Sunday Sessions

The One in Which I Realize I Am a Now a Local

Before moving to DC, I had never lived anywhere with a mass transit system before. It took me some time (and a lot of stares) to realize people were not interested in conversing with me on their morning rush hour commutes.

These days, I’m veteran of the subways and the inveterate moods that come with them. I sigh at the tourists walking four across down the stairs, making it impossible for the locals to move around them. I stop to help folks who look overwhelmed by the tangle of routes on the maps. I have deep fondness for the buskers, dancers, and artists who frequent the platform and the cars of the system.

Last weekend, however, I found myself making a rookie mistake: I had hopped on a line that would require me to transfer at 42nd Street/Times Square. On a Saturday afternoon. In the middle of tourist season.

It was hot, I was sweaty, and I was already nearing my the end of my patience when the 2 Express train arrived. We packed onto the car—bodies pressed tightly against each other, the odors of our shared sweat pungent. I strained my neck to identify the locals—you always know your fellow locals—and we shared a look: Just hold out until 72nd street, none of these tourists will dare go up that far, the car will empty out and it will be just us again.

Before it was better, though, it got worse. A warbling voice rose from somewhere in the middle of the car: “Shame on all of you meat eaters! Your body is the graveyard of animals! Your grotesque habits have created climate change and it cannot be undone!”

I outwardly groaned.

I have suffered through shouting preachers at 8:30 AM, and intense political propaganda when I am dead tired after work, but not this, not today.

She continued: “Instead of feeding the world’s hungry and poorest, we use our food sources to feed the animals you will fatten up and slaughter! Leonardo DiCaprio convinced Netlfix to make a movie about it! If you don’t believe me, believe Leonardo DiCaprio!”

I stretched my neck again to find my fellow locals. Some had squeezed their eyes shut, others sighed. How much more of this could we take?

We tried to communicate with our glances: What should we do? What could we do? There was nowhere to move. We could not even see where the voice was coming from.

I pondered my own cynicism as the train and the woman barreled on. I am mostly vegetarian and I even I am extremely annoyed by this tactic. Should I have compassion for this woman with a cause? Should I honor her sense of dedication?

Eventually, the train pulled into 72nd street and a hard break sent bodies rushing into each other as we all tried to stay upright. The doors opened and as people rushed out; the voice stuttered to a stop, overtaken by the masses trying to exit the car.

Within seconds, the train car had cleared by more than half. I looked around and my fellow locals began to pull out books and phones to take up all their new hard-won personal space. The doors closed and we all held our breath, looking around at who remained.

Silence.

Turns out protesters don’t want to go above 72nd street either.

We breathed a collective sigh of relief.

To Read

Want to make and keep friends as an adult? Show up.

Will travel for coffee: Some people drink wine and taste the distinguishing notes right away—that’s how I feel about coffee. More often than not, if I’m exploring a new neighborhood its because I’m on the hunt for a cup of joe. This list from Eater hasn’t let me down yet.

Journalists are not the enemy.

I turned 34 yesterday and I have never felt the unraveling more keenly.

Mindful eating as a kind of prayer.

It drives me bonkers when waitstaff hand the check to David automatically. I’ll be glad when all restaurants do away with the concept of “ladies first.”

Read everything in this thread on our relationship with places, but if you need a place to start, start here.

An informative guide to Black hair.

Traveling through Penn Station? Shh, here’s an insider tip.

A fascinating (and troubling) look at the history of plastic bags. Like all bad things, corporations were involved from the start.

The startling thing about New York is the many ways it’s just like anywhere else.

Longer Reads

I finished Freshwater this week. To appreciate it is to know you are looking at something avant garde and finding meaning in it anyway.

How can so much about relationships, and family, and geopolitical disasters be contained in this one little tome? Exit West is perhaps the truest telling I’ve ever read of how two people can simply grow apart.

To Watch

We the Animals. I can’t remember the last time a film moved me in this way.

