What's Cooking: Aligue Pasta

It's a freezing cold night in New York—and the first in quite awhile where I had nowhere to be and nothing to do. That in itself is a big enough treat in this city where we seem to be moving from one place to the next incessantly. But as soon as I got home, I thought I'd up the ante. I slipped into some comfy jammies and wandered into the kitchen to make a wickedly delicious yet unbelievably easy-to-make dish that I've been obsessing about for awhile: Aligue Pasta. 

Aligue is what Filipinos call crab roe—that rich, unctuous treasure that is as sumptuous as it is treacherous on the arteries. I spotted some crabs in Chinatown a few weeks ago just overflowing with the good stuff. It was all I could do not to pick them up and lick them right there.

Lovers of artery-clogging food and generally enterprising folks that Filipinos are, some bright minds back in the Motherland thought of bottling up these treasures, making aligue readily available in grocery stores—you know, so you don't have to put too much effort into tempting a heart attack.

Outside the Philippines, bottled aligue is available in some stores that sell Filipino products. I scored a bottle of Navarro's Crab Paste at Fou Lee Market while on vacation in Seattle. My dear friend Pattie, who is a food enthusiast, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York and the woman behind the beautiful Cintai Corito's Garden in Batangas, recommends this brand's Premium Quality version, but I had to make do with the regular variety and it was still pretty good.

On Pattie's food blog, A Slice of Pattie, she has a recipe for aligue pasta which I followed without much difficulty. Other aligue pasta recipes jazz up the sauce with seafood and cream but I like the simplicity of this recipe. That rich, briny taste of aligue can stand on its own and and dresses up some al dente spaghetti nicely after being sauteed in olive oil and garlic. A squeeze of lemon juice adds some acidity and cuts through the richness. If you like some heat like I do, red pepper flakes and crushed black pepper go with aligue really nicely, too.

The recipe also calls for fresh basil as a garnish, but I piled it on with a generous hand. Aside from the fact that fresh basil is plain old delicious, it gave the dish some texture and kept the aligue flavor from being too overwhelming.

It was so easy to make, and if you're as lazy as I am, you can get away with just using one pan to cook the whole dish in. I finished cooking in under half an hour and was immediately back on the couch, plunging my fork repeatedly into this sumptuous dish. I'm not gonna lie, I definitely felt my body slow down (I was nodding off before 10pm), and my cholesterol levels definitely climbed a bit.

But I suppose there are worse vices in life than delicious food that makes you want nothing other than to curl up and take a nap, right?

I say forget the guilt for a second and let's raise our forks to moments of gustatory bliss ...

Happiness is a pile of lovingly baked cookies

I spend most of the year on the opposite coast from my family. So when I come and visit Washington, it's such a treat to spend quality time with my baby sister, Katie.

We spent a cold winter day holed up inside in our jammies, the scent of cookies wafting through the house and songs from the Glee Christmas album filling the air. I loved baking when I was Katie's age but I haven't made a single cookie in the last decade. Meanwhile, she has been baking up a storm. So in all honesty, the only thing I can claim credit for as far as these cookies are concerned is that I didn't ruin my baby girl's masterpiece!

Is it just me or do lovingly baked cookies just taste so much more delicious?

Happiness is ... a happy belly

At a holiday party last weekend, some friends and I talked about how interesting it is to see what people skimp and splurge on.

"For some reason, I can't get myself to take a cab to the airport," I said. It's odd but the thought of dropping $60 on a cab ride is more stressful to me than the tedious process of pulling my little carry-on wheelie through subway turnstiles and tempting fate on the A train all the way to JFK Airport.

"Are you kidding me? I'd skip dinner just so I can sit in that cab and chill out all the way home," replied one of the girls.

As soon as she said that, I felt wholly enlightened about my taxi aversion. It's precisely because I could get a really great dinner for the price of a cab ride that I won't part with $60 just like that. And I guess I've always been that way. Some people eat to live; I live to eat. I grew up in a family and culture where love is expressed through the making and sharing of good food. So it's always stayed with me and to this day, I make it a point to break bread on a constant basis with the people who are important to me.  

