September Round Up

Where oh where did September go? In a swelter of lingering summer, the weeks have positively flown by, and now we find ourselves facing down October and all the leaf crunching, hot coffee drinking, and birthday celebrating (for Scout) it entails. This month was all about settling in for us. Zelda got (mostly) unpacked and moved into her new pad, and Scout got (mostly) adjusted to her new gig and schedule. The one-act musical Scout stage managed won the New York New Works Theatre Festival. Zelda played freeze tag and danced around Prospect Park with Improv Everywhere. We celebrated weddings and engagements with friends, ate noodles and danced around the kitchen, and saw our favs, Houndmouth, for our twelfth collective time. But while September was kind to us, relatively speaking, October has always been our bae. This is a page we’re ready to turn.

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What We’re Doing: September marked the first full month of our new biweekly schedule. We had a playlist (old school songs for the dog days of summer), a little inspiration (featuring Cheryl Strayed, Norman Lewis, and Rosianna Halse Rojas), and another installment of “Eat This, Drink That,” which reminded us that in cobbler and cocktails, sometimes picture perfect is overrated. Zelda wrote about home and haunting, and she delved into another round of Required Reading (Southern road narrative themed). Scout meanwhile got locked out of her apartment and went to her first friend wedding, both of which got her a little reflective and very appreciative of Wawa, headphones, and the joys of pantsless friendship.

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What We’re Listening To: This month’s playlist had us savoring the last sweltering vestiges of summer with some old school tunes. Featuring the likes of Tina Turner, Ella Fitzgerald, and Otis Redding, this mix is perfect for lounging on a roof on a hot, sticky night under a violet twilight sky. Sit back and press play, until the weather finally turns colder.

We also love: Two amazing worlds came together when Ryan Adams decided to cover the entirety of Taylor Swift’s 1989. The results? Exactly as amazing as expected…mostly: He slayed “Wildest Dreams,” but we’re a little disappointed that his cover of our album favorite, “Style,” leaves much to be desired. Still, definitely worth the download.  And we’re already obsessed with the long-awaited cast recording of Hamilton; Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s latest brainchild combines four of our favorite things: musicals, poetry, intellectual rap, and American history. A plus plus.

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What We’re Watching: We’re all about YouTube this month, especially the hilarious work of some of our favorite internet comediennes like Anna Akana, Akilah Hughes, and Lilly Singh. We’re especially psyched to see Lilly’s face on the side of New York City buses and on the walls of subway stations this month, making our commutes infinitely brighter (Hey YouTube, how about putting those other two gals up there as well? Maybe with a little Mamrie Hart? Squad goals for real?)

We also love: Zelda’s loving the new Hulu-hosted season of hijinks on The Mindy Project (how Fox could let this gem go she will never understand), and Scout indulged in a Netflix binge (what else is new?) of the BBC miniseries Dancing on the Edge, chronicling the rise of a black jazz band in 1930’s London.

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What We’re Reading: Unless you’re brand spanking new to this here blog, you know that we’re both big fans of road trips, and of books. So when this article from Atlas Obscura came across our News Feeds, we both had a full-scale fan girl freak-out. Richard Kreitner and Steven Melendez took 12 American novels that deal with cross-country travel, catalogued every place name in them, and then created a detailed map tattooing the continental United States with the tales of Jack Kerouac and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mark Twain and John Steinbeck, Cheryl Strayed and more. File this under To-Do Lists, both To Travel and To Read.

We Also Love: This essay by Anna Wess on the Appalachian heritage that is not quite belle, not quite peach, but instead down home granny witch. This analysis of modern musical muse Taylor Swift, in the form of a Socratic Dialogue. This catalogue of the Republican field of presidential candidates, as Shakespeare quotes (McSweeney’s has been killing it lately). This brilliant essay by John McPhee on writing and how the things we don’t say are just as important as the things we do. This profile on YouTube pioneer, education innovator, and fart joke enthusiast Hank Green. And this goddamn delightful listicle in which adorable human Darren Criss sorts some of our favorite musical theatre characters into Hogwarts houses.

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What We’re Eating: Scout continued her quest to conquer the kitchen in this month’s edition of Eat This, Drink That. This most recent attempt was mostly successful. Her strawberry rhubarb cobbler came out looking like the pictures, if slightly less sweet in taste than she would have liked. But hey, presentation is half the battle, right? Beyond our apartment walls (yes, we do occasionally venture out for non-work purposes), before we headed to last weekend’s Houndmouth concert, we stopped for a bite at the Union Square taqueria Tortaria, where we had a super tasty dinner: tacos for Zelda, an eggplant torta for Scout (eggplant is having a moment in her life right now), homemade guac to share. We highly recommend.

