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makers after dark

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It’s no secret I’ve been a foodie since the day I was born. I truly and completely love every hidden hole-in-the-wall restaurant and world famous burger. This is a love I can trace back to my upbringing; traveling for my family always meant avoiding any kind of meal we could get back home and trying out the local spots. However, it’s just as special to try out the places that make your city special as it is while traveling. One particular bakery Knoxville holds is Makers Donuts, a gourmet donut place that offers different unique donuts each week from one with a combination of cherry, coke, and popcorn to their famous maple bacon. Last Friday night, Makers offered a ‘Donuts After Dark’ party, which simply meant they sold donuts through the evening instead of the usual closing time around noon. Hundreds showed up, leaving hour long wait lines.

While waiting in line, it was easy to question what brought all those people out that night. But, you know, that’s the beauty of good food: it brings people together. People go and do wild things not only for food, but for the community. Everyone in the line at Makers was there for donuts, although each of their days were different and brought them there from different paths. Whether it’s around the Thanksgiving table or in line for donuts at eleven at night, food is a really special thing we have to enjoy together. So, let’s enjoy the little things and go eat donuts at midnight or whatever adventure life might offer next.

eighteen.

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Then: I dreamed. Of the wide skies of something great, I dreamed and longed to run free without weariness. Of the simple rain drops, I dreamed, counting them as they fell upon the car window panes, pretending to imagine life into them. For my entire life, I’ve thrived on the imaginary. When I was young, I filled homemade paper books full of it. At night, my brother and I mapped out stories for hours. During the day, books and movies and music fed the hunger tearing me apart, aching to take the world around me and then create.

I began to live my own story, too. I grew to make friends; even those whom I no longer recognize became apart of me. When I was seven years old, my mother started homeschooling my brother and I, which would change our life tremendously and for the better. All along, I would feel a connection with my body and mind: finding freedom in dance when I was making peace with myself and when I grew anxious, pulling my own hair as if I was to blame for the feelings that trapped me. And when my body changed and I grew to hate it, I burned my confidence and began living in the ashes of self-loathing. Those were dark days, and thankfully, not long-lasting. For there was a beautiful day in its time when I was set free. At the age of thirteen, I learned grace and it was graciously showered on me. I was finally running free, with no constraints.

Oh, and the days that followed. I made friends, so many different faces and stories that would blend with my own. The sum of the experiences my parents allowed me to live would form the magic in which I now view the world. I would learn my passion for photography, a journey that would transform me both as an artist and as a human. Books would fill my spare time and my days would be spent reading about lives from long ago, lives painted by people such as I, the world around me, that beautiful force that drives us all, love stories tragic and tragically happy, and the issues that unite us and divide us. Sorrows would come into my life; I’d lose my Grandma in an unexpected blow of Autumn, forever touched by our days together and missing the way she loved life as simple as seashells on the shore. Never said goodbyes would haunt me and the heartbreak of ones I love more than myself would come slowly and surely. The city would fill my heart, pull me under its spell, and knit my desires to be swallowed whole by its wonders. And all along as I grew, I dreamed.

Now: I am eighteen years old. Today, I woke up and everything was golden. I got in the car to go to a new city, thinking to myself on how fine it all is.

I was afraid to turn eighteen. It seemed old and unfamiliar. Yet then, I thought of the city I so love, and how it is beautiful because it is worn, wasted, built by those who bypass and those who make a home there, tattooed by street art, and full of unfamiliar things coming every second. The city writes that orchestra every day, and I know it well for that song is my own. Now I know eighteen is another chapter to live and learn and be worn, wasted, and built.

The other day, one of my best friends and I were sitting in her car in the pouring rain, eating ice cream and talking about the future. We got distracted by the song that was playing in the background and one particular lyric: “from the day I started crawling, I was on my way to find you”. Isn’t it amazing, I thought, how there are asleep stories and people I have always been destined to find? My entire life has been a pathway to those exact stories: the people I will meet in college in the Autumn, all the people I will love and laugh with, all the people that will break my heart, and all the people that will cause me to think thoughts I can’t imagine now. They are living right now, walking their paths and I am on my way to find them in perfect time. We have such wonderful things waiting for us, don’t we?

