend. We both enjoyed very brief but lovely jaunts to our Old Kentucky Home for the holiday, and even if Zelda only spent 6 hours of actual Thanksgiving at home, and Scout an only slightly better 12, it still warmed our Southern hearts immensely to get a dose of family and old friends and the comforts of home (namely, beers from here and cookies from here). Now we find ourselves back in Brooklyn, where the temperatures have taken a distinct turn for the wintry, prompting us to bust out the layers and the hot chocolate mix. This past month has been a steady descent into the cozy, as we bundle up and hunker down for another New York winter, and December promises more of the same, with an extra dose of holiday cheer.

What We’re Doing: We dug a little deeper this month, exploring what it takes to become a true New Yorker and the truths we all hide as we pretend we have our shit together. This month was also about friendship, from the things you can only share once you get past the 10 minute mark with somebody you trust, to the joy of celebrating the holidays with friends who have become family. We also logged a lot of screen time, learning valuable life lessons from “Steel Magnolias” and rounding up some of our favorite Thanksgiving specials. And in Just Folks, we took a look back at what we’ve learned thus far, while adding new faces from MississippiTexas, and Georgia.

serial

What We’re Listening To: Our November playlist went old-school, with some of our pre-1965 favorites to groove on through the stormy weather. From Ella, Billie, and Etta to Frank, Buddy, and Elvis, we picked some of our favorites from the greats, with a dash of Edith Piaf thrown in for flair and some Ink Spots and Al Bowlly to throw it really far back. And in other things we’re listening to, Zelda is one of the many folks to recently hop on the Serial bandwagon. We both tend to love anything Ira Glass does (including commencement speeches), and this new project out of WBEZ Chicago is, quite simply, awesome (not to mention incredibly addictive).

Peaky-Blinders-2

What We’re Watching: The holidays are a time for food, family, and television specials — check out our favorites here! Scout’s been enjoying some quality time with Netflix while she waits for a new job to begin. Into British period pieces with addictive soundtracks, amazing cinematography, and Cillian Murphy? Peaky Blinders is for you. (Two series, twelve episodes, an easy two-day watch.) Post-Apocalyptic sci-fi with a side of teenage angst more your speed? Scout’s addicted to The 100. (The first season is only 13 episodes, perfect for a weekend binge.)

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What We’re Reading: We love this United States of Thanksgiving story from the New York Times, and we heartily agree with Chris Gadansky’s definition of a Kentucky Thanksgiving: “If Derby pie is missing? No one in Kentucky wants to live in that kind of world.” We also love this New Yorker review of our lady crush Amy Poehler’s new book and this delightful Love Actually guide to London, courtesy of Buzzfeed. This extremely helpful guide courtesy of Yes and Yes has us ready to face the winter, and this post over on the newly launched Sonima made us feel much better about our confused lives.

Kentucky Dream

What We’re Drinking: Colder weather means hotter beverages, and we’ve been repping our hometown hardcore with the Good Earth blend from Hillbilly Tea and Kentucky Dream coffee from our friends at Heine Brothers (the latter is conveniently available for delivery right to your doorstep, wherever it may be). When the sun goes down and the party cups come out, we’ve been loving Southern brewery Westbrook’s Mexican Cake beer, which, as we discovered at Zelda’s house-warming party this month, pairs excellently with Ghirardelli brownies straight from the pan.

Chai Cookies

What We’re Eating: This month, we are all about these chai sugar cookies courtesy of our homegirl, T-Sweezy. Bakers gonna bake bake bake bake bake, y’all. And in a more festive vein, we’re loving Zelda’s pumpkin chiffon or, if you’re a pumpkin-hating weirdo (cough Scout cough), check out her list of pies that will spice up your Thanksgiving, or your life in general. (P.S. Want even more Zelda in your life? Check out her Guide to Hosting the Ultimate “Gilmore Girls” Thanksgiving over on Buzzfeed for a holiday menu fit for Stars Hollow!)