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What We’re Drinking: Zelda attempted to master one of the classic bourbon cocktails in this month’s Eat This, Drink That — the Old Fashioned — which features bourbon and little else (as the best drinks do). The finished product was not exactly picture perfect, but it was delicious, and sent her straight to Amazon to procure the supplies to attempt it again, properly. We’re also savoring the last days of iced coffee weather, knowing that soon we’ll be sipping on hot lattes and wishing it were July again.

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What’s On Our Wishlist: Zelda’s haphazard attempt at the Old Fashioned has left her with a yen for bonafide rocks glasses, preferably ones that proclaim her love of bourbon and Kentucky. Scout is on the hunt for magnets — the better to decorate her new work locker with. And we are both DYING to see wündermusical Hamilton (to be fair, Scout has tickets, making her one of the privileged few whom the rest of the world, Zelda included, now regard with the greenest of envy).

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Images via: COLUMBIA SPECTATORNEW MEDIA ROCK STARSALICE IN NAPPY LAND, LILLY SINGH, ATLAS OBSCURA, KENTUCKY FOR KENTUCKY

Growing Up Won’t Bring Us Down

Zelda and I have hit a milestone lately. We are officially at the age when our friends have begun to get married. Now we haven’t quite hit the point where each week’s mail contains a thick white envelope filigreed with arabesques announcing the union of yet another happy couple. But while we have yet to reach Katherine Heigl movie levels of cliché, invitations are beginning to make appearances at regular intervals. To some, we’ll reply with a nice card. For others, we will send our enthusiastic regrets. But a handful are for people we genuinely care about, and for those we will take time off work, browse registries for gifts in our price range, and pile into cars or trains or buses to make a weekend of it, make it special.

So as last Friday rolled around, I rushed out of an over-crowded museum and headed for the hills of Pennsylvania to see my good friend from grad school, Alex, get married. MTA almost foiled my plans (note: Never rely on the E train to get you anywhere in a timely manner at 5:30 p.m. on a Friday). But after waiting through four E and three M trains, being physically pushed off a train and cut off by an elderly woman, and cursing out an entire car full of people, I found myself en route.

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By 6:30, I, Katie, and our grad school friends Joanna, Vanessa, and Jen (who came all the way from Australia), were stuffed in the car, Pandora’s Bachelorette Party station blasting from the radio (highly recommended for girls road trips) as we headed toward the Holland Tunnel. Once we came out in Jersey City, I felt a distinct shift in my mood. This wasn’t just Alex’s wedding weekend: This was a much-needed weekend away from New York City, with friends I had neglected of late due to professional obligations and my own mental health (alone time is paramount if I don’t want to go crazy). I needed this.

I love a good road trip, and no road trip is complete without proper road trip snacks, so our first stop was Wawa. Now if you’ve never been proselytized to about the wonders of Wawa, you do not know enough people from the New Jersey/Eastern Pennsylvania area. Wawa is basically a convenience store/gas station/rest stop Mecca. I don’t know how to properly explain what it is, without adding a “but better” to the end. It’s like Sheetz, but better; Circle K, but better. Basically it’s better, and let me just tell you, it totally lives up to the hype. Armed with cheesesteaks, slurpees, coffee, and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, we got back on road. Most of the trip was off the freeway, down winding roads with few stop lights and even fewer cars. The rolling hills and small towns reminded me so much of the Kentucky roads that take me to my mother’s hometown. I felt at home.

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Our growing distance from the city was in direct proportion to my increasingly good mood, and to the amount of alcohol we acquired (with the intent of consuming it when we arrived at the hotel — we are responsible young adults, even when we drink irresponsibly). Living in New York is often like carrying a great weight on your shoulders. You find yourself spending the week more and more slumped over from the heft of the daily grind, and if you don’t take some time away from those concrete masses every now and then, it might just crush you. As we drove farther and farther from the Hudson River, I felt that weight lifting. By the end of the weekend, it would be completely gone, leaving me recharged and ready for a new start.

