Singer mxmtoon's Preferred Day Off in Brooklyn Involves Parks and Her Heritage
"I like any place that lets me sit down and take a second and also watch what people are up to in their lives."
By Kerensa Cadenas and Maia
Published on 9/22/2022 at 4:36 PM
mxmtoon | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
In January 2020, singer-songwriter Maia (known as mxmtoon) moved from her native California to New York. She had begun her music career in her parents' home, uploading songs to YouTube, only to gain a quick following that led to 2018's EP Plum Blossom and 2019's LP The Masquerade. Since then, she's become one of bedroom pop's darlings, crafting intimate songs about love and family heritage. Her move to New York was the first time Maia stepped out on her own, away from her close-knit California life. After a five-month return to Oakland at the start of COVID, the self-described "insular person" has been able to explore New York—specifically Brooklyn—in earnest. When she's not working on music, her ideal day consists of grocery shopping, cooking, people-watching in a park, and seeing a movie.
If it's Saturday, I'll go to the Brooklyn Borough Hall Greenmarket because that's where I'll get my produce for the week if I have the time. It's convenient, and I enjoy the walk over. I find it's not super congested. The Prospect Park one can get super overwhelming because it's really popular, but I am afraid of people. It's nice to go to a green market that's not super overwhelming. This one's more spread out. You can take your time, and it usually has everything. I really enjoy going to the flower tents. I just love flowers. They're really beautiful, but I also just go to any produce stall. I try to get seasonal fruits. My goal is to go when it's citrus season so I can make some candied oranges and grapefruits.
If I'm needing something specific, I'll end up going to Chinatown and looking at what produce is there and going to my favorite grocery stores there because they'll carry all the stuff that I grew up eating. I can also go and get a pastry from a Chinese bakery or a hot nai cha, which is just black tea with milk, but it tastes so much better when it's made the way that I grew up eating it. I don't go as often as I used to when I first moved here. I didn't know what else to do with myself—I just had to go to Chinatown. I grew up near San Francisco and it's one of the largest Chinatowns in the United States. For me, there's such a comfort in knowing that I live a 15-minute train ride away from one of the largest Chinatowns in America.
It's so nice that my culture can be intertwined with my day-to-day activities and the upbringing that I had in Oakland with my mom. To go and be in an environment that is unabashedly Asian, I think it's so comforting. Many people of color also feel this way, when you can find yