Scenes from the City, Part I
February 19, 2012

When I went off to college–and by “off,” I mean the forty block cab ride to Columbia’s main campus–I sat my mother down for a little heart-to-heart. I said, “pretend I’m going to California. Or Montana. Or something.” You see, in spite of the fact that my mother was and always will be my best friend, I had chosen to live on campus for a reason: I wanted independence. I wanted autonomy. I wanted adulthood. And indeed, I lived on campus every year of school, and even during most of my summers. As soon as I graduated, I was thrilled to get my own place (with Chloe), and to begin the rhythms of “adult” life–paying bills, paying rent, rising and slumbering by my own clock. It felt like growing up, and I loved it.

If you had told my independence-obsessed, 23-year-old self that waking up at my Mom’s apartment on West End Avenue–the same apartment I grew up in–would one day be one of my favorite rituals, I’m not sure I would have believed you. But since I don’t live in New York at the moment, and since post-bacc life has taught me to appreciate the value of a little motherly wisdom and care-taking, being at home makes me really, really happy. Yes, I get chided for leaving my clothing everywhere, and yes, we argue over who gets the bathroom first, but these are trifles compared to the camaraderie and coziness that my mother and I share when I visit. Not to mention the sheer joy of waking up in my favorite city, and knowing that I have a full day to enjoy it.

Yesterday, I woke up to a fridge full of organic produce, Ezekiel bread, hummus, and sprouted tofu. Because my mother’s just wonderful like that. I also woke up to her lethal bold espresso blend coffee, some bananas, and some sunflower seed butter (my favorite!) from TJ’s.

Breakfast was served!

After a few hours of work, I made my way downtown for lunch with my friend Cassie. But first, I couldn’t help making my way to Laughing Lotus for a nice, long vinyasa flow class.

All New York yogis will recognize the fluorescent pink glow of the Laughing Lotus studio, which is actually under construction (and looking really good). The Lotus holds a very special place in my heart: it’s where I started practicing yoga, and became a devoted yogi in spite of myself. It’s where I did my first headstand, and fell out of my first headstand. It’s where I learned to chant without giggling. I have so many fantastic memories at the studio, and I try to visit whenever I’m home. Yesterday, I got to take Allison’s class, which was imbued with her characteristic sass and boundless warmth.

Since I started practicing at Down Dog (aka boot camp), I’ve built up much more endurance for a powerful and vigorous flow. But I’ve also stopped paying proper attention to my alignment, working on my inversions, and being generally mindful of my transitions. It’s great to come back to NYC and get a mix of yoga styles in while I’m here. (Tomorrow, I’ll be posting a review of a class at Yoga Works.) I left the class feeling strong and energized, which is my favorite way to feel!

I met up with my friend Cassie for lunch at the fantastic oasis that is One Lucky Duck. Gourmet raw takeaway at one’s fingertips: man. New Yorkers have it so, so good.

I got an “add on” salad with dulse, kale, hemp, avocado, tomatoes, beets, carrots, jicama, basil, and carrot ginger dressing. I’d never had the dressing before, and it was too garlicky for me, but the salad still rocked. Love the giant portions! As usual, I ate about 60% of my meal before remembering to take a photo.

After that, I met up with my friend Sam, who is also a publishing veteran now buried in the world of health care (he’s a therapist). Sam and I always find a lot of comfort in comparing our experiences of having left the world of letters for the world of adult graduate education and care-taking. This time, we compared notes and chatted for hours at 71 Irving, one of my favorite coffee shops in NYC! (Mel, I know you agree.)

Alec Baldwin, vegetarian (or so I’ve read), was sitting nearby, munching on a sandwich.

After some quality coffee & conversation, as well as a spontaneous movie excursion, I was ready to meet my friend Nelly uptown. We ended up snuggling on her sofa and drinking ginger tea and catching up (she works at a law firm, and I study organic chemistry, which means we never have enough time to stay connected). It was the perfect ending to a darn-near perfect day in the city.

And now, I’m off to meet another dear friend for an evening that will hopefully involve a trip to Candle Cafe (she lives nearby). Fingers crossed, and more scenes from NYC tomorrow!


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  1. Hi Gena! I’ve been following your blog for a long time and just wanted to let you know how much I love your posts like this one. You are a really wonderful writer! I first started reading your blog because I of my interest in raw foods but find that I keep coming back because of the quality of your writing. I think yours is actually my favorite blog to read because you really give readers a sense of who you are, unlike many blogs where the posts are brief, recipe/photo oriented. I just love reading about your life, especially trips/restaurant outings and more personal posts like this.

  2. Nice to have a long weekend, eh? 🙂 Sometimes living in NYC, I always take it for granted. I love shopping in Fairway. Too bad the new location (Douglaston) is too far reach for me, so I only frequent the UWS location.

  3. welcome back, you hit many of the hot spots. And soon, depending on where on West End your mother is, there will be a Candle nearby too (80’s West). Thrilling.

  4. I figured moving out out of my parents house meant family visits would be a rare add-on to weekends or left for holidays. It’s been over a year in my (cringingly expensive) NYC studio and my favorite Sundays always start with family brunch! The restaurants always change but I still have the same great company 🙂

  5. I understand what you mean about being independence-obsessed during college years. For me it was a little different – I grews up in Boston and decided I wanted to go to NYU for college, so my parents were kind of forced to let me have as much independence as I wanted. But, just like you, during my summers and vacations when I visited home, I absolutely loved being back in my house with my family.

  6. Gena,

    I spent last weekend on a NY-Brooklyn-Yoga-Vegan adventure. Have you practiced at Kula? I lived in NY for years and it’s one of my favorites for creative and sweaty Vinyasa flow. Kula has a studio in Tribeca and if you’re lucky enough to catch a class taught by Nicky V. – it rock your world. Also, if you’re in Brooklyn…Sun in Bloom cafe on Bergan Street in Park Slope is more than worth the trip! Enjoy…


  7. We have such a similar experience with being raised in the city and than taking a cab up to college. I totally told my mom to pretend I was in California also:)

    Glad you had a nice weekend in our ‘hood and that you’re feeling better! You can never go wrong with a salad from One Lucky Duck. I attended high school right next to Irving 71 and would always see Uma Thurman and Susan Sarandon there, wonder why it’s such a celebrity hub. Um, also, MAJOR news. Did you hear that Candle Cafe is opening on the UWS???? 89th and Broadway baby!!!

  8. This post is so lovely, it made me smile so much, I love hearing about your life and loves!
    I would love to try sunflower seed butter, do you make your own? are the seeds roasted or raw?

  9. Thank you, Gena. New York is one of the cities in the world that fills me up with a sense of joy that’s almost painful in its overwhelmingness as soon as I step off the plane. Oh, oh, oh… hopefully in about six months, I’ll get to gasp at that feeling again….

  10. I love getting the latest update of your blog in my inbox, Gena. You have definitely changed my eating habits for the better. Here is one example: I hated Kale, because it was tough, unless it was first blanched and then sauteed. Well, I hate cooking, so that is that. But because you love it, when I saw it at Anchorage’s only real health food store the other day, I bought it, tore it into tiny pieces with some other greens in a salad, and IT WAS GOOD! Not tough! I guess the Kale I’d bought at the supermarket previously was just old or something.
    I don’t know how you have time to blog when you’re a pre-med student, but please keep it up. You have really made a difference in my life.

    • What a wonderful comment to get, Nancy! I’m really touched. Yes, I’ll keep up CR no matter what. If I do get into med school, though, I make no promises for my third year! xoxo

  11. My first apartment in the city was on Avenue B and I went to 71 Irving all the time. It was my favorite coffeeshop on earth for a long time, and still in my top favorites in Manhattan and generally. I think its Brooklyn alter ego is Joyce Bakeshop in Prospect Heights (which had the same vibe as 71 Irving minus the crowds). I am so glad you are having a wonderful weekend in the city.

  12. I love your recaps of your trips back home, Gena. I’m glad you are able to spend some time off away from the textbooks! I feel that way about home, too, though I obviously had to live on campus (I’m four hours from home). There’s nothing like waking up to the smell of my mom’s granola on a vacation morning!

  13. ok, so weird, I was on my way to Allison’s class yesterday when I decided to do the responsible thing and go to the studio where I train to get some hours in for my certification. LOOOOOVEEEE Laughing Lotus, it’s by far my favorite place to be (i just got home from a restorative class there tonight). Dana Flynn is BRILLIANT and the energy is utterly addicting. If you’re ever back in the city and want to check it out again I’d love to go with you 🙂

      • Ilana, I would *love* to take a class together! I may actually catch the sun celebrations class early tomorrow. But otherwise, I’ll be back soon and keep you posted.

  14. Thank you so much for weaving the good with the bad about staying at Mom’s! I’m about to move “back home” at 41yo with 2 kids and 2 cats!! just til i find Our House, but the prospect is incredibly daunting, esp since i lack any sense of tact and they love SAD food and think i’m an overly permissive parent, LOL! You gave me a sense of optimism 🙂

  15. Wow, you packed a lot into your day! Sounds amazing. And I agree, now that I’ve been a “grown up” and out on my own for awhile, there’s nothing quite like going to my parents’ house and being taken care of, even if it comes with some chastising for leaving my things all over the place or whatever else I’m doing “wrong,” haha. That’s cool that you saw Alec Baldwin! I was never a fan until I started watching 30 Rock; now I would be pretty star-struck, I think. Although as a native New Yorker you’re probably used to seeing celebrities all the time!

  16. You know, I’ve lived here all my life too but I love the way you frame this city and the exuberant love you show for it! I have to get out of my apartment more, obviously.

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