Wednesday, August 31, 2016

31 on the 31st

Today I turn 31 on the 31st, which despite being what I've heard to referred to as my "golden" or "magical" birthday, feels somewhat anti-climactic. 30 felt weird, in good and bad ways, but I've always considered myself an old soul so I like to think that as I age, I'm not getting older, just simply catching up with myself. But 31? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

For a very large portion of my life, I never felt at home in my birth state of Ohio. I lived in the same house for 20+ years, went to college a few miles away and after graduation I got a job and moved in with a boyfriend—all within a 30 mile radius. I've always felt like a late bloomer, physically and emotionally, so in the grand scheme of things I suppose it makes sense that I didn't move to New York until I was almost 28 years old. In some ways it feels as if that is really when my life began, and in three sometimes short, sometimes long years, I've grown into a person I'm really comfortable being. I'm in a city where I feel at ease, I have a stable career at which I feel competent, if not slightly above average at times, and I'm finally in a relationship that is easy, fun and reciprocal.

I grew up in a constant state of unease. I was a prohibitively picky eater, I wasn't interested in dating anyone, I consistently felt as if I was in the wrong place, in the wrong time, broken and in need of something I had no way of finding. It wasn't all doom and gloom, of course, and by all accounts I've had a perfectly lovely life, but there are so many times that I think back on teenage me and wish I could go back with a magic Beauty-and-the-Beast-style mirror and show her, everything is going to be okay.

I feel as if I grew into myself, and while I'm still not perfect—and will likely never feel as such—I'm definitely at ease with who I am in a way I've never been before. Maybe it's the fabled "wisdom" that comes with old age, or maybe it's my experiences or my choices or just some wild mysterious mix of brain synapses, but whatever it is, I'm grateful every day that I found me.

Francesca and I went to Chinatown last week and had our auras photographed, and while I wont bore you with the analysis, I will say that there are way worse ways to spend $20 and a Friday night. We had one of those lovely New York nights where nothing is planned and everything works out way better than you expect. Where trains run on time and the soup dumplings don't fall apart and you share deep insights and silly stories with someone who just gets you.

My life has been filled with long stretches of average days that blur together into years—days with annoyances and boredom and frustrations and heartaches and general malaise—like anyone lucky enough to live a life. But it's the bright spots that stand out, the large moments—landing at LaGuardia without a return ticket, or the first nervous "I Love You"s—and the small—making a friend laugh or the time I realized that I finally liked guacamole—that keep me wanting more.

Previous birthday musings: 30  |  28  |  27  |  26 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Governors Island: The Hills

Governors Island is one of my very favorite New York City summer destinations. It's cheap (or free), and fairly quick/easy to get to, but once you're there you feel miles away from the city. I first went in the summer of 2013, and returned later that summer for the French carnival Fête Paradiso, in September of 2014, and in July of last year.

Just in the three years since my first visit, the island has undergone some wonderful transformations. About a third of the island was still under construction in 2013, and in 2014 a new section of the island opened, including the too-sunny-but-fun Hammock Grove. This year the remaining portions opened to the public and I was thrilled to discover some wonderful, new-to-me abandoned buildings: a crumbling service station, old military housing and a strip mall of sorts containing a hair care center, dry cleaners and commissary.

The southwestern tip of the island has been transformed into a new landscape known as "The Hills," featuring four, man-made hills, picnic areas, lookout points, winding paths, slides and art installations. The line for the slides was insanely long—as most lines in New York usually are—so we just headed to the top of two of the hills. The views of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty are wonderful, and Rachel Whiteread's permanent, site-specific art installation, Cabin, is worth checking out.

We  also happened upon a Volkswagen car show, which was something unexpectedly charming on a usually car-free island. It's a funny thing to have finally lived in New York long enough to personally witness drastic changes, improvements, demolitions, sad closures and grand openings, and I look forward to checking in on Governors Island for many more summers to come.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Troll Museum

When I heard that performance artist Reverend Jen Miller was being evicted from her LES apartment—home to what she claimed to be "the world's only" Troll Museum since 2000—I immediately regretted that I had never made it there. But luckily for me (and Rev Jen), an art gallery in Chinatown donated its gallery space to exhibit (most of) the Troll Museum for the next few weeks in an effort to raise donations for Rev Jen. The suggested donation is $3,000, but the Troll Museum Board of Directors is also The Backstreet Boys, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

I didn't want to miss out on this temporary second chance, so my mom—the apple doesn't fall too far from the lover-of-all-things-weird tree—and I went to Chinatown Soup recently to check it out. The gallery space is one small room, but there are a deceptively large number of trolls crammed onto shelves, tacked on walls and propped in corners. 

The Troll Museum is obviously not a museum in the traditional sense—you don't come here to learn about trolls, or see pristine examples of their evolution from 60s fad to resurgences in the 70s, 80s and 90s. You go to the Troll Museum for the same reason you go to an art exhibit or watch an episode of Hoarders. The Troll Museum has what might be called more "traditional" art—paintings and drawings of trolls, of course, but the best piece is of Jesus knocking on the door to the Troll Museum. And then there's the collection of objects itself—greater than the sum of its (dirty and broken) parts and wonderful in its scope and fragmented vision.

I'm so glad that I got a second chance to see the Troll Museum, and its initial demise taught me the important New York lesson that nothing is forever, and that I should go immediately to all of the places that I say I'll get to "someday." It was the perfect rainy Sunday activity for my mom and me—she collected trolls during their original run, and I collected them when they made their 90s comeback. It's mildly depressing to realize that I've reached the point in my life where my childhood toys are now collector's items, but I'm glad there are people around like Reverend Jen to look after them.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Dinosaur World: Cave City, KY

After spending the night in a Wigwam, eating breakfast at a restaurant that still has a smoking section (it was full) and before we explored abandoned Funtown Mountain, there was Dinosaur World. There are three different Dinosaur Worlds, one in Florida, Texas and Kentucky. Cave City, Kentucky is located near Mammoth Cave Park and was obviously once a booming tourist town. There are still motels, gift shops and other attractions, but the whole town feels largely stuck in time.

Unlike Funtown Mountain across the street, Dinosaur World seems to be doing quite well—they're even open every single day except Christmas and Thanksgiving from 8:30am - 6pm. Dinosaur World features more than 150 life-sized dinosaurs set along an outdoor, wooded path. I read a review where someone complained that they weren't animatronic, but it was the low-tech nature of it all that appealed to me most.

I wouldn't consider myself to have an extensive knowledge of all things dinosaur-related, but I was blown away by how many different kinds of dinosaurs have been discovered. It's one thing to read about their different traits and sizes, but it's another thing entirely to see them up close and in person. Dinosaur World also has a "Mammoth Garden," and if there's one extinct species that we should try to resurrect, it should be the Wooly Mammoth.

Some of the dinosaurs looked predictably scary, but others looked so silly that they made me laugh. Nature is such a weird and wonderful thing, and it wasn't hard to draw connections between dinosaurs and modern-day creatures like birds and lizards. We'll probably never know what it's like to share the earth with dinosaurs like the ones we imagine, but a day at Dinosaur World was more than sufficient to quell that urge. And if all of the Jurassic Park movies are to be believed, resurrecting actual dinosaurs is most likely a terrible idea.