Goodbye Forever New York, You Stupid Piece Of

by Jackie D on August 23, 2016

Leaving New York - Jackie TravelsI haven’t written here in a while because my doctor told me not to. I’ve briefly mentioned my back problems before, and earlier this summer I saw a new doctor, and she told me that literally the only thing that seems to be wrong with me is that I spend too much time sitting at a computer, and then too much time carrying heavy things around with me whenever I’m not sitting in front of a computer. The muscles on the right side of my neck, back, and shoulder have become immensely sensitive, and now even if I carry a slightly heavy bag on my right shoulder for even just fifteen minutes, I can already feel that entire side of my body begin to tense up.

I told her that I would absolutely not stop sitting in front of a computer because it is my job to sit in front of a computer, and I need my job. What I didn’t tell her is that I also refuse to stop sitting in front of a computer because it’s the only way that I can write — my handwriting has gotten messier year after year, and writing by hand just kind of pisses me off at this point. Zero patience. I also don’t see much difference between slouching over a pad of paper and slouching over a laptop. So, while I haven’t been writing here, you better believe I’ve still been writing.

So, I realize that this whole back problem is my fault — I’m the one who’s been leading this lifestyle, I’m the one who has the power to change it — but selfishly, and I’ll admit somewhat childishly, I also place like 25% of the blame on New York.

When I first moved here two years and two months ago, I told myself that I would give New York two years to really make it work. I would try to make friends, I would try to succeed at my job, I would try to find a few places in the city that I really loved. And I did make friends (though the primary reason that many of us became friends is that we all really dislike New York); I did find three places in New York City that I truly love (a bar, a bookstore, and a train station); and I did succeed in my role at my job (I was promoted, and I got to spend three months in my favorite city on earth, Paris).

And I gave the city two full years, like I said I would. And I absolutely hated it, like I thought I would. And so I am leaving.

As soon as I decided I was leaving, my back began to feel better. I also tried to stop carrying heavy things around with me as much as possible, and I started working from home most of the week, which also helped. I now get up from my desk frequently to stretch, I do yoga every week, and I try to sit up straight whenver I have to be at the computer for long periods of time.

Apparently my lifestyle was the only thing hurting my back, so I am changing my lifestyle, and part of this means changing my city. I’m grateful that I have an opportunity to do this, because I know not everyone gets the chance to leave a city they really hate. I’m keeping the job, I’m keeping the friends, and I’m keeping a few mementos from my bar, my bookstore, and my train station, but I’m leaving everything else: the crowded subways, the overpriced restaurants, the interminable lines to get into every bar or restaurant or store, the strange smells on every single sidewalk, the hecklers on Brooklyn stoops.

I’m also leaving behind all of these ugly thoughts I’ve started to have ever since moving here — ugly thoughts about perfect strangers whose only crimes were being too close to me on the subway, or yelling obsenities outside my window, or whispering obsenities to me as I walk by, or being a teenager in literally any context. I think part of this is 2016’s fault — has there been a stranger year? — but part of it comes with the territory when you’re living in a tiny city with a massive population, where you can’t ever really get a moment alone.

All of these heavy things that I’ve hated and carried with me– I finally get to just put them down, leave them behind, and go.

And, look — I just want to finish this by saying that whenever someone tells me it is their dream to move to New York, I don’t try to discourage them and I certainly don’t think they’re idiot. Well, if I do think they are an idiot, it’s probably for another reason. But if they ask me my opinion of the city, I give it. And I know that my opinion of New York is strictly that — an opinion — and that some people really do love it here.

And I think those people would be super happy to know that someone who hates their beloved city so much is finally leaving it. That’s one more open spot in a line waiting to get into a bar, and one more subway seat for someone who really wants it.

“I could not tell you when I began to understand that. All I know is that it was very bad when I was twenty-eight. Everything that was said to me I seemed to have heard before, and I could no longer listen. I could no longer sit in little bars near Grand Central and listen to someone complaining of his wife’s inability to cope with the help while he missed another train to Connecticut. I no longer had any interest in hearing about the advances other people had received from their publishers, about plays which were having second-act trouble in Philadelphia, or about people I would like very much if only I would come out and meet them. I had already met them, always. There were certain parts of the city which I had to avoid. I could not bear upper Madison Avenue on weekday mornings (this was a particularly inconvenient aversion, since I then lived just fifty or sixty feet east of Madison), because I would see women walking Yorkshire terriers and shopping at Gristede’s, and some Veblenesque gorge would rise in my throat. I could not go to Times Square in the afternoon, or to the New York Public Library for any reason whatsoever. One day I could not go into a Schrafft’s; the next it would be the Bonwit Teller.

I hurt the people I cared about, and insulted those I did not. I cut myself off from the one person who was closer to me than any other. I cried until I was not even aware when I was crying and when I was not, I cried in elevators and in taxis and in Chinese laundries, and when I went to the doctor, he said only that I seemed to be depressed, and that I should see a “specialist.” He wrote down a psychiatrist’s name and address for me, but I did not go. […] All I mean is that I was very young in New York, and that at some point the golden rhythm was broken, and I am not that young anymore.” Goodbye to All of That, Joan Didion

Job Perks: A Peek into the French Way of Life

by Jackie D on June 6, 2016

paris in the spring“In France, a personal life is not a passive entity, the leftover bits of one’s existence that haven’t been gobbled up by the office, but a separate entity, the sovereignty of which is worth defending, even if that means that someone’s spreadsheet doesn’t get finished on time.” The French Counterstrike Against Work E-Mail

So I’m back in New York. Don’t even get me started. Those who’ve seen me in person (and even many who’ve only spoken to me through text) have already gotten an earful.

