Jessica Ma

Journalist. Poet. Hopefully, city-bound.


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Catching Forty Winks in the City that Never Sleeps

The other morning, I woke up at 6:19 a.m., exact, to the sound of “morning mist” because that’s when my sleep tracking app sensed I would be in my “lightest sleep phase” and therefore most receptive to starting my day with a smile. I spent the next 11 minutes wishing I was asleep again, or maybe just dead*.

Like many millennials, I don’t get enough sleep. Ever. Even on weekends, I’m just catching up on the zzzs I haven’t gotten throughout the week — sleep debt, as it’s sometimes called (as if I weren’t in enough debt as it is). On a typical weekday morning, I wake up somewhere around 6:30, roll out of bed with much groaning 15 minutes later, attempt to make myself look like a put-together adult, then try to fall asleep on the hour-long bus ride around 7:40. It’s never a refreshing nap, nowhere close to a comfortable one, but it’s a little more sleep and it keeps strangers on the bus from making small talk with me when I’m barely functional.

But on this fateful morning, I did not get to drift off on the Garden State Parkway while jostling for control of the armrest with another commuter. No, instead, I had taken the bus in with my dad and found myself at Port Authority a full hour and 35 minutes before I had to be at work.

This is how I found myself taking a $12 nap in Midtown.

Nap York's Exterior

The entrance to Nap York, located on the corner of 36th St. and 7th Ave, featuring two New Yorkers who are probably well-rested enough for the day.

I don’t remember where I’d first heard of Nap York (probably the Internet), but I definitely remember being intrigued by the idea. A place in Manhattan where I could nap and frivolously spend money? Count this millennial in!

When I arrived, I was greeted with green: plants lining the windows, covering the walls, segmenting the space. I fought the urge to take a picture of some freshly-pressed juice in front of it all.

An attendant behind a small counter explained my sleep options: for 30 minutes, I could nap in “business” class for $10 or “first class” for $12. The business class pods — which are stacked one on top of the other like very snug bunk beds — reminded me too much of those mausoleums where people are stuffed in the walls like filing cabinets. So I splurged on a first class pod (also, when could I ever say that I could afford first class again?). The attendant gave me a buzzer, the same kind you’d get while waiting for a table at a restaurant, and sent me off to Slumber Land.

Up one flight of stairs was a small yoga studio, separated from the passageway to the nap pods by yet more plants. I was briefly startled by someone in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows in the lotus position; this was partly because I didn’t realize there are people who actually enjoy waking up early to exercise and partly because I didn’t have my glasses on, so what I thought was a nice Buddha statue was actually just some rare morning-person. (They’re rare, right? No one’s really functional before 11:00, right?)

Speaking of not having my glasses on, I highly recommend being able to see if you visit Nap York, or you may have some difficulty locating…

The Pods

Yoga floor

You’d think it’d be hard to miss that glaring sign among all the greenery, but keep in mind, these are some impressive plants.

Granted, in addition to being blind, I’m also not great with directions, so you can understand how I wound up a floor above where I was supposed to be.

On the building’s fourth floor are the business class pods which, in the dark, looked about as crypt-y as I imagined they might (though Nap York’s Instagram will try to convince you otherwise with good lighting). However, I did also stumble upon a laundry station; Nap York’s FAQ says the pods are cleaned after each use, so consider that fact checked and verified.

Seeing that these pods were labeled #11 and up, and using the education I paid over $130,000 for which was definitely not overpriced at all, I eventually figured out I was supposed to be one floor below and made my way to Pod #1.

To answer the question probably burning in your mind, yes, the pods seemed clean and bedbug-free. The mattress was covered in a bedbug-protective case (you’ll remember these bad boys from college if you were as terrified of bugs as I am). The pillow looked crisp white and the pod came with a towel which I later realized was probably for sleeping on and not to be used as a blanket.

Yes, I slept under a towel like some Dickensian wretch.

As I said, I didn’t have my glasses on, and those pods are dark. I realized at the end of my session the pods do come with very soft blankets, located in a pouch on the left wall of the pod. If anyone who works at Nap York happens to be reading this, here’s a real review: when you ask someone if it’s their first time napping in a pod, maybe consider explaining the amenities within the pod before they leave the counter. Yes, I could have searched around the pod a little before settling in, but I only had 30 minutes to nap. Time was of the essence.

Pod Photo Comparison

How I wanted my photo of the pod to turn out (from Nap York’s website) vs. how it actually turned out because dammit, a smartphone camera can only do so much in the dark.

And so, with a solid playlist, I settled in for my nap.

Napping somewhere that’s not a bedroom was both easier and harder than I expected.

Easier in that I did manage to fall asleep fairly quickly. In the interest of journalistic honesty, I have been known to fall asleep pretty much anywhere, any time: in a karaoke room while other people are jamming out to *NSYNC, after being in a car for five minutes, even sitting upright while working on a news broadcast at my college radio station.

