Oberlin Blogs

New Year's - Pride and Resolution

January 2, 2011

Ma'ayan Plaut ’10

Much like Thanksgiving, this was my first New Year's without parents (luckily, my brother is still with me!). Our yearly winter family trip is to New York to visit my grandmother, a family gathering starting right after Christmas until right after the turn of the year. This year, we managed to fit in a performance of Mummenschanz, watched the musical La Cage aux Folles, ate at many delicious restaurants, sustained a blizzard, and many other delightful activities, including many family gatherings (parents galore, plus some evenings with cousins and aunts and uncles too).

Mummenschanz is non-verbal emotive performative art. Let's put it this way, I love circus more than anything in the world, but Mummenschanz is even better. It was WOW.

This was at the start of the blizzard, while we were still in Brooklyn early in the day. We got 18 inches of snow over the course of December 26th. We were also mad people and decided to go to the theater in the horrible snow, but that's a story to tell in person. Ask me about it later.

A few days later, on the Upper East Side, you can still see the mounds of snow everywhere.

I had my first soup dumplings. They're delicious. They're a bit of a conundrum, but I do know their secret... ask me!

We also ate amazing sandwiches at Num Pang in Greenwich Village. I really love sandwiches, but this one was a revelation: hoisin veal meatballs on French bread with chili mayo, pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber, and cilantro.

We also were classic Jews on Christmas and went to Chinatown. These were the produce guys, selling delightfully colored fruits in the cold weather.

Oh, we also saw two films made by Oberlin alumni: Tiny Furniture (brilliant, subtle, horribly funny), created, written, and starring a former classmate of mine, Lena Dunham '08, and The Tempest (intense, gorgeous, impeccably done), directed by my commencement speaker and classmate of my dad's, Julie Taymor '74.

My mom is a nurse, and always has to work either Christmas or New Year's; this year, she had to be back in Hawaii on the 30th to work on the morning of the 31st. So, this left me on my first New Year's with no preordained plans. And a brother. And a grandmother. And the endless possibilities with alumni friends.

In the past, our family would either stick around in the city for an evening in, with a foray into Central Park for the fireworks at midnight (Protip: if you're in Manhattan, you actually don't want to be in Times Square for the ball drop. It's a madhouse, and you have to get there at, like, 6am on the 31st. Who wants that? I'd rather have fun all day!) or head out to New Jersey to visit my dad's Obie friends Eddie (my dad's roommate) and Emily. They'd reminisce on old times, with me soaking it all in, even before I started at Oberlin.

This year, the plans were in flux for quite a while. Over the week preceding New Year's Eve, I started getting some emails and messages hinting at visitors. My best friend Sandhya ('10) decided to come to visit for a week and stayed with me on the 30th. Ali ('10.5) was moving into Brooklyn sublet for Winter Term (she's interning with my favorite people in the world, The Striking Viking Story Pirates, where I interned two years ago) on the 31st. Brandi ('10) was easily coerced into coming to Manhattan to spend time with us. Aries ('09) lives in New Rochelle, and is a constant New York City visitor when she's here. At the last minute, we also accumulated my former housemate Chris ('10), her travel buddy Sturdy ('10), and Reid ('10), who moved to Manhattan a few months ago. Ben ('14) got in touch with his Obie friend Julie ('14), who came to Manhattan with a friend from home, Nicole. All of a sudden, we had an impromptu party of Oberlin awesome.

Ali, Aries, and Brandi say "Hurray! Obie party!"

We grouped at my grandmother's apartment around dinnertime, made an epic order to "Hunan Fun: Japanese, Chinese, and Thai 'Fashion' Cuisine" (I think they might have meant fusion...), and we alumni and students (plus a completely overwhelmed friend) spent the next few hours playing Two Truths and a Lie, storytelling, giggling, and toasting to a new year over sushi, pad thai, and dumplings. Obies sure know how to make a party wherever we may go.

Around 10pm, we began to part ways. A group went to the Bowery for a 1920s/speakeasy-themed party. Another group headed to met up with friends uptown. My group, Chris, Sturdy, Ben, Julie, and Nicole, decided to head to Central Park, to the Belvedere Castle, to watch the fireworks over the lake. Sounds simple, right? Well...

