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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Broke Girl's Guide to Watching the Olympics

I don't understand the popular phrase "broke college kid"... College kids have it easy - especially if they live in the dorm like I did. They have furniture provided for them, someone to clean the bathroom, meals served daily, access to a gym, events planned to keep them entertained, cable and internet access... Now that I think about it, It's like a luxury group home without the smell of pudding! Ok, so maybe the facilities aren't always state of the art and the food isn't always something to rave about, but I'm realizing I took a lot of things for granted in college.

The afore mentioned popular phrase should be amended to the following:
"broke post-college kid with an unpaid internship trying to make it on his/her own in a new city"
Now, I understand that it doesn't quite roll off the tongue, and it's easier to have sympathy for a "kid" carrying around books and struggling to keep up a GPA, but things get pretty crazy when you make the leap from education to practice.

I should clarify a few things. I'm not claiming to be broke. I'm not complaining. I'm not trying to make you feel sorry for me. I've been very blessed to have been able to save up money from previous jobs (I started saving for my move to NYC at eight years old), capitalize on birthday and graduation gifts, and supplement my current lack of income with odd jobs and the selling of my sweet little car. And what's best is, I'm living my dream! There are, however, a few things that I've had to get creative with. Fortunately, creativity runs in the family.

Now, let's switch gears...

I love the competition, I love the spirit, I love sports, I love the camaraderie, I love the excitement, I love the events, I love the scenery, I love the back-stories, I love that it only happens every four years (unless you count summer and winter together... but we're just going to focus on summer), and I love that the entire world is watching.

My love of the olympics began in 1996 when the Olympic Games were held in Atlanta. We lived in Gainesville at the time, and my parents were wonderful enough to bring Erin and me to Centennial Olympic Park for the festivities. We got to watch part of the torch running, and even hold the torch. I vaguely remember getting to see rowing. I vividly remember trading pins and seeing the fountain, and I will never forget the excitement of just BEING there. I don't think I understood what a huge deal it was at the time, but I am so thankful for that experience now.

Ok, so where am I actually going with all of this? It's now time to put together the two seemingly unrelated topics of this blog. Broke post-college intern without a television or air conditioning at her apartment and Olympic Frenzy. THAT is my life right now. THAT is the city fun of this week.

So, that FINALLY brings me to the real point of this blog: Olympic Viewing as an Extreme Sport... Hold on to your hats! And let the creativity begin!

Opening Ceremony: I lucked out on this one. I got to watch the Opening Ceremony on a big flat screen TV with a bowl of ice cream and a comfy couch in Long Island (see previous blog).

The Tuesday that USA won the Women's Team Gold in Gymnastics: My friends Zach and Chase live on the upper east side and have a lovely pent house apartment with a nice TV (they work in finance or something like that - with numbers and money). I invited myself over to their place to watch, but they didn't feel like staying in the apartment, so we went to a sports bar and pigged out on pigs in a blanket, mozzarella sticks, and wings while cheering on the USA with about 30 of our new best friends.

Thursday, August 2nd: After work I went up to the East 60's to visit my friend Sarah and to pick up some face-wash she got for me. We were chatting, and she had to take a call so she told me to make myself comfortable, turn on the tv, whatever. When I turned the tv on, what did I find? You guessed it, THE OLYMPICS!!! That short visit turned into a full evening of fun. We ordered pizza, hunkered down, and watched little Gabby claim All Around Gold in Gymnastics and the Phelps/Lochte show down. It was delightful.

Friday, August 3rd: My friend Katherine and I went to Times Square at 6:30 in the morning to wait in line for Rush tickets to ONCE that went on sale at 10am. We obviously didn't get much sleep the night before, so we had full intentions of just going back to the apartment, sleeping all day, and seeing the show that evening. Of course, that didn't happen. We got our tickets and realized we were wide awake. Now, Katherine has a pretty janky TV. It doesn't play DVD's, and it only turns on when it feels like it. Well, it didn't feel like it at first. We tried to turn on the TV, but gave up. 15 minutes later we randomly start to hear Olympic commentators, and eventually the screen illuminates to reveal the daytime event coverage!!! YAY!!!!!! We were so excited! We had a wonderful time watching track and field, cheering for volleyball, and making fun of water polo... Those bonnets are just a mess... They made those girls look like Amish sea horses. I even made one of my own... I blame lack of sleep... Clearly I have no shame in my Olympic pride, but you've got to admit, it's a pretty good replica:

