Social networking makes stalking—I mean, *cough* meeting new friends—easy! Through Pageflipper’s online book club, I met YA book bloggers Sharon and Laura, and thanks to Twitter, I learned that our visits to New York City coincided, and thanks to a 1-2-3 Twitter-Facebook-Gmail combo punch, I made a Doesn’t-Anyone-Love-the-Author sympathy plea and inserted myself directly into their Wednesday afternoon plans: lunch and a shopping spree at The Strand book store in Union Square!
So, after a yummy get-acquainted lunch in which Miss Lily, Laura’s adorable daughter, downed a chocolate shake faster than even my fry-stealin’ shake-lovin’ husband could have done it, we headed to The Strand with full stomachs and a singular mission: to load up on some great YA picks. Pretty simple, right?
Right. That was before. Before, when Laura and I still thought Sharon was another sweet, good-natured book blogger. A lover of cats and upstate New York scenery. A kind, well-read soul with a heart of gold (or at least a high-grade silver). Before, we actually laughed when Sharon grabbed a double-decker basket thingy. “Why would you need two big baskets?” I asked (ignorantly). “I don’t think we need a whole cart,” Laura said (cluelessly). Yep. Before. I think I speak for both of us when I admit my utter shock on discovering that our tall blond companion is none other than… The Strand Master!
Listen, people, and learn as we did. When it comes to YA books, The Strand Master does not mess around.
She got her cart. Led us up to the second floor, past the YA shelves, straight for a low shelf near the children’s books. Dropped to the floor. Rolled up her sleeves. And dug in, hunting and pecking her way through doubled-up rows of ARCs. Fascinated, I pulled up an adjacent spot of floor and watched as The Strand Master (TSM) hunted for the besties of the book bunch, a bit like Frankie Perino’s bikini mission in TWENTY BOY SUMMER:
…Frankie takes a deep breath and gets to work. She weaves her way through racks of swimsuits, foraging like a mother antelope for her starving babies, passing over colors or styles that are “soooo last year” or “too blah blah blah for the beach.” When she finds something with potential, she tugs on the fabric to simulate a hard day in the surf and holds it to the light to ensure it has the right amount of see-throughability.
After fifteen minutes of hunting and gathering, Frankie emerges from the racks with two armloads of try-ons. A broken fingernail and a slight breathlessness are her only battle scars.
Speaking of battle scars, I almost lost a finger when I held up an ARC of Aprilynne Pike’s WINGS, so badly did TSM want it! It took me all of twelve seconds to relent, reasoning that I kind of need all of my digits for writing the next YA best seller (*grin*). TSM had been talking an awful lot about zombies that day, and she had that look in her eye…
Anyway, after cleaning out the ARC shelves, TSM led us on another mission. Get-Sarah-to-buy-more-books-like-it’s-not-a-recession part deux, if you will. Down down down to the basement. Past the rows of textbooks and political discourse. Beyond the stacks of feminist theory and intellectual sales bins. Under the large overhanging EMPLOYEES ONLY sign. When met with curious stares from actual Strand employees, presumably those to which aforementioned EMPLOYEES ONLY sign referred, TSM uttered a secret password and the rest, well, to borrow a title from Ally Carter, I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU, BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU. But I will tell you that it was from a secret cave deep within the bowels of one of NYC’s best-loved book stores lined with gleaming hardcovers that I procured WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson and SHINE, COCONUT MOON by Neesha Meminger.
By the time we’d finished ransacking all the nooks and crannies of The Strand, we probably had 50 books between us, including Lily’s fave Spongebob pick. Laura and Lily had a long drive ahead of them, so TSM and I wished our Massachusetts friends farewell and headed into Starbucks for some coffee. There, squeezed around a crowded corner table, we met a man. A man who, as we soon learned thanks to his uncanny ability to rock the M in TMI, had seventeen recipes for rice krispie treats but no bones in front of his heart. It was all very Metropolitan Diary meets House, but Sharon couldn’t get enough of the gory details. Hmmm. I really think there’s something to her whole zombie obsession…
Medical mishaps aside, the afternoon was full, fun, and fabulous — enough to exhaust any book-seeking urban explorer. I’m so happy that Sharon, Laura, and Lily shared their New York adventures with me! Ah, Internets. How ever did we instantly share the level of information cyberstalking requires without you? 🙂
Don’t forget to read Sharon’s take on our day at The Strand (and see a few more photos) here!