Gift Guide

What’s On Our Wishlist: Glad you asked! To kick off December and all its festivities, we’re taking a break from our regularly scheduled programming next week to bring you the Official Z&S Holiday Gift Guide! Three days of awesome items found by us for you to give to all the special someones in your life. There’s cool Southern stuff, cool New York stuff, and just plain cool stuff. Check in Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and let the shopping begin!

Want a monthly dose of Z&S delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for our newsletter here! And don’t forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest to make sure you don’t miss out on a single bit of Southern-fried, Brooklyn-based goodness.

Gettin’ Our Pumpkin (Chiff)on

My family is big on traditions. From the stories we tell around the dinner table to the music we play while laying out the Christmas ornaments to the specific phrasing we use to say goodnight, we like things done a certain way, over and over again, until the end of time (usually followed by my father bursting out in “Fiddler on the Roof,” yet another “Tradition!”). Mid-November to early January is a particularly tradition-laden time, with time-honored customs filling our house with holiday cheer. And hands down, the vast majority of those traditions have to do with food.

Maybe it’s because I’m half Jewish, coming from a people whose modus operandi tends to be: “They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat!” Maybe it’s because I’m a quarter Cajun, steeped in a deep South culture with French roots that values good eats and good times above all else. Whatever the reason, in my family, food is a really big deal. And there are very specific foods that correspond to certain events, reliable signposts guiding us through the festive seasons of the year. In the case of Thanksgiving, that includes the usual suspects — turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce — as well as some unique touches. No holiday feast is complete without my mom’s dill rolls; the day after Thanksgiving is devoted to the conversion of leftover turkey into spicy, savory gumbo, made by my father using a recipe scrawled by his father on a piece of well-stained note paper; and pumpkin comes to you not in the form of pie but in a whimsical dish we dub “chiffon.”

Pumpkin chiffon is the Thanksgiving dessert your life has been missing (unless you attended St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Memphis and were present at the 1999 elementary school potluck, in which case you may have also snagged Mrs. Frisby’s now-famous recipe, you lucky duck). I think my grandfather, the inventor of Cool Whip, had a particular soft spot for this dish, and my brother loves it so much he has been known to request the distinctly fall dessert in lieu of cake for his birthday…in February.

So from my family to yours, a little Louisville tradition. Happy baking, happy feasting, and a very happy Thanksgiving to you all, however you may celebrate.

pumpkin-chiffon, holiday, thanksgiving, recipe, zelda-and-scout

 

Pumpkin Chiffon

Crust

1¾ cup graham cracker crumbs

¼ cup sugar

½ cup melted butter

Combine and press into a 13X9 baking dish. (Pro tip: It helps if you lightly grease the dish first. either with butter or a cooking spray.)

pumpkin-chiffon, holiday, thanksgiving, recipe, zelda-and-scout

First Layer

One 8 oz. package of softened light cream cheese or Neufchâtel

2 eggs, beaten

¾ cup sugar

Beat cream cheese and sugar together until fluffy, then add eggs. Mix well. Spread over crust and bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

pumpkin-chiffon, holiday, thanksgiving, recipe, zelda-and-scout

Second Layer

Two small packs of instant vanilla pudding

¾ cups milk

One can (2 cups) pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling — the au natural stuff)

Pumpkin pie spice (to taste)

One 16 oz. carton of light whipped topping

Combine pudding and milk. Beat for two minutes with an electric mixer on medium speed. Add pumpkin and spice. Mix well. Stir in one cup of whipped topping. Spread over cream cheese layer.

pumpkin-chiffon, holiday, thanksgiving, recipe, zelda-and-scout

Finishing Touches

Spread the remaining whipped topping over the pudding layer. Sprinkle cinnamon on top. Chill and enjoy!

pumpkin-chiffon, holiday, thanksgiving, recipe, zelda-and-scout

pumpkin-chiffon, holiday, thanksgiving, recipe, zelda-and-scout

Just Folks: Madeline Myers

Mondays on Zelda & Scout are all about you! In a series we call “Just Folks,” we talk to Southerners who have found their way to New York about where they’re from, where they are now, and what home means to them. Tell us your story here!

