That New York Bubble

At the time of this post, I can still say that I’ve never had an overtly racist encounter. Strange, isn’t it? I’m a 30-year-old African American woman with about 12 years worth of dreadlocks. I have never once been called a “nigger” to my face or over the internet. I have never had a backhanded compliment such as “Oh she’s blahblahblah, for a Black girl.” I’ve never had trouble landing a job either because of my race. The only questionable situation I had with a recruiter was when she tried to low-key tell me that the positions she recruited for would likely have a problem with my hair (And well, the hair stays). And as far as I know, I’ve never been passed over for anything because of the color of my skin.

I grew up in New York City, which I consider to be the greatest city in America. I may not have an overwhelming “patriotic” pride, but I sure am loyal as hell to New York. And growing up here, there’s a whole different lifestyle and an entirely unique state of mind. There is no physical divide between rich and poor and race here. Sure, certain neighborhoods are more LIKELY to have a certain demographic (South Williamsburg, Sheepshead Bay, Brownsville) but gentrification runs rampant through the city, low-income/lottery housing exists in the most luxurious buildings (my friend was lucky enough to bag one) and you’ll find everyone in Times Square from the businessmen to the tourists to the teenagers to the hood squad.

There is a certain kind of acceptance that comes with being a New York native. If you went to school here, you were exposed to a mixing bowl of race and culture at a very early age. I grew up brushing elbows with project kids, families who had enough money to treat a group of kids to dinner and the movies for their child’s birthday (an impressive feat in the 90s), immigrant children who spoke little English, young girls wearing hijabs and a boy brought up as Jehovah’s Witness who wasn’t allowed to participate in any of the holiday activities. We had class luncheons where everyone would bring in family dishes, Dance Festivals where we’d learn choreography from different origins, and Spanish class was a requirement for 5 years of my public school life.

The fact that a Confederate flag was recently found displayed in the window of an LES apartment was definitely a surprise, considering I grew up in LES. Because in the New York Bubble, racism is something that happens somewhere else. Growing up here did not instill the fear of cops in me and getting pulled over was never a stressful or scary event. In the New York Bubble, a racist establishment will get slammed and shamed on social media or Yelp; a racist incident in the street will be recorded on a camera phone and make the Gothamist for the city to snub; a Good Samaritan will call someone out publicly for displaying prejudice. Growing up in NYC, I was not taught to see race, traipsing through Chinatown, the only Black person in a swarm of Chinese friends, their parents thrilled with my knowledge of Mah-Jongg without the English characters on the pieces. In the New York Bubble, racism is a shocking and disgusting thing we’ve mostly evolved past, while small towns in Middle America remain ignorant without progress. In my mom’s building, our conservative Jewish neighbor, a mother of 2, has offered my two cousins to come wait inside her house when we weren’t home, and they can look like hoodlums sometimes.

I just had a conversation with my boyfriend the other night about how different my high school experience was from the ones you see portrayed in teen movies. No one was ever singled out for being poor, for being overweight, or for struggling in English class. Those with bad grades or bigger pants sizes or suspicious odors weren’t really treated differently than anyone else. What kind of alternate universe did we exist in? Were we just on a different level of maturity?

Even when I leave New York, I find that the Bubble still follows me. As much as I’ve traveled to visit my family in South Carolina, no one has ever tossed a racial comment my way down the dirt roads, surrounded by deep forests and trailer parks. When I moved to Boston for 2 years, I was met with friendliness abounds, as if the whole New York vs Boston rivalry didn’t exist. When I went to D.C. for Otakon a week ago, nada. Likewise, Baltimore, Virginia and down the East Coast, nothing.