To Eat

This week, I met up for dinner with an buddy from DC. She suggested Osteria 106, which I would have never found on my own, hidden as it was along a residential street on the Upper West Side. We thought we’d just have a drink—for old times’ sake—but a shared bottle of wine turned into a shared plate of fried artichokes with lemon, which turned into a shared plate of cheesy gnocchi with walnuts (we sopped up the remaining cheese sauce with olive bread). There is a certain intimacy implied in sharing food—the knowledge you’re likely to clink forks, and that someone will always eat the last bite, and that the bad thing you’ve just eaten is a little less bad because you only at half as much.

This fried-bread panzanella seems the perfect way to say goodbye to summer.

Somebody get me this cheese plate right. now.

I am 100% here for these fresh takes on the humble tuna sandwich.

Yesterday we made an admirable go of the pie crawl, stopping at The Little Pie Company in Hell’s Kitchen, Petee’s Pie on the Lower East Side, and Four and Twenty Blackbirds in Gowanas? Park Slope? Prospect Park? (sorry, I don’t know Brooklyn that well yet). Across our journey, we had key lime, banana cream, matcha, coffee cream, black bottom oat, and salted caramel pies. They were worthy every dollar, and every sugary, creamy bite.

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21st Century Woman

This is 34.

I don’t know how to love things at a chill level and I have no interest in learning. Give me enthusiasm or give me death.

– Rosianna Rojos

One morning I sat on a crowded subway car next to a man who was sweating profusely. He looked around nervously and kept touching the handles of the bag between his feet.

I’ve lived in urban areas long enough not to panic, but to simply observe. I silently pondered whether this was something or nothing, and with it, the consequences of it being something or nothing.

If this is it, I thought, if this is the moment of truth, what would it mean to leave this all behind?

At 34, by all accounts, I am well-lived.

I have a loving family, a centered relationship, good friends.

I have traveled to far-off places. I have studied big ideas. I live in what many would call the greatest city, in the greatest country, in the world.

I am privileged beyond words.

If this were the end, no one could doubt I had a full life.

At 34, though, I feel undone, still unfinished in the ways that matter to me.

If this were the end, I would doubt I had led an effective life.

The train came to a stop. The man got off. The question remained.

At 34, I am trying to come to terms with those contradictions. To have ticked the boxes of our collective standards, but to feel so unaccomplished by my own.

I have no aspirations for fame or immortality. I only desire to approach the world with curiosity and reckless enthusiasm; to be firm in my resolve, and just in my action.

At 34, I am delirious with gratitude.

I eat peaches with abandon.

I am finally learning the capitals of all 195 countries.

I see movies that fill me with deep joy and read books that make me uncomfortable.

I marvel and groan at the way my aging body shape-shifts under me.

I cuddle babies and breathe in their pretty smells.

At 34, I constantly observe other people in the middle of their lives, and I find that I love them so much I think my heart will burst.

At 34, I find am still filled with self-doubt and anxious insecurities.

At 34, I still wear my heart on my sleeve. An unkind word is seared into my memory, sharp and unforgiving forever.

At 34, I am painfully shedding expectations—and people and plans—and holding the things left behind all the tighter.

At 34, I acknowledge the courageousness it took to make the choices—tough, sometimes unconventional choices—that led me here.

At 34, I fall more in love with my partner, with the perfect crinkles around his eyes, and the way he makes himself laugh.

At 34, I mourn the things lost by living so far away from the people I love—the Sunday dinners, the unplanned coffee, the catfish fries. I celebrate the independence and self-reliance it has given me instead.

At 34, I wake up and remind myself to try something new today—with curiosity and reckless enthusiasm.

This is 33.

This is 32.

This is 31.

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Sunday Sessions

People-Based Infrastructure

I’ve been living in New York for 8 months, and most of that time has been a steady routine of going to work, coming home, and waiting until the weekend when David returns. When nobody is waiting for you at home, you try the city on for size anytime you like—take new routes, hop off the train somewhere random, see the odd movie or show on a whim. And there is a special kind of joy in indulging that kind of serendipity.

But, frankly, sometimes it can be a little lonely too.

