NYC Adventures: Books of Wonder

It’s my first full day off in 14 days (FOURTEEN DAYS) and I’m starting it off by writing a blog for you people. Because I love you and truly want you to come along with me on this whirlwind adventure in NYC.

And also I wake up insanely early and there’s nothing else to do because 1) Everyone is at work or 2) People who don’t work day jobs aren’t up yet (it’s 7am EST, btw).

I went to a really cool place, one in which I had a hard time extricating myself due to the massive amounts of awesome sucking me into the building.

First, a little background:

Due to the fact that I am a second child (outpaced by my older sister by a span of 16 months) I spent a significant amount of my childhood playing “catch-up”. I needed to prove to the world that I could do anything she could do and that included teaching myself to read by the age of 4.

From then on, if I had a choice in where my family spent a leisurely Saturday or Sunday, it was always one of two places: the public library or Barnes and Noble. I dragged my mom and my sister to both places, though I can bet my mom was less pleased with the effect of B&N on her purse. “HURRY UP” was often yelled by both as I sat strewn across the floor with a number of volumes in my lap.

The cool thing about being an adult (one of the only cool things since, largely, adulthood stinks) is being able to spend as much time as I want, anywhere that I want.

I remembered seeing a crowd-funding effort by an independent children’s bookstore in NYC a few years ago and knew I wanted to check it out.

I was not disappointed–Books of Wonder offers a massive amount of board books, picture books, middle grade and YA selections, workbooks–anything and everything geared toward the literary desires of young humans. Most of the picture books were also signed by the authors and illustrators, to boot!

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Off to the far left corner of the shop stood the rare and antique selection of books, these costing an insane amount of money. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks movie “You’ve Got Mail” while perusing this section. Meg’s character owns an independent children’s book store called “Shop Around the Corner” which houses a selection of antique and rare finds. Tom Hank’s character Joe Fox (Eff-Oh-Ex), the owner of a bargain books chain store, talks to one of the indie shop assistants, George, about the enormous expense of the rare book:

George: The, uh, illustrations are hand tipped.

Joe: And that’s why it costs so much?

George: No, that’s why it’s Worth so much.

**Obviously, value is in the eye of the beholder.**

Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of books behind those few panes of glass.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of books behind those few panes of glass.

It was thrilling to see such monetary value assigned to simple ink and paper–the thought of one day penning a novel that could accrue what amounts to a yearly income for someone was mind blowing.

I knew I’d be seeing one of my all-time favorites counted among the stacks:

1st Edition Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone signed by J.K. Rowling and with the signature of the illustrator, Mary GrandPré laid in-- $8,500

1st Edition Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone signed by J.K. Rowling and with the signature of the illustrator, Mary GrandPré, laid in– $8,500

Such simple stories by A.A. Milne have become classics over time and the price of these editions confirm it:

Complete set of "Pooh" books-- $8,500

Complete set of “Pooh” books– $8,500

Many of the volumes sheltered from sticky fingers and the elements were worth more than what I am paying for my college education:

"A New Wonderland" by L. Frank Baum from a private collection of an Oz historian in a dust jacket-- $45,000

“A New Wonderland” by L. Frank Baum from a private collection of an Oz historian in a dust jacket– $45,000

One of my nanny kid’s birthdays is quickly approaching and so, after an hour…or maybe 2…I wrenched myself from the stacks, paid for my selection (signed by the author and illustrator), and stepped out into the harsh light of the city sun.

Even now I tick through the amount of free time I may have and wonder when I can go back and spend my life’s savings in such an inspirational place.

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I Won’t Be Seeing “The Lone Ranger” and Here’s Why:

I was colorblind until I went to high school.

No, not literally. I went to a Catholic school where most of my classmates were predominately white; or, in reality, Filipino, neither of which I am. I’m of mixed heritage–African American, Hispanic, and Native American. If we were to meet at a party, one of your first questions may be about my ethnic background, because I’m pretty ethnically ambiguous.