This week we have Madeline Myers! This musical theater composer/lyricist always knew her passion would lead her to New York, but her heart still belongs to the sweet tea and puh-CAHN pie of Georgia.

Madeline-Myers, Just Folks, Zelda-and-Scout, south,

Name:

Madeline Myers

Hometown:

Trion, Georgia

Age:

25

Current City:

New York, New York

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m a musical theater composer and lyricist.  In addition to writing, I do a lot of musical direction, orchestrating, and musical preparation/copywork.  Outside of work, I love seeing theater, reading, exercising, cooking, entertaining, volunteering, and exploring New York on foot (especially its parks)!

Time North of the Mason-Dixon line so far?

I’ve been in New York for just under a year, but I lived in Los Angeles for two years before that.

What brought you to New York?

I always knew that if I wanted to make writing for musical theater my life’s work, I needed to be in New York. Los Angeles was never the plan– I deferred grad school at NYU when I had the opportunity to work for a composer in LA– so it was only a matter of time before I made my way back to the city I had always imagined myself living in

What’s the most common reaction when people learn where you’re from? What’s something about life in the South that you have to explain to non-Southerners?

“But where’s your accent?!” is probably the most common thing I hear when people find out I’m from Georgia.  I always respond that it comes out in full force as soon as I go home (or after a margarita or two).  I think a lot of non-Southerners think Southern accents are these elegant, refined, lyrical drawls like Vivien Leigh in “Gone with the Wind,” but I think my accent is not nearly that pretty to listen to and is in fact a lot more “country!”

Describe life in NYC as people at home picture it. Describe life in NYC as it actually is.

I’m not really sure what people in my hometown imagine NYC to be like.  My hometown has about a thousand people in it, so even much smaller cities like Atlanta or Nashville or Chattanooga feel much bigger by comparison.

Where do you consider home? Why?

Home is, for me and I’m sure for many others, where the heart is.  Since my family is back in Atlanta/Trion, my heart is there with them.  But since my passion for musical theater is in NYC, my heart is here, too!

Do you miss where you’re from? Do you see yourself going back?

I definitely get homesick, oh, about every hour on the hour.  I’m a total baby, mostly because I miss my family so much!  I would love to relocate to Atlanta or Nashville (where I went to school) one day if it were still possible to sustain a career in musical theater while living there.  I’d also love to live in Atlanta or Nashville and work in New York.  I don’t even know if that’s possible, but that would really be ideal!

Do you consider yourself a Southerner? Do you consider yourself a New Yorker? Why or why not?

I definitely consider myself a Southerner. I love the South (well, most of the things about it), and I love telling people I’m from a town of a thousand people in rural Georgia.  I don’t think I’ve really lived in New York long enough to identify myself as a New Yorker, but I think I’ve already adapted to New York life and have picked up some New York habits.  Sometimes I find myself brushing past someone on the sidewalk without saying “excuse me,” and then I worry that I’m losing my good Southern manners!

Which food/drink/song/book/movie/artwork/quotation/gif/etc. defines New York for you?

Pizza and Manhattans!

Which food/drink/song/book/movie/artwork/quotation/gif/etc. defines where you’re from?

Probably my grandmother’s pecan pie.  It was legendary in my hometown and was published in the Chattooga County Historical Society Cookbook! (You can’t find that in the Union Square Barnes and Noble, that’s for sure.) [Also, the pronunciation of pecan is “puh-CAHN.”  None of this pee-can business.]

I also love that in the South (or at least in Georgia), it doesn’t matter what you’re drinking– Sprite, Dr. Pepper, etc.– it’s all called a Coke.  And when you see tea on a menu, it’s sweet tea.  I don’t think I’d had a non-sweetened iced tea until after I graduated from high school!

Somewhat related, someone once told me that eating healthy in the South means you had a Diet Coke and not a Coke.  How funny is that?

What is the best cure for homesickness?

Calling my mama! That never fails to make me feel better.

Are you a Southerner living in New York City? Want to talk about it? Fill out our survey here, and internet fame and fortune can be yours in just a few short minutes!