So, eight bottles of champagne in hand and a short period of navigational distress later, we arrived at the hotel, settled into our suite (which was larger than my apartment), and headed to the bar to greet the blushing bride-to-be. There were many hugs, cheek kisses, and introductions exchanged, and many gin and tonics consumed, as we began to fully celebrate a joyous occasion in our friend’s life.

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Saturday was relaxing. We got sandwiches for lunch, made a run to the grocery and the beer store for provisions, and spent the afternoon lounging around in our underwear watching college football (true friends are the ones you don’t have to wear pants around). The wedding was in the evening, a beautiful and blessedly short ceremony with a waterfall backdrop and many happy tears. Alex was glowing, and everyone was happy. We plied ourselves with charcuterie and shrimp, and lots of bourbon. The matron of honor and the father of the bride made me cry with their toasts, and then we danced in a ruin strewn with twinkling lights.

Weddings are happy occasions, especially when open bars are involved. But sometimes you can’t help but feel like one of your friends is moving on to the next stage in his or her life, and you’re not ready to follow. Getting married always seemed like such a landmark to me, a mark of being a true Adult with a capital A. You’re starting a life with someone else — a step that I can’t fathom being ready for at this point in my life, when I can’t even figure out where I want my path to go, much less take someone else’s into account. When those creamy envelopes show up in my mailbox, I want to be happy for my friends, but most of the time I can’t help feeling like we’re losing a valuable teammate in this game of being a twenty-something trying to figure out who we are. This wedding weekend, though, that was not the case. We didn’t lose Alex: We just gained another team member, albeit of the slightly scruffier variety.

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The whole weekend was a celebration of both Alex and Matt’s relationship and our group’s friendship. It was pure, unfettered happiness for our friend; it was dancing like idiots because we were so happy to be there; it was an open bar, eight bottles of champagne, and two cases of beer; it was Sunday morning Gatorade and lounging around in our underwear. I left the wedding not with a feeling of loss now that Alex was moving on without us, but with an understanding that we could grow up and reach milestones in our lives without losing each other. And maybe, just maybe, growing up doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

The New York crew piled back into the car after brunch on Sunday and — wind in our hair, radio on — we headed back toward the city. Our short sojourn was over. But as the Pennsylvania hills faded into New Jersey and the skyline approached, I felt rejuvenated, ready to take on whatever the city could throw at me, whatever is next.

Eat This, Drink That: Cobbler and Old Fashioneds

Our lives have been increasingly busy as of late. Zelda is settling into a new home with new roommates and a new commute. Scout is settling into a new (additional) job and juggling three side projects. So we have to schedule our lives pretty far in advance, including our Eat This, Drink That cooking ventures. A few weeks ago, we made a plan to meet after work at Zelda’s fancy new digs and take on our next challenge: Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler and Old Fashioneds.

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There were a couple…challenges from the outset: If this week were to have a theme, it would be “Make do with what you’ve got.” First things first, New York grocery stores were seemingly sans rhubarb. Zelda tried Key Food, she tried Trader Joe’s, she tried the corner produce stand, all to no avail. So Scout, freshly released from work, was forced to venture to the organic hellmouth of New York City: Whole Foods. If there’s one place in the city you don’t want to be at 5:00 p.m. on a Friday, it’s Whole Foods (See: Bless Your Heart, New York: A Girl’s Gotta Eat). But despite the hordes, their produce department pulled through, and after some dubious looks from the woman at the checkout (apparently buying six stalks of rhubarb, and nothing else, is weird or something), Scout arrived at Zelda’s apartment ready to go.

This was the most complicated recipes she’d attempted thus far, requiring the most preparation not to mention having the most ingredients. She followed this recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod, and with Zelda’s expert guidance and vast array of kitchen tools, she managed to slice 4 ½ cups of rhubarb, hull and slice 1 ½ cups of strawberries, zest 1 orange, and add ½  cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to prepare what would become the filling of the cobbler. Part one thus completed and left to “sit for 30 minutes to bring out the juices,” she moved on to her favorite part: the lovely crumbly topping.

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Crust, crumble, or pastry of any kind can be tricky. We combined 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar, 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, and ¼ teaspoon of salt, and mixed in a medium bowl until we had “coarse crumbs.” We then added ¼ cup of butter, ¼ cup of milk, 1 large egg (lightly beaten), and ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract to get a sticky, biscuit-like dough. Getting it to the right consistency took the combined effort of Zelda, Scout, Zelda’s roommate, and Bette Midler (no kitchen venture is complete without some sort of sing-along, and for for pastry preparation “The Rose” saw us through).