But my race didn’t make a difference because we were all treated exactly the same when we entered through the preschool doors at 4 years old.

At 14, when I left that sheltered institution for the mean, hard, hallways of an inner city public school, it became evident to me that the small Utopia I was raised in was an anomaly.

I’ve only experienced blatant racism once–and it was in high school from a butt hole boy that happened to be African American and didn’t consider the way I dressed or spoke to be “black enough”.  That’s another story, though.

When I moved to LA, it was even more evident that the playing field is not level in Hollywood, either. 9 out of 10 casting breakdowns (or listings) are for caucasian men and women. After that, comes African American, followed by Hispanics, trailed by Asians.

At the tail end–not even a blip on the radar–are Native American actors.

Hollywood’s attitude towards the First American ethnic group is much the same as America’s general attitude: we often forget they exist.

We stole their territory, killed them with smallpox, and dumped them onto tiny patches of land and said “Go at it”.

We remember them at Halloween when we dress in shambley-faux imitations of their traditional garb, or when we’re kids playing the politically incorrect “cowboys vs. Indians”.

Ever since the dawn of film, Native Americans have been misrepresented as violent, unfeeling, bad guys (take a look at almost any early spaghetti western) who require elimination in order for the good guy to prevail. (For a great documentary on this topic, head over to Netflix and watch “Reel Injuns”.)

For them, the chances of landing a role with a positive outlook on their people, or any role in film and television, is slim to none.

[SN: a big shout out to Parks and Recreation on NBC for featuring an ACTUAL Native American actor, Jonathan Joss, in a role that doesn’t mock their entire existence.  That show is all kinds of awesome.]

ANYWAY, my point is, roles are not readily available for Native American actors.

No co-starring, guest-starring, or even bit roles.

So when a movie re-make as monumental and iconic as “The Lone Ranger” comes out, why the hell is Johnny Depp, by and large A WHITE DUDE, bestowed the privilege of being Tonto?

For freak’s sake, people!

And to mask the fact that Depp is, indeed, A WHITE DUDE, and not a Native American, they paint his face WHITE as if it’s some kind of tribal paint.

WHAT!??

Disney, look at your life. Look at your choices. 

Even the TV version cast a Native American (Jay Silverheels). And that’s back in the early 1950’s when casting was even more whitewashed than it is today!

Yes, Johnny Depp is a chameleon, he’s played lots of different roles, but this is too much. He’s effectively stolen this opportunity from hundreds of actors who get little to no opportunities at all. Okay, okay: he claims to have distant ties to a tribe; so do I (as do most people–it’s the “romantic” thing to do) and I can respect that; but, I’m not going to submit myself for those roles.  There are actors in Hollywood that were born and raised in a tribe and would be much better suited to represent the “people” onscreen.

I would argue that casting Depp this way just further exacerbates “Main Stream America’s” attitude towards completely ignoring the existence of this subset of people. They’re so invisible, that we’re not even going to cast them to play their own people in a summer blockbuster. EVEN THOUGH, they are banging down the doors to gain entrée into Hollywood.

I’m not-so-secretly happy that the movie is getting panned by a majority of critics.

This casting misstep is egregious.

It’s unforgivable.

And I’ll be showing my displeasure by refusing to spend my money on it.

Photo Credit: FanPop.com

Nooope. | Photo Credit: FanPop.com

Q: How Do You Kill a Hipster? A: Drown Him in the Mainstream.

I know there was a promise made about spilling the Kona Coffee beans re: my Hawaiian adventure–but I have to put that project on the back burner for a moment.

Because:

My boss sent me an article on an individual SO adventurous and SO daring that it put my trip to shame. Brave Henry Alfred (who, if I had my ‘druthers would be knighted if we did that sort of thing in America) went undercover into the world of the Williamsburg, Brooklyn Hipster. For those of you that don’t know what a hipster is: have you been living under a rock?! 