And just when that feeling began to crystalize and I started to worry I might never see our favorite friendly faces ever again, Nicole and Bret wondered if we might want to get brunch while they were visiting. Soon, I was talking chickens with Anna and Sarah and Kara. Not long after that, Charlie came up to test oat milk theory and pioneer City Island. I got drunk on rose with Nitya. We had sushi and sake with Brandon. We talked about the never-ending hustle with Heather and Greg. Tim convinced David to give Queer Eye a chance. Jenna and I pondered chucking it all and opening up a bookstore. And in the middle of torrential downpour, we traipsed across the city with Ryan and Kyndra.

In the middle of building a new life, these visits sustained me. And more importantly, they reminded me that you never know when a casual meeting will turn into a long-lasting friendship.

I’m grateful for the incredible network of friends and family who visit, and send me text messages and letters, and let me share in their joys even though I’m further away than ever before. Thank you.

To Read

What’s the line between southern food and soul food?

When I was a kid, my parents distinguished between girl chores (dusting, vacuuming) and boy chores (mowing the yard). It was bullshit then, and I’m sorry to see it is still bullshit now.

The kids are alright: Four millennials have saved Capitol Hill Books

Can you make a career out of being a waiter? Turns out you can.

Why some people leave their hometowns—and others stay.

Feminize your cannon: Dorothy West

These women are reshaping America’s food system.

To Listen

Bodies

The Organist

StartUp

To Eat

It’s peach season. Peel one and put it in your oatmeal. Have one for Elevenses, and another for lunch. Peaches also make a delicious dessert. All of the peaches, all of the time—no recipe required.

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Sunday Sessions

Just the Links

The rain has passed, the sunshine is out, and we should all be outside. It’ll be just the links this week.

To Read

Did you take French in high school? I did, mostly because it seemed romantic at the time. Now, eight semesters of French later and I barely remember more than the “ferme la bouche!” my friend Jennifer and I would giggle to each other between recitations. I’ve now been to Paris once, and am heading back again in the fall, maybe its finally time to learn French for good?

We have to believe women. We just have to believe women.

I worked for a railroad for a year. The maintenance challenges are substantial, the politics obtuse. Call me hopeful, but I think that maybe, just maybeAndy Byford will actually save the subways.

The middle child is going extinct.

Half of all Americans think women should be required to take their husband’s last name. Uh, that’s going to be a hard no.

“The wishes of the dead do not take precedence over the needs of the living.” This piece resurfaced in the wake of Anthony Bourdain’s death, it’s was powerful in 1996, and it still resonates today. Meanwhile, I’m just reading profile after profile after profile of the late Bourdain, of whom I’m not quite willing to let go.

The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf is one of the most prolific writers around. When he writes, you read.

I couldn’t look away from this conversation with the supremely strange Gwyneth Paltrow.

Am I brave enough to do this leg workout at the public park in front of my apartment? Hmm.

I wasn’t a regular read of Los Angeles food critic Jonathan Gold. Much like David Bowie, it’s a shame to really be discovering his work posthumously.

I’m already in for $2.50 in late fees at the library, but I’m hooked on John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies.

To Watch and Listen

NPR has selected the 200 Greatest Songs By 21st Century Women+. Go ahead and open this list up in your browser tab and hit play.

I cried and I have no shame.

To Eat

I was reading a profile of James Beard award-winning pastry chef Dolester Miles. She mentioned her famous lemon merengue tart is her favorite among all of her desserts. Let it be so.

I have never grown a damn thing in my life and now our community garden is flush with cucumbers. These spicy pickles ought to set those up quite nicely.

Replaced the shrimp with tofu, added a little sriracha, and these cold soba noodles with peanut sauce turned out to be a perfect summertime meal.

David’s Instant Pot is getting dusty. Time to put it to work on this miso risotto.

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Sunday Sessions

New York: A Poem

Occasionally in New York,

you will find yourself in the middle of a beautiful day.

You will be tempted to take a deep breath of fresh air.

But do not be fooled. There is no fresh air in New York.

Only the smell of garbage, lightly toasted by the sun.

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Sunday Sessions

Postcard from Vermont

I went on vacation this week, the first real, off-the-grid vacation I’d taken in awhile. It took me a few days to ease into it, to stop obsessively checking my work email, to mute Slack for awhile, to remind myself that if there was an emergency, people know how to reach me. Slowly my shoulders relaxed, and my jaw unclenched, I slept well.