But the pod also lends itself to a very calming atmosphere: the curtain at entrance to the pod effectively blocks out any light from beyond the thick wooden walls, a fan in the hallway provides white noise, and the ceiling of the pod even has twinkling lights to simulate sleeping under the stars. (Some grouches in other online reviews found this distracting because they hate fun; the lights are able to be turned off, if you also have a distaste for whimsy.)

But as much as I love to sleep, it was harder to conk out than I imagined, mostly because it just felt so weird. Here I was at 8:30 a.m. trying to go back to sleep, knowing that just outside, thousands of New Yorkers were yawning on the subway and sipping coffee on the sidewalk. I did my best to empty my mind; in the first five minutes or so, I became hyper aware of my legs. Were they always this heavy? What the hell do I normally do with my legs when I sleep? Falling asleep was almost a conscious choice I had to make.

I was pleasantly surprised with how long 30 minutes actually lasted. I found myself naturally waking up then drifting off again twice before the buzzer went off. When I pulled back the curtain, a different attendant was waiting outside the pod to gather my pillow, towel, and I guess not my blanket for cleaning, though they’re probably thorough enough to just grab it all.

I stepped back into the morning feeling refreshed.

Snapchat-1386334606

The author taking a selfie as she prepares to pass out, this goddamn millennial.

Though a 30-minute nap could never replace a full night’s sleep, I felt infinitely better than I typically did after my longer naps contorted in a Greyhound Bus seat. Now, at $10 to $12 per 30 minutes, I’m not planning to make Nap York a daily or even weekly pit stop. But it’s comforting to know that if I ever find myself in midtown desperately needing a nap, I’ll have better options than sneaking into the Macy’s bedroom displays.

Sleep tight, New York.

*To my parents and any non-millennials/Gen-Z-ers reading this: I don’t actually want to be dead. People my age and younger just like to JOKE about being dead; it’s our humor de rigueur to deal with an increasingly uncertain and terrifying future. And to deal with waking up at 6 a.m. on Mondays.

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You Are What You Eat

I’ve been told that I’m “not really Asian.” Sure, I have monolid eyes and black hair and both my parents and all my grandparents were born in China to Chinese parents — but, like, I’m “basically white.” The only thing Chinese about me, apparently, is my appetite for “exotic” cuts of meat: chicken feet, jellyfish, shark (yes, I know about the ecological devastation this causes; no, I don’t eat shark anymore).20161213_170131

So following that logic, of course I would visit MoCA’s exhibit on Chinese food in America (“Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy: Stories of Chinese Food and Identity in America“). That was last month; it’s taken me a while to write this post, despite having already written two essays on food, because I’m still trying to figure out how to creatively write yet another think-piece on food and identity. So here’s me, trying yet again.


I grew up with a complicated connection to my culture. I spoke pidgin Cantonese with my parents and nanny. I attended Chinese school every Saturday morning for four years, learning to speak, read, and write my mother tongue. I wound up dropping out after third grade to play rec soccer (I lasted one season — a girl on the opposing team pushed me, I fell dangerously close to a pile of goose poop, and that was the end of my budding sports career).

We exchange lai see and feast on Chinese New Year but don’t eat mooncakes for the Mid-Autumn Festival or visit our relatives’ resting places for Tomb-Sweeping Day.

I don’t know how to speak Chinese.

So when I watched the interviews with all those Chinese and Asian-American chefs — when I listened to Grace Young, who wrote the cookbook I immediately recognized from my childhood; and Danny Bowien, who connected to a culture lost to him through food — in the heart of Chinatown, where I so often keep my typically too-loud mouth shut so no one knows I can’t speak Chinese… I felt like I understood for once.20161213_160107


This is a wannabe think-piece, so of course it’s not just about food. It never is. It’s about who you make food with and eat food with and experience food with. I can’t necessarily speak with my grandma, but I can watch her make jook and lo bak go. I don’t know if I have jade jewelry to inherit, but I will get my grandfather’s pure cast-iron wok.

I read a post once which noted that Chinese people don’t really have recipes — not in the traditional sense. You don’t use a teaspoon of soy sauce or a tablespoon of white pepper powder. You do it all to taste. My mom makes her steamed egg with a top coat of soy sauce for color and a bit of salt; my aunt throws in browned meat and scallions for texture and substance. To cook Chinese food is to know a person, to adapt their tastes with your own.

So I’m cooking a love letter to my parents, my grandmother, my family; folding in curiosity and good intentions into the rice along with lap cheung and scrambled egg; saying, “Here, try this. Did I get it right? Am I learning the forgotten parts of myself correctly?”

20161213_164803


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Long Island Welcome Center Features Taste NY Market

The Long Island Welcome Center opened in Dix Hills five weeks ago; it aims to promote tourism on Long Island and features a Taste NY Market.

The market is part of NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Taste NY Initiative, which aims to promote local products throughout the state. Just last week, Cuomo announced that gross sales of NY-based products more than doubled over the past year.