Equipped with our perfectly mixed pastry and our well-juiced filling, we proceeded to combine the two into a casserole dish, spreading the crust out over the fruit and adding a healthy dose of sugar on top (much to the alarm of Zelda’s roommate, who as a Vietnam-born, Nebraska-raised lad is still learning the ways of Southern cuisine, where in matters of sugar or butter the answer is always more). Once adequately sugared, we stuck our cobbler into the pre-heated oven (turning to Part Two, The Cocktails, but more on that in a bit) to bake at 350 degrees. Thirty-five minutes later, we had a piping hot, bubbly cobbler ready for eating!

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The final verdict? Good, but perhaps would have been better with more sugar to cut the tartness of the rhubarb (see The Tao of Southern Cooking above), more pastry to balance the filling, or more of a double-crusted pie approach (abandoning the cobbler idea altogether because, hello, pie). And we all agreed it definitely could have benefited from the addition of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, but we were also all too lazy to go out and get said toppings (because who really wants to put on pants anyway?) All in all, it turned out close to what it was supposed to, so we are calling this third chapter of Scout’s kitchen conquering adventure a win.

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Zelda, meanwhile, decided to really tackle her cocktail resolution in earnest with a beloved classic: The Old Fashioned. There are some who believe this drink can be made with rye, and even Zelda will admit she has enjoyed them that way, but she’s a bourbon girl through and through, and so her home bar is only stocked with Kentucky’s finest. The old fashioned is a simple drink in theory, but the other ingredients proved a bit tricky to obtain.

  • Sugar: The classier recipes call for a sugar cube, which one muddles with Angostura bitters before adding the whiskey of your choice. Zelda, not being a 60 year-old British dame or a mixologist, did not have any cubes on hand, so she had to settle for good old Domino.
  • Angostura bitters: About those bitters? The first liquor store she tried had none in sight. The second was more successful, but she still ended up leaving with Regan’s Orange Bitters, which are close and pair well with whiskey, but are not precisely traditional.
  • An orange: The Brooklyn Trader Joe’s, for reasons unbeknownst to us, only sells oranges by the giant sack, causing Zelda to panic momentarily and give up on the prospect of gathering ingredients altogether. Luckily, Key Food came through.
  • Ice: As we mentioned, Zelda just moved, and while she had managed to locate and unpack her ice cube trays, she had not quite reached the “filling them with water and putting them in the freezer” stage until a couple hours before Scout’s arrival. Her cubes, like a watery Oreo, were crunchy on the outside but decidedly not on the inside, which made for a more diluted cocktail than she intended.
  • A Rocks Glass: Zelda does not own rocks glasses. And while an old fashioned can be made in any vessel really, we quickly discovered that this drink looks downright puny in a piece of stemware not intended for this use. (Santa, if you’re listening, she has since added a pair to her wish list, for use in 2016, the Year of the Cocktail.)

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As for the actual assembly of the drinks, it was fairly straightforward and produced delicious (if not quite picture perfect) drinks that we, and Zelda’s roommate, enjoyed. She went with Chowhound’s recipe, deemed the most straightforward (and cherry free, for Scout’s sake). Measure one teaspoon of sugar (superfine if you have it, regular if you don’t) into your glass. Add two dashes of bitters. (The dash may be the most vague unit of measurement Zelda has ever encountered. In this case, she interpreted it as “enough to moisten all of the sugar,” using her muddler to make sure it was evenly distributed and well combined.) Add 2 oz of whiskey (we used Bulleit bourbon) and ice. Stir until well chilled, or about 30 seconds. Use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to peel off a twist of orange peel. Rub the twist around the rim of your glass and drop it in for garnish.

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The verdict? Not exactly like the picture, but pretty damn delicious considering our limited supplies. We played around a bit with each person’s drink, substituting brown sugar for white (gave it a more caramel-y taste, which we enjoyed), adjusting the amount of bitters, and muddling an orange wedge in the bottom of the glass before adding the bourbon. Overall, it was pretty easy, and delicious. And Zelda has already ordered some sugar cubes and real deal Angostura bitters from Amazon, so she can try it again.

Required Reading: Volume Five

This post is part of our “Required Reading” series, in which we share some of our favorite tales and tomes of New York and the South — classic and contemporary, fiction and nonfiction, short form and long. These are the stories that open our eyes to other walks of life, that shape who we are, and that make us feel at home no matter where we may be. Check out Volumes One, Two, Three, and Four for more of Zelda’s favorite tales of the South and New York.