Friendsgiving

Thanksgiving is almost here, which marks the official start of the holiday season. ‘Tis a time of trees and lights, of cookies and latkes, of mulled cider and Santa Claus and 24-7 carols reminding us that this is the most wonderful time of the year. Now I’m a pretty festive person, prone to wearing Santa hats and organizing gift exchanges. I listen to my “Holiday Spirit” playlist almost exclusively for the month of December, and most evenings you can find me curled up with “Love Actually,” “White Christmas,” or some other appropriately festive film (or TV special). But while this holiday season can be wonderful — a time for giving thanks, showing the people you love how much you care, and eating obscene amounts of baked goods — for the ex-pats among us, Southern or otherwise, it can also be really, really hard.

The holiday season is a time for family, everything from the media to our co-workers tells us. There’s no shortage of songs waxing poetic about how there’s no place like home for the holidays but, for many twenty-somethings, scrounging up the days off and the plane fare for a visit home isn’t always possible. And so it’s easy to find yourself far from home and all its comforts at a time when everyone else is gathering together.

the-west-wing, cj, thanksgiving, we-gather-together

Via NBC

It’s a hard thing to deal with, the first time you spend a major holiday away from home. For some people, it happens during college, particularly if your school is too far from home to justify the jacked-up holiday rates for a three-day visit. For me, it was the year I lived in Paris after graduation, and so my anxiety about missing my family’s traditions was amplified by the fact that 99% of the people around me not only weren’t celebrating but also had no idea that the fourth Thursday in November had any significance whatsoever. I spent a good chunk of my day trying to explain to a bunch of five year-olds what a turkey was, not to mention Pilgrims, cranberries, and the Macy’s parade.

There are a few different ways to deal with holidays away from home. One is to sink into a depression, Scrooge-ing it up hardcore and laying the bah-humbug’s on thick whenever someone offers you a candy cane. Another is denial (easier in a foreign country than America, where the holiday bombardment starts early and consumes every subway ad, radio spot, and retail display until January). But the third and, I think, most productive method is to gather your fellow holiday orphans close and engage in a rapidly growing custom dubbed Friendsgiving.

friends, thanksgiving, friendsgiving

© NBC, via Buzzfeed

Now Friendsgiving is not a new concept (as evidenced by Scout’s list of TV specials, almost all of which feature a family-free holiday celebration). But as more and more twenty-somethings move far away from home, and more often than not find themselves working multiple jobs or retail/serving gigs that won’t let them out for the holiday, Friendsgiving has become an essential part of this festive season. Holidays can be hard, a reminder that you are far from your family (or a reminder that you like your family much more when they are far away). But it can also be a reminder of the importance of friends, and of the strength of the families that we forge for ourselves when we are all confused and lonely and far from our comfort zones.

Your friends are the ones you call at two in the morning when you’re freaking out about your lack of direction in life. They’re the ones who bring you cookies when you’re upset or who will meet you at the emergency room at one a.m. when you get your earbud stuck in your ear (sometimes wearing the same shirt as you — ask Scout to tell you about that one). They are the ones who get — more than any parent, however well-meaning — how it feels to be lost and frustrating and exhilarated by this weird limbo stage of our lives. Plus, your friends are the ones who, at the bare minimum, will bring enough booze to go around the table.

So how did I spend my first Thanksgiving without my mom’s turkey and my dad’s gumbo? First, I queued up all the “Friends” Thanksgiving episodes on my laptop. Then, I whipped up some green beans and a couple of pies, trekked over to a friend’s pad, and feasted with my French family. It wasn’t home. And those girls don’t share any of my DNA. But there was food and wine and the Macy’s parade (downloaded in its entirety by my resourceful roomie so we could pretend we were in America). And while we had only known each other for a couple months, something special happened that night, over imported cranberry sauce and local baguette. We became a family, just as my college friends were before that and my New York crew is now. And that was our first Friendsgiving.

thanksgiving, friendsgiving, zelda-and-scout

A Very Parisian Friendsgiving

P.S. Even if you do find yourself home for the holidays (or for a little pre-holiday celebration, as in my case), Friendsgiving as its own holiday can still be a great way to bring your “framily” together. Because sometimes we need reminding that family isn’t quite as far away as we think.

