Friday, November 16, 2007

Which Would You Choose?

Last shabbos I attended an NCSY regional convention, where, among other things, I played a game called “Would You Rather?” This game, an indecisive person’s ultimate nightmare, presents you with two scenarios (usually, both awful) and then forces you to choose which one you’d prefer.

A few weeks ago, someone asked me a question which put me in a similar position. I gave my own answer, but I’d be interested to hear some other perspectives. The situation is this:

If you had the choice between being mekareiv 10,000 people who will then be “frum” to a normal halachic standard, or being mekareiv one person who will go on to become the gadol hador—which would you choose?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Perks of Living in the City

Amazingly Awesome Things I have Done In the Past Few Weeks:

I am not a New Yorker, nor do I ever plan to be one. Though this is my third year living in NYC for college, I do not plan to stay here long—certainly not long-term. Yet, as much as I may complain about the New York area and Manhattan in specific, sometimes living in the city is amazing. In the past I’ve sometimes tended to get caught up in school and school-related things and not get out as much as I should. This year, I am happy to report, I have been doing a better job of exploring and experiencing New York. As follows, a brief guide/summary of some of the attractions I’ve discovered in my current city of residence.

Times Square -- though it is one of the most well-known tourist sites in New York, there is so much to see and do that it’s exciting to go back again and again even for those of us who live just a few blocks away. Some things to see in Times Square:

  • Toys “R” Us – this store may be known to in-towners as nothing but a trite date-site, but really it is much more. Yes, it’s a great place to spy on shidduch dates, if that’s one of your hobbies (“Oooh, that one’s not going well, look at how her arms are crossed—I guess she’s not a fan of Ninja Turtles”; “They’ve for sure been dating a while, they look totally comfortable together”; “No matter how many we see, I still think a black hat and suit look strange in a toy store”), but it’s also a terrific spot to go with friends. One upside of going with an all-female group is the ability to spend extended amounts of time in the Barbie section without having to deal with a male feeling his masculinity challenged by an overload of pink. Seriously though, for those of us who are still on good terms with the 7-year-old inside us, it is always a ton of fun.

  • The M&M Store, The Hershey’s Store – the former is much bigger (three floors) and carries anything you could ever want or need—all emblazoned with the M&M logo or pictures of the various M&Ms from the ads. They also carry M&M candies in more colors than you could have ever imagined. You won’t necessarily buy anything there, but it’s fun to look. The latter is much smaller, and in my mind a bit overrated. It doesn’t really sell much but chocolate—but then again, there’s nothing wrong with chocolate. :)

  • Dale and Thomas Popcorn, aka Popcorn Indiana – carries popcorn in all sorts of flavours, including cheddar, kettle corn, barbeque, chocolate caramel, and white chocolate peanut butter—and it’s all kosher! My personal favourite is the kettle corn, which is the only flavour of which I am able to consume large amounts at a time. The ones with chocolate are amazing, but so rich that it’s hard to have more than a little. The popcorn costs little more than Starbucks, but is much yummier. I’m a fan.

  • Broadway Shows – I am a huge fan of musicals, and Broadway shows, though often quite costly, generally provide an experience exciting enough to talk about for weeks. There are various methods of obtaining tickets for less, some of which I’ve found more effective than others. TKTS, in my experience, won’t offer tickets cheaper than can be bought at the box office, but will usually give better seats for the same price. Student rush tickets are available for some shows, or if you’re feeling lucky, many shows have a lottery for $20-25 front row seats. Take, for example, Wicked—one of my favourite shows ever. Long-time devotees of this blog may recall that I saw it in London, but of course that isn’t the same as seeing it on Broadway. Before today, I had twice entered the lottery and left empty handed. Today, however, I entered…and won! My friend and I paid $26.25 each and sat in the second row! We were so close that I could see Galinda’s zits hidden under seven layers of cover up. It was awesome, to say the least.

Pylones Stores -- never heard of them? Neither have most people—but trust me, they are incredible. Pylones makes accessories, furniture, kitchen appliances, keychains—all in bright, shiny, funky prints and shapes. They have three stores in the city; I recently discovered the one in Soho. The picture on the left will give you an idea of the kind of place it is. ‘Nuff said.

Poet’s House Reading Room – ok, so my Writing Children’s Lit teacher forced me to go. But it was cool anyway! A small room on the second floor of 72 Spring Street houses shelves and shelves of books and a quiet reading/writing area. And the door is yellow. I read an awesome children’s book there (Plum, by Tony Mitton, illustrated by Mary Grand Pre). But they are moving locations very soon, so it won’t be the same long.

Fish’s Eddy – another random store I discovered on a trek to Barnes and Noble; proprietor of such items as the “Heroes of the Torah” glass set, featuring pictures of Rabbis with generic Jewish names that neither I nor my friend had ever heard of—we are convinced they made them up. They also had colorful mottled dishware and plastic reusable straws with stripes and polka dots. I like bright colors.

The Great Children’s Read – you can’t go to this anytime soon, because it happened already this year. On the quad of Columbia University, children’s authors and performers gathered to read aloud, answer questions, and express their love of books and writing. I saw Julie Andrews. In real life. Proof on the left. I nearly passed out. And I saw a lot of other fun people/things too. Go next year.

The Staten Island Ferry – it’s a ferry, and it’s free, so why not? It’s better when it’s not so cold outside, but if you’re willing to brave a little wind you can get a great view of the city and the Statue of Liberty. And did I mention it’s free?

Midnight Runs to Duane Reade – “a drug store??” you ask, “that’s supposed to be fun??” And I answer: yes! 24-hour Duane Reades are awesome. Walking to Duane Reade with your friends at one am is a party in and of itself. And once there, there is no limit to what you can discover. Like laundry detergent. And chocolate. Ok, whatever, don’t knock it ‘till you’ve tried it.

Getting Ready for Shabbos Aboard the LIRR – admittedly, it takes a very specific set of circumstances, and a very special type of person, but it is an exhilarating experience. When you’ve missed the train you meant to take and then missed your back-up train, you aren’t left with many other options. The experience includes the classic one-handed makeup maneuver (the other hand holds the mini-mirror), and if you’re really brave you can do the train-bathroom-hair-ironing-trick (no, I didn’t do it, but my friend did…and I have the picture to prove it).

Bonus: Anywhere you go in the city, keep your eyes and ears open for interesting sights and dialogue. Example: in Toys “R” Us today I saw a group of be-payised, bearded, bekeshe-clad Chassidim posing with a bin full of bright red stuffed Elmo dolls while a young Chassidish girl took a picture. I coyly took out my cell phone and snapped one of my own. :) And eavesdropping (a necessity of life, for a writer) in the city is always sure to yield lots of colorful dialogue.

Of course, I also love ice skating in Bryant Park and Rockefeller Center, and looking at the holiday windows at Macy’s and Lord and Taylor, and lots of other things too…but really this entry was meant to record only those things I’ve done recently, because I didn’t want it to get too long. Oh. Right. Well. Ahem.

Sooo…that’s it for now, folks. Wherever you live, get out there and enjoy it!

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