Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sounds of the City

That Radio Club meetup has me thinking about sound.

I notice sirens a lot. Mostly ambulance, I think, but I'm sure there are plenty of police and fire truck sirens, too.

In my room, the heating system makes a funny rattling noise over in the far corner of the ceiling. I've stopped noticing it by now, but at first it kept me from falling asleep at night.

Sometimes the wind rattles the bedroom window, or blows grit or raindrops or snowflakes against it.

Cafes are full of people chattering, but NYC chatter is totally different from Nashville chatter. I hear lots of other languages and accents. There's the Long Island accent, which I still feel incredulous about. I love hearing Spanish. The couple at the table next to me right now are speaking something I don't recognize — they look vaguely Middle Eastern but I don't think it's Arabic or Hebrew.

The subway is full of awful metallic screeches, which no one else seems to hear. Sometimes someone — always a man — will stream music videos — usually hip-hop — from his phone, speakers at full volume. No one seems to hear that, either. Sometimes people talk to themselves. Although that could be a hidden bluetooth earpiece, always hard to tell. Sometimes a group of tourists stand over me and talk VERY LOUDLY to one another.

When I walk down the street, I usually listen to podcasts. Right now I'm really into Pantsuit Politics, so I hear women's voices in my headphones. I get tired of hearing men's voices.

I hear trash blowing along the street, I hear cars honking and buses rumbling by, I feel more than hear the subway rumbling underneath me. Sometimes I hear birds chirping. The trees don't have leaves right now, but I do hear branches rustling.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

NYC Week Two

I've been sleeping a lot lately. Excessively. On Monday, I thought I was tired from being so social over the weekend. But then I felt fairly low-energy the rest of the week, and each night slept closer to 9 or 10 hours than 8. Maybe I'm fighting off a virus. Maybe I was wrong about the city giving me energy; maybe it giveth and taketh away.

Sunday Spanish wine and tapas with Ajeet!

I spent most of the week working on my Health:Further podcast project, a Local Table piece I have due Monday, Robertson Alumni Council business, and The ENCIP. I also interviewed for a restaurant job that starts tonight — everyone keep your fingers crossed for me. I know the NYC restaurant scene can be intense.

Happily, I've gotten back into swimming: a goal I've had for the last few years and am finally making happen. Having a YMCA a mile away helps. I signed up for my Y membership yesterday, woo! My plan is to swim a couple times a week, do yoga and weight training a couple times a week, and run on the other days.

This week I also attended the NYC Radio Club meeting and the NYC Slow Food meeting. Both were really cool: At Radio Club I met some neat audio folks, including a guy who went to Duke and several people who work dream jobs in the radio/podcasting world. After about an hour of mingling, the group sat down to critique a few pieces. Listening to the projects and to other people's feedback was really valuable for me. I know that a major area I can grow in as a podcaster is creating scene with sound, something that I always appreciate when I hear it. My past podcast projects have been mostly narrative, weaving together interviews with scripted commentary, strong on the verbal storytelling side but weak on the audio scene-setting side.

The  Slow Food meeting was truly energizing. Being around creative people is fun for me, but I especially love being around passionate people who take initiative to be the change they want to see. Especially when it has to do with food. I met the current chapter board members, a couple of people who are running for board (like me...) and a few other volunteers. I learned about the chapter's programs and annual events, I ate some fantastic cheese, and I drank some fantastic wine.

At both events I pushed away my self-consciousness and got contact information for the people I thought seemed interesting or fun. Someone from Slow Food invited me to run with her, since we're in the same neighborhood, and I invited someone from Radio Club to a Harry Potter-themed trivia night this weekend. In Nashville I thought that since I was new, people would automatically think to be extra inclusive and welcoming to me, but I learned that if you want new friends you have to just reach out to other people— regardless of whether you think it's their prerogative. So I'm being intentionally aggressive in my friending techniques. We'll see how it works...
took a photo of the cracker box from the SF meeting because I want to replicate that cheese board...

other exciting NYC food things

Saturday, January 6, 2018

NYC Week One

It's good to maintain a sense of childlike wonder, right? That's an admirable quality rather than a sign of naivety?

Maybe a bit of naivety is ok? I think I'd rather have naivety than cynicism. Cynicism is exhausting. It's discouraging. It kills ideas and dreams before they have a chance to surprise you. A cynic can't be surprised. I miss feeling surprised. Or appreciating good things when they come — and not being surprised by those. 

I faced so many disappointments since graduation that I started to expect bad things. As a defense mechanism, I lowered my expectations of life. Except I couldn't totally quash my own hopefulness. So despite my attempts to steel myself against them, I kept getting hurt by the disappointments. Maybe the later ones hurt a little less than the earlier ones, because my expectations weren't quite so lofty. But they still hurt. 