In all my years of living in and visiting New York City, I’ve never had a celebrity sighting1. I’ve always felt somehow slighted by this, as if I’d missed out on some crucial newbie New Yorker initiation and couldn’t consider myself part of the tribe until I had this final experience, this top thing on the top twenty list of things. Things like, you know…
- seeing the Underwear Cowboy perform in the middle of Times Square
- walking by the giant blow-up rat during a labor strike
- getting shat upon by a pigeon (after laughing your ass off at your husband-then-boyfriend who got shat upon milliseconds before you)
- having someone quote the bible to you loudly on the train as if you are going straight to hell and need to be as prepared as possible
- getting followed from the train by a would-be psycho looking to make new friends
- giving a tourist directions in all confidence and realizing moments later that you totally sent him the wrong way2, and then dodging into Starbucks for 20 minutes just so he doesn’t come back and see you
- getting yelled at in multiple languages for no apparent reason
- sitting in something unidentifiable on the subway and then trying to ignore it all day but you can’t, okay, you just can’t
- seeing the umbrella graveyard the day after a storm
- having to pay rent in cash because the landlord may or may not be in the “family”
- falling in the middle of the street in front of oncoming traffic and having people walk faster to get by before the cars come and you know they’re laughing on the inside, too
- locking your keys in the car with the car running while pulling partway but not all the way into a parking garage and backing up traffic in Tribeca for 45 minutes during morning rush hour while awaiting a locksmith while everyone curses and beeps and flips you off
- paying $15 in ATM fees in a single day
- getting serenaded by a mariachi band, a saxophonist, a kettle drummer, an accordianist, and a Christian rapper on the subway in a single commute
- accidentally walking around with your skirt tucked right into your stockings and when you notice it and freak out in the middle of the sidewalk and stop and try to rearrange yourself without attracting attention, you realize that you’re standing in front of the David Letterman Show studio right around the time they start looking for crazies like you to put in some comedy sketch about weird New Yorkers
- having a coffee guy who sees you every morning and knows how you like your coffee and has it ready for you as you approach and even though you never exchange names, he’s always your coffee guy and this somehow makes you kindred spirits
- getting your first Manhattan job and being all young and idealistic only to quickly learn how much the working world sucks
- watching someone faint and fall into the subway tracks and helping her out but then secretly being afraid to touch her because like ewww she just fell into the tracks and all you can think is “Ohmigod go home right now and boil yourself!”
- elbowing someone stealthily but really, really hard in the ribs after she tried to shove you onto the train, and of course…
- sighting aforementioned celebrity.
So how fitting that tonight, during a “Farewell, New York” dinner with a friend at yummy Candle 79, not one, not two, but three celebs sat at the table directly across from us. Our service plummeted dramatically after that, but it was worth it just to have this final New York experience. I resisted the urge to dig out my camera and take a few pics on the down low, because you know, I didn’t want to be that guy at the party. Okay I mean I kind of did want to be that guy, but ultimately I wasn’t. Because someday when I’m Kind of a Big Deal Around Here, I’ll want to dine out in peace without the YA paparazzi trying to sneak shots at me for their blogs3.
Wait, is there a YA paparazzi? I don’t even know. Either way, now I can leave New York next week feeling completely initiated!
Can you guess the celeb identities from these hints?
- Celeb #1: Ordered a virgin bloody mary. As a recovering alcoholic bartender, he tries to stay away from the sauce.
