San Francisco Transit Through a Visitor’s Eyes

San Francisco, I’m so glad I had the opportunity to finally visit you! You’re certainly interesting. Let me take a moment, though, to rant about your public transit (although I admit that the plethora of environmentally-friendly vehicles is nice)…

First, your maps are ridiculously useless. In NYC, we have two lovely maps for the subway or the bus. They are super easy to read and understand. SF, what is happening with your map? Is there buried treasure? Because I’d never find it with your map! Seriously, there are more colors, numbers and letters on that thing than a pre-school classroom’s wall. Thank god for Google maps, since I was able to just plug in my destination and follow its directions. But that brings me to my second point.

There are 48 different transport options. Google tells me to take the L to the 40 to the F to the [symbol of a flying bus?]. You have cable cars, street cars, buses, subways, BART, rickshaws, magic carpets. I have no idea what type of vessel I’m about to be transported in. And that brings me to…

Could you make a less conspicuous train/bus/rickshaw stop? As stated, I don’t even know what vehicle to be on the lookout for, but now I’m supposed to just assume that the bus/cable car/streetcar named desire is going to magically appear on this corner because Google maps tells me so. (But yes, some of your stops are quite nice with the arrival countdown – but only some!)

THEN, assuming I get on the correct vessel, I’m now supposed to know my stop ahead of time because the driver ain’t stoppin’ for shizzel unless you pull the Request Stop rope. So, no biggie, I just had to learn an entire city’s streets in a day.

And lastly, the “rapid” part of BART is no friggin’ joke. I’m pretty sure my spleen is still at the airport waiting to catch up to the rest of my body. That is all.

san-francisco-transit-map

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6 Things I’ve Learned About Portland

For the last few years I’ve been hearing great things about Portland, Oregon. It’s built a reputation for being an artsy, bike-friendly, small-town city. So I decided it was time to check out this little dot on the map and see for myself. I’ve been here four days, and these are my impressions:

1) The people are friendly. Not necessarily the same type of ‘friendly’ you see in the South, but they’re genuinely helpful and proud of their city. I had several residents enthusiastically tell me what places I should check out, or what I should go do while I’m here. They’re significantly more patient than New Yorkers (but who isn’t?).

2) It is bike-friendly in that the streets have bike paths and there is much more respect paid to bikers here than in NYC. You can bike on the sidewalk in places outside of downtown. I really enjoyed my bike ride along the waterfront. You can safely lock your bike up with one u-lock, and expect it to be there when you return (during the day). I tried to explain to the bike rental guy that I’m coming from NYC, and I need two u-locks, a chain, a seat lock, a siren, etc. but he laughed at me. I will say, they’re are not as many bikers here as I expected to see. Maybe it’s a growing population though.

3) MAX fares are pretty much based on the honor system. I rode the MAX (Portland’s light rail) every day and was never asked to prove my fare. I understand that you can potentially be randomly asked, and that inspectors hang out one some routes more than others. But I also hear that it’s pretty uncommon to be asked for proof of fare. That………is weird.

4) The hills! Seriously, these hills! I’m a native Floridian, and the only hill I grew up with was the town landfill (no joke). I do live in NYC now, and while it’s not Florida-flat, it’s certainly no where near as hilly as Portland. I like Portland, but I fear I could never live here due to these hills. It’s nearly as hard to walk down them as up, and I’ve pulled every single muscle south of my waist. Geez, Portland, get a backhoe and level this **** out!

5) NW District. I discovered this section of Portland, outside of Downtown, and loved it! If I ever did live here, I’d probably target this hood. It’s a residential-meets-independent-retail section of houses, small shops and restaurants. Very cute!

6) The food is amazing. I’m not a foodie, but everything I had here was fantastic – from the small chains to the food carts. I had a grilled cheese sandwich from a food cart. You’d think, “But Vicky, how good could a grilled cheese sandwich possibly be?” Good enough for me to blog about it!