I started dwelling on the disappointments. I got ensnared in them. I cried on the way to work and on the way home. I cried myself to sleep. I sloshed cold water onto my puffy face in the morning, and I kept on carrying on. Because what else can you do? I got out of bed every day. I exercised every day. I talked to baristas. I blasted upbeat music in my headphones. I tried my best to steer clear of those spiraling trap-thoughts of despair. I have since realized that that struggle could be labeled as depression and can be treated with a totally affordable prescription pill.

In New York, things feel different. I know the citalopram makes a huge part of the difference: I don't cry every day anymore, and I know that's on account of the drug. My happy pill, as I fondly think of it. But I've always had more energy when I'm in the City. My vibrations go up, as I once heard someone describe it. The vibes of this city somehow complement the vibes in my heart. Soul? Body? I don't know. All of the above. I feel more alive here. I'm caught up that sense of childlike wonder — a sense I feel I've been losing. My experience in Austin violently tried to stamp it out of me; Nashville felt like more of a slow starvation, tempered here and there with certain blessings. New York hands the wonder to me. It wraps me in it. I'm so busy feeling wonder about the SNOW on the SIDEWALK that I forget to dwell on how frozen my face and fingers are. I wonder who shovels the sidewalks that aren't in front of shops. I wonder where homeless people sleep in this kind of weather. I wonder at how much snow came so quickly, and to a cover giant city like this!

Today as I was walking to this cafe, I saw a giant rat frozen on the sidewalk! Or some kind of rodent. I was so enthralled I stopped to take a photo. Nothing in Nashville struck me as so enthralling that I would have stopped to take a photo in 14-degree weather. 

Right now I'm sitting in a Black-owned business that's playing music by Black artists. I love it. I want to tell the owner how happy it makes me, if that didn't have potential to be misunderstood or misconstrued. To me, this cafe is a drop of antidote to all the national news that makes me cry. 

I've also been more social in the past week than I was during a typical month in Nashville. I got invited to drinks with friends the night I arrived. The next night I went to a NYE party where I knew a few people and met a few more. I ate dinner the next night with my best friend and her family, who were in town for a birthday. Mid-week I got drinks with someone I knew from undergrad. Last night I hung out at the apartment of someone else I knew from UNC, along with a few other alumni whom I met there. Today I have plans to get coffee with another friend from UNC, and tomorrow I'll get lunch with family friends from Tarboro, coffee with a Duke friend, and dinner with a friend from Austin. This is insane to me. In Nashville I could easily go for two weeks without spending any time with a friend. And that drove me crazy. So I'm filled with awe and wonder that there are so many wonderful people here I want to and can spend time with.

I know this doesn't fully describe why NYC feels magical to me. I also know I'm far from the first person to wax poetic about NYC. But I'll keep thinking about it and will try to post my thoughts regularly. I'm ignoring the nagging annoyance that my dream is cliche. Because I'd rather be naive than cynical. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Summer 2017: A Season

You know you're busy when you realize suddenly that an entire season has disappeared... Summer hasn't really faded, in terms of weather, so I still haven't fully accepted it's gone. Nashville is still seeing daily highs in the 90s. But some leaves are starting to fall. And signs for pumpkin everything are popping up. And actual pumpkins. So yes, it's technically and culturally autumn (which, by the way, is a word that can also mean "majestic," though online dictionaries wouldn't want you to know. I'm deep in the weeds of cramming for the GRE).

I want to take this moment to look back on my summer. Freelancing is inarguably challenging and stressful, but one of its most wonderful aspects is the flexibility it grants for travel. Since June 1st I:

  • Attended all 4 days of Bonnaroo
  • Spent 3 days in Austin with my family and best friend
  • Spent 3 days exploring Louisville
  • Spent 2 days in Boston and 3 in NYC, all in the same trip
  • Spent a week in Iceland! 
  • Spent a weekend in Durham/Chapel Hill, 2 weekends at Lake Gaston, and 2 days in Tarboro
  • Hiked and camped in 4 TN state parks/recreation areas
Of course, I've also done a ton in Nashville over the summer, too: I'm most notably tied here by my ongoing contract with the wonderful startup company Health:Further, which executed a fantastic conference at the Music City Center the third week of August. In addition to my work with them and my regular work with WPLN, Nashville Post, Nashville Lifestyles, Our State, etc, I also have been hosting monthly dinners for The Dinner Party, plus a sometimes monthly, sometimes every-other-month book club for Slow Food Middle Tennessee. This summer I attended Nashville's Pride Festival, Live on the Green music festival, Edwin Warner Full Moon Pickin' Party, Frist Friday outdoor concerts, Creative Mornings inspirational talks, standup comedy at Zanie's, literary events at Parnassus, UNC Alumni Club events, and various neighborhood art crawls. I managed to get 8 friends together from all over the country for a reunion in NC. I started working with a personal development coach to learn new techniques for positive thinking. I registered for the GRE and have stayed on track with studying. I was nominated to direct a brand-new nonprofit formed to streamline and expand the process of recruiting college students to do community-service summer internships in my hometown of Tarboro. I saw my work published nationally for the first time.

