Jessica Gross

Archive for December, 2008|Monthly archive page

Tourist Goggles

In musings on December 29, 2008 at 1:15 pm

I returned to Manhattan yesterday after a week out of town with my family. After only seven days away, the city looked different — everything that had become invisible popped out. The buildings really are tall.

I also felt oddly disoriented. Somehow, I’d forgotten where everything was and how to comport myself. My friend and I, searching for the tree at Rockefeller Center, took to pretending we were tourists to hide our embarrassment over wandering aimlessly and, finally, asking for directions. I thought I’d learned to navigate subway platforms, but the crowds made me feel woozy: were there always this many people?

Subway traumas aside, I like the tourist’s view of New York. It’s unlikely to have this many bright lights, ethnicities, apartment buildings, restaurants, jaywalkers, ornate buildings, hideous buildings, and smells smushed together on such a small land mass. And, once in a while, it’s refreshing to strip away the haze of everyday life and marvel at this city.


The Hiccups

In musings on December 18, 2008 at 6:38 pm

Last weekend, I’d had a few glasses of wine at a holiday party and started hiccuping. It was cliché. I tried to subdue them, but one of the women in my conversation circle had had a few herself and announced, “You have the hiccups!”

“Yes, I know,” I said, closing my eyes and nodding.

“Don’t be ashamed! Let ’em join the conversation!” She was excited.

A few minutes later, she tried to scare them out of me: “BoooOOOO!” Soon others joined in the scaring fun. The hiccups stayed.

Everyone started offering suggestions: hold your breath. Drink from the wrong side of the cup. Drink water upside down. (I’ve tried this, and it’s dangerous. The water goes up your nose.) My own method of choice is to clench a pencil in my teeth and keep holding it there while drinking water — not practical at a holiday party.
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In quotables on December 17, 2008 at 6:13 pm

“Babe, you’re not rocking that drink.”

“I know, I’m thinking about this piece I’m working on. It’s so rude.”

– A couple eating out on the Upper East Side.

The Big Apple Circus

In musings, people watching on December 15, 2008 at 6:41 pm

Yesterday, my dad took my brother, 20, and me, 23, to the Big Apple Circus. It was his birthday present to himself.

On a Sunday afternoon, the place was teeming with children. I’d seen August: Osage County the weekend before and the culture difference was stark. It wasn’t just the kids’ presence (they gasped and oohed at every circus trick), but also the adults’ behavior. Having children all around made it okay to use normal speaking voices, and to stand up, in the middle of the performances.

I wondered if this bothered the circus performers, especially the musicians. The horse trainer, I imagined, had looked forward to running the horses around the rink since she started training. But was this the trumpeter’s end goal, or did he aim to join a Broadway show’s pit orchestra? I spent the entire first act thinking about how I wanted to ask the band members how they got involved in the Big Apple.
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The Brownie of Doom

In musings, people watching on December 10, 2008 at 4:21 pm

At 8:16 this morning, a girl, about 10 years old, munched a six-inch-by-six-inch brownie on her way to school with her mother.

There are so many problems with this scenario. It is not normal to eat 17 grams of fat (and that’s for a 100-gram brownie, smaller than this girl’s) for breakfast. How about some tasty cereal or yogurt — foods that are less likely to give kids spare tires? Childhood obesity isn’t just a buzzword — it’s threatening to plague the one in three American children who are overweight with diabetes, joint problems, gallstones, and worse.

Plus, I pity the teacher who inherited that sugar-high girl from her mother.

Free(ish) Fun!

In musings, people watching on December 9, 2008 at 5:52 pm

What costs one MetroCard swipe and flies over the East River?

Presenting: the Roosevelt Island Tram! This is my new favorite transport mechanism. It’s a gondola that takes you from Midtown East (60th and 2nd), over the river, to Roosevelt Island. It soars alongside the Queensboro Bridge like a fun little airplane. Once you’re on Roosevelt Island, you can take the Tramway, a tiny bus, all around the island — for only 25 cents! I felt like I was in the olden days.
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Coffee: The New Alcohol

In musings, people watching on December 5, 2008 at 5:58 pm

I wasn’t into coffee when I moved to New York. I was the anti-addict.

Now, I’m the addict. And I don’t know one person in New York who isn’t.

Drinking alcohol has long been a bragging right for New Yorkers, as for college students. It’s cool to drink, and it’s cool to drink expensively.

Recently, coffee has gained that type of status. It was always an obsession for the sleep-deprived, but now it’s a thing to do. It’s social (though meeting for coffee is often, as a friend pointed out, a way to avoid an awkward dinner). It’s an art form: not just caffeine, but something that should be done right. It’s art. And, like alcohol, if you don’t drink it, people bug you. (“You don’t drink coffee? I mean — why?”)


In quotables on December 3, 2008 at 12:04 pm

“Thank you so much. It was so nice talking to you.”

– Man exiting a taxi on 20th and 1st, to the driver.

Central Park Clarinetists

In musings, people watching on December 1, 2008 at 6:24 pm

I know two data points don’t count as a pattern. But on a run through Central Park this morning, I saw two dads walking with young children carrying clarinets. I needed to know where they were going.

The most reasonable assumption is that there’s some elementary school near Central Park, and these kids are in the band. But I really hope it’s something crazy! As I ran, I made up possibilities:

  • The children are members of the premier Youth Orchestra of New York City (if that’s a real thing, I just took a very good guess).
  • There are millions of little children who flock to a cave beneath Central Park the Monday after Thanksgiving every year to play clarinet tunes.
  • The clarinets are actually tiny suitcases. The children are being shipped off to be space combatants, Ender’s Game-style.

Any actual, i.e. non-fiction, leads? Comment.