For me, happiness is a happy belly. So my moments of foodie bliss will find their way into this blog more frequently from now on. A quick snapshot of some of the heartwarming deliciousness coming your way:

If delicious food is your definition of bliss, too, then I hope you'll enjoy the posts to come!

Do you speak the same love language?

If you've never been there, you've at least heard a friend express dismay and frustration at their loved one in some iteration of this sentence:

"I'm always the one who {insert act of selfless love here} ... why can't he do the same thing for me?"

Each person does certain things to show that they care when they're in love, whether it's showering someone with gifts, cooking an elaborate dinner or giving a naughty slap on the butt when no one's looking. It comes naturally and effortlessly—which makes it all the more frustrating when the object of one's affection doesn't reciprocate in the same way. 

When expressions of love get lost in translation, it can make you just wanna scream,
"Do I have to spell it out for you?!"

In this season when we all go out of our way to show our loved ones how we feel, I thought it would be prudent to reflect on the concept of 5 Love Languages. Through years of counseling couples in rocky marriages, Dr. Gary Chapman came to realize that each person has different ways of expressing love—and that most of the time they will pick a mate who expresses love in a different way than they do.

According to Dr. Chapman, people express love in 5 universal love languages:
1. Quality time
2. Physical touch
3. Acts of service
4. Words of affirmation
5. Receiving gifts

If you rank these five according to what makes you feel the most loved and line that up against your partner's rankings, chances are there will be differences. But the way you show love will probably always be according to your list; meanwhile, the way your partner expects to be shown love will be according to his or her list.

And therein lies the problem.

Picture a husband who comes home and gives his wife a big hug to express his love—only to get swatted away because she's annoyed that he didn't take out the trash as promised and therefore sees that act of service left undone as love withheld.

Imagine the girlfriend who's showered with gifts by an incredibly busy boyfriend, and still feels unloved because to her love is shown by devoting time while to him it's expressed by doing everything he can to keep her feeling like a spoiled princess.

You think you are unloved when the other person is actually trying to express love—just in a way that's natural to him, but just maybe not for you.

It's important to find out each others' love languages so that messages don't get lost in translation and petty hurts don't fester and grow into full-blown heartbreak. In this season of love, we'd all do well to start learning the languages our loved ones speak.

Apotheke: It's the cat's meow

One night, after gorging on our favorite Shanghainese soup dumplings, my friends and I decided go around the corner to Doyer's Street for a quick nightcap at Apotheke. Apotheke is one of my favorite speakeasies in the city, hidden in the middle of Chinatown and disguised as just another Chinese restaurant. To our surprise, the door was locked—very odd at 8:30pm on a rain-soaked Wednesday. After stubbornly pulling at the knob a few times, the door finally cracked open and we found ourselves face-to-face with an intimidating bouncer.

"What's the password?"
"Uh ... please?" my friend Kim attempted.
He laughed and replied, "Maybe that works for your mom but that won't get you in."
"Is there a private party tonight?" I asked in confusion. I had been to Apotheke many times before and never needed a password to enter.
"It's Prohibition Wednesday so you need a password to get in. It's on the website ... but I can give you a clue," he hastened to add, seeing our crestfallen faces. "It's an animal and the sound that animal makes."
"Tiger ... Rawr!" burst out our cute blond Swede Mimi, causing the bouncer to erupt in laughter.
"No, that's not it. But you're very close."
"Cat's meow!" Kim exclaimed.
"You got it!"

With those two magical words, we walked in and instantly felt that we had been transported back into the roaring 20s. This lovely band of flappers seemed straight out of the prohibition era with their pincurls and heady jazz music.

At the bar, the drink list was a blast from the past, listing cocktails adapted mixology books dating as far back as 1869. The drink I chose was one of the older ladies on the list, inspired by a recipe dating back to 1887: the Peg Flip. It contained vodka (which marks the first time I've tasted the spirit in an artisanal bar setting), fresh pear, advocaat (a creamy liqueur made out of eggs, sugar and brandy), sugar, egg white and cinnamon. It tasted like a cinnamon bun in a glass. I wanted to take it home for the holidays and introduce it to my parents as my significant other. Yum.