So those are my initial observations of Portland. In short, I do recommend that you check it out, if you haven’t yet. I didn’t mention the parks and trees, but the size of the trees is just astounding. I’d never seen trees that tall in my life! But now, my journey through Portland is ending and it’s time to discover San Francisco…

Portland

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34 Things I’ve Learned in 34 Years

My 34th birthday is rapidly approaching, and I thought it would be nice to compile a “34 Things” list. I’m certainly not the first to do this, as seen here, here, and here. Maybe it’s something about the nice round number 34 that evokes the need to document concrete proof that life has meant something. This past year, in particular, has brought quite a bit of emotional and spiritual growth. So, without further fluff talk, here are 34 things I’ve learned in 34 years.

1. Relationships change, but this is not always a bad thing. Sometimes relationships change because we’re growing, and we outgrow the relationship. Sometimes they change when geography gets in the way. We tend to get closer or farther from people throughout life, usually exactly as we need to. It’s some strange cosmic pull that keeps everything in an oddly perfect balance. Sure, sometimes it hurts, but it also allows for great possibilities.

2. Life is better when you’re not broke. You thought I’d say something like “money isn’t everything,” didn’t you? Well, it isn’t. However, life is better when you have some and you aren’t living paycheck to paycheck. This isn’t always a choice, of course, but I’ve learned that it’s better to work a little harder if it means my quality of life will be a little nicer. Maybe I’ll have a different perspective by next year’s list.

3. Like your job. I would write, “love your job,” but this isn’t always possible either. However, if you don’t at least like your job, then what are you doing? Most of us have a choice to look for work that is fulfilling, engaging, and salary-appropriate. If you don’t feel this way about your job, get that resume polished!

4. Pets make everything better. I cannot imagine my life without my pets (two chihuahuas and a cat). It would certainly be easier to travel, and my schedule would become much more flexible, but I just can’t imagine not coming home to those little furry faces that love me unconditionally. No matter what mood I’m in, what I’ve accomplished or not accomplished that day, they are thrilled to see me, every day.

5. For god’s sake, have a sense of humor! I should have made this #1. Of all my traits, I think I’m most grateful for my sense of humor. Or at least, it’s a very close second to my intellect. The two go hand in hand, really. I find that a witty sense of humor is the most attractive quality in another human being. There is nothing better than laughing with friends.

6. I really need to learn to cook. I’m hoping that next year’s list will have something about how much better life is when you can cook for yourself. At a certain point, take-out every night gets pretty lame.

7. There is always time for a hobby. Up until this last year, if someone asked me what I did for fun, or what hobbies I had, or basically any question about how I spent my free time, I’d stare at them blankly and usually reply with something like, “oh you know, I’ve got my dogs, and I’m into technology.” Sadly, that was a crappy, vague reply. Fortunately, my answer to that has changed (of course, I still have my dogs but they are not my “hobby”). Today I can answer that with discussion about karate, yoga, biking, writing, and meditation. Yay for growth!

8.  You are not half of a person if you are not in a relationship. This is a point I have to remind myself of today. It’s easy to get caught up in feeling like you’re 50% complete without a “better half.” I mean, we live in a very couple-centric society. But, I’m still 100% of a human being all by myself. It will be nice to meet a compliment at some point, but that’s what she should be – a compliment, not a completion.

9. Go after what you want. I think I learned this point in my early 20s, when it came to my career at least. I’ve been blessed with confidence in the work place, and I’ve been fairly successful at climbing the ladder in a few different industries now. So my point, if you want a promotion, go after it. It will not likely fall in your lap unless you work above your requirements and above expectations. They say you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have. I say, you should DO the job you want, AND the job you have (within reason).

10.  Spend more money on activities and experiences, and less on things. I would rather spend $300 a month on my karate and gym memberships than on clothes or accessories. I’d rather spend $1200 on my summer vacation than a nicer television. Sure, it’s nice if you can do it all, but I’m still on a budget. To me, life is more about the experience than the prize.

11. This is clearly not an original thought, but I can say that I do believe it’s better to be happy than right. I’m not always perfect at adhering to this, but I am much choosier with the battles I pick. I am much less likely to correct someone today, or to argue a point regardless of how certain I am that I’m right. I guess this is a part of humility. Again, I’m not always there, but I’m improving.

12. Read often. This is another point that I’m reminding myself of as I type this. Read novels, magazines, articles, biographies… read about what interests you. Otherwise your world remains pretty small, your intellect remains stagnant, and your ability to have meaningful conversation starts to decrease.