“It's a road trip! It's about adventure! . . . It's not like we have somewhere to go.” — John Green, An Abundance of Katherines

“It’s a road trip! It’s about adventure! . . . It’s not like we have somewhere to go.” — John Green, An Abundance of Katherines

I want to talk about road trips. Maybe it’s the summer warmth that’s lingering in the September air, but lately I’ve had an itch for a steering wheel in my hand, a sing-along song on the stereo, a breeze through my window, and an open road ahead. Scout and I are both fans of road trips, having undertaken a few (moderate ones) as a twosome, and she’s written of her love of the road narrative on the blog before. There’s something inherently Southern about a road trip — big expanses of highway cutting through rolling hills, roadside stands offering up peaches or peanuts, John Denver serenading you about the country roads that take us home — and there’s something inherently literary about it too. This is our 21st century Odyssey, a hero’s journey battling toll booths and traffic snarls and Cracker Barrel wait times, before returning home a little older, a little dirtier, a little wiser, a little closer to who we are becoming.

as i lay dyingClassic Fiction: As I Lay Dying

Author: William Faulkner

When It Was Published: 1930

When I Read It: in the summer of 2013, during lulls at the coffee shop, while I decompressed from Paris and prepared to take on New York

Where It Takes Place: the fictional, and delightfully named, Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi

Why I Love It: Let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat: This is not your average road trip. In fact, there are many who would argue that the Bundren family’s journey by wagon as they prepare to bury their matriarch, Addie, in her hometown of Jefferson, is not a road trip at all. And while it’s true that there is nary a rest stop, car snack, or game of Punch Buggy to be found in this book, it’s also true that the question of family and what it means is inherent both to this masterpiece of Southern Gothic literature, and to any hours-long trek made in obscenely cramped quarters with the half dozen or so people who share your immediate gene pool. This is the story of a family coming together and apart, of the importance of heritage and tradition, and of the things we owe each other even in our brokenness. And it’s all told in the distinctive voice of Faulkner, who more than any other writer, for me, embodies the rhythm and the soul of the South in his every patient sentence.

paper townsContemporary Fiction: Paper Towns

Author: John Green

When It Was Published: 2008

When I Read It: at some point in college, on Scout’s recommendation

Where It Takes Place: Orlando, one epic day on the road, Agloe, New York, and back down the coast

Why I Love It: This is Scout’s favorite book, in the world, so when she told me I had to read it, I took her at her word. Green’s work often gets written off by those who sneer at tales of teenagers and their “adolescent concerns,” but I would argue that there are few things as universal as figuring out who you are and what you want to do with your life, forging an independent path, learning to imagine other people complexly, valuing friendships, and embracing the moments along the journey rather than the destination. This book is not all road trip, but the road trip is my favorite part. A true classic of the genre, it balances whimsy and urgency, life and death, white-knuckled spins off the highway and the paper heart of romance. And dick jokes.

lost continentNon-Fiction: The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America

Author: Bill Bryson

When It Was Published: 1989

When I Read It: my first year in New York, in subway cars I pretended were rolling down a highway instead of under the Hudson

Where It Takes Place: all over the United States, on a 13,978 mile journey from Bryson’s hometown of Des Moines up and down the coasts, across the Plains, and back again

Why I Love It: I first fell in love with Bryson through Neither Here nor There, his 1991 travelogue covering his tour through Europe. Bryson has a very particular sense of humor, dry but loving, like an older brother who loves you dearly but has a way of narrowing in on all your absurdities and quirks with laser-beam precision. It’s the heart that you feel when reading The Lost Continent, his very first travel book. He was a seasoned expat at this point, having built a life for himself in England, and the trip was taken in response to the death of his father and as a test run to see if the country that birthed and raised him could ever welcome him back again. Some of the passages reek of a bygone era — had the trip been undertaken today, the book might well have been a blog, with a Twitter and Instagram account where you could follow along with Bill’s journey — which makes the palpable nostalgia of Bryson’s observations even more poignant. He laments the loss of the America of his youth, even as the America he wonders and cringes and scoffs and cheers at has now gone the way of payphones and TripTiks. This is not a specifically Southern story, but it is an American one, and in its Americanness it embodies so many of the things that endear the South to me: eccentric people, everyday wonders, big skies and big hearts and big hair, and really excellent food.