I list all these things not for external affirmation (knowing only family and a handful of random friends read this blog) but because I want to remember where my time went. Summer didn't actually disappear. I ran it down. I sucked out all the marrow. I made myself leave the house when I didn't always feel like it, and I lived my summer as fully as I could. Despite all these "accomplishments" I am listing for myself, it wasn't what I would call a happy summer. This season of life, for many reasons, simply (or complexly?) isn't a happy one. But I am proud of the choices I've made. I'm proud of the efforts I've made to contribute to this community I live in, and to the one I'm from. I'm grateful for what I receive, for how I benefit, from both those communities. Constantly I dwell on a quote I memorized during my Outward Bound trip the summer I was 18:

"What meaning and effect your experience here will have in your life only you will ultimately know. The responsibility, as always, is yours to make of it what you will." -John Hurst

My time in Nashville might have been meaningless, if I didn't decide I vehemently refuse to let it. I adamantly insist that every season of my life is meaningful. I seek meaning, I live fully. Not necessarily every day, certainly not every moment, but absolutely every season.

The only thing I really remember about my mom's funeral is that we sang the Hymn of Promise:
In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;
There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

I'm not so comforted by the resurrection message as I am by the first few lines. Nature is incomprehensible in "the infinite complexity and variety of its myriad components," but the metaphor of a flower bulb, a cocoon, a seed, a season — those speak to me. They resonate in my "I escape to the woods when I don't know what else to do" soul.

One of my favorite essays I've ever written is the introduction I wrote for this blog. "The Braeburn Backstory." 

"The tree: deeply rooted and newly sprouting, always reaching and growing. The seeds: giant potential in tiny form, hidden within. The core: healthy and strong, or secretly rotting with a deceptively flawless exterior," I wrote of the ever-compelling apple metaphors. 

And then I picked a particular apple to represent myself:

"Like its coloring, the Braeburn taste is multi-dimensional: deep, rich, and complex. I want the flavor of my life, like the apple I’ve chosen to represent me, to be multi-dimensional. I want such depth and richness to saturate my day-to-day living ... What’s at the core? That’s a question I ask every day, in some form or another. Seeing beyond surface appearances, seeking deeper for the truth of things, searching for the true essence."

Beyond the satisfaction of re-reading a sentiment still relevant in my day-to-day, I am deeply pleased that, at the core, I am still the same person I was at 19 (particularly because I do sometimes have difficulty relating to the choices that 19-year-old made). My key values have remained constant: intellectual curiosity, moral integrity, personal improvement, compassion for others. Intentional decision-making and habit-building. That's how I try to live every day, every year, every season. 

And now, I bid farewell to Summer 2017. I won't miss it— and I'll never regret it. 

saw one of my best friends from high school get married!

organized friends reunion at LKG! 

cuddled an endangered Icelandic Goat! 

hung with the best couple in Tennessee!

hosted renowned author Caroline Randall Williams at Slow Food Book Club! 

saw a total solar eclipse!

helped plan a podcast launch party for Health:Further!

bought a couch set!

read many self-help books! 
hiked many miles in TN state parks!

QT at Tru w/ my one of my favorites!

Duke Homecoming Ball!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017


The view of the city from the highest point of Iroquios Park. We biked all the way from the river (past the downtown buildings you see here) to this point! About 15 miles total.
In the few weeks between my decision to visit Louisville and my visit to Louisville, I coincidentally met a handful of people who currently or previously lived there. They all enthused about their city, raising my expectations for a place I hadn't previously heard much about.

48 hours there completely sold me on it. A three-hour drive from Nashville, Louisville is a perfect weekend getaway with just enough to offer that you want to go back.

Bonus: Mammoth Cave National Park is exactly halfway there!

Louisville boasts an outsized number of impressive breweries.

Gralehaus was our favorite breakfast location of the trip... which we returned to on Sunday, after sticking our heads into multiple locales that just didn't live up to the ambiance here.

Back patio at Gralehaus 

classic Louisville view (Ohio River)

inspiration from the Muhammad Ali Museum

beer cheese + farmhouse bread at Akasha Brewing Co

excellent vegetarian shepherd's pie at Akasha

Breakfast Round II at Gralehaus

distillery tour at the "Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience"


I am not a whiskey drinker. I could handle only tiny sips of these samples, and shuddered with each one.

wonderful display of Southern (commentary) art at the Speed Contemporary Art Museum (which is free admission on Sundays!)

One of my favorite pieces. I noticed the "no photos" symbol after taking the photo...

Awesome sunset (and giant jenga) at Apocalypse Brewing Co!

Other highlights of the trip included the science museum, the history museum, and biking around Cherokee Park. Truly an ideal weekend in a beautiful and engaging place!