Tag Archives: street art

Operation Keep Smiling

When work and life were really, really challenging in Malaysia two and some years ago, my mum told me not to let it get the better of me. She told me not to let external circumstances take away my usual cheerfulness and joie de vivre. For a while, I did and it was terrible. I’m trying really hard not to do that again.

To keep myself focused on the present rather than worrying (too much) about the future, I started taking pictures of everything I see that makes me smile. Not only has this helped me remember what smiling is, but it has also provided a physical representation of what it means to feel happy. I’ve only been at it for four days, but I notice that I’m looking around a lot more curiously because I want things to smile about. It just feels better.

Chess table in Tompkins Square Park. I immediately thought about how much fun I would have with this picture if I were an English teacher, or even a student in a creative writing class. I’ve always loved images as story starters and have used them with middle school social studies students. If I were to write a story using this image, it would involve two elderly gentlemen, a pair of small children, and at least one squirrel.
I love cars. Old cars, flashy new cars, sports cars, muscle cars. But I smiled at this one because it was so teensy! That unfortunately doesn’t come across very well here because of the angle (note to self: perspective) but I smiled when I saw it.

Someone, or several someones, left chalk messages along Avenue A, around and south of 10th. The actual quote, which I really like, reads, “Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream by night.” Regardless, it was a good reminder to keep dreaming, even when dreaming stems from and results in pain.

Artistic license . . . but sometimes the original works better!
Sunday evening in Harlem on my way home from Manhattanville Coffee, where I ran into a friend I haven’t seen in five years who is apparently a regular!
It took me a minute to catch the text over on the right. Couldn’t have said it better myself.
This gave me a giggle. If I needed a haircut, I’d go there just because of the clever sign. Which is precisely the point.

I usually attempt to read the graffiti that I pass, but it wasn’t until I’d walked a few more feet that my brain processed what this wall said. I laughed and backtracked to take a picture because it precisely echoes everything I feel like saying to everyone.


Operation Keep Smiling, over and out.


Searching for Myself in a Cup of Coffee

It should come as no secret to the careful reader that I am struggling here in New York. In addition to missing everything about living in Singapore, except for the humidity, I’m finding it very difficult to adjust to being alone, being in a new place, and being back in the US in general.

View of the West Side from Engineers Gate in Central Park

In an effort to feel more at home in New York, I’ve been spending a lot of time in cafés to read, write, and people watch. Coffee makes everything better, and usually so does being a quiet observer among strangers. Having a legitimate reason to look around makes me feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself, which is an important shift in perspective when I get too stuck in my own head.

I think I’m mostly doing what that cat is doing. Watching and waiting.

A good deal of my coffee drinking has been at B Cup Café. As I’ve written before, it’s really close to my apartment and plays great music. It also serves good coffee and excellent shakshuka. I’ve been there at least four times, which practically makes me a regular. Based on my own habits, anyway.


However, I’m bad at sitting at the best of times and caffeine doesn’t help. So I’ve also been wandering around the East Village and taking pictures of everything colorful in an effort to improve my mood and general outlook. That’s a thing, right? Color therapy? I’m not sure if it’s working but I did find some delightful street art:

The East Village is enjoyably quirky in a number of other ways, too. Examples:


The most exciting part of my wandering today was green space! Neighborhood parks are so important in building community, and seeing them always makes me happy. More than a few parks have started decorating for Halloween, too. I passed by one of those today, as well as a couple parks that aren’t quite on the decorating bandwagon (yet?):

Perhaps unsurprisingly, much of my reading and writing (including this blog post) has taken place at cafés. I’m at Think Coffee at the moment, not because I actually wanted the coffee but because I’m also not good at being home for more than a few hours at any one point during the day. Again, I tend to spend too much time in my own head that way. I do a heck of a lot better at work, which often makes me feel more comfortable than I do during the weekends. (I know. I know, I know. Famous last words.)

I realize I’ve been saying “I’m not good at” fairly often lately. Maybe that’s part of the problem at this point. I don’t know anymore what I am good at. Learning. I guess I’m good at that. At least, I try to be.

A little light reading, courtesy of the New York Public Library. Croissant sandwich and coffee from Petite Shell on the Upper East Side.

If you’re looking for me, I’m probably in a coffee shop. If not, chances are I will be soon. I always take my coffee black. Thanks for asking!


Buildings in Buffalo

A Conversation
Wonderful friend Ally: Hey, I have an idea!
Me: Ooh an idea! What is it?
Wonderful friend Ally: Let’s go to Buffalo to learn about architecture! You can make some photographs and I can make some sketches.
Me: You’re brilliant! And wonderful. Let’s go!

So we did.

Today, Ally and I spent the morning on a walking tour of historic, beautiful, and interesting buildings in Buffalo, NY. Even though Buffalo is only an hour from Rochester, I’ve been there for exactly two reasons:

  1. NSYNC concert in 2002
  2. Hockey tournaments for my brother

I can’t tell you nearly as much about the buildings as I’d like to, mostly because I was too busy playing with my camera to pay attention. However, I did manage to caption all the photos in the gallery below with the name of each building. For more information, either contact Ally (a very smart, delightful person who asked the tour guide a whole bunch of intelligent questions) or take a tour!

A really neat bonus was that someone was actually playing the organ at St. Joseph’s Cathedral. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard live organ music before and really enjoyed it.

After a delicious lunch of toast, cheese, and spicy red peppers at Five Points Bakery, we made our way to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House, which is currently undergoing a massive restoration project. The tour guide was very knowledgeable about all things Frank Lloyd Wright, Martin family, and architecture of the time period. She encouraged us to return for a visit this fall when the restoration will be completed and photos of the interior allowed. The outside of the house is still pretty cool:

I still don’t know much about Buffalo, but it has neat buildings, informative tour guides, tasty toast, and cool street art:


Cheers to a great friend for a good day!