We took two hikes and a 25-mile bike ride along the coast. I finished four books. I also watched a lot of cable, which I haven’t personally had in a decade (turns out Home Improvement kinda holds up). For the first time in awhile, I was needed nowhere, and that felt really nice.

After a few days of simulated hospitality though, I started feeling a sort of existential ache for the routines and comforts of home, but also feeling uneasy about where that is these days. I thought of summertime in Martinsville: my uncle’s catfish fry, morning coffee with grandma, croquet in my parent’s backyard. I thought of summertime in DC, the air swampy and oppressive, only counteracted by brunch and iced coffee with friends. And now summer in New York, the street ice purveyors, a walk or bike ride along Riverside park, watching the kids play in the park.

These days home is nowhere. These days home is everywhere. Either way, I’m glad to be back.

To Read

May there come a day when we are no longer defined by our age.

Like so many others, I went to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the documentary about Fred Rogers. I walked out of the theater and was quiet for a little while, feeling the powers of Mr. Rogers mending my very adult heart. Years ago, one of my favorite writers, Tom Junod, interviewed Mr. Rogers for Esquire and hinted then even then at the nuance of this oft revered man.

Gone Girl. Big Little Lies. Serial. Why are there more fictional stories about dead or missing girls than ever before, and what does it mean about our society? If the topic gives you pause, stay with me: this essay from The Paris Review asks some fascinating philosophical questions worth considering before your next SVU binge.

I read four books last week and it was a glorious, luxurious privilege. A life of reading is never lonely.

This excerpt will make you want to phone up your mother right away.

Love is love is love is love.

“I just know that when she picks me, I feel a little jolt of excitement, as if I have won a small and horrible prize.” The internet is a horrible place. Until—for a moment, or in this case a single email—it isn’t.

To Listen

If you’re like me, you struggle to take in even one more piece of bad news, so it may seem counterintuitive to tell you to subscribe to a podcast about our corrupt justice system. Stick with me here: Season 2 of In the Dark brings laser focus to one story worthy of your attention.

I’ve been seeing a lot of buzz for Still Processing‘s two-week series on anti-Asian racism.

The last time I went to church, I was guilted into attending by my parents. That day—at a megachurch once home to an adulterous pastor—they said:  “A godly woman is one who submits to her husband in all things.” It was Mother’s Day. David held my hand tightly to keep me from walking out. I’m going to take a deep breath and trust the story on this one.

David Kestenbaum, one of my favorite This American Life contributors, selects his favorite episodes.

Listening to this new Panic! at the Disco on repeat.

To Eat

This farro, kale, and strawberry salad is everything summertime should be.

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Sunday Sessions

One Block at a Time

It’s a little daunting to realize that New York is six times the size of DC—that’s a lot of territory to discover. Slowly, but surely, I have been expanding my city footprint one walk at a time. Lately, instead of getting off at the subway stop for work, I’ll get off one early or one late, then I’ll pick a direction approximately towards the office and just start walking. Other times, I’ll grab a Citibike and set off towards a stretch of Harlem I haven’t visited yet and just see what lives on those streets. In doing this, I now know the location of bookstores, and coffeeshops, and cheeseshops (!), and pocket parks, that I may not have discovered if I was limited to Google and Yelp recommendations. I love walking through neighborhoods and seeing the type of people who live there too.

The challenge of New York though, is the sheer quantity of options. Want to find the place with the best dumplings? New Yorkers have told Google and Yelp that twelve places have worthy dumplings, so now you’re left to visit all of them until you find your favorite from among them. A lot of self-discovery, a lot of trial and error. And the same goes for many New York establishments—there is always another customer, so what makes you so special and worthy of our attention?

Mostly though, I miss knowing the quirks of my neighborhood—of being so intimately acquainted that you notice when the Barbie pond changes themes, or the menu at your favorite spot gets an upgrade, or you’ve watched kids grow up over years of Sundays at the farmers market. We’re a long way from being regulars here, but for now I’m living for the subtle nod I get from the old man down the street—a simple acknowledgement that we’ve seen each other before and are likely to again.

Read

I was gutted to learn about the death of Anthony Bourdain. This missive from David Simon sums up everything you need to know about Tony. And this too.