13. Get up early, even on the weekends. Don’t get me wrong, I sleep later on the weekends, but I no longer sleep past 10:00 am, like I used to in my “younger” days. This is partly due to my dogs needing to go out, but honestly they are pretty lazy and don’t wake me up. I’ve just learned that it is better for my overall rhythm to voluntarily awaken at a normal hour. And, I get more done!

14. Always carry a light sweater. This is self-explanatory, although this is another self-reminder. It could be 95 degrees outside, but there is always an A/C set to Arctic Freeze somewhere.

15. Be nice to the wait staff. These are the people in charge of what goes into your food, and I don’t, for a second, doubt that there are some spit-happy waiters out there. For this reason, I rarely complain about the food unless I ordered a fish that is still swimming when delivered. Even then, it depends on how much it may be swimming. I can adapt.

16. Don’t hit “send” immediately. This was a long and painful lesson for me. I have a tendency to be very trigger-happy on electronic communication. I do have the “undo” lab installed in gmail so that I have an extra 10 seconds or so to think about the email I just sent. However, I will actually let things sit as drafts for a time before sending. I’ll do this with texts too, now, at times. I have found that things can be easily misunderstood through e-communication, so I have been putting more focus on effective and clear dialogue.

17. A good haircut can really brighten your day.

18. It’s better to invest a little more on quality, rather than buying multiple, cheaper items. For example, I’d rather spend $500 on a decent bike than $200 on a cheap bike that will crap out within a year. Then I’d be spending $200 a year on bikes rather than the long-term purchase of $500.  I learned this lesson from my ex-husband, to whom I’m grateful. I’ve been able to slowly accumulate nicer items and leave the discount goods for the “kids.”

19. Technology is friend as much as foe. In other words, I need to find that healthy balance. It is difficult to not grab my phone every fifteen seconds to check for any notification from the variety of useless social media sites I’m on. I imagine I’m not alone in this. However, it’s very convenient to be able to find the answer to any question, the location of any store or restaurant, or the name of that one guy who was in that movie with the other guy, you know, the one with the beard who dated that actress in the 90s….

20. Leave the hotels for the honeymooners. Now this is obviously a preference, but when I travel, I’d much rather stay in a (safe) hostel or an airbnb room than spend my money on a hotel. This is partially for cost savings, but mostly due to the experience. When I travel to a new city, I really want to experience the city as if I were a resident. I tend to avoid most tourist attractions as well. Hotels are nice, but they are a little too cushy and sheltered for my taste.

21. Be on time. I once heard someone put it this way: When you’re late to meet someone, you’re robbing them of their time. If you agree to meet at 10:00 and show up at 10:15, that’s 15 minutes you stole from the other person. Clearly, things happen, but habitual tardiness is a no-no. Ever since I heard it put this way, I have put much more effort into being prompt for all engagements.

22. Be selective with your circle. Friends are great to have, and everyone that you meet and like can serve a purpose in your life. You may have park friends, shopping friends, movie-going friends, dinner friends, bar-hopping friends, etc. However, your circle, that tight group of people that you go to with the big things, should be carefully selected. I’ve found this to be true, anyway… after quite a bit of trial and error.

23. Drink more water.

24. It’s okay to not have the answer. I used to be so afraid of saying “I don’t know.” However, I’ve learned that it’s okay to not know everything about everything. Today, I say. “I don’t know, but let me find out.” It shows just the right amount of humility and willingness. And, thanks to Google, I can usually find out just fine.

25.  And another reminder to self, make eye contact. This comes so easily to some people, but I really have to make an effort. And I don’t mean in day-to-day conversations only, I’m also referring to just being out and about on the street. Clearly this does not apply to the crazies (because that’s exactly when you don’t make eye contact), but I have found myself walking down the street and missing people I know because I’m not paying attention. That simple act of eye contact makes all the difference in connecting with my fellow human beings.

26. Always say “you’re welcome,” and not “sure,” “no problem,” or “yep.” I learned this very, very recently. I do think this varies depending on your region, but saying “you’re welcome” is so much more polite than any alternative.