One might see this as a strong sign that our country is progressing. Until you look at your Facebook feed and the news stories, the viral videos of police encounters and personal accounts from across the country of cultural headscarves getting snatched and sneers to “go back to your country.” And you dejectedly realize it is very much still there. And sometimes…it comes into our Bubble and it’s here too. And while I hold my NYC upbringing like a talisman, how far can that Bubble extend? The outer membrane is so thin…


Otakon D.C. (My First Big Girl Con)

I have post-convention depression. It’s totally a real thing; it’s on Urban Dictionary. The crowds of nerds, the cosplayers, the programming, the D.C. convention area takeover, the celebration…

It’s over.

My boyfriend took me to my first convention last year: Castle Point Anime Convention in Hoboken. This may be where the addiction was born. Since then I’ve been to two others; Liberty City in Times Square, and Borough Con in Queens. These were all local cons on a much smaller scale, but just the sort of events I’ve been looking for all my life: celebrations of anime culture with a facet for every type of fan. Only now I have money and the means to travel to attend, as well as someone to share it with. 🙂

And now I’m steadily becoming addicted to con-life. It’s made my list of favorite hobbies. And let’s face it, the older you get, the harder it is to make room for new hobbies. Let’s have a recap of this past weekend’s Otakon during its first year in D.C., and what I like to call “My First Big Girl Con.”


I’ve never traveled across state lines for a con before (no, NJ does not count to a New Yorker). But here I was arriving at my hotel room at the Marriott at Metro Center (EXCELLENT HOTEL CHOICE, by the way) for a 3 day immersive experience. The first thing I noticed was that the streets were flooded with Pokemon hats, gamer t-shirts, schoolgirl socks, dangling Otakon badges, and convention goody-bags. Our kind had literally taken over the streets and it was wonderful to see. No matter what time of night it was (and we strolled the streets at 3 in the morning), you’d encounter someone else in cosplay or with a badge. With our powers combined, we’d erected a bubble of con-dom-ness (Don’t laugh).

The Walter E. Washington Convention Center was a massive venue. Even after 3 days, I still hadn’t mastered the map and still got lost occasionally. The first day, my feet were exhausted from all the walking, and I’m a hardcore Pokemon-GO-er! By the second day, I was a hardened convention-stroller. A few highlights and lessons learned:


They crank the air up good in these places. If you’re wearing a sc20170812_140851hoolgirl costume, steel yourself and be ready. I tried cosplaying something seasonal, but all that goes out the window when you enter the building. You could easily have a fur coat as part of your costume and be good in there.

2) There’s a reason they have reminders all over the place to REMEMBER TO EAT AND DRINK.

At first I thought, who the hell would forget something like that? But then you discover Guidebook, and you schedule a grid of panels and events to attend, and then realize there are lines to get into the panels and if you don’t show up a little early, you may not get in, so you have to factor that in, as well as time spent traversing the Dealer’s Hall during a free time slot, and maybe the last food option you saw was 20 minutes ago on the 2nd floor but you’ve already walked up 2 escalators, made 4 turns and took a connecting tunnel to an adjacent building so are you really going to go all the way back just for FOOD and miss being on line early for the MASQUERADE?? I’ll get better at this with time.

3) Nobody smelled. 😀

I was warned by multiple people beforehand to expect heavy B.O. I am not sure why there’s a stereotype that nerds are dirty hobos that don’t shower, but I am happy this stereotype was not encountered during my experience at Otakon.


4) Arrive at panels/events at LEAST 30 minutes early, but probably more.

When I discovered the Guidebook app, I went CRAZY adding anything that looked like it could be interesting to my schedule. My boyfriend appreciated my enthusiasm, but gently told me in no way would he be accompanying me to all of them. As it turns out, I didn’t make it to 75% of the activities I put on my schedule. Con time is a different sort of time. The breakdown of my valiant efforts were as follows:



~Nintendo Urban Legends panel at 9:00 am in the morning – MISSED.
Didn’t wake up early enough and got lost on the way to the convention center. -.-‘

~Maid Cafe – MISSED.
I didn’t arrive early enough and there was a line cut-off. >:/

~Opening Ceremonies – Not really a panel but we made it through the traditional Japanese blessing of the con and a list of guests before bouncing early because I expected more excitement and I never actually care about the guests or know their names well enough to get excited.