- Celeb #2: After the waitress described the chef’s own special creation — curry-encrusted, fig-garnished seitan over cauliflower and brown basmati rice — he replied, “yeah, but your chefs were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
- Celeb #3: Ordered rabbit stew. It was kind awkward, considering Candle 79 is a vegan joint, but when she held up that big knife, the waitress knew she wasn’t messing around.
1. Unless you count that time I was carrying giant clunky heavy boxes by myself from my office on Broadway to my new office on Duane Street because my boss decided to go out of town during our moving day and the then-mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, stormed right by me, yelling at his minions who looked like they might have offered to help me if they’re scary tyrannical boss wasn’t there. Or the time I was ordering lunch in the deli across from work and made a joke about the guy in the sunglasses paying for my sandwich, so he looked over and called me a wisenheimer… he may or may not have been Al Pacino, but I’ve no documented proof and as Alex knows, I’m not always so good with faces.
2. This just happened to me last night, actually.
3. Seriously. You can totally blog-stalk me. Actually I want you to blog-stalk me. Please?
Six months ago, we packed up our lives1 in Colorado to move back to New York City. But maybe that old saying about how you can’t go home again is true, because in eight days, we’re packing it in (er, up) and heading for greener (er, snowier) pastures.
NYC to Us: “Why You Want To Leave Me?”
Okay, you know that guy that in high school who’s like the hottest guy ever and when he looks at you your insides start turning inside out? And one day when he smiles at you and says hi and actually uses your name instead of just doing that stupid what-up man-nod that boys always do when they’re around their friends your whole heart is about to explode right out of your chest? And then one day you find yourself innocently making out with him behind the school and you don’t even care that everyone is watching, or that in one day this guy knows more about your undergarments than the sales girl at Vicky’s?
But then you stop kissing long enough to get to know him and it turns out he’s about as dumb as a box of hair and he’s mean to his little sister and he kicks puppies in his spare time and also, he hits on your best friend? But he’s still really really hot and he brings you a rose and a little white bear on Valentine’s Day and you kind of forget about the best friend thing until naked pictures of her show up on his MySpace page, and even then you kind of laugh it off because he’s still really really hot and the other night in the Taco Bell parking lot you were shivering so he gave you his favorite black hoodie that you sleep with now because it still smells like him, even though the whole school is talking about those MySpace pics?
Yeah, that guy.
Anyway, that’s kind of why we’re moving. Not that NYC kicks puppies or anything, I’m just saying. Home is not what it once was for me – for many reasons. Did you get that from my clever (albeit quite-a-stretch) analogy?
In 8 days, Alex and I are wandering up to Buffalo. Before you say anything, let me assure you that any rumors you’ve heard about Buffalo are probably true, but feel free to ask if you have any questions or curiosities. We’re excited to spend some quality time up there, especially since we work from home and therefore don’t have to shovel snow. Our neighborhood has everything we could ask for — a farmer’s market, an independent bookstore, Greek diners open all night, multiple coffee places, multiple veggie restaurants, a kick-ass library, close to Wegmans2, and my baby brother who is as funny and talented as he is adorable (not that I’m pimping him or anything, but ladies, he’s single AND he’s not afraid to cry over girly YA books…)!
Expect lots of dispatches from the Queen City as we get settled into our new place in the coming weeks… just in time for fresh orchard apples and real cider, Halloween, and probably the first of many blizzards3. I’ve also heard rumors that a rabid squad of 20-somethings4 is conspiring to turn me and Alex into a couple of beer-drinking, bar-hopping, goal-post-climbing Buffalo Bills fans (among *cough* other things), but like I told aforementioned baby brother, we are the grown-ups in this operation, damn it, and we’re not above going all After School Special on the lot of ’em!
*cough* Kids these days!
So you’ll have those stories to look forward to. See, I told you after my long blog absence I would make it up to you! Well maybe I forgot to tell you, tell you, but I was thinking it, and now you’ll reap the bounty of my Buffalo-bound babbling all winter.
In the words of Napoleon Dynamite… “LUCKY!”
P.S. No puppies were harmed in the writing of this blog post.