27. Smile in your driver’s license photo. I don’t care what they say. You’re stuck with that thing for years. Mine looks like a mug shot.

28. Do not post a rant about anyone online ever in any setting, ever. It does not matter if you think you’ve mastered privacy settings, or if you delete it five minutes later. If you post it, it’s out there on the internets, with all the cats. This is another lesson I had to learn the hard way….more than once.

29.  Eat breakfast.

30. The more you avoid your fears, the bigger they become. The only way, for me, to conquer fear is to face it. I have yet to successfully will away specific fears from the comfortable seat of my couch. Maybe there is a way, but I have not encountered it. I am reminding myself of this as I approach the date of my next flight.

31. The saying is really true, holding a resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. It’s the most useless, destructive emotion. Is it an emotion? I’m actually not sure how you’d classify resentment, but whatever it is, it’s useless. I think I’ve improved significantly in 34 years with my ability to let these go. Many of them, anyway. This is another work in progress. And the progress comes from a lot of fantastic assistance from my circle (see #22).

32. Take time to play. We forget this. Sometime during the teenage years we start to feel like playtime is for kids. We’ve got more important adult-y things to do. This is not so! I guess what we define as “play” changes and varies depending on preference,  but the important thing is, fit some playtime in the schedule.

33. Mind your business, because it’s the only business you have any control over anyway.

34.  Perhaps a culmination of several of these points, and a good way to conclude the list, don’t take yourself too seriously. I tend to be my worst enemy, and I tend to be harder on myself than anyone around. But life is short, and I don’t want to waste it holding myself to some standard of excellence that’s forever unattainable. Don’t get me wrong, I am probably always going to be A-type, but I’m okay with that, happy really. Ultimately, I want to strive for that balance between persistence and patience, determination and acceptance. It’s a fine line, and hopefully I still have another 60 years to master it.

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5 Observations By a Newbie NYC Bike Commuter

I’ve owned a bike in NYC for close to a year now, but it took me this long to work up the courage to actually use it for commuting. I’ve been biking around Central Park for a while now, but since I only live two blocks away, I haven’t had to deal with the streets or crazy cabbies. But, this week, I finally took the plunge and rode my bike 50 blocks down Park Avenue into Midtown. I’d like to share my initial observations with you:

1) Park Avenue is lined with doormen hailing cabs and black sedans for very wealthy parents taking their very wealthy children to school. It’s amazing what a different view of the city you get on a bike. I feel like I’ve never noticed any of these very wealthy people before. They’re very wealthy. “Excuse me, sir, is this your $1000 bill? It fell out of your back pocket.”

2) Cabbies don’t care about cyclists. Not even a little. Apparently we’re just moving targets for them. Maybe they even have some cabbie scoreboard somewhere in a smokey, windowless room. “How many did you get today, Ahmed?”

3) Pedestrians respect cyclists. I can see it in their eyes as they walk hurriedly across the street. I know what they’re thinking. “Damn, look at the cyclist. I wish I was on a bike.” That’s right, respect, people.

4) Traffic laws only partially apply. I know, I know. They’re supposed to fully apply here in NYC, but I’ve been taking my cue from other cyclists and no one stops at red lights. That’s when it becomes a real-life version of Frogger (hollah, 1980!). So far, my score is 8003. I haven’t been squished yet, but I’m not sure how many lives come with this game. Does anyone know the shortcut? Up, Up, Down. Down, A, A, B, B?

5) Lastly, biking to work is awesome. I feel more alive and energetic when I get to the office. I’ve actually extended my commute time by 10-15 minutes, but the benefits are fantastic. I get a workout without taking out a significant chunk of my normal routine. So far, I’m a happy bike commuter.

So stay tuned as my observations change and grow. I’m hoping to bike more and more often in the city now that I’m kind of getting the hang of it. Kind of. Frogger!

Image

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The Cranberries Were Right After All

In the summer of 1995, I turned 15. I remember blasting The Cranberries from my bedroom stereo and deeply feeling every single one of Dolores O’Riordan’s words in Dreams. “Oh my life, is changing everyday, in every possible way.” It’s really rather amusing, looking back, at how I thought my life was changing so much that summer. Really, nothing was changing. I had a crush on a girl (but didn’t know it was a crush at the time), and I was becoming slightly popular for the first time in my life (it lasted briefly). Other than that, I was still living a pretty sheltered teenage life in Davie, Florida.