We only stayed for one drink but that unexpectedly wonderful night at Apotheke made me fall in love with this spot all over again. I can't wait to come back for more time warp experiences.

Living in a city that keeps finding new ways to surprise me—that's definitely part of my happily ever.

Apotheke is located at 9 Doyers Street, New York, NY.

(Image source: New York Observer)

Unbreak that heart

For better or worse, I've had my fair share of heartbreak. Whether it's a relationship that seemed to have great potential or a supposedly "casual" affair where feelings weren't meant to grow and get hurt, it's nearly impossible not to feel a sense of loss and a need to rebuild a life that doesn't include the last object of affection after something comes to an end.

For better or worse, I've also gotten really good at bouncing back. I don't know if it's because I've had a lot of practice or it's because I just hate conceding to defeat. It could very well be that I've been through some terrible things so everything else pales in comparison. For whatever reason, I tend to bounce back rather than break. And because of this, I get a lot of people asking me how I do it. It's not that I have a heart of stone; what I do have is the ability to laugh in the face of ... well, pretty much everything. While my checklist probably won't single-handedly patch you up, it will hopefully at least get you to crack a smile through the pain.

Without further ado, here are my top tips for beginning to unbreak that heart.

1. DON'T listen to Unbreak my Heart. For the love of god, please keep this and other wrist-slitting music off your iPod. Same goes for Against All OddsTotal Eclipse of the Heart and anything by Céline Dion. Music that lets you wallow in misery and desperation are only allowed in your life when singing karaoke. And if you start crying while singing karaoke, I beg you to PUT. THE. MICROPHONE. DOWN.

2. DO flood your ears with fighting words. Lines like "Don't wanna be aaaaall byyyyy myyyyyseeeeeelf ... " should be nowhere near your eardrums. What you want to be listening to are songs that are more along the lines of:
"Been there, done that, messed around, 
I'm having fun, don't put me down,
I'll never let you sweep me off my feet."
- La Roux, Bulletproof

"It's hard to dance with the devil on your back
So shake it out."
- Florence + the Machine, Shake It Out

"I guess I got my swagger back"
- Jay-Z, Otis

Here's my playlist of music that's always put the fight back in me. If that doesn't make you feel more empowered ... well you'll have some new music, at least.

3. DO watch He's Just Not That Into You. This will save you several hours of mulling over what you could have done differently and what he really meant when he said such and such. This movie tells it like it is: If a guy is treating you like he doesn't give a shit, he genuinely doesn't give a shit. Words to live by right there. Also, it's just really funny. Watch this clip. I dare you not to laugh. 

4. But DON'T watch the movie until the very end. For the purposes of this exercise, we would like to keep you from falling into the trap of thinking that you're the exception and not the rule.

5. DO bring sexy back. Spend all this marvelous new free time doing something that makes you feel like the sexiest woman alive, whether it's poledancing, buying atrociously provocative lingerie or baking a molten chocolate cake in aforementioned provocative lingerie. Feel free to feel smug about all this sexiness that damn fool is missing.

6. DON'T replace one failed relationship with another. It's tempting and it seems to make moving on easier but seriously, DON'T DO IT. First, it's terribly unfair to the other person. Second, nobody needs to watch He's Just Not That Into You six times in one year #truestory

7. DO get an endorphin rush. Are you losing sleep because your mind won't shut up about the would've could've should'ves? Do you feel bogged down with seemingly unshakeable sadness? Put on your workout clothes and go for a run. Take a yoga class. Get your ass kicked at krav maga. Just get yourself all sweaty and exhausted to the bone. The endorphin rush you'll get afterwards will act as an antidepressant and the exhaustion, an all-natural sleeping pill. Plus, you'll be one step closer to getting that much hotter. Revenge is a dish best served looking smoking hot, as far as I'm concerned.

8. DON'T give up. It may not have worked out this time but at least you've sifted out one more guy from that sea of men obscuring the guy who will love you for both your lovely bits and your creepy quirks. One of these days you'll find each other. In the meantime, get happy and get hot so you won't scare him off when he finally does show up!