Deep-Fried Shoe! Or Seven Thanksgiving Episodes to Prepare You For the Real Thing

Television has been a large part of Zelda’s and my relationship. In our fourteen years of friendship, we’ve bonded over many serialized fictional characters, matching up who is who from our actual friend groups to the ones that graced our beloved small screens (I’m Lorelai; she’s Rory. I’m Robin; she’s Lily. I’m Phoebe; she’s Monica. You get the picture.) So it stands to reason that our holidays would not be complete without our fictional friends as well as our IRL ones. Without further ado, here is a list of seven of our favorite Thanksgiving episodes, a week’s worth of guest stars, deep-fried turkeys, and super spies to help get you in the spirit for the real thing.

Disclaimer: This list is merely some of my recent favorites. I write what I know. Tell us about the favorite Thanksgiving episodes we left out in the comments!

HIMYM, Blitzgiving, Thanksgiving, Television, Zelda-and-Scout, Holiday Episodes,

Everyone Smile for Wang Guy!

How I Met Your Mother: Blitzgiving (Season 6 Episode 10; November 22nd, 2010) – I was going kick this list off with the original HIMYM Thanksgiving episode Slapsgiving. However, rewatching all the awkward Ted/Robin-ness left me with bad flashbacks to the failure they called a series finale (Zelda and I are still not over it), so instead I decided to feature this season six gem. Nothing says Thanksgiving like guest stars and one character’s overzealous dinner plans. You don’t want to miss it (lest you catch the curse of the Blitz). Featuring a post-Lost/House, pre-Once Upon a Time Jorge Garcia and Jennifer Morrison, and multiple Lost references.

Barney: “Robin! Robin! I will pay you to be the Blitz. A hundred dollars! No, ten thousand dollars! No, sixty bucks. What’s a lot of money to someone like you?”

Chuck, Bryce-Larkin, Chuck-Vs-the-Nemesis, Thanksgiving, Television,

Bryce Larkin (not an accountant) (via Sabrina)

Chuck: Chuck Vs. The Nemesis (Season 1 Episode 10; November 27th, 2007) – Otherwise known as The Return of Bryce Larkin (not an accountant). Bryce Larkin (our hero’s former friend turned nemesis) was supposed to be dead, but he’s not, and now Chuck has to deal with that. Plus, you know, there’s the usual “how to keep my family and friends from knowing I have a super secret CIA computer in my head.” Additionally, the Nerd Herd succumbs to the Black Friday pressure. Also, Matt Bomer

Chuck: “Hey! No guns at Thanksgiving!

Greek, The-Wish-Pretzel, Thanksgiving, Television, Holiday Episodes

The KT’s adhere to the Scout style of cooking.

Greek: The Wish Pretzel (Season 5 Episode 9; October 26th, 2009) – Greek was a lovely little show on ABC family that, in our opinion, was woefully underappreciated. Yes, it’s about sororities and fraternities, but it’s also about the family we create outside our family. With all our favorite players stuck inside the trope of “thrown together for the holiday,” chaos and heartwarming moments are bound to ensue: Friends are briefly enemies, enemies are briefly friends, and people finally admit that they still like each other! But all’s well that ends well in a Peanuts-style Thanksgiving dinner of popcorn, pretzels, jelly beans and Wild Turkey (the bourbon, not the animal).

Rebecca: “I care about old people: I watch Desperate Housewives!”

Brooklyn-Nine-Nine, Thanksgiving, Television, Holiday Eps

One big happy (slightly nutty) family (via Brooklyn)

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Thanksgiving (Season 1 Episode 10; November 26th, 2013) – If you’re not watching this show, you should be, like, now. I decided to watch it last year on a whim and immediately fell in love with the kooky co-workers of the 99th precinct. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a crime-procedural based comedy (see: Psych). In this episode, Jake hates Thanksgiving (daddy issues) and does all he can to avoid Amy’s painstakingly planned dinner for the squad. While the rest of the Nine-Nine plays Boyle Bingo, learns that Amy can’t cook, gets kicked out of a bar, and has a brief rat encounter, Captain Holt teaches Jake that being an adult means that you can make your own holiday traditions. Jake realizes that the Nine-Nine are his new family, and Boyle saves Thanksgiving. Boom.