Last night my need for Olympic coverage continued. I met Katherine after work and we decided to get some food. We couldn't figure out what we wanted so we went to Washington Square Park to find a food cart. Nothing. We started walking. We were trying to figure out what we wanted to eat. New York can be extremely frustrating for two indecisive "broke" girls. There are just too many food options. We eventually decided that we didn't care what we ate, we just wanted to watch the Olympics. So we had a plan. The search began. We passed a sports bar that looked super sketchy. We decided to keep looking. We passed another sports bar that was PACKED. We decided to keep looking. We went into a sports bar that looked pleasantly uncrowded - they didn't serve food. We decided to keep looking. We passed a restaurant that was showing the Olympics on the TVs, we looked at the menu, and there was nothing under $10. I can totally understand that, really I can, but they were serving burgers and fries and things like that. NOT worth it. We decided to keep looking. FINALLY, an hour and a half and a bunch of walking later, we found a pizza place in Union Square that was showing an Olympic commercial. We assumed that meant they were playing the Olympics. We were wrong. It was a spanish soap opera. Clearly nobody was watching that, so we very sweetly asked if they would change the channel to NBC so we could watch the Olympics. *insert eye batting and a sweet smile*
They were so nice, not only to change the channel for us, but for not kicking us out at any point during the three hours we just sat and watched! It was so great! People would come and go, eat their pizza slice, watch an event or two, and go about their merry business. Not us. We were planted and hooked! We made some friends with Australian tourists who got obnoxious when the Australian runner won her race. We made friends with the little old lady who chanted USA USA USA after every gymnast finished a routine (even the Russians). Most importantly, though, we found exactly what we wanted - cheap food and Olympic coverage. 

Today, I've decided that while I'm at work and there's not much going on, I'll be scouring the internet for news, updates, and videos I've missed.

I've still got 4 days to feed my obsession, and I can only hope that both the creativity and the access to coverage continue.

As always, going for the gold!

Grace be with you,
Lindsey Shea

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Great Gatsby Getaway

Manhattan is an over-stimulating, constantly moving, hectic, stressful, adrenaline shot of an island. I adore it, but sometimes you just need to get away.
"How?" you may ask. Well, I've decided to let you in on a little secret:


Networking is so very important in business, but I think it may be even more important in pleasure. I have two new friends who are Juilliard musicians. Their circle of connections is quite exciting. One of these friends has family in a little town called Glen Cove on Long Island. This little beach town is the setting for our story this afternoon.

Please indulge me as I relay to you the joys of my little mini-vacation.

Emma, my violinist friend (I introduced her to the joys of wearing shorts during the summer - together we bought her first pair ever!) text me one evening to tell me she was house-sitting for our friend Doug's family in Long Island. She didn't want to spend the entire weekend in this strange house by herself, so she invited me to join for a couple of nights. I had never been to Long Island before, and I was a little worn down from the craziness of the city, so I eagerly agreed to meet her out there on Thursday evening for a little bit of relaxation.

I packed my pretty pink weekender suitcase and as soon as I was released from work Thursday evening, I rushed down to Penn Station to catch the LIRR train to Glen Cove. I had never been used the LIRR (Long Island Rail Road) before, so that's where the fun started. I wish I had taken a picture of the insanity, but I didn't want to look like a tourist (Darn my New York pride...). To find out on what track your train will be stationed, you have to watch an ever changing board for the route name, the departure time, and the track number. There are literally hundreds of people staring up at this board, and every few seconds a new track will appear and dozens of people will take off running towards the entry portal. It would have been hysterical if I hadn't been in such a panic to find the right train. Eventually I figured out the system and made a mad dash for track 15 where I just barely boarded the train before the doors closed and we departed for Jamaica.