There's a lesson here somewhere

Today I bought a scrumptious Gala apple from the farmer's market. I could hardly wait to take a bite.

But just as I about to finally sink my teeth into its juicy goodness, I saw an ominous bump on its surface.

"There's a worm in your apple," a co-worker told me.

So I took a sharp knife, cut the worm out and ended up with a heart.

There's got to be a metaphor hiding in there somewhere, don't you think?

When the concrete jungle fever broke

After several days of nonstop work, dinners, nights out, booze, dancing and barely getting any shut-eye in the city that doesn't sleep, I desperately wanted out. I had a bad case of concrete jungle fever and would have given up my walk-in closet just to see something other than skyscrapers and neon lights.

Thankfully, I didn't have to take such drastic measures as my buddy Bob opened up an amazing escape hatchet and got me out of the city. We decided a hike would be a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon with the leaves just turning and the temperature pretty much perfect. The hike alone was good enough for me but come Sunday morning, Bob managed to make the plan even better.

"Do you wanna take the motorcycle or the car to the trail?" Bob called to ask.
"Now what kind of silly question is that?" I answered, "The motorcycle, of course!" 
"Ok, dress warm."

I went from excited to positively giddy in seconds. I hadn't been on a motorcycle since I checked that off my little list and was raring to have another go. A few hours later, there I was, clinging on for dear life as we hit 130mph on a quiet road. Underneath my helmet, there was a ridiculously huge smile on my face. It had been a while since I last had a massive adrenaline rush and boy, did I miss it. There you are, you nut job, I thought to myself. Good to have you back.

One minute we were zipping through curving country roads, consumed by the roar of that engine—and the next, it was just us and Mother Nature as we followed a trail near the border of New York and New Jersey. We walked through the woods, hopped over small streams, and clambered over exposed rock. I thought I was in good shape but damn, it felt like being on an unforgiving Stairmaster! But as with every hike, once you set your eyes on the prize, all that huffing and puffing becomes a vague memory.

We had to mark our achievement with a few artsy shots. Here Bob channels James Franco in 127 Hours ...

... while I channel some character from Lost in Translation who is, I guess, now lost in the woods.

Then we continued walking on the exposed rock until we reached what the locals call Surprise Lake. It's a fitting name because who wouldn't be surprised to find a lake on top of a mountain?

By the edge of the lake were some beautiful leaves that I couldn't resist snapping a photo of.

The foliage on the trail was pretty fascinating to me. I'd never seen these fluffy, carpet-like things which grew right on the rocks.

I was tickled pink when I spotted this mushroom, which looked like something right out of a Super Mario game!

After our hike, we rewarded ourselves with some beer, wursts and beef stroganoff at a German restaurant by the lake before riding back from whence we came. It was a day well spent.

I realized that for the last few months, I had gotten so caught up in the noise and frenzy of the city that I lost track of some little pieces of myself—the very pieces that make me a bit of an oddball but a lot happy. When the fever broke, I found myself a bit more whole and a lot more at peace.

Good to have you back, you nut job. 

Last Halloween

... all of this happened ...
... plus a few more shenanigans that should never ever find its way to the blogosphere!

My first memory of Halloween in New York is of walking out of F.I.T. at lunchtime and running into an Energizer Bunny on the street. New York does Halloween pretty darn well. In a city full of folks who don't do anything in half measures, Halloween is always a crazy good time. I can't wait!

This year, Halloween will be Occupying Wall Street—our FiDi digs, to be exact. My mind has been swimming with thoughts of jello shots, pumpkins, skimpy costumes, and all the craziness that can occur when there's a stripper pole in the apartment. 

Halloween 2011, you better bring it!

C'est la vie

"That's an amazing bottle of wine."
"Really? Awesome."
"You mean you've never had it before?"
"Well, the truth is I'm one of those people who'll buy something just because the label looks cool."

I walked into a wine store Friday night to pick up a bottle of red and gravitated towards this bottle immediately because of the label. I'd had a rough week, with one curveball after another thrown at me. To my surprise, I made it out relatively unscathed. When I realized I was pretty much okay in spite of everything that had happened, I remembered a conversation I had with my friend Tricia a couple of years ago at a time when things were so bad that I thought I'd never be able to climb out of that hole.