But this isn’t going to be several paragraphs about how much I miss Paris. It’s going to be several paragraphs about one of my favorite parts of France: the work culture.

I love to work — mostly I love to be busy. But I also love to relax (earth shattering, I know). I am either extremely busy with many things or completely relaxed doing almost nothing — there is very little wiggle room. And when I get into that busy zone, it’s really hard for me to get out of it.

One of the things I loved so much about the French work environment is that people seem to be able to switch between these two zones so easily. When they are at work, they are at work — people get things done and meetings are held and problems are solved. But when it’s lunchtime, it is lunchtime. There is no eating at your desk while you’re trying to finish up a spreadsheet. And when it’s time to go home at the end of the day, same deal — it’s time to go home.

The first week I was there, I was checking my work email at the bar we’d often go to during the week. My coworkers almost slapped it out of my hand (out of love, and maybe slightly out of vodka, too). Work is for work hours. Play is for all other hours. It’s a common stereotype to say that the French value pleasure above all else, but I think it can be amended slightly — they do value pleasure, and they see a person’s personal life as exactly that: a personal life. A whole life that involves friends and movies and drinking and food and love and kids and everything else. But they also value work just as much. They value a job well done. And they see those two parts of life working in tandem with each other, not against each other.

It’s difficult now with iPhones and wifi and offices in multiple time zones to feel like you can ever really “shut off” completely. And especially when you work in a field like social media, which literally has no off switch, it can feel like you always have to have an ear open to make sure you’ll catch anything if it happens. What if there’s a disaster in the middle of the night? What if something happens while your phone is dead?

But you have to draw the line somewhere. You have to just stop working sometimes, or else you’ll go insane. And you have to stop checking your texts from friends at some point and just get that Excel sheet done. Everything has its moment. And I know that this is all common sense and that no one would argue that you need to strike a balance between work and play, but I’ve never seen so many people actually live this out before.

It was a delight to get a break from the USA work mindset for three months and live like the French do — where it doesn’t necessarily matter if you get to work 30 minutes late as long as the work gets done at some point; where it’s not the end of the world if you have to save a task until tomorrow; and where it’s just as important to hang out with your coworkers at the bar on Wednesday night as it is to brainstorm with them in a meeting on Tuesday morning. Where work is a beautiful thing, but so is play.

Snapshots from a Weekend in Bordeaux

by Jackie D on May 25, 2016

mama shelter bordeaux 2Travel often enough and you will eventually have a trip that goes wrong. I’ve been very lucky so far – Central America has probably been the only truly bad trip I’ve ever had.

And Bordeaux definitely wasn’t bad – but it wasn’t perfect. I arrived in pouring rain on Saturday morning – like, biblical levels of flooding. Despite the fact that I definitely did not bring along the proper footwear for a potential apocalypse (does anyone?), I forced myself to wander around the town a bit, and I stopped into the Museum of Antiquities because there was an exhibit about the ancient cave paintings in Lascaux that I really wanted to see. Ancient cave paintings = the original street art! Well technically, ancient cave paintings = the original ART, but I digress.bordeaux streetsWhen my hotel was ready for me to check in, I relaxed for an hour, showered, and Google-mapped the rest of my afternoon and evening while I waited for the rain to pass.

And that part of the trip went great: there was a bookstore (Librairie Mollat, the biggest independent bookstore in France) and a macaron shop (M Le Macaron) I wanted to visit, and they were each a five minute walk from my hotel. I also wanted to stop by the Place de la Bourse to see if the world’s largest reflecting pool was all it was cracked up to be (it was great except for the 3000 children running around screaming. Literally did not see children anywhere else in Bordeaux except here).

And since it looked like the majority of rain had passed for the day, I decided to venture out to see the botanical gardens (free to the public and open until 8pm). They were just OK – it looked like many of the flowers might have drowned or been washed away in the downpour.bordeaux bookstorebordeauxAnd of course I was also excited to stay at another Mama Shelter hotel – I’ve stayed at their hotels in Paris and Marseille and I am absolutely obsessed. When I checked in, they noticed these previous stays in my file, and they upgraded me to a king suite to thank me for my loyalty. I celebrated by jumping on the bed a lot, because I feel like if you’re given access to a king-size bed, you’re contractually obligated to jump on it.

Mama also has locations in Lyon, Istanbul, and LA, so I am determined to visit all of them at some point down the line. So many more king-size beds await.mama shelter bordeauxOn Sunday I was supposed to venture out to nearby Saint Emilion for some bike riding through vineyards, but the weather wasn’t great, my back injury was acting up again, and I had a bizarre encounter with an Uber driver that really threw me off. So I decided to hit the Sunday market and then head back to Paris a couple hours early.

And when I got on the train and we started the trip back to Paris, it really felt like I was heading towards home. And I think maybe that was the problem: it wasn’t that the trip itself was bad, and it certainly wasn’t that I didn’t like Bordeaux. It was just that Paris feels like home to me now, and I really missed it the moment I left. place de la bourse bordeauxI know, I live in Paris for three months and suddenly I’m all Lifetime Original movie about it. But you have to admit this is still better than that one time I got super sad about gross shoes.

More Snapshots:
Snapshots of a Weekend in Belfast
Snapshots from Salvation Mountain
Snapshots of Miami Beach Lifeguard Towers