1. By we, I mean me, Alex, our friend Criptoper, and two of Helicopter Pilot’s finest, who helped us drive 2,000 miles with severe hangovers and only to get grounded from Omaha, but we’re not bringing that up again!
See? Aren’t the adorable? And hard-working, too!
2. For those of you unschooled in the glory that is Wegmans, see here. My first real job was as a Wegmans cashier. They had all these tracking systems so they could time how long it would take us to complete an order, even if it wasn’t our fault that the customer was digging in her purse for change or coupons or her club card. It was very high-stakes for a grocery job. Anyway, Wegmans is much cooler now than when I worked there, but they probably still time the employees.
3. This is not an exaggeration. Ask anyone to share childhood memories of Halloween in Buffalo and you will undoubtedly hear words like “snowsuit” and “frostbite.”
4. Yes, your honor. That’s them.
Day 5 didn’t have to work very hard to surpass the bar set by Day 4. I mean, watching back-to-back episodes of Saved by the Bell (back before A.C. Slater was in A Chorus Line) would have been better than Day 4.
But the universe works in mysterious ways, yin and yang and all, and Day 5 turned out to be the Best NYC Retreat Day Ever.
First, I headed over the the West Side for an iced latte and a long meeting with my agent, who is fabulous and well-suited to soothe my neurotic, insecure, self-inflicted writing freak-outs (despite the Jack Nicholson comment, which was well-deserved and directed more at my questionable mental health than my writing). Not once did he look across the patio cafe table and say, “Sarah, it’s great that you’re in New York and can call on me whenever you need to chat. So, do you miss Denver? Do you ever think about moving back? Maybe you should? Do you need any help packing?”
Faith in my chosen career path (and associated life’s dream, driving passion, singular raison d’être, etc.) restored, I headed to Barnes & Noble for a fix. Five fixes, actually, including Christopher Moore’s LAMB and a book for Alex.
Hey, you say “obsession,” I say “research!”
After the book indulgence—er, research investment, I had to get back to the East Side and thought I’d walk through Central Park. You’d think it would be a pretty simple task to walk straight across a big green rectangle, but…
Those of you who know me won’t be shocked when I say that I got totally lost—er, turned around. Off the path. For an hour and a half.
But getting totally lost in Central Park turned out to be a great idea.
Life’s Little Surprises (the good kind)
A turtle! But not just any turtle. This is a New York turtle.
“Are you talkin’ to me? Oh, I’m funny, huh? Like a turtle-clown, huh? I’m here to amuse you?”
I didn’t take the bait. Despite his tough exterior, this CPW turtle is a big softie on the inside.
Go read that last part again.
Ha! (Thank you, thank you, I’m here all week…)
I loved watching this fountain scene from an unnoticeable distance. The photo is kind of scattered, but if you look closely (or click on it for a larger view), you can see how much is happening and just imagine what people are thinking and talking about, paths crossing, all connected for a single moment by the fountain.
First, there’s hula hoop 101—so random. So cool.
And, what’s got these two so engrossed?
Oh, right. She was actually bending over and twirling (not at the same time), but I opted for the wholesome family shot instead.
After watching paths cross at the fountain for a bit, I thought I’d finally found the right path to the East Side. I walked another several minutes, only to end up… right back on the West Side, ten blocks south of my original departure (and planned arrival) street.
That’s when I stumbled onto the best little surprise on my wandering journey through the park.
Listen to what it says. Really listen.
It’s a good directive for us neurotic writers. And everyone else, too.
And in the end…
This evening, my 6th NYC retreat day, I packed it in a day early and headed back to Queens. I was missin’ on my husband, and ready to come home. I’m not finished with book 2 yet, but that’s okay—I got a lot of writing done and reveled in the relatively uninterrupted solitude as planned.
Despite day 4’s katsaridaphobic1 meltdown, my NYC writers retreat brought me to a place of peace with this book. When it’s ready to be finished, I know it will be… and then it’s on to the next one.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I can’t handle that much pressure!
1. Katsaridaphobia: fear of cockroaches! Ewwwww!