"I know it sucks right now," Tricia said. "But the good thing about having really terrible things happen to you is that you find out that you're strong enough to handle anything."

It was hard to see that tiny sliver of silver lining back then but I see now that she was absolutely right. Life has been quite good to me for the past few years but inevitably, every so often things just don't go my way. And when that happens, it's fine. I can take stock, hopefully learn a lesson or two, and move on. No fuss. No drama.

C'est la vie!

(Footnote: It was indeed a nice bottle of wine.)

... and they lived happily ever after

A long time ago, I read the essay "Partners and Marriage" from Kent Nerburn's Letters to My Son. It talks about how immobilizing the fear of marriage can be, with the norm seeming to be couples who at best tolerate each other and the rarity those who, even in old age, seem to glow in each others' presence. How do those rare few do it? What keeps their love strong through all the years of routine, sameness and inevitable petty little irritations?

"The central secret seems to be in choosing well," says Nerburn. "The truly lucky people are the ones who manage to become long-time friends before they realize they are attracted to each other. They get to know each other's laughs, passions, sadness, and fears. They see each other at their worst and at their best."

I see the truth in Nerburn's words when I think of my friends Kathryn and Adam, who exchanged vows a few weeks ago in an intimate ceremony on the beach in the Outer Banks.
I witnessed Kathryn and Adam go from being the best of friends to husband and wife, and it has been one of the most beautiful things I've seen in my life. People scoff at the idea of soulmates, but there's no better way to describe them. When I see them throwing a football around in Battery Park, swigging beers at the beer garden, dancing up a storm anywhere there's some semblance of a dance floor, and unabashedly belting out Against All Odds in karaoke, I think about how wonderful it must be to share your life so completely with the person that you love.

As much I like to explore seeing the happily ever after in lives that don't subscribe to the norm, I still do love a beautiful fairy tale ending. Kathryn and Adam's love is something to aspire to and one I've felt truly fortunate to witness.

I am so happy for you, Kathryn and Adam! I look forward to sharing many more wonderful moments with you both as the years go by.

When brunch turns into a scene out of Entourage

When I woke up on Saturday morning, my only plan for the day was to have a boozy brunch with my roommates. And I guess you could say things did somewhat go according to plan. Except the boozy brunch ended up being in Lavo, where Veuve Clicquot flows like water and skinny models go into a feeding frenzy over pizza ...

... where it's apparently never too early to dance on tables, wear flashing glasses or send out glitzy dancers on stilts ...

... where the music is provided by one of the Black Eyed Peas ...

... and where said Black Eyed Pea is your brunch buddy ...

Hanging out with Apl on his visits to NY has been surreal. On one hand, he's Filipino just like we are and we have conversations about eating nilaga without rice when dieting and he jokes with me about whether my bangs are "tunay or 2.95." On the other hand, he's one of the Black Eyed Peas!!! So there are those moments that make you pinch yourself on the arm, like when Apl stops to talk to some fellow in front of the hotel and the fellow turns out to be Will.I.Am. Or he plays a cool song at the after party that I've never heard and when I ask what it is, he says it's going to be on the next Black Eyed Peas album.

How on earth did I get here?!

Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore ...

Great Expectations

 "In a city of great expectations, is it time to settle for what you can get?"
- Carrie Bradshaw

If there's one thing New York never falls short on, it's choices. Hungry? One could conceivably live a lifetime here without eating at the same place twice, what with the sheer number of dining choices plus the constant opening, shuttering, popping up and redesigning of restaurants. Bored? There's no shortfall of concerts, parties, shows and festivals; the problem is not so much what to do but how to fit everything into 24 hours.

So you can imagine what it's like when it comes to dating.

Depending on what you're looking for, dating in New York can make you feel like a kid in a candy store or a parched wanderer in a desert coming across nothing but mirages. Even if you're not a total jackass, the seemingly infinite choices renders most people paralyzed and unable to make a firm decision. A recent article in the New Yorker put it quite well:

"When there is something better out there, you can’t help trying to find it. You fall prey to the tyranny of choice—the idea that people, when faced with too many options, find it harder to make a selection. If you are trying to choose a boyfriend out of a herd of thousands, you may choose none of them. Or you see someone until someone better comes along. The term for this is “trading up.” It can lead you to think that your opportunities are virtually infinite, and therefore to question what you have."