rolling junkOn My Wish List: The Cruise of the Rolling Junk

Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald

When It Was Published: 1924 (republished in 2011)

Where It Takes Place: on the road from Connecticut to Zelda’s home in Alabama

Why It’s Awesome: I am positively baffled, and more than a little concerned, that I did not know this book existed until approximately two weeks ago. Now that I do know it exists, I must read it, and as soon as possible. Originally written as a series for MOTOR Magazine, the book follows a road trip Fitzgerald took with his wife (and the inspiration for my nom de plume on this here blog), Zelda, in a claptrap old car he dubbed “The Rolling Junk.” The book blends fact and fiction, Scott’s vignettes and Zelda’s illustrations. Amazon delivered it yesterday, and I cannot wait to dive in.

And an Update: Guys! Guys. How did it take me so long to read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay?! Many friends, whose literary taste I trust and respect, had recommended it over the years, but I kept relegating to my wish list of To Be Read’s. And then one day in July, I picked it up, and I couldn’t put it down until the whole epic whirlwind had come to close. This book, by Michael Chabon, has everything: adventure, romance, bromance, history, comic books, a Golem, magicians, a house in the suburbs and romance at the top of the Empire State Building. It was just delicious, and such fun: It had been a while since I’d gotten swept up in a story like that, and I loved it so much that when I discovered I had forgotten my copy at work the night before I left for New Hampshire, I bought the ebook on Kindle rather than wait a whole week to continue the story. It’s fun, and it’s sweet, and it’s smart, and it made me think about New York and art and what it means to be creative and the value in the work. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

In a Minute There is Time

The lingering heat of summer has our brains all fuzzy. The thoughts we reach for seem to crumble just out of our grasp, drifting away like so many bits of dandelion fluff before we can pin them down into something tangible. Everything moves a little slower when the mercury climbs above 90, including our brains. But rather than getting frustrated, punishing ourselves for a lack of productivity and a to-do list of items still unchecked, we try to embrace the little moments: the smell of eggs scrambling on the stove, the ray of sunshine through a bedroom curtain, the teary laughter that only occurs between very old, very dear friends. There will be time, for all the secret hopes we whisper to the dark. Here is a little inspiration. There’s no need to rush.

Art: “Untitled” (1966), Norman Lewis

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Poem: “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” T.S. Eliot

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Book: Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, Cheryl Strayed

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Song: “Hero,” Family of the Year

Video:  “24 Things I’ve Learnt in 24 Years,” Rosianna Halse Rojas

Quotation: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

Photos via: MICHAEL ROSENFELT ART,  THE RUMPUS

Opening Doors

Let me preface the following story by saying that I took every precaution to not end up in the situation that I did. But sometimes the universe just conspires against you, despite your best efforts. And that, folks, is what happened to me.

After last week’s Z&S meeting, I walked out of my apartment with Zelda, a full trash bag in my hand and keys in my pocket, with every intention of dropping the trash in our building receptacle and heading back inside to lounge on the couch with my roommate’s dog. Alas, fate had other plans.

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Trash successfully deposited, I turned around to open the door and realized I had grabbed the wrong set of keys. I had the keys to the basement, to my mailbox, and to the backyard, but not to the front door of the building or my apartment door. Zelda, already striding down the sidewalk towards the train, turned around with a worried glance at my exclamation of horror. Hoping against hope, I tried the door and found it unlocked. Relief flooded my veins as I pushed it open, waved to Zelda, and told her I was good and that I’d left my apartment door ajar, which I had.

Ascending the stairs, however, my heart fell into my stomach. A brisk summer wind had pushed the door to my apartment closed, leaving me — keyless, phoneless, walletless — on one side and a whimpering dog on the other. I sat down on the landing and cursed my own stupidity for grabbing the wrong keys. The dog continued to whine as I then tried to break into my own apartment, to no avail. I tried to pick the lock, sans proper tools. I climbed up onto the roof, descended the fire escape, and attempted to crawl in through the window. Ten minutes later, I was assured that our apartment was in fact pretty burglar proof, but at a loss as to what to do next.

Having thus failed to break and enter into my own apartment, I bit the bullet and knocked on my neighbor’s door. We’ve lived in our apartment for over two years and have never really known any of our building mates. Neighbors have never been a part of my life in New York. Even though we shared the floor of our Manhattan sixth floor walk-up with another apartment, we never knew anything about them other than what we gleaned from the loud domestic disputes that spilled into the hallway. And since moving to Brooklyn, the people in our building have rotated out every six months or so, so we tend to go by the old Frost philosophy of “Good fences make good neighbors,” i.e., “Don’t bother us and we won’t bother you.” But trapped in my hallway, with no idea when any of my roommates would be home, I decided I had no other choice.

