i miss new york

the high school orchestra trip i took as a freshman violinist to nyc sealed the deal for me: i decided that when i grew up, i wanted to move to new york. i still remember getting back from SFO airport on the school bus and experiencing this overwhelming sadness. i felt i had been changed forever. from the hole in the wall diners to the jazz show in some random house in harlem to seeing rent on broadway, i couldn’t wait to live that sleepless life in the city of rough edges, unapologetic counter culture and raw creativity.

le tigre and yeah yeah yeahs were my heroes during high school. they embodied the life i wanted—unafraid to speak up about inequality and the things that pissed them off.

i took a detour and moved to london and LA before finally making my way back to new york in my mid 20s. i was there for 7 years—i struggled, i grew, and adopted a new york street cat.

i landed in brownsville, brooklyn when i first moved to new york because i was a dumbass and didn’t know anything about neighborhoods so i spent the first year commuting to practically the end of the 3 train a few stops before new lots avenue. i worked random jobs while freelancing photo gigs when i first moved—working a tiny coat check in a speakeasy in chinatown (shoutout to phil, the funniest door dude who would give me a ride home every night when the bar closed and we’d swing by dough in bedstuy at 4am for free donuts), stuffing envelops at a student loans place in flatiron, and photographing restaurants and live music.

i didn’t know what i was doing with life and i burned out at the startup i was at in LA so i just wanted to y’know, live and figure it out later. you have the rest of your life to work a job you hate so what’s the rush? as “la vie boheme” from rent goes:

To riding your bike (la vie Boheme)
Midday past the three-piece suits (la vie Boheme)

i turned down two full time “career” jobs and opted to just hustle (rip sleep schedule) until i found what i wanted to do; i wanted to be intentional about what i chose to do with my life and figured nyc was the absolute perfect place to explore that if i was down to struggle errrrr…i mean work.

those early days were rough but i went to so many shows from living room house shows to barclays center and always had a group of friends to hang on rooftops with. 4th of julys were always special—there’s nothing quite like new york during the summer. there were nights where we laid flat in the back of a truck driving through brooklyn laughing and watching fireworks go off in the sky or that time we hugged each other watching fireworks to the backdrop of manhattan and frank sinatra’s “new york, new york” playing. everything felt perfect in those moments.

i eventually hustled and ended up working right in the center of times square for my “dream companies” at the time. commuting into times square 5 days a week was far from being a dream though but i was able to enjoy even more of the city not to mention work parties from the 42nd floor of broadway overlooking times square. things weren’t perfect but i experienced so many bucket list items which i’m eternally grateful for. i photographed so many of my favorite bands including the drums on a roof in times square to bloc party in central park which happened to be the last concert i photographed in new york.

i’ve thought of moving back to LA off and on for years but i was finally starting to really love the life i had built for myself in nyc. hell, i even finally bought patio furniture cos i thought i was staying for keeps. i didn’t expect to move back but 2020 showed me that i didn’t really have a reason to stay in new york either. i stuck with new york through the roughest personal experiences. i stayed even though i really wanted to leave new york after my best friend died in 2015 and everything in the city reminded me of him because we were each other’s stand in partners. i stuck with new york through the apocalyptic start of the pandemic. i suffered through getting covid and clapped for healthcare workers down the street at the hospital.

i don’t regret my decision to buy a place in LA and move back but as the semblance of normalcy starts to reveal itself with the vaccine, it pains me to see nyc stir again. it pains me to be away from the ones i love but i’ve accepted that i will always ache for different places. living between the united states, china, england has shown me that a part of me will always love and ache for those places and the people who changed me no matter where i am. i’m forever grateful of how new york has shaped me irrevocably the past 7 years and for the irreplaceable people i’ve met.

i ate a stupid bagel today and it was mediocre and brought to the surface this wistful longing. a fucking bagel and i’m in tears.

Tales of a plant hoarder: my new plant acquisitions

This is a tale of plant murder, heartbreak and moving on. My plant tally is up to 30 in my tiny ass apartment and I swore I would stop buying more because I don’t want to become some crazed plant lady—but let’s be real—it’s mostly because I’m running out of space. However, as a creature of self-enablement, when I discovered I killed my pin stripe calathea (RIP, I loved you for two years), I gave myself permission to indulge. Behold, derp faced Wei with one of the new plants.

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Yes, perhaps this was #toosoon in the plant grieving process and perhaps my sorrow drove me to “just check out” some shops I hadn’t visited in a while. MAYBE THESE WERE REBOUND PLANT PURCHASES BUT I’D LIKE TO THINK NOT.

As if the murder of my calathea wasn’t enough, I suffered from another heartbreak this week. The rare mini monstera (Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma) that I ordered from Thailand came in this state.

It simply took too long to get through customs and make it here. :/ I’m still hopeful I might be able to save parts of it but alas, *cue “Quit Playin’ Games with my Heart” by Backstreet Boys.* Such is the risk though when smuggling plants in illegally.

Reeling from my plant despair, I went to to Tula in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. They have a great selection of rare plants at their airy warehouse location (I’ve been to their pop-ups and truck before which are also stellar). I had to tear myself away from getting the rarer $100+ plants while hoping to find a mini monstera.

Ultimately, I was drawn to this $25 Fernleaf Cactus (Selenicereus Chrysocardium) for its elegant, unique look. I’ve placed it temporarily here on the shelf above my bed but I’ll need to repot it.

