My Empire State of Mind: A Random Journey

I never wanted to compromise and put down stakes in any other city. It always had to be New York for me. 

-Amy Schumer

Last week on my day off I decided to take a spontaneous trip to the Empire State Building. It was about 20 blocks from my dorm, but if I took the 5th Avenue route I could go through about a million stores (and buy nothing) on my way there. I had a long week ahead of me and I really wanted to do nothing more than spend some alone time with the city. As I walked outside searching for my next adventure, I saw the shining Empire State in the distance and knew it was my duty to go.

I decided that in order to begin my journey I needed some fuel. Thus I made my first stop at Bluestone Lane for some overpriced avocado toast. To many it may seem ridiculous that I am willing to pay fifteen dollars for some bread and a cup of coffee, but let me tell you, it’s worth it. I read my book there for a while after eating, then decided to head out.

I made many random stops on my way there. The first one was to my favorite store, Madewell, where I couldn’t help but wander and look at all the clothing out of my economic reach. The employees stared at me while I walked around, probably wondering if I was going to steal something. I don’t blame them, to be honest. I was dressed in all black and wearing a leather jacket; not exactly the most trustworthy look. Even though I shouldn’t have, I ended up buying a t-shirt (on sale). I just spent fifteen dollars on food so why not spend another fifteen on something I could actually use multiple times?

After leaving Madewell, I continued my journey down 5th Avenue and discovered a weird, small branch of Strand bookstore. It was a shared space for several different store branches, including a flower shop, an espresso bar, and a clothing store. It was a really odd place but also beautiful. I spent a majority of my time in the Strand section. While the location was interesting, the book variety was minimal. I think in the future I will stick to my true love, the original store on 12th.

My walk continued and it brought me to Eataly. Somehow I ate nothing. I just walked around, taking in the smells of delicious food and the sounds of people enjoying themselves. I also mentally noted all of the things I wanted to try when I came back with my friends. The most tempting thing there was probably the bread that kept coming fresh out of the oven. That, or the Nutella crêpe section.

Finally, after much exploration, I made it to the Empire State Building. I’m sorry to disappoint, readers, but I didn’t actually go up to the top— it was too expensive. I had already spent around thirty dollars that day and couldn’t afford to almost triple that number. However, I did walk around the lobby and into the Starbucks there, so basically the same thing, right?

On my walk home I thought about what a blessing it is to go to school in New York City. Every other place I’ve been absolutely pales in comparison. The activities are infinite and every block brings forth a new adventure. Everything about this city calls me to explore, to soak in every moment. There is something about each experience, big or small, that feels incredibly important to me. For some reason I’ve convinced myself that there is significance in everything I do and I therefore must write everything down, even my random walks to the Empire State.

It’s Lit: My Love For Strand Bookstore Explained

Sometimes the best part of my day is walking home. After being in classes and studying in random coffee shops all afternoon, nothing brings me more joy than peacefully taking in the Manhattan scenery as I make the journey back to my room. I see lots of city treasures each day, but my favorite is always and forever will be the Strand Bookstore. I can hardly recall a time that I have passed this place without walking in for at least a couple minutes. It is easily one of the most beautiful places in Manhattan, as it is home to over 18 miles of books and is overall a massive literature-heaven.

Last week, feeling a load of stress weighing on my shoulders after school assignments started rolling in, I decided to drop what I was doing and get outside. I’ve found that despite New York’s fast-paced, crowded atmosphere, sometimes hitting the streets is the best place to be alone and think. Laying in my room after a long day is great, but it’s also somewhere I feel confined. I love walking outside and hearing the sounds of taxi horns blasting or the bustling and glass clinking from restaurant windows. It is where I feel welcome to stretch out my arms and embrace the beauty of solitude. The people here don’t care what I do. They release me from small-town judgement and they let me be free.

So down 12th Street I walked and there it was, Strand. As I opened the door the daily stressors disappeared. There I was surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of books. To me, books are something to get lost in. I’m a firm believer that sometimes all we really need is to forget ourselves in the pages of literature, and Strand is the perfect place to do so. The building has multiple floors filled with books and authors of every variety. Some of my favorite sections are Best of the Underground and Banned Books, but they truly have a space for every kind of reader.

I immersed myself in every shelf, book title, and author that I could. Determined to spend money on only one book, I tried my best to narrow my choices. After about an hour of wandering I decided on Man Repeller by Leandra Medine. Both this woman and her website are essentially perfection. Her writing and the site’s content are a healthy balance of think-pieces, lifestyle, fashion, and embracing female individuality. Ultimately, if this woman had written a book, then it was a book I needed to read.