Peralta: “I am happy to be here with my family. My super weird family with two black dads, two Latina daughters, and two white sons, and Gina and…and I don’t know what you are, some strange giant baby? To the Nine-Nine.”

Shibboleth, The-West-Wing, CJ-Cregg, Thanksgiving, Television, Holiday-Episodes

Just a girl and her turkeys

The West Wing: Shibboleth (Season 2 Episode 8; November 22nd, 2000) I was late to the West Wing game. I watched the entire series in about a month just last year, but it has earned a special place in my heart all the same. This episode is the perfect Sorkinian balance of drama interspersed with light-heartedness. President Bartlet has to decide whether Chinese stowaways should be granted religious asylum, Josh and Sam have to deal with the Christian lobbyists, Charlie is on the hunt for the perfect carving knife, and C.J. has to pardon a turkey and sing a song.

C.J: “They sent me two turkeys. The more photo-friendly of the two gets a presidential pardon and a full life at a children’s zoo. The runner-up gets eaten.”

Bartlet: “If the Oscars were like that I’d watch.”

Gilmore-Girls, A-Deep-Fried-Korean-Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving, Televisions, TV, Holiday-Episodes

“Please Rory, what are we if not world-champion eaters?”

Gilmore Girls: A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving (Season 3 Episode 9; November 26th, 2002) – Probably one of my favorite Thanksgiving episodes of all time. The Gilmores attempt a feat that is daunting even for food junkies like them: four Thanksgiving dinners in one night. (“Rory, what are we if not world-champion eaters?….It’s not too much food. This is what we’ve been training for our whole lives. This is our destiny; this is our finest hour!”) We get a glimpse of each corner of our favorite ladies’ world: It’s very (as all holidays should be) “Rory and Lorelai, this is your life!” Plus: Drunk Sookie, Rory and Jess the early years, Pre-O.C. Adam Brody, and Cat-Kirk!

Luke: “Shouldn’t we give thanks first?”

Jess: “Thanks for what?”

Luke: “Well, that we’re not Native Americans who got their land stolen in exchange for smallpox infested blankets.”

Lorelai: “Amen.”

Friends, The-one-with-chandler-in-a-box, thanksgiving, Television, TV, holiday, episodes

“Judge all you want, but…”

Friends: The One with Chandler in a Box (Season 4 Episode 8; November 20th, 1997) Friends elevated the Thanksgiving Special to an art form. Not only is this one of my favorite Thanksgiving episodes of all time, but it’s also probably one of my favorite episodes of television of all time. To be fair, you can’t go wrong with any of our favorite sixsome’s November shenanigans (Rachel’s disastrous trifle, Joey with Venereal Disease, The Geller Cup?) But this classic is my favorite. Monica gets a cork in the eye and winds up looking like a pirate (and making out with her ex’s son), while Chandler has to spend six hours in a box. Plus guest stars Paget Brewster and Michael Vartan (who would both go on to make awesome government agents)

Monica: “Fine! Judge all you want to but [points to Ross] married a lesbian, [points to Rachel] left a man at the altar, [points to Phoebe] fell in love with a gay ice dancer, [points to Joey] threw a girl’s wooden leg in a fire, [points to the box Chandler’s in] live in a box!”

Just Folks: John Corrales

Mondays on Zelda & Scout are all about you! In a series we call “Just Folks,” we talk to Southerners who have found their way to New York about where they’re from, where they are now, and what home means to them. Tell us your story here!

This week we have John Corrales. You can’t get much more Texas than the town that “Friday Night Lights” was based on, yet John has left the deserts and cowboy boots of his youth behind for the high rises of Midtown and the Greek bakeries of Astoria (making him our first official Queens-dwelling profilee!). Read all about the band of kindly cowboys that shaped his youth (…or not) below.

john-corrales, just-folks, zelda-and-scout

Name:

John Corrales

Hometown:

Odessa, TX

Age:

25

Current City:

Astoria, NY

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m a news assistant on the National desk at The New York Times, a Liverpool fan (which is difficult these days), and an appreciator of good stories and poems.