On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who are tired of the seeming futility of it all and who just want to get off the damn dating carousel. The same article explains this feeling as such:

"If you really are eager, to say nothing of desperate, for a long-term partner you may have to contend with something else—the tyranny of unwitting compromise ... The people who are looking may not be the people you are looking for ... Some people are too picky, and others aren’t picky enough. Some hitters swing at every first pitch, and others always strike out looking."

When you've spent some time in the dating loop, it becomes tricky not to fall prey to either of the two. I constantly encounter men and women who seem to be perpetually looking over their date's shoulder, just in case someone better walks in between the amuse-bouche and first course.

Almost as frequently, however, you see people talk themselves into relationships, resigned to the thought that anything is better than nothing. Once I began hovering around the 30-year-old mark, I found myself at greater risk of falling into this trap, in danger of getting pushed in at a moment of weakness by some thoughtless remark. I don't know why but people now seem to find it acceptable to say things to me like "Are you ever going to get married?" or "Don't you get scared that you'll never get married?" While I'm probably entitled to respond with "That's really none of your goddamn business", I usually end up explaining that if I wanted to get married just for the sake of getting married, I'm sure I could find some other desperate person out there willing to hold hands while we place our heads under the axe of that tyrant called compromise.

Lately, my conviction has grown stronger that it is worth it to hold out for something that defies both tyrannies. That something was once spelled out for me by Mike, my dear friend Che's amazing husband, in the simplest yet most crystal clear terms. As I launched into my latest dating saga in the hope that he could decode the most recent confounding guy's mysterious tactical maneuvers, he stopped me in mid-sentence.

"Drop him."
"What? But you haven't even heard the whole story yet!"
"I don't need to. You deserve someone who's crazy about you. Plain and simple."

I stood there with mouth agape for a few seconds until the truth of what he said sank in. He's right. At the end of the day, that's what it's about. The only reason to be together is if you're both crazy about each other. If one of you is still looking over the other's shoulder, or if the only thing that binds you is the fear of missing the boat, that's simply not enough.

The greater the expectation, the greater the reward. I believe it.


Every now and then, I get a fortune cookie packing a nugget of wisdom ...
Whether it's a job, a sock or that lovin' feeling you've lost, sometimes the best thing to do is to go and get yourself something shiny and new. Free and unsolicited advice from my spicy beef tendon noodle-filled tummy to you. 

And heck, since I already brought it up, how about some gratuitous young hot Maverick, huh? I didn't even know what "carnal knowledge" meant when I first saw this movie. I must've seen this at least 50 times since then and I still love this scene ...
You're welcome.

What happens in Vegas

I spent a gorgeous September weekend with the girls in Las Vegas getting into all sorts of shenanigans for my friend Kathryn's bachelorette party. Pool parties, limousines, VIP treatment at clubs, an unexpected ticket to see LMFAO, brushes with millionaire high rollers, and other events best left to the imagination ...
At one point, the situation became so surreal that I tweeted:
Since we all know that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, I will not delve into the details. But I will say this: An epic bachelorette party weekend with an amazing group of ladies in Vegas is just the stuff happily ever afters are made of.

Sometimes there is no next time

We've all done it at one time or another—put things off for later. A concert you've always wanted to see, a conversation you've been meaning to have. We always think there's time to do it all later.

But sometimes, there is no later. There's no next time.

On September 13, 2011, the music world was devastated by the sudden and tragic death of pioneering French producer, DJ Mehdi. Turntables went still, concerts were postponed and parties cancelled as his friends and peers grieved for a lost brother.

I had never heard of DJ Mehdi until I wandered into Carte Blanche's set at the Hilltop Arena tent in Electric Zoo. It would be the first and last time I would get to dance while DJ Mehdi spun magic.