15 women shaping the world we eat today.

24-hours of love and heartache in New York.

For all the Amy Santiagos out there, may you be loved, may you be understood.

For the love of all that is good, please take care of each other.

A new series from The Paris Review seeks to feminize your cannon.

Longer Reads

After 6 months on the wait list at the library, I finally got around to reading An American Marriage, and I think I’m one of the few people who thought it was just okay.

Watch

I downloaded Kanopy, and have been catching up on notable indies, including the visually stunning Loving Vincent.

Listen

If you’re a fan of BBC’s Sherlock, check in on the Johnloc conspiracy.

I am loving this pride playlist from my colleagues at the Bello Collective.

Eat

I’ve been looking for ways to upgrade my “staple meals,” the ones I can make with my eyes closed on a weeknight after work. These noodle salads look very promising.

The potato salad in this list is either the best thing to happen to potato salad or the worst.

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Sunday Sessions

The Hunt for Mr. Softee

For weeks, a Mr. Softee ice cream truck has stalked my neighborhood. From about 10 AM until 9 PM every weekend the incessant sounds of the theme song have invaded my ear drums.

The thing is, Mr. Softee is wanted here. The park across the street is like our town square—the neighborhood children and their parents spend their entire Saturday there—and Mr. Softee is like the mayor.

So yesterday, after loving and loathing the Mr. Softee truck from afar for so long, I decided today is the day I would have an ice cream. We go outside, our ears perked for the now familiar noise, and…nothing. Mr. Softee was no where to be found. We walked ten blocks to the other corner Mr. Softee is known to frequent and still, nothing. We finally decide to settle for a Dominican fruit ice and begin the trek back home, our faces and fingers sticky with mango flavors.

As we round the corner to our apartment, we wonder…is that…could that be the faint tinkle of the Mr. Softee truck? I powerwalk ahead (because I am a GD adult) and there it is, the off-brand Mr. Softee, in all of its summertime glory.

He gets chocolate/vanilla twist, I get a chocolate dipped vanilla cone. We stand at the edge of the park, giggling, and trying to recover as much ice cream as we can before it melts.

To Read

Were you a woman into literature as a teen? You will never feel more seen.

I don’t generally care what men think about #MeToo, but their responses to this survey often demonstrate a lack of empathy—and more importantly, self-control.

6 things you’re recycling incorrectly.

Taking a flight? They’ll have a story waiting for you when you land.

There are so many interesting women lost to a history mostly owned by men. Get to know Natacha Rambova.

If you don’t listen to podcasts, you probably have no idea who the mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder is, right? But if you do listen to podcasts, this is a really cool interview with my favorite gender fluid, anonymous music maker.

To Watch

I saw The Seagull and have decided Annette Bening can do no wrong. Molly’s Game was also surprisingly good.

To Listen

I listen to music one song at a time, which is to say, I find a song I like and play it on repeat until I hate it. Right now that song is Friends by Francis and the Lights (ignore that it happens to briefly feature Kanye).

My buddy Grace had a great disco show at Radio Free Brooklyn for awhile. The archives are still up so you can boogie on down forever.

I’m enjoying the quick 15-minute food stories from Meat and Three.

Did you know Stevie Nicks covered Dave Matthew’s “Crash Into Me”? Would you be surprised if I told you it’s so much better than the original?

To Eat

I’ve been working on overcoming my introverted tendencies by inviting people over for dinner, and first up are our neighbors. My usual go-to for family style dinners is a vegetarian mashup of this insanely good mushroom ragu and the classic Marcella Hazan sauce (and which I will now forever be serving with bronze-cut pasta), but I started thinking it felt a little heavy for an early summer meal.

Over on Facebook, I asked my friends about the meals they make when company comes to visit. The thread, I must admit, turned into a bit of a magical place. Here’s what they recommended:

Meat-based

Zuni Cafe’s Roasted Chicken + Bread Salad

Roasted Pork Shoulder

How To Put Together A Great Cheese Plate At A Regular Supermarket

Here’s How To Make A Perfect Cheese Plate And Look Like You’re Fancy AF

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Sunday Sessions

Annnnnd We’re Back to Rain

Good morning. Just a reminder that the U.S. government took 1,500 kids away from their parents and then lost them. So, yeah, “I think the fuck not.”

