Personal Blog Post 1: My world in a bubble.

In Uncategorized on October 5, 2010 at 11:29 pm

When I was 11, the Metropolitan Museum of Art came out with what probably is the millionth version of a New York snowglobe.

My parents and I were on a December visit to the museum, a tradition that culminated with what is, and always has been, my favorite bastion of consumerism – the Met Store. There is something about the place that makes you feel that for once, by being materialistic, you are actually accomplishing something noble and erudite, that you’re bettering yourself in some absurd way simply by being in the presence of such overpriced refinement. I firmly believe that my IQ increases upon crossing the threshold and that the catalogue’s semiannual arrival in my mailbox completely cancels out my other, more incriminating geriatric subscriptions (Martha Stewart Living? Vogue Knitting? Who, me?).

The mazelike shop is organized into sections – books and calendars, apparel, tote bags, scarves, the most beautiful jewelry collection you will ever see, home furnishings, and a children’s section filled with what I considered a better collection of books than existed at the neighborhood bookstore. All of this stuck me as being much better than FAO Schwartz, whose aisles were littered half with boys’ undignified games and half with the undignified boys themselves.  And I was, after all, at the stage of circle-circle-dot-dot cootie precautions. The Met Store provided neither Star Wars Legos nor running noses, and it meant a few more minutes spent inside before plunging back into the tundra on 5th Avenue. So I was content to follow my mom passed pendants of Faberge eggs (which I thought came from artistic chickens) and stained glass scarves (which I thought came from artistic nuns).

But this was the year that my contentment with the gift shop detour would escalate into full-scale hysteria. Because this was the year that I saw it — object of all objects, toy of all toys, price-gouging of all price-gouging. Nestled sneakily on a bottom shelf in the calendar section (probably to avoid the attentions of clumsy, butter-fingered minors like myself) was the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York Snowglobe. I don’t remember the actual moment I first saw It, but I am pretty sure I probably emitted a melodramatic gasp and extended a hand in gimme-gimme-gimme longing. This, quite obviously, was so much more than a toy.

It is unclear how or why this particular item became a lifelong obsession. I didn’t have some extensive and obscure snowglobe collection, nor did I have a highly-evolved taste for water-logged toys. But from the moment my mother said, “No,” to my suggestion that she just go ahead and buy the item on-site on that day in 1998, I was enamored. I had to have the globe. And 12 years later, I would.

… … … … …

Four months ago, almost to the day, I could be found schlepping all of my earthly possessions (books, food, and back issues of Martha Stewart Living) into a double-parked truck on West 72nd Street, and U-Hauling it all out of Manhattan. I was moving to Washington, DC to enroll in a graduate program at Georgetown and try my luck in yet another city.

Notice I make no mention of the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York Snowglobe I had lovingly and carefully wrapped and packed and cushioned against my bedspread. That’s because I never got that snowglobe. Despite the weekly visits to the museum that defined my life in New York City, I had never invested in my hallowed childhood aspiration. I had wanted to purchase it prior to moving as a sentimental reminder of my life in New York, but moving occupied a great deal of time, and it just never happened. And it was still there, sitting on that bottom shelf next to calendars whose years got progressively higher in number.

… … … … …

Last weekend, I went back to New York for the first time since I moved away. I spent time with my best friends, raised my voice and dropped some expletives while watching a Yankee game, and playing Gin at night around a kitchen table. It was like nothing had changed — I had never moved to Washington, I had not been absent for summer outings in the Park, and I certainly had not forgotten my way around underground.

And this was no accident. Despite my self-proclaimed pride in my independence (I had, in the past, moved to Los Angeles, Miami, and DC without knowing a soul on the other end), DC Round 2 had been the most challenging locational readjustment of my life. I had come here once before for a summer internship, a situation for which the pressure was off, as I knew the experience to be of a limited duration. But for some reason, this move was killing me. I missed New York, and nothing reflected this nostalgia more than my online browser history.

On any given day this past summer, my computer could tell you that I visited Gothamist, New York Magazine, the local section of the New York Times, Overheard in New York, and even Subway Alerts many, many, many times. I would Google Street View my old street to see when and if any changes would appear. I would check the cupcake calendar on the Magnolia Bakery website because I am an obvious masochist and wanted to know the exact flavor of fat I would not be eating on any given week. I checked the listings at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema and compared them to E Street. I Flickr-ed “Chelsea High Line,” “Riverside Park,” and “NYC Hot Dog Carts.” My desktop background changed from an image of the Brooklyn Bridge to a kid subtly and humorously picking his nose while he watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. In short, I was using my time very productively.

Meanwhile, DC raged on outside my window. While not at work or school or e-stalking my ex-home, I would meet friends for a movie or dinner. To their credit, they are all wonderful people and did their very best to enamor me of my new city. But our two-hour conversations were challenged by my many-more-than-that-hour New York web life.

And my success at continuing to live my life in New York while not actually in New York became frighteningly apparent to me last weekend while back in New York. For the first time in my life, I was more informed of recent New York news and happenings than anyone I knew, but couldn’t tell my grandmother the first names of the candidates in the DC mayoral race if she paid me.

My weekend trip, of course, included a trip to the Met. And on my spin through the gift shop, I ended up where I always do: in front of the snowglobe, next to the calendars. And something struck me. I hadn’t bought the snowglobe before I left New York, and yet I had still found a way to trap that world inside a bubble. Instead of shaking a snowglobe every once in a while, I was spending a great deal of my time trapping New York inside my laptop. But I wasn’t shaking this recreated New York and letting the pieces fall where they may — it was shaking me and making it extremely difficult for me to adjust to and enjoy my new life in DC. And as much as I enjoyed been seen by my friends as an (albeit freakish) expert on Summer 2010 New York Goings-On-About-the-Town, I realized I was handicapping myself and sabotaging my relationship with Washington. I wasn’t giving it a chance. Yes, it is different from New York. And yes, I will probably always feel most at home in the place where sarcasm levels rival the altitude of the Empire State Building and every other conversation includes a Seinfeld reference. But I was, for the first time in my life, seriously abusing my usage of the internet and using it to inadvertently handicap my real life by instead choosing to live a life online. Which is a concept I have always hated, and a trap I have always thought it easy to avoid. It was time to reassess.

So I bought the snowglobe. It’s sitting on my desk right next to my computer. I’m going to shake it once now and head to DCist.com to see where I can find a pumpkin cupcake near L’enfant Plaza.

  1. […] and Kate inspired me to write my first response post.  Ok, it was them and some pregnancy-related […]

  2. I’m mentioning this post in my first response post this week too! Did you ever find a pumpkin cupcake?? I would die for one right now 🙂 One of my favorite places in college served homemade pumpkin soft serve ice cream…

  3. […] I miss a lot about living in the country and I get home sick every now and then, similar to what Kate talks about in her post about New York.  I may not be able to see the stars every night before I go to sleep, play with my favorite pug […]

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