Time North of the Mason-Dixon line so far?

Just over two years.

What brought you to New York?

I was a reporter at The Odessa American in my hometown. Wanderlust bit hard after working there for a year, so I petitioned my cousins living in North Jersey to post me up for a bit while I figured things out.

What’s the most common reaction when people learn where you’re from? What’s something about life in the South that you have to explain to non-Southerners?

The usual: “You don’t have an accent,” or “You don’t seem like you’re from Texas,” or “What was it like being Filipino in Odessa, Texas?”

What kind of answer do people expect when they ask that question? “Well, it was lonely in my tribe of four, and we were ostracized often. It wasn’t until a band of kindly cowboys showed us how to break horses and live off the land that we were finally assimilated into Texas’ third caste, which we’re extremely proud of.”

My usual response is, “It was fine; people were nice *shrug*.”

I also find myself having to explain that being really nice to a stranger isn’t secretly a way to earn that person’s trust so that I can use them to my advantage. I’m just being kind.

Describe life in NYC as people at home picture it. Describe life in NYC as it actually is.

New York is often thought of as eternally exciting. One second you’re rubbing elbows with a foot soldier of a mob boss, the next you’re locked in a debate over free will with a Columbia graduate student, then you’re invited to a rooftop soirée thrown by Henry Ford’s brother’s granddaughter’s niece, and by the end of the night you somehow end up doing an interpretive dance at a warehouse rave.

But nay. In reality, finding good friends and affording survival prove exhausting and oftentimes defeating. Scintillating though the city may be, it’s also draining. That being said, I think the city is worth the hustle it demands.

Where do you consider home? Why?

I’ll always consider Odessa home. I’ve spent more of my life there than anywhere else. I’d like to think that the earnestness and honesty of some community members there helped teach me to live a meaningful life.

Do you miss where you’re from? Do you see yourself going back?

I do miss where I’m from. I miss the desert and the stars.

I don’t see a long-term return in my future, but who am I to say what will happen?

Do you consider yourself a Southerner? Do you consider yourself a New Yorker? Why or why not?

Until rain ceases to amaze me (West Texas is fairly drought-stricken), and I adjust to the cold, I won’t consider myself a New Yorker.

Which food/drink/song/book/movie/artwork/quotation/gif/etc. defines New York for you?

Lox on a bagel, Halal food carts, the Knicks with Patrick Ewing, Joseph Mitchell‘s “My Ears Are Bent,” Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” and Edward Hopper’s “New York Movie.”

Which food/drink/song/book/movie/artwork/quotation/gif/etc. defines where you’re from?

Brisket, corn bread, Southern Maid Donuts, fajitas, sweet tea, “Friday Night Lights” (of course), and George Strait singing “Neon Moon.”

What is the best cure for homesickness?

Google Earthing/Maps-ing Monahans Sandhills State Park, and grilling while sipping on a Shiner Bock.

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The Cab, The Cockroach, and The Crying Girl