The LIRR is much nicer than Manhattan subways - partially because people have much longer commutes and they pay a lot more for their tickets. The seats are cushioned and have arm rests. I was too slow to catch a seat, though, so I stood in the aisle, straddling my suitcase, praying I was headed in the right direction. I transferred trains at Jamaica and felt much more comfortable as I actually sat and enjoyed my ride to Glen Cove.

When we arrived at the station, I stepped out onto a quaint little outdoor platform with a ticket pavilion and a parking lot. That was pretty much it. I was only about an hour from mid-town Manhattan, but this was a COMPLETELY different world. Emma picked me up in the car, and we drove through the town to our weekend home.

As we pulled up to the house, Emma said she hoped I didn't mind animals... We were greeted at the door by the fluffiest, sweetest, happiest dog ever (except for my old dogs - they were the best). Mocha and I immediately hit it off and I could have just sat and petted that sweet dog all evening.

We wanted to see the beach before sunset, so we drove down the little path to the local beach and walked along the water and sat on the rocks just chatting and enjoying the fresh air. A storm started to appear on the horizon, so we watched the water wall approach the shore. If you don't know, a storm on the beach is one of my all time favorite sights. This was heavenly. We couldn't pull ourselves away until the wind starting pushing so hard it became difficult to stand. Then we started to get a little scared and ran back to the car.

That night, Emma made us a pizza and we were just going to hang out and watch a movie. We had just settled down with full bellies to watch our movie when all of the power just shut down. Power outages are always a little scary, but when you're in an unfamiliar house in a strange town, it gets really easy to freak yourself out. We were absolutely positive we were going to die. It was the perfect scary movie - two new friends house sit for a relaxing weekend, then a storm rolls in, the power goes out, and BOOM there's a killer around the corner... Don't even pretend like you wouldn't have though the same thing. We tiptoed around the house with our iPhones as flashlights, looking for candles or anything else that would give us some comfort and some light. After lighting enough decorative candles in the living room to give off a nice full glow (and enough light to see anyone who might try to attack), Emma and I sat with the dog and cat and chit-chatted for a few hours. Girl talk can be so delightful... If you've never tried it, I would recommend it. When the power came back on, we reset the clocks and went straight to bed.

Friday was full of small-town fun. We spent the morning out on the beach tanning and reading, then went into town for lunch and Batman. It was pretty incredible. We bought lunch and a movie ticket for the price of one ticket in Manhattan. We were also the only ones in the theatre until right at start time (even then, there were only a few others). Any time you see a movie in the city, the theater is full. I've never seen a movie in Manhattan where at least half of the seats aren't filled - no matter what time of day. We stopped at the grocery store on the way home to get ice cream, then went back to the house for the Olympic Opening Ceremony!

I was so thankful to have a big couch and a real (big, flat screen) TV to watch the Olympics. I had spent most of the week worrying about where on earth I would be able to tune in. We don't have any kind of television set up at my apartment, so this was beyond ideal! Emma and I ate an entire carton of ice cream and enjoyed every second of the broadcast whether we were overwhelmed with Olympic spirit or having great fun making fun of the opening ceremony. (You've got to admit, there were some pretty ridiculous parts. My favorite comment from the announcers was "I'm not sure if that's cute or creepy" referring to the big baby in the middle of the arena after Voldemort and the army of Mary Poppinses had their duel... EXCUSE ME WHAT?? Heavens...) After just barely maintaining consciousness through the entire parade of athletes, we ended our night in a wonderful sugar-coma induced sleep.

After a morning jog and fresh breakfast, we went back to the station, boarded the train, and returned to real life in the bustling city. At first, I didn't want to leave Glen Cove. I was having such a delightful time. However, as soon as I stepped foot back in Penn Station and felt the energy of the city smack me in the face, I was exhilarated and so glad to be back! There's nothing like being away from the city to make you appreciate it even more.

So there you have it - I guess that's what New Yorkers do on vacation... They do things that the rest of the country does every day - they slow down. I'll admit, it's a nice feeling, but I couldn't handle that all the time anymore. I guess I'm a city girl now. :)

Grace Be With You,
Lindsey Shea