Actually, no. Let me not insult your intelligence–for you are far better off not knowing about this subset of young people, usually caucasian and springing from upper middle class families. But just in case you’re a masochist, here’s a photo that’ll give you a clue:

Don't judge a book by–just kidding. Judge away | Photo Credit: Google Images, Baby

Don’t judge a book by–just kidding. Judge away. | Photo Credit: Google Images: “Hipster”

ANYWAY, Sir Henry Alfred went undercover to the epicenter of the New American Hipster and lived to tell the tale. Let it be known that Portland, OR is the original homeland of the species, but Brooklyn has now fallen into the overzealous hands of the 20-something-non-comformists.

Read Lord Henry Alfred of Manhattan’s full account here before continuing on with my post.

Or, if you skipped his article, I am using some of the best quotes in the following critique. These are my thoughts on his experience and I hope never to be in his vintage shoes:

I had fallen into conversation with the affinity marketer…I guessed aloud, “So, like, if I buy a pair of shoes, then you’ll try to sell me socks?” The affinity marketer smiled and said: “Or maybe something bigger, like flooring. You buy a pair of shoes, I sell you reclaimed hardwood flooring.” Well, this kid is certainly good at selling bullshit, I’d love to see what he could do with some “vintage” lawn chairs. 

 
 When I layered the corduroy shirt over the H. W. Carter shirt, the effect was homespun and slightly raffish: a country-store clerk who has lost his spectacles in the barley.” I’ve always wanted to look like a half-blind, hick shop owner that would be less out of place in an adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath than on the streets of a major metropolitan city.

 
“Roberta’s has the ugliest entrance of any restaurant I’ve ever seen, barbed wire leading to heavily graffitied concrete cinder blocks: gulag in da hood. I waited almost an hour for a table.” I say we just throw all the hipsters in jail–same scenery, maybe better food, and they can brag to their friends that they enjoyed “prison tourism” before it was cool.
 
“This company makes it a point to wind-sail its cocoa beans from the Dominican Republic to Brooklyn, then to hand-sort these beans, then to let its chocolate “rest” 30 days before sale.” The only ‘resting’ a piece of chocolate within a 50 mile radius of me will be doing is IN MY BELLY–immediately.
 
 a collection of Ronald Reagan’s speeches, a 1993 book about the health care crisis and “Hitler Laughing: Comedy in the Third Reich. Her eyes widening, the employee called the store’s owner on her cellphone and recited the titles to him. “We can offer you two dollars for the ‘Third Reich’ one,” she soon told me. “But these other two are …” So I helped her out with, “Their resale potential is more muted.”  If I had to choose between Reagan and Hitler…well…let’s just say, she made the right choice. 
 
I know now that if the economy sours further, I can trade in all my books for herbal diuretics.” Thank GOD because I have been looking for an establishment such as this. 
 
In conclusion, this writer is a badass and I loved reading this article. However, you won’t catch me near the wilds of Williamsburg.
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Disney Hipsters--the only acceptable breed | Photo credit: hipstermemes.tumblr.com

Disney Hipsters–the only acceptable breed | Photo credit: hipstermemes.tumblr.com

April Fools is the Worst

The title of this post says it all–today is the worst! No, foolin’.

I’ve never been a fan of April Fools Day.

As a child, I was disgusted by friends who took the mock-holiday and ran with it: telling horrible lies all day long, pointing their index finger so close to your face that you can smell the applesauce they spilled all over their grubby little hands at snack time, before yelling “APRIL FOOLS!” at the top of their lungs.

UGH.

I wouldn’t say that I’m gullible, but on April Fool’s Day, I feel as gullible as…

as…

…I can’t think of an appropriate simile besides an Asperger’s child that can’t read social cues, but that just seems offensive.

Today, I’m finding myself irrationally offended at some of the posts that I’ve read on social media sites.

Y’all, I’ve got so many ultrasounds on my newsfeed announcing unexpected pregnancies that I feel like I’m an OB/GYN that just forgot about all that med school I suffered through.

And for an LA spin on the day, I have numerous friends announcing that they’ve given up on acting and are hitting the trails to brighter futures elsewhere. My initial response: GREAT–that leaves more auditions for me, Me, ME! Then, I remember the date and feel guilty for thinking such evil thoughts.