I really continued that sheltered life until relatively recently. Interestingly, it took me many, many years to realize how many paths are in front of me. I find that to be one of the most exciting things about life, today. There is no “one way” to live it. Most kids, when they’re approaching high school graduation, get the opportunity to choose a new city, a career, a vision.. they get an opportunity to complete define, from scratch, their future adult lives. Due to a variety of factors, I didn’t really get that opportunity. Sure, I went to college, but a local one. I chose a career without much thought about its place in my future. Actually, I didn’t think much about my future at all. That’s on me.

However, now, at nearly 34 years of age, I am realizing that it’s never too late to redefine ourselves. It’s never too late to venture on a completely new path, one that you may have never seen the entry to before. If you’ve read my other articles, you know that I started changing my path in the fall of 2012 when I left my career in Florida and embarked on the journey to a new one in New York. It doesn’t end there, though. Every day is a new opportunity to make new choices, make changes, walk down a new path. So now, truly, my life is changing everyday….in every possible way. Thanks, Dolores.

The Cranberries

 

 

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The Sun’s Up There Somewhere…

I’ve been living in New York City a little over 18 months now, so it’s time to do another Florida vs. New York comparison article. For you new followers, I grew up and lived in South Florida until I was 32. I traveled to New York frequently beginning in 2010, fell in love, and moved here near the end of 2012. More on that journey here. Let’s dive in!

Language:

  • When ordering food at a café in Florida, you’re asked “For here or to go?” In New York, it’s “To stay or to go?” which does make more grammatical sense. It took me forever to stop saying “for here,” though.
  • Changing lanes in Florida? Better use your signal. In New York, though, you need your blinker.
  • In Florida, it’s pretty common to answer “thank you” with “yep!” As in, “yep, you got it!” In New York, this tends to come across like a rude response, where “you’re welcome” is the better reply.

Weather:

  • I’m not talking about the obvious cold vs hot climate difference. I’ve already written about New York winters. Let’s talk about rain. How is rain so much worse in New York? I have not managed to keep an umbrella longer than two weeks, yet I never had an umbrella break on me in Florida. It’s like the New York rain is angry at you for getting in its way.
  • The sun. Where is it in New York City? I see evidence of it, but I don’t think I’ve actually seen it since I left Florida. In Florida you cannot avoid it (which isn’t great if you’re fair-skinned like me). Sometimes I miss it and wonder if it misses me too.
  • I do not miss Florida humidity! My hair and skin look so much better in New York. But, my chapstick supply has grown exponentially.

Food:

  • I never saw so many build-it-yourself salad bars in my life. This trend either does not exist in Florida, or began after I left. I have a hard enough time choosing toppings on my Subway sandwich, and now you want me to pick my own salad ingredients? If I had any idea what foods tasted good together, I’d just cook myself.
  • Why is it so hard to find a good cup of coffee? This is New York City. Florida, believe it or not, has some real, authentic coffee bars. New York only seems to have one good chain in the Village, yet you can literally not walk a block without hitting a Starbucks.
  • New York, I’m not sure there needs to be that much meat on my sandwich. Florida food is better proportioned.

Stores:

  • Grocery stores suck in New York, they really do. I miss Publix more than anything else in Florida. NYC grocery stores have no bakery, outdated items, past-their-prime fruits and veggies, and stale bread. Let’s not forget the $14 gallon of milk.
  • On the plus side, there are 28 salons, laundromats, and shoe stores per block.
  • Florida is fond of its chain stores and strip malls. Ugh, strip malls. New York has an amazing, eclectic collection of every type of store imaginable, and it all varies from hood to hood. You can feel like you’re on a holiday just by shopping 20 blocks away.

I think that’s enough comparing for today. Both places have their good and bad traits, but it is certainly interesting to experience a different take on the world after so long in the hot sun. New York’s got me though. I’m not leaving anytime soon.

Sun And Clouds

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Today’s Quote

Pema Chodron

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