~Tales series photo shoot – MISSED.
Boyfriend wanted to traverse the Dealer’s Hall in its place.

~Attack on Titan viewing – WALKED OUT.
We tried asking everyone involved in this viewing whether it would be subbed or dubbed, but no one could give an answer. The second the intro began in English, it was a wrap. :/

~All late night activities that required the 18+ wristband – MISSED.
My badgeless cousin with friends in tow showed up to DC so we had to remove ourselves from the convention in search of non-nerdy good times.


So the panel for cosplay posing was missed.

A fun costumed crew took us through the Tales series timeline and asked various trivia questions for each game for prizes. I did not immediately know the answers to a single one. My Tales knowledge is not as good as I thought. I left prizeless.

~Official Gundam Wing panel- Boyfriend never saw this series, and as such, didn’t wanna sit through it with me, so I solo-ed it.
They showed the very first episode to give us all some serious nostalgic feels. Then they did Q &A with the actual writer and producer of the series who flew here all the way from Japan. Katsuyuki Sumizawa was such an animated person and full of personality! He was so much like a character himself, that he had the audience cracking up despite the fact that we needed a translator to actually know what he was saying. A hurried raffle capped it off. I won nothing once again.

~The Masquerade – Easily the most highly attended event I think.
Here is where that “Remember to eat” rule failed me the hardest. Even arriving half an hour early, the line was ruthless. Cosplayed characters performed various skits from singing to dancing to comedic acts to Broadway-like musicals. My fave was the old Team Rocket meets the new Team Rocket skit. But we left early because there were 30 skits and I could only make it through 15 because I was starving, and had tried to survive on Pocky, ramune sodas and the ice-cold rock balls served in the Japanese dining area passed off as onigiri, and the dude directly beside me was smart to bring some sort of warm, meaty sandwich, which I could not sanely sit through the scent. So I hope Team Rocket won something.

After we left the Masquerade, we headed for the Sonic Boombox sponsored after party at the Hard Rock Cafe that we had tickets for. Some drinks and party vibes and, thankfully, a burger later, we were back at our hotel room hosting a very unofficial Smash tourney with fellow con-goers the boyfriend had recruited from the Gaming Room. They seemed overwhelmingly grateful to chill out with us, which warmed my heart.



~Awesome-sounding Otakon Game Show where audience members can particpate? – CANCELLED.
That one hurt. That one was going to be my headliner of the day. I was looking forward to that one.

~We opted to skip Closing Ceremonies since the Opening ones a few days earlier hadn’t impressed me. One of the cool Smashers we’d met the night before came back to our room to play with us instead.

As we later strolled the D.C. streets, we realized the majority of our kind had already checked out and departed the area. The sidewalks no longer bustled with cosplay frolickers, badged attendees and fellow nerds. Now we saw normal businessmen, families, and the usual dining crowd. The magic had passed. The immersion was over. It was like a reverse culture-shock. Post-con depression is a real thing, guys.

And the best remedy seems pretty clear to me. Moar. Moar. CONS! 😀


And more cons it shall be.



Weird Things that Bug New Yorkers

New Yorkers get a bad rap for being unfriendly people. But it’s not that. It’s that because we have a higher population, the odds for more assholes-per-square-inch increase, because, math. And then the rest of us New Yorkers have to deal with the more-assholes-per-square-inch ourselves, so we become accustomed to encountering and dealing with them, and then we believe they’re everywhere here too, which creates a spiraling domino effect that results in the “New York State of Mind.” And if the following things bug you, then congratulations; you’ve officially evolved to an authentic New York State of Mind. 🙂

1. When someone sits directly next to you on a virtually empty train or bus.

New Yorkers are used to people always being around at any given moment, but when it’s not rush hour or a busy period, we grab that moment of solitude and hold on tight.