The most awkward? Seeing engagement announcements from friends that have been in committed relationships for a while only to find out they’re joking. Why, oh, WHY would you joke about that? Isn’t it depressing that you’ve been together for so long and he hasn’t actually put a ring on it?

I feel tricked! I feel lied to! I feel like I need to get off of the internet for the rest of the day.

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Spontaneity Killed My Credit Card…and it Feels So Good!

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I love adventure as much as the next person but I’d never classify myself in any category described by the words “care-free” or “spontaneous”.

What really gets me going every morning, what really gets me excited about sucking in the sweet (gloriously dry) Los Angeles air in the AM, is the knowledge and security that the day I’m waking up to is (almost) entirely planned.

Not the little things like what I will eat or what item of clothing I’ll wear (that’s easy, though: whatever is in the ‘clean’ pile on my bedroom floor as opposed to the ‘dirty pile’ right next to it) but the big things I know about the night before.

I’m going to work (either from the office or from my couch), I’m going to a café to get coffee in the morning (usually Starbucks since I don’t have to drive to get there), I will most likely be ordering in/picking up lunch and dinner, which is a horrible young, unmarried, childless person cliché that I happily perpetuate.

Delicious, delicious perpetuation.

Anyway, my point is, I am a planner.

It’s also cliché to think of people “like me” (young, unmarried, childless) as unhindered by responsibility or commitments to our time outside of work. Sure, it’s much more uninhibited than someone trapped at home by children bouncing off of their walls (and I say ‘trapped’ with all the love one can muster after wiping countless faces, noses, and tushies without a moment’s peace).

But there are still things that shackle me to my home and keep me from hitchhiking across the galaxy. I’ve been meaning to read that series of novels titled similarly–gotta put that on my list. I digress.

I hoard my vacation days for “what-if-emergencies”. I Ebenezer Scrooge the crap out of my paychecks (if you don’t know what that means, you certainly aren’t familiar with the works of Charles Dickens…or the Muppets).

Sometimes, though, I get tired of planning and putting things off for another day.

I get frustrated when friends working full-time, getting paid much more than I do, and with less bills to pay (i.e. an undergraduate education, rent, etc.), use ‘money’ as an excuse not to do something.

Anything.

Kind of hypocritical if I’m using the same ‘ole excuses. And if I know one thing about myself, it’s that I’m not a hypocrite. That, and I love ice cream. And Parks and Rec.

Last night, while sitting on my couch, I felt an inexplicable tingling sensation in my fingertips.

That funny feeling started to spread up through my palm, into my wrist, and began to irritate my elbows.

“Strange,” I thought to myself as the tingling found it’s way up through my arms, circumnavigated my armpits (because what’s romantic about including armpits in a story? Oh wait…crap), and made it’s way to my brain.

My eyes pointed meaningfully at the laptop sitting beside me. I had just recently relegated the computer to standby status in favor of the Victorian novel North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (old English Literature Major Habits die hard).

While reading I came across this quote: “Thinking has, many a time, made me sad, darling; but doing never did in all my life. My theory is… ‘Do something, my sister, do good if you can; but, at any rate, do something.'”

Here, my phalanges (that sounds like such a dirty word…good job, Latin) took on a life of their own and quickly typed in a URL that I’d been to many a time in my digital lifespan.

Then:

Click. Click. Click.

A box filled in here, a calendar selected there.

Tap. Tap. Click.

CONFIRMED.

Aaaaaand I’m flying to Hawaii next month thanks to the irresponsibly low fares on Orbitz.com.

Can’t wait to see my first round of living spontaneously pay off when I reunite with some awesome friends and enjoy this time of near-but-not-quite-reckless abandon in my life.

Hawaii--Get Ready | Photo Cred: My buddy Kelly who I am going to visit!!

Hawaii, get ready. | Photo Cred: My buddy, Kelly, who I am going to visit!!