According to Ted Mosby and Co, there are three things that make a person a true New Yorker. One: Steal a cab from someone who needs it more than you. Two: Cry on the subway and not give a damn what anyone thinks. Three: Kill a cockroach with your bare hands. Two weeks ago, after two years of living here, I officially achieved my New Yorker trifecta. HIMYM, Steal-a-cab, Subway-Wars 2012: Steal a Cab – We’ve all done it, maybe inadvertently — it’s hard to hail a cab in Manhattan and not accidentally steal it. But one cold winter night sometime after the nor’easter that followed Hurricane Sandy, I was in midtown on the West Side trying to get back to my downtown East Side apartment as quickly as possible. I stuck out an arm and tried to get a cab to stop for me. Yellow chariot after yellow chariot zoomed past, full of passengers basking in the warmth of heating vents. Finally, as the light at the end of the block switched to red, I spotted the lighted numbers of a vacant cab just behind the frontlines of the traffic. A group of girls (or, to use the technical term, biddies) was clustered at the middle of the block, dressed incredibly inappropriately for the weather. They seemed to have a tentative agreement with the cab driver, shaking their bangled wrists in the air as the bare legs quivered atop stiletto heels. Perhaps the weather had me in a mood, perhaps it was my distaste for biddies who dress inappropriately for the climate, but I (slightly spitefully) hustled ahead of the group to the corner by the light, stuck out my hand, and intercepted the cab before it got to them. I probably should have felt bad. However, I was warm and they were obnoxious. So my regrets were minimal. HIMYM, Cockroach, Subway-wars 2013: Kill a Cockroach – My first apartment in New York was a pre-war fifth floor walk up, and, being old, unrenovated, and not that well taken care of, as the shoeboxes of Alphabet City are wont to be, it had some bugs. Before I even moved in, one of my roommates took it upon herself to roach-proof the place. But one spring day in 2013, I trekked up the stairs to find a vile, scaly brown creature hanging out on the wall near the door to my apartment. Its antennae twitched, mocking me. Thanking the insect gods that the demon was in the hall and not my flat itself, I skirted the offensive six-legged creature and raced into the apartment. There comes a moment in everyone’s life where you learn what you are made of—lover or fighter, fight or flight. I set down my things, took a deep breath, and decided that I was a warrior, destined to take down the New York Hell Beast known as the cockroach. I re-opened the door to find the vermin still lurking, summoned all my smiting power, smacked down the roach, and drenched it in some sort of magical, roommate-provided powder to make sure my smitage had done the trick. Dead roaches tell no tales. HIMYM, Crying, Subway-Wars 2014: Cry on the Subway – It’s hard to make an impression on New York City Public Transit. With the amount of crazy shit that goes down on the MTA, the bar for “pull out your earbuds, take your nose out of your book, and acknowledge your fellow human(s)” is set pretty damn high. Some highlights from my personal subway experience include epic arguments, getting trapped in the L train during what was basically a police chase, and clutching my iPhone in euphoria as I watched Kentucky win the 2014 NCAA Regional Final against Michigan, on a buzzer beating shot, while riding the B38 bus. But until two weeks ago, I had not cried on any form of public transit. Now I am a fairly easy cryer, so the fact that this remained the missing piece of the trifecta for so long is something of a minor miracle. Then a couple weeks ago, a particularly bad day turned into a particularly bad evening. A stupid mistake on the register and an unjust chastising at work were the first straws, I hadn’t heard from any of the full-time jobs I applied for in the past month, and finally another patron shushing me at my favorite bar broke the proverbial camel’s back. As soon as I sat down on the bus, everything hit me like a giant wave of WHAT AM I DOING HERE, and I couldn’t hold it in. (I know, I know, technically Ted’s trifecta requires crying on the subway, but some of us live in Brooklyn, so I’ve decided any MTA-operated mode of transportation is legit.) It was a surreal moment, but as I looked around I realized not only did none of my fellow passengers care, but neither did I. I picked up my phone with a sort of strangled laugh, and texted Zelda to tell her what happened. Proving that we are officially on the same wavelength, she replied, “Hey I think that officially makes you a New Yorker!” (This was immediately followed by a hearty agreement that we would rather forever remain Southerners, Kentuckians, and Louisvillians. Once again, same page.)

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While the New Yorker Trifecta does come to us courtesy of a sitcom, it makes sense to me that these are the three things that determine whether or not you are a true inhabitant of this city, a citizen rather than just another nomad passing through. The cab stealing means you have the ruthlessness to make it, while the cockroach killing means you can deal with every literal and metaphorical pest this place can throw your way. The crying I haven’t quite figured out yet. Maybe it’s a reminder that we’re all human; we’ve all got emotions, even New Yorkers. Or maybe it’s just a reminder of the level of crazy you will tolerate on public transit without giving it a second glance. Or maybe it’s a measure of the self-confidence that cause New Yorkers to be described by the rest of the world as cocky. Sure, we have feelings, every bit as mushy as the rest of the globe. But we don’t give a fuck what you think about it.