I'm glad I got to enjoy Carte Blanche's music while I had the chance. The memory of Mehdi and Riton goofing it up in this dance off will always stay with me.
Say what you want to say. Dance while you can. You might not get another chance.

Rest in peace, DJ Mehdi. You will be missed.


The first time I stepped foot in World Trade Center was as a child, giddy at the promise of being on top of one of the world's tallest structures. My most indelible memory of that day, however, was not of the view from the top. It was ascending from the Path station amidst an imposing row of escalators and staring in wonder at the seemingly endless streams of black suits briskly walking up the escalators, until my aunt pulled me by the arm. "You never stand on the left side. Everyone's in a rush; let them pass," she said, teaching me my first lesson on the ways of this city that never seemed to stand still.

On September 11, 2001, I sat on my bed in Manila and watched in disbelief as the towers fell like houses of cards. All I could think of were those suits. Had all of them perished? The thought made me feel hollow.

Ten years later, I am a resident of New York. The past five years of loving every moment of living here have taught me that it is, in fact, possible to have a love affair with a city. And so, I grieve for it and those it lost on this day. My home sits three blocks away from Ground Zero. This morning, I woke up to the angelic voices of children singing in remembrance of those who perished. As I walked out to get a cup of coffee, I saw a woman dressed in black seated on a curb, hunched over in remembrance and sorrow that I can't even imagine.

I pray that this city that I love continues to rise like a Phoenix from the ashes. I, for one, will never forget.

Getting lucky at the US Open

I woke up one afternoon last week slightly cranky from getting roused by the incessant drilling on our roof and exhausted from the red-eye flight I'd taken just a few hours ago. At 6:30 am that morning, I was grumbling to my roommate Mitch about how tired I was and how all I wanted was to stay home and do nothing.

But apparently life had other plans for me.

I was lazily scrolling through Facebook on my Blackberry when a status message jumped right out at me: "I have two day tickets free today! Message me ASAP!" Without thinking twice, I called my friend Dante, tennis coach extraordinaire, and just like that, I suddenly had box seat tickets to the US Open in my hands.

"So much for laying low and no more activities. We didn't even last 24 hours!" exclaimed Mitch when I handed her a ticket.

What dumb crazy luck I have sometimes ... one minute, all I have planned is a day in my pajamas and the next, there I am sitting court side at the US Open, soaking up the sunshine, sipping beer and watching some fantastic tennis.
The occasional crazy stroke of good luck ... happily ever after in my book.

The Fear of becoming "that lady"

You know who I'm talking about: that lady on the dancefloor who's still whipping out moves from two decades ago, oblivious to how everyone around her is dancing to a different beat. Raise your hand if in the middle of shaking your groove thang, you've ever been hit with this paralyzing thought: "Are my moves getting ... old? Holy mother of ... have I become that lady?!"

It's inevitable that this thought will pop up while at an electro festival where 50% of attendees were probably just learning to walk when I was already cage dancing in a Roger Sanchez rave. Thankfully, Carte Blanche rescued me from this ridiculous paranoia with their little dance off. As the running man was whipped out shamelessly on stage, I realized, who the hell cares what the "current" dance steps are? As long as you're having a blast, that's all that matters. Besides, if you've got style like these girls, even the Roger Rabbit can look hot.

In any case, 80s style music is making a comeback so that lady might be the one with the cool moves now. One of my favorite acts at Electric Zoo was Chromeo, a pair from Montreal with really fun, 80s-inflected, synth-heavy music that just begs for a robot dance. Just check out the look and the moves of their three back-up singers. Don't they seem like they were taken straight out of an old Prince video?

But if you're curious to see how "kids these days" rage at the Zoo, you can check out this clip I took of the crowd rocking out to some solid dubstep by Diplo. Truth is, kids these days dance a lot like kids did in our time—like deliriously happy, carefree fools. Oh, and in case you're wondering, you're not hallucinating. There is in fact a guy wearing a horse head somewhere in this video.

I had such a crazy good time dancing my heart out all weekend. I don't care how old I get—nothing's gonna keep me away from the Zoo!

Down into the rabbit hole ...

