A Seed Sprouts in Brooklyn

For my sixteenth birthday, when most other newly-licensed kids would be begging their parents for their first (beat-up) car, I was begging mine to go to New York. The Met was about to put on an exhibit of Richard Avedon’s portraiture, you see, and I was just precocious enough to understand how cool that was. Probably relieved that I wasn’t bugging him for my own set of wheels, my dad relented, and that’s how I got my first taste of New York City.

Since then, I haven’t stopped returning. Not a year goes by that I don’t hop up to the city—for an Eric Clapton concert in Madison Square Garden, maybe, or to stand in Grand Central Station on Halloween and gawk at the costumes, or just to visit the Strand and look at their awe-inspiring selection of used books. (Once I snagged an Avedon coffee-table book filled with his photos for Versace; it’s still my favorite find!) But every year, I’d always wander Manhattan and ignore the boroughs. This past weekend, I broke that streak when I watched some wonderful old friends run the Brooklyn Half-Marathon.

I arrived far too late on Friday night, and groggily clambered into a subway car far too early on Saturday morning, passing Russian billboard advertisements on the way to Coney Island. There, I was greeted by the rickety wooden Cyclone roller coaster, a Ferris wheel decked out in primary colors, vendors hawking funnel cake and hot dogs—and the finish line of the half-marathon! Not a minute after sauntering up to the sidelines, my friend Anna sprinted by, hardly more than a flash of color in her track club jersey—and two of my college classmates followed soon after. It was completely thrilling. This was my first time as a race spectator rather than a participant, and to cheer people on as they pushed through the 13.1 miles, pain and determination plastered on their faces? I can’t think of anything more inspiring.

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Consider It Fuel

My friends, it’s Friday, and I’m headed up to New York City. My friends Anna and Monica are conveniently running the same half-marathon in Brooklyn, which makes it pretty easy to see them both in one weekend. And with round-trip bus fare priced at $24, I had no reason to stay in Washington. In just a few hours, I’ll be snuggled up in my bus seat, concerned mostly with staring out the window and flipping through a stack of glossy magazines.

I’ll be sleeping on the futon of my dear friend Anna, who visited Washington last fall and stayed with me then. I’d just moved into my current apartment, which was, er, sparsely furnished, and cardboard boxes still adorned the living room. Thankfully, she didn’t seem to mind, and we had a great time sitting cross-legged on the floor with plates of lasagna after a full day of vineyard-hopping. And she brought dessert that lasted the whole weekend: monstrous slices of red velvet cake from her favorite Brooklyn bakery, Cake Man Raven (that’s the nickname of charismatic owner Raven Dennis). Word on the street is that Cake Man Raven counts Oprah, Robert De Niro, Patti LaBelle and P. Diddy as fans, and it was easy to understand why after taking my first bite of cake.

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Sunday Suppers

I can feel summer creeping into the air. This morning, I was wrapped in a light blanket of humidity as I walked into the office; it’s not overbearing yet, but having braved my first Mid-Atlantic summer last year, I know how thick that blanket will be by July. And with that first hint of the coming season, I caught myself thinking back to the summer of 2009, when I was a freshly-minted college graduate living in the city.

With the aid of Craigslist, I’d snagged the master bedroom in a house with dirt-cheap rent. My three roommates and I lived in Bloomingdale, a neighborhood in D.C. near Howard University, where all the neighbors sat on their front porches and called out friendly hellos as I walked by. There may have been chicken bones lining the sidewalk, but everyone took pride in keeping their little rowhouse gardens well-tended. Noisy liquor stores stood next to hipster-approved schools of yoga—the neighborhood definitely had character!

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Never Hurts to Look

Why would one escape Northern Virginia to head for the Charlottesville hills, you ask? Well, for one, you could’ve seen Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings play this past weekend. (They performed at the Jefferson Theater, a pretty and antiquey venue with the added plus of a slanted floor—so short people like me can see the stage even from the back of a crowd.) Secondly, to see the University of Virginia campus, which is scattered with white-columned buildings and little hideaway gardens. Thirdly, to summit Carter Mountain (by car) and visit the town’s resident orchard, procuring apple-cider doughnuts and apple butter in the process. And fourth: To enjoy glasses of wine on the patio of a little restaurant downtown, busying yourself with some serious people-watching between sips.

Check, check, check and check: I accomplished all this in a happy, quiet weekend away from home. But secretly, there was another mission involved in this Charlottesville getaway. I was scoping out a potential future home city, since I’m thinking about leaving D.C. behind sometime soon. After five years here, I’m feeling the itch to try something new.

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Home Away From Home

In a year that’s been rife with firsts, planning my first non-family vacation is one of the most exciting milestones. Graduating from college? Landing a full-time job? Living off my own paychecks? Okay, they’re all admittedly points of pride. But planning a trip myself trumps everything, because it’s all being done in the spirit of adventure, escape, and trying new things. And there are no rules: I can choose my own destination (anywhere in the world!), lodging (B&B? hostel? apartment?), and itinerary.

So I’ve taken special pride in plotting out the steps of my upcoming jaunt to Croatia, and here’s a new development in the process: just this week, I found (and booked) a perfect home base in Split. Take a look, why don’t you?

All photos via Croatian Villas.

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