Luckily, our (minimal) interactions with our current across-the-hall neighbors have been mostly positive, and on this Monday afternoon one of them was blessedly home. I asked if I could use his phone, mostly just to let one of my roommates know I was locked out and to ask when she would be home. At this point, I realized I had another problem: Child of the 21st century that I am, the only phone numbers I have memorized are my parents’. The rest are in my phone, which was sitting on the coffee table just behind a locked door.

I Googled Stephanie’s workplace and tried calling her there, but she was away from her desk. So I did what I do in times of trouble: I called the bar. Though my neighborhood hang wasn’t officially open yet, I had a feeling Casey would already be there stocking the shelves. Fortunately, he pulled through, answering the phone and offering me safe haven at my home away from home until one of the roomies came back.

As I walked the fifteen minutes to the bar, I realized that I had hardly ever walked alone in this neighborhood without my headphones on or without looking down at my phone. This was Bushwick unplugged, a whole new world for me. It was a pretty good day to be locked out, actually. It was sunny; it was daytime (the last time I was locked out of somewhere, it was Zelda’s apartment (pictured above), and if I remember correctly it was both nighttime and quite cold). Armed with a plan of action and the prospect of beer, my panic subsided, and I was able to really observe my neighborhood for the first time.

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The sun beating down on my shoulders and my roommate’s shoes on my feet (I’d slipped them on to take the trash out, incorrect size seeming trivial for a quick trip up and down the stairs), I took to the sidewalks. I passed open hydrants, heard Spanish speeding off the tongues of the elderly park goers and the click-click of at least three games of dominoes. It was lovely. Living in New York, we get jaded very quickly. We think about the fastest way to get from our home to the train and back, scurrying from Point A to Point B. We avoid eye contact. We avoid any contact. This forced exile from my home and my phone made me confront the environment I live in. And it was actually kind of nice.

I arrived at the bar, borrowed a computer to notify my roommates of my situation, and then unplugged for the rest of the afternoon. I talked to my neighbors. I petted many dogs. I helped Casey out with some errands and reveled in the fact that I had a neighborhood so interesting and safe and littered with people who wanted to help me. New York is a place that makes you want to lock yourself in, to avoid human interaction and try to protect yourself from the outside world. But sometimes, you have to lock yourself out. It is better, I think, to fill up your days with new people and new opportunities, to shout “Here I am” and just embrace the crazy concrete jungle that you’ve decided to make your home. I closed the door to my apartment. But I opened one to a place that I didn’t realize I had at my disposal, just beyond my doorstep.

Photos Via KATE SPADE NEW YORK & BUSHWICK DAILY

September Playlist: Indian Summer

Indian Summer

Last week we turned the page on the calendar with eager fingers. Fall has always been our favorite season, and September promised changing leaves and the first hints of a drop in the mercury, the air crisp with possibility. Mother Nature, however, does not seem to have gotten the memo. We went to sleep with visions of boots and hot cider dancing in our heads, and awoke to 90-degree heat and humidity thick as molasses. This is particularly cruel in New York, where fall smells of Nora Ephron movies and summer stinks of garbage heaps and too many humans packed into a subway car. We know we’ll miss the heat once the polar winter descends, but right now we’d give anything to swap sweater weather for these sweatier climes.

But we’re optimists here at Zelda & Scout, or at least we try to be (Zelda usually being more successful than Scout on that count). And so, thinking of the sleet to come, we’re trying to embrace the last sultry days of Indian summer while they last. This playlist is our salute to a summer that was slow to creep in and seems just as reluctant to creep out. Summer being a nostalgic season, we’ve gone old school, sticking to the pre-1975 era of horns and honky tonks. From the jazzy to the jaunty, “Paper Moon” to Motown, these tracks put us in mind of rooftop sunsets and drinks on fire escapes. There are standards from Billie Holiday and Peggy Lee, windows-down classics from Simon & Garfunkel and Tina Turner, and some old-fashioned boogies from Van Morrison and King Harvest. Despite the heat, it’ll be alright. And we know we’ll miss our sandals when they’re gone.

As always, you can listen along here, or we’re on YouTube and Spotify.