That night I left Strand with a purchased book in hand and a revitalized mindset. Not unlike most of my visits there, I felt able to put daily pressures behind me and lose my consciousness in the words of great authors. Seeing all of those published works lining the shelves gives me faith that maybe one day my name and my writing can be up there, too. Every great writer has stood right where I am, reading and admiring the work of those before them. I believe that I have ideas and experiences to share with the world, so why not start now? And so I write and I wander. 

Hey There, Beautiful: Thoughts On My Morning Catcallers

Yesterday morning I started off my day in the most perfect way imaginable. I woke up early before my class and got breakfast at Wayside coffee shop across the street from my dorm. Here I read my book, sipped my coffee, and inhaled a piece of overpriced avocado toast. When I finished I felt refreshed, and as I stepped outside onto the pavement I knew I was ready to take on my busy day.

While I was walking down the street to class, mentally noting everything I had to accomplish that day, a random man sitting on a stoop looked up at me and said, Hey there, beautiful. Typically when I hear such comments I muster up an angry reply. But, given the peaceful start to my morning I was trying to maintain my emotional stability. Giving any further thought to his unsolicited feedback on my appearance would have only brought me unneeded irritation. 

So I took another sip of my iced coffee and walked silently past him. Not three minutes later, I crossed paths with two different men who suspiciously parted ways so that I was walking in between them. I passed through and heard one of their voices call to me, Have a good morning, beautiful.

I wish I could tell you that getting spoken to like this is not normal for a young women living in the city. And I wish I could tell you that I have not been the recipient of words far worse than beautiful. There have been moments where I’ve feared my own safety and this fear is heightened when the sun is down. I do the best I can to defend myself, but usually when I ask men not to comment on my appearance, they proceed to tell me how I am actually ugly and a bitch.

Ultimately, what I’d like for these men to know is pretty simple: If a woman doesn’t ask you for feedback on her looks, don’t give her any. To me, it’s not a compliment, it’s an imposition and an insult. You are not my friend and you are not my family, and thus you have no right to tell me what you think of my appearance. On top of this, you’re not telling me I’m beautiful because you’re a gentleman, you’re doing it to assert your dominance over me, and to make me feel inferior. Unfortunately sir, I would never let myself believe that what you’ve said about my face has any worth in comparison to my actual accomplishments. So please, spare us all the commentary. This way when I am walking down the street on my way to class, I have the chance to tell myself how great I look. Maybe I’ll even throw in a beautiful.

Eating Donuts With My Friends: A Deep Reflection

Once upon a rainy day in Manhattan, three of us college women sat in my dorm room. We read books and we laughed. We talked about the future and how much it scared us. We discussed relationships and all of their impossible complications. And ultimately, we decided to get donuts.

Thus we took to the wet streets or rather, an Uber, and traveled to our newly discovered New York City treasure, The Donut Pub. There we sat at the diner-style restaurant and gazed at the mass of perfect looking desserts sprawled behind the counter. Of course, in an unbearable millennial fashion, we asked the kind waitress to take an artistic photo of us at our seats. Do you love me yet? From that point we urgently stuffed our faces and slurped our coffees like it may have been our last meal on this planet.

After our gluttonous feast we determined that we could probably put even more food into our systems, so we made our way to the Latin restaurant next door. Upon sitting down the waiter told me that no, I could not drink my coffee from a different vendor in there. I played his comments off like I wasn’t slightly enraged and walked outside to sip the rest of my beverage on the street. Wow, I am such a kind and understanding soul.

We finished our second meal and made our way back to our respective rooms, this time walking in the rain. We were trying to avoid paying another Uber fare. As the drizzling came down on us I contemplated the simple concerns that inhabited my mind like, what should I eat when I get home? Will this rain damage my leather jacket? What is the true purpose of human existence and will we probably just rot in the earth after we die? As you can see I get by on my unyielding optimism.

I got home and I fell onto my bed, sliding off my shoes and promising myself that I would not go out tonight and spend more money, knowing I would anyway. I thought about my life and how grateful I am to have found friends who will sit in my room and read with me and who will go on random trips to eat food that we don’t need. I thought about how despite everything going on in the world, I love my life right now and the people that are in it. I thought about how tired I was, so I fell asleep.