This video story was created through Snapchat.


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Mineola in Top Six LI Neighborhoods for Young Commuters

Home is where the heart — and sometimes, train — is.

Many Long Island communities struggle today in attracting young professionals. One problem is a lack of affordable housing options. A recent Long Island Index (LII) report maps out all existing and proposed rental, condominium, and co-op properties on the island. The study found that of the existing 83,000 rental units, only 30% — or 24,900 — are within a half-mile of a Long Island Railroad Station. The LII argues rental units in close proximity to commuter transportation hubs are essential to keeping young people on Long Island.

One village where young professionals could consider living is Mineola: the Mineola station ranks in the top six LIRR stations with rental units within a half-mile radius.

Mineola has long been a rental-friendly community. From 2009 to 2014, the village saw the number of its renter-occupied housing units go from about a quarter to a little over a third of overall occupied housing, according to American FactFinder, a searchable public database provided by the United States Census Bureau.

The village has also seen its number of residents between 15 and 34 years old who live alone in a rental increase since 2011, from 5.3% to 8.4%. Mineola’s peak in young people renting their own apartments was in 2012, at 9.9%.

According to the LII’s Multifamily Housing Map, all 23 buildings with rental units within a half-mile radius of Mineola station are located in areas with 20 to 30% of residents who are between the ages of 18 and 34. The downtown area currently has four rental properties constructed since 2000 that are available to young professionals. Another proposed property (the Mineola Village Green) is in the works.

Village officials are optimistic these more recent properties, along with the proposed Village Green, will attract new residents of all ages. Mineola Village Clerk Joseph Scalero says the main benefit of the recently-constructed properties is “putting more residential units in the downtown area” with the ultimate goal being “more foot traffic and nightlife” in the village.


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Martins, Suozzi Face Off in AARP Debate for Senior Citizens Issues

Candidates for the 3rd Congressional District of New York Senator Jack Martins (R) and former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi (D) took to the stage in an AARP-sponsored debate to discuss senior citizens’ concerns on October 24, 2016 in Albertson, NY.


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When a Woman’s Choice Comes Down to Her Presidential Choice: 2016 Presidential Candidates on Reproductive Rights

Hillary Clinton
The Democratic presidential nominee has a long history of supporting women’s reproductive rights and she’s made no change to her tune in her latest campaign for the presidency. In April, Clinton appeared on ABC’s The View, where host Paula Faris asked if she would allow abortions even “on [a fetus’] due date.” The former Secretary of State said she would, because she has seen “the impact that a government can have when it tries to substitute its judgment for the individual women,” whether that be pro- or anti-abortion.

It comes as no surprise, then, that Planned Parenthood — a nonprofit women’s health organization — has endorsed Clinton for the presidency. The former New York Senator has also received support from groups like NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC.

Clinton’s stance on abortion has evolved over the years. When she first ran for president in 2008, she supported abortions but believed they should be “safe and rare,” and advocated for alternatives such as adoption, foster care, and measures to prevent teen pregnancy.

 

Donald Trump
Most recently, the Republican presidential nominee seems to have taken a strong pro-life stance, going so far as to add a “Pro-Life Coalition” to his campaign with Marjorie Dannenfelser — a prolific anti-abortion activist — at the helm. He also released a letter (hosted on the website of Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life organization) delineating his plans to “advance the rights of unborn children and their mothers.”

However, the real estate mogul hasn’t always been in the “fetus first” camp: back in 1999, he called himself “very pro-choice” in an interview with Meet the Press, though he did assert that the “hates the concept of abortion.” (In this same interview, Trump said he would not ban partial-birth abortions; in his book The America We Deserve, the Don reversed his opinion — “I consulted two doctors I respect and, upon learning more about this procedure, I have concluded that I would support a ban.”)

Trump publicly changed his stance to pro-life at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2011, when he first floated the idea of running for President, though the Republican presidential hopeful would not call for an end to all abortions.

However, the The Apprentice personality has spoken in favor of Planned Parenthood as recently as February of this year during a Republican presidential candidate debate, citing the “millions and millions of women” who visit centers for health services.

The Plan

Hillary Clinton Donald Trump
 Allow abortions? Yes, no matter the circumstance, because that is the law  No, unless in cases of rape, incest, and risk to the mother
Allow late-term abortions?  In favor of late-term regulations, so long as there are exceptions for certain cases No, not after 20 weeks
 Stance on Hyde Amendment?  Repeal it as it is unfair to disadvantaged women Sign it into permanent law
 Fund Planned Parenthood?  Yes, fully, it provides “critical health care services” No, not while they still perform abortions


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Power Through Poetry

Hofstra’s spoken word group SP!T celebrates National Poetry Month with its second annual showcase, featuring a slam poem competition and an open mic session.

For some, poetry is a tool to promote activism or help cope with struggles they face. Three members of SP!T talk about how they see poetry as a means of empowerment.