A few months ago before heading to Coachella, I asked my music-savvy buddy Paul to give me a list of bands to see—me being generally clueless about what's cool in the music world but craving a new sound. The list came with a warning—something to the effect of I should be careful lest I turn into a dirty hipster addicted to obscure music, quit my job, move to Williamsburg and start a band.

"Dude, it's happened," I said to Paul yesterday as we raged to Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 77 at Electric Zoo. We had been at the festival for a good 11 hours by then, listening to everything from Daedelus to David Guetta. I had been down into the rabbit hole and back, and my mind had been blown with everything seen, heard and raged to in one day. I may not want to quit my job, give up my cushy FiDi flat for Billyburg or put all those voice lessons to use, but I was definitely addicted ... and well, I wasn't a hipster but I was definitely pretty filthy from a day of wandering through those electro fields.

While on Friday I'd braved the zoo solo (I repeat, addicted!), yesterday I went with a group of friends. And I realized how a music festival means different things to different people. For some it's a way of reliving the past—bringing back those days when we were young and a little crazy like those little fairies running around in neon wings and furry boots. I didn't dig too far into my past but when David Guetta played No Getting Over, it definitely brought back Ibiza memories ...

But I'm finding that what I'm liking about Zoo (and music festivals, in general) is hearing something I've never heard before. Let's face it; I'm no spring chicken so I've heard a fair share of music by now. So when every other song on the radio seems to be a rehashing of a song I already know, it all gets ... meh. So to see musicians pushing the envelope can be pretty exciting.

Today's my last day at the zoo, and I'm looking forward to a chill afternoon of listening to old faves like Afrojack and Chromeo, and getting my mind blown by Diplo, Boys Noize and Infected Mushroom. And maybe that dude DJ Snoopadelic (yes, it's exactly who it sounds like).

Off to the zoo!

Flying Solo at Electric Zoo

"I decided, instead of running away from the idea of a life alone,
I'd better sit down and take that fear to lunch."

There's a Sex and the City episode that closes with this line after 30 minutes of the ladies dating unsuitable men to counteract the fear of being alone, only to realize that it's a far better fate to be single than to settle for less than you're worth. While I love this message, what really stood out to me in this episode is the idea of embracing doing things with no one but yourself as company. Realizing I could be perfectly happy doing things alone opened up a floodgate of experiences for me, from traveling all over Europe and Asia to learning surfing and burlesque. So I've made it a policy to keep chasing experiences, whether I fly with company or solo. I would take flying solo over the regret of a missed opportunity any day.

Today for instance, I did one better than taking the fear of being alone to lunch ... I took it to the zoo! The Electric Zoo, to be precise.
This is not a self-portrait, I swear.

Electric Zoo is a yearly electro music festival that brings neon-clad, dubstepping masses to Randall's Island in New York. I purchased the 3-day pass a few months ago on a whim and in the end, my friends decided to just purchase Saturday passes. Since my half-hearted attempts to sell my pass didn't work, I decided why not go and lie on the grass, soak up some sunshine and listen to awesome music? Seems like a great use of a Friday afternoon, right? It was.

In front of the main stage where Tiga and Rusko were playing back-to-back sets, I kicked off my sandals, laid on the grass, swigged a beer and grooved to song after brilliant song. I never wanted for added entertainment as there was no shortage of people with batshit attempts to dance to dubstep all around me. I may have formed a hula hooping obsession over the course of the afternoon, however. Can't win them all.

The Scene

The Music

Tomorrow I'm hitting up Electric Zoo with a group of friends and it's bound to be a completely different but still awesome experience. At Coachella, there were some missed favorite songs and bands because compromises are inevitable when you do things with a group. The beauty of the solo music festival experience is that you get to listen to who you want for as long as you want. I indulged myself by finishing Tiga's and Rusko's sets, but when I realized afterwards that Chinese takeout + my bed were far more tempting than Benny Benassi's set, I bailed on the festival early, too. So easy when the only person you have to please is yourself, isn't it?

If you've always been fearful of flying solo, don't be. The freedom that comes with it is worth suffering through the initial self-consciousness, I promise. Ultimately, if you can enjoy your own company, then that's happily ever after in my book.