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Next, I strolled to Greenery Unlimited (also in Greenpoint) but wasn’t too tempted by anything. Well…I was looking at a $40 hanging Philodendron Brazil to replace my long dead pitcher plant (THEY ARE FREAKIN’ HARD. They require distilled water, always moist and frequently sprayed due to their natural jungle/swamp/humid environment) but didn’t want to pay that much.

I thought that was the end of my plant excursion. I had walked past Peter Pan Donuts earlier and well, I fuckin’ love donuts—right up there with burritos and plants. I made sure to walk past it again since the L is a nightmare and I had to walk to the Lorimer Street Station anyway. I got two donuts, wolfed down one with my iced coffee and continued my journey back home. Then I walked past Screamer’s Pizzeria, did a double take and proceeded to self-enable again with a delicious slice (WHAT?! I ONLY ATE 1 OF THE 2 DONUTS. IT’S OK TO GET A SLICE OF PIZZA). I freakin’ swear to gawd, vegan pizza sounds whack but this place is amazing.

I walked past Xi’an Famous Noodles and ok, give me points for self control. I did NOT stop in (but ok, maybe I already had it a few days before).

Wow, getting off track. Anyway, on my way home with apparently an insatiable appetite, I passed by Soft Opening plant shop and decided to drop in—perhaps cos my brain immediately thought of soft serve and short-circuited. I’m glad I did though because unbeknownst to me, I was on a cactus kick. I got another plant in the same family as the Fernleaf Cactus. This lil Fishbone Cactus (Selenicereus Anthonyanus) with a mystery plant thing (I forgot the name—help me if you know) was already potted for $25!

Nearly to the subway stop, I passed by one of my favorite plant stores in NYC, Crest Hardware. I love this place so much. I found this adorable $8 Philodendron Brazil which was perfect cos I didn’t need the bigger $40 one I had seen earlier in Greenpoint. I dig the coloration of neon leaves. Here it is in a pot I already had (RIP, previous plant that lived in that pot).

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So yeah, perhaps I went on a plant spree out of disappointment. I’ll do what I can to not kill them—starting with avoiding pots without drainage despite putting rocks on the bottom. And hey, at least these new acquisitions weren’t smuggled into the country illegally.

Best plant stores in NYC according to Wei

It started 5 years ago. I moved to the concrete jungle from LA and something snapped in my head where I couldn’t stop purchasing (and killing) plants. Suffice to say, I’ve been to a lot of plant stores and nurseries in NYC.

If I’ve sent you this link it is because you are my friend and I am overjoyed to help you and maybe live vicariously through your plant purchases because my tiny ass apartment cannot fit any more plants for the love of gawd. Also, if you’re reading this and you’re my friend I am sorry I started this blog idk I am lazy ok and don’t feel like typing this out every time don’t @ me ok?

ALRIGHT HERE WE GO.

1. DA HING FLORIST – CHINATOWN, NYC

 

This is my #1 spot, y’all. Excellent selection and the best part? IT’S CHEAP. Chinatown is where it’s at. They’ve got fiddle leaf figs, monsteras and all that Instagram shit without the trendy price tag. It’s family owned which is pretty cute cos sometimes the grandma is there. I took all these photos during the winter so it doesn’t really do their outdoor area any justice. Usually the sidewalk is spilling over with more plants. Plus, they repot and deliver plants!

2. CREST HARDWARE STORE – EAST WILLIAMSBURG, NYC

 

Huge selection of plants in their greenhouse plus they have a big outdoor section. It is quite overwhelming in a good way walking through. Reasonable prices and I’ve been able to find rare plants here without an extreme mark up. This is also a great spot to find affordable gardening accessories, soil, auto watering spikes for soil, and plant pots. Make sure to say hai to the store parrot.

3. GREEN FINGERS MARKET – LOWER EAST SIDE, NYC

 

Curated, stylish, and so freakin cute. Under the direction of Satoshi Kawamoto (who has a few other locations in Tokyo), this charming spot has an unique selection of rare plants. It is a slightly pricier (hey, it’s not Chinatown or a hardware store) but the service is always so friendly and helpful. Plus, they have a clothing boutique in the back of the store!

4. W&W GROCERY STORE INC – CHINATOWN, NYC

 

This is up the street from my #1 spot and honestly, this family owned place has the best selection of affordable, simple plant pots in the back of the store. They also have a good selection of plants and will repot them for you when you purchase them if you don’t want to deal with the hassle. I bought a giant bird of paradise palm here and they even helped me carry it into a cab.

OTHER PLACES

The Sill – on the pricier side but very helpful/knowledgeable staff. Plus, you can purchase already potted plants which is a perk if you don’t want to repot plants yourself or find a pot separately!

Sprout – are you rich? If so, definitely go crazy here.

 

Very overpriced plants but their selection is excellent and they have beautiful plant pots, stands, and accessories. I love going to this place but my wallet weeps afterwards. PREMIUM PRICE TAGS, OK. However, sometimes you can find a good deal on smaller plant pots.

Home Depot – you’d be surprised at the cheap finds here—especially if you’re looking for a big palm or Dracaena.

IKEA – same. I found medium sized Fiddle Leaf Figs at the Red Hook location for around $20-$30 I believe. They got snatched up pretty quickly though.

Natty Garden – I haven’t been here in a while since it’s out of the way for me but I hear that it’s great. If you leave near Crown Heights, Brooklyn, check it out and let me know or like invite me with you, idk.