One far-off day: I will be worn. Tiredness will overwhelm me, and time will have numbed me into a deep steadiness. I will rise and see the cracks in the windows where light is pouring in. There will be few treasures in that house, apart from the ones received from the true treasures: drawings from children, tidbits from travels, my own photographs mounting the walls. I will wash white plain dishes and let the light from the window be golden bright to my eyes and remember a time when I was so young and so full of wonder I could explode. I pray I think fondly of my past, yet thankful I know all that I will know, for I found that which was waiting for me. Nothing in my story was safe: it was blurry, cracked, oozing. It was uncertain, chapters spent on the edge of life. But beautiful things grew, died, and grew back. After it all, I hope I still have the wonder. And in that day, still I will dream.

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up” – Louise Erdrich

 

in which I find a favorite coffee shop

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Coffee shop culture is an uprising roar of late. For writers, it’s equal to the office. Ink-stained fingers are replaced for coffee stained desks (or for me, I still have both). The atmosphere of people coming-and-going, the hum of city streets, and the bitter caffeinated lips on cold cups makes for a blank canvas; a canvas crying for cathedrals to be built by the loose cement of words.

There’s something new about trying new coffee shops to find new types of stories, however there is the same draw in finding your favorite corners. If you’re ever in Chelsea, go to Intelligentsia’s coffee bar in The Highline Hotel. Whether in the cozy inside or outside facing the city or in the enchanting garden area out back, this coffee shop is asking for the adventurous to build their cathedrals and everyone to share a drink and a conversation. After only an hour, this place left me in wonders, as all good coffee shops should.

the cronut (or why good food matters)

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It’s 8AM in Soho. The street is full of people briskly walking to work, runners, dog-walkers, and a odd line of people in front of a bakery. The question arises, “What bakery is worth a line?”. The bakery is Dominique Ansel and the crowd is for the creation of the Cronut: the child of a croissant and donut that’s made its way up in the world.

I’d heard the marvels of the Cronut and I can say it was 100% worthy of all expectations.

While sitting in the bakery’s courtyard eating the glorious pastry, I asked myself a question: why do we stand in line for breakfast? Why do we marvel over something simple as food? Don’t we have more important things to do?

However, the truth I have found is that we are meant to marvel. It’s not hard to marvel in Manhattan; it is a city of many beautiful encounters yet we are not made just to marvel at skyscrapers, we are meant to encounter all the little things that fill a crowded city. There’s something about food that doesn’t only sustain us but brings us community. It brings us the anticipation, the satisfaction, and the awe of standing in line at 8am on a crowded Soho street to eat something very good.

It’s the little things that can fill us up with wonder and sometimes it takes great food to make us realize that. And to that I say, let’s wonder on.

one morning on 5th avenue

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This month, my Dad invited me to spend a few days with him in the city while he worked. Therefore, I found myself alone in the city one cool Thursday morning. Our hotel was on Lexington Avenue so I walked a couple of blocks and found myself in one of the prettiest busy corners. The entire trip was a happy blur, but the beginning was such a happy adventure for myself including warm NY bagels (and I quote Wicked when I say I do believe I have been changed for the better) that I happily ate on a walk to Central Park and a successful coffee shop hunt (completed in Ninth Street Espresso). T’was a good morning.

New York is transparent in the spring, when the dead things are paraded with sudden life. The whole city matches the beat of the hearts that it holds.

That’s what I love about the city when it comes down to it. It’s a big bundle of reckless love and longing tucked into five different boroughs.

Manhattan was always like a dream, even before it was real to me. The pure idea of the city was one of wonder. I clearly remember the first time I visited at age 8, crying as we flew away, the skyline in the distance. “I fear I view New York much like a crush,” I remember remarking to a friend one day, “It appears to be this great thing, but I fear eventually it will bring disappointment.”

Yet each time I go and leave, New York has yet to collect dust for me or grow old like a girlhood fantasy. Perhaps it’s the thing I love most; New York is a dusty place. It’s everything in a small distance: you’ve got the financial district, you’ve got the art neighborhoods, you’ve got the bridges that cross to Brooklyn and Queens, and a short distance away you’ve got the different world of Harlem and the Bronx. In New York, you have everyone: the tourists, the immigrants, the soul-seekers, the money gainers, the young and old.

New York, you make me a whole human being in the way that tears me apart the most. Manhattan is still a a dream to me and I have no intention of waking up.