To Read

A tiny house project that will help people get back on their feet.

I don’t care if it’s just a statement. This means something.

Yesterday I hit a bad patch of road in Hell’s Kitchen; my phone hit the pavement and smashed into a million pieces. Before that though, I was having a pretty good week.

To Listen

On my list this week is a CBC audio documentary about restaurants and their place in our society.

To Watch

We re-upped Hulu for the summer and so I’m catching up on The Handmaid’s Tale and taking a breather between episodes with Broad City (which still, for my money, remains one of the best, most hilarious shows of our time).

To Eat

This breakfast casserole starts with one pound of croissants. Also, where do we stand on carrot dogs?

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21st Century Woman

One Perfect Day

You open your eyes—but just barely.

After days and days of rain, there is a perfect sunrise outside your window, so you hit snooze and just bathe in it for awhile.

You get up and dress for how you feel, which is righteous and made of steel, and even though you have already walked out the front door, you double back and change shoes, because you don’t deserve to be anything but comfortable today.

On your way to the subway you realize the summertime-in-New-York-City garbage smell is there…but only faintly…and gosh, is this what regular air smells like?

Your train ride feels like it’s over in a moment because you’re deep in thought, and even though there is that guy acting suspicious (although what does suspicious even mean in New York anyway?) you decide to let it go, because if this is going to be the day you depart this Earth, it seems like a pretty good one.

The sunshine has sated your appetite and for the first time in your life you don’t start your morning with a carb or even a coffee–it begins with a glass of water. And the funny thing is, even though you’ve hated water your whole life, you don’t mind it today.

You open your inbox and it’s rainbows and good news.

That partner said yes.

The project is a go.

The script you co-wrote slayed.

You look up from your computer at your colleagues who are busy making beautiful, wonderful things, and you marvel at how fucking talented they are.

And then you email some other people expecting they will have forgotten about this thing that is due, but they haven’t, and here it is, and it’s so damn good.

It’s lunch time, so you walk around SoHo, beautiful, cinematic SoHo, and you decide to try a new place, but the salad is lackluster, and the soup is sour. Honestly though, it doesn’t even matter, because there is a pack of peanut M&M’s waiting at your desk anyway. You have another water.

Later, you go to that meeting with a lot of senior people, including those women you admire. At one point they turn to you to ask how the delivery of the project is going, and you realize you are the one with the answers, and though the imposter syndrome (#patriarchy) will never go away, for today, it has been vanquished.

Your phone blinks and it’s a friend sending you a poem that made her think of you, and how lucky are you to have friends who read poetry? And how lucky are you to be remembered?

Then, before you know it, it’s the end of the day and you’re shrugging off your introverted tendencies to meet a new person who might also become a future friend. Who knows?  Today anything is possible.

And then it’s getting late and even though you’re 57 blocks from home, you decide, fuck it, why waste this beautiful night underground? So you grab a bike and ride along Riverside Drive as the sun is setting and turning into twilight.

And your legs are pumping, working to shed their winter lethargy.

And the blinking light on your bike is keeping synced with your heartbeat.

And the motion of the waves is hypnotic.

And the light on the water is so perfect you think your heart will break into a thousand pieces.

And you pass the people who are out for a night stroll.

And you pass the people in love on their picnic blankets.

And you pass the people sitting so close to the water they seem to hope it will rise and just carry them away.

And then it’s dark and you haven’t seen anyone on the trail for a little while, which is a little scary, but also thrilling.

And then the wind catches your dress and it flies up around your waist, and you laugh, because, thankfully, no one is there to see your underwear selection.

Your neighborhood comes into view—it’s the one with blinking signs and unsightly billboards—but you don’t mind because it’s yours.

You park your bike, and you climb up the hill, and you smile at everyone, this lone white woman with wild and shining eyes.

You turn the corner onto your street and people have brought folding chairs out onto the sidewalk, and they have an old boombox playing music you can’t understand.

And you realize that this is a perfect day.

And you realize that this is the start of summer in New York.

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