There is a rule: You do NOT sit next to someone if there’s an available seat NOT sitting next to someone. You do NOT enter the train and sit at the closest available seat next to someone, just because it’s close! You scan the aisle, take a leisurely stroll through the moving car, core engaged (because this will help your subway surfing skills) and pick a nice empty space keeping up the yin/yang of passenger-empty seat-passenger-empty seat. You ONLY break this balance if there is no other option. And if you DO break the balance, and there ARE other options, then yes, those strange waves of vengeful resentment you might be feeling are absolutely directed at you.

2. When someone walks parallel on the sidewalk at the same speed as you.

You’re not friends. You’re not acquainted. And yet, you may as well be holding hands with them. And then you try to speed up, and then they kind of speed up too, and then the awkward level rises…and then the anger level rises cause it’s awkward. And then you need to cross the street because the angry awkwardness is overwhelming you.


And then you need to hope they aren’t also crossing the street too. Which leads to…

3. Coincidentally walking the same route as another person.

I’m sure in small towns, you both would giggle and make a joke about how one’s stalking the other, or even strike up some small talk about where you both are going. But in New York, if you’re playing the “Pass That Person” game on the street, but then you both end up waiting at the curb side-by-side for the Walk signal to turn, cross the same street, both turn right, stop at the same bodega for only one thing so you both pay quickly and leave at the same time, and then turn LEFT together (this happened on my walk to the gym this morning, I kid you not) and cruise up the next block trying to act like you don’t realize the other person is still there, or suspecting that they were paid to keep tabs on you…

I don’t like it.

4. Speeding up to cut me off and then immediately walking slowly.

This is most agonizing on stairs. Like if you’re exiting the train and you want to ninja-rush up in double-time, but someone darts in front of you, then proceeds to lumber their way up at an excruciating pace. WHY DID YOU CUT ME OFF THEN? Why was it so important to cut me off so that you could walk slowly?

Your hurried MOVEMENTS do not mean you are progressing quickly.

And then when you try to scurry around them, a barrage of people come trailing down on the other side. Then you and the rest of the line are stuck matching the pace of the lumberer for the whole walk up. And I telepathically communicate to the people behind me, “I would have done better for you.”

5. Sidewalk-spreading.

I chalk this up to some sort of Narcissus complex. You, strolling down the street like you don’t have to get to work, or like it’s not raining really hard, with your arms outstretched (mentally). And maybe your right-hand man is right beside you, but only kind-of sort-of, because you both have to stretch out to make sure you’re taking up the entirety of the sidewalk, and yell your comments to one another across the space in “conversation” as you both saunter your way, making it highly difficult for anyone to zip around you from either side. It’s a declaration. A declaration that you are not aware of anything going on around you.

6. Those who stand on the left side of the escalator.

My very own boyfriend, who is not from New York, told me that outside of the city, the notion that there is a standing side on the escalator AND a walking side is unheard of.

I mean, I get it. Technically, I guess the entire concept of an escalator is so you DON’T have to walk up it at all. You stand and check your phone and have a chat, feet firmly planted as it delivers you to your final destination. But goddammit, this is a city of movers. And if i’m on an escalator, it’s because I have somewhere to be. And in New York, escalators are advanced stairs. And if someone forgets the rule of the standing side and the walking side…well, you could say “Excuse me,” I suppose, and hope they hear you (I have a low voice). BUT HOW DO THEY NOT KNOW THE CODE?? The I-don’t-feel-like-walking people are lining up on the right for a reason. If you’re not, then you’re an obstruction. And I might have to break out the nonchalant bravado and bypass the escalator for the stairs because you’re choosing to be an obstruction.

Ever tried to beat the escalator riders by showing them you can use your legs on the stairs and making it to the top before them?

Ever done it at the Exchange Place Light Rail station in Jersey City?


My bravado really took a toll on my lungs that time.

Not everyone has a New York State of Mind. The OGs are now outnumbered.

~Tael (OG New Yorker)