According to the digital map we had, it appeared that we needed to turn into the park at 81st Street and Central Park West, right at the Museum of Natural History. Just dandy, but we decided to turn onto the throughway on the road, not on the path across the street. Unlike the rest of the city, which has had extensive clearing of the 18 inches of snow from the post-Christmas blizzard, the sidewalks on either side of the street had not been cleared. At one point, I realized we'd gone the right distance, looked up, and above the tunnel, we saw the castle. On top of us. With no way up to the upper plane of the park.

Here we are, trekking through the wrong part of the park. We are currently in a tunnel. I was channelling my mom's "taking photos during silly times" from earlier that week, when she was running around in the blizzard taking photos. We're clearly related.

The five of us trudged through snow, on the road, until we got to 5th Avenue and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, well on the other side of the park, where we veered up and beelined it to the castle at about 11:45pm. Almost there!

Look! A castle! I've never been there during the day, so I only know how to find it at night. Aries took me there a few years ago.

By 11:50pm, we were up on top of the castle, where a nice mass of people had started to gather. There was a brass band playing something akin to klezmer, with a bucket-drummer percussing along with them. At what appeared to be 11:57pm by my watch, the fireworks began to go off over the lake. Vaguely unprepared, it was 2011. Well-wishing texts started pouring in to all of our phones; the brass band started playing Auld Lang Syne. Happy New Year!

Fireworks! Hurray!

Some entrepreneuring fellow dragged his bike all the way up the steps with a speaker and iPod attached, playing classic dance music well into the night. We stuck around and danced/slid on the now-frozen-over snow to Michael Jackson and Outkast until about 1am, when we walked back to Broadway and put our visiting friends in a cab to Grand Central Station. Ben and I returned home, where we traded New Year's stories with my grandmother and, later, Ali and Brandi when they returned.

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Fireworks from the Belvedere. Music provided by awesome guy with speakers on his bike.

A good start of a good year.


So, I'm not the biggest fan of resolutions, but I am a fan of reflection and hopes for a new years... (This is sort of my version of a year-in-review of blog posts. Bear with me.)

Over this past year, I completed an epic senior project, nurtured a beautiful piece of Oberlove born into existence, graduated from college, visited my old Kentucky home, began my forays in teaching, started a big kid job, and watched my brother grow into a college student. Below, a short list of things I am proud of from this past year.

Proud: That I can articulate my life goal and vision in a succinct sentence. I think that a photo can say more than one knows how to ask about, and that through an image, one can explain more about onself; thus, I would like to use photography as a means of emotional communication. That's a pretty damned pretentious sentence. Ask me sometime and I'll elaborate. See also: my decision to still upkeep a simple photoblog on Tumblr.

Proud: Of my Oberlin family. My parents, removed yet close, my brother, close and similar yet dissimilar, and my Oberlin family units of support, dining, and adoration. See also: Fiercegiving 2010 and birthday planning.

Proud: Of my more complete and directed ideas about food. I am consciously researching and writing and photographing. I do more than just eat and cook now. See also: my mini-food manifesto.

Proud: Of my learning curve. I know how to do basic coding! See also: my little experiments with hacking Facebook HTML on the Oberlin College Facebook page (click on the Welcome tab!).

Proud: Of the people I have met and gotten to know better. See also: all the lovely bloggers here at the Oberlin blogs. You kids are great.


And now, some resolutions for a new year. I'm not a huge fan of resolutions, but the only way to remember things you learn is to constantly remind yourself of the lessons you've internalized (can you tell that I just went to the Museum of Natural History's exhibit on the brain?).

Resolved: Maintain my close and dear friendships with people I had the luxury of another year with.

Resolved: Cook meals over Skype with cooks that I adore. I might test-run this with my family in Hawaii, since my mom likes to narrate her cooking when we talk sometimes. Maybe this will be the future of cooking shows!

Resolved: Continue to befriend Obies, old and new. I met some now-very-close friends just this past summer. I also met some great first-years, and some soon-to-be firsties, and some fabulous alumni, all within the past six months. I'm glad I met all of you, and I'm excited to meet even more of you!

Note: Ben challenged me to shoot this whole break with my 50mm f1.8 lens. For most of you, that means very little, but the short version is that because the lens doesn't zoom (it's a stationary lens with a field of view of 50mm, around what your eye will see without any magnification), and because it's a "fast lens" (the "f1.8" means that it takes great photos in low light, but also has a great ability to blur out backgrounds and take amazing pics), you are both challenged and forced to be more creative, to interesting results.

What do you guys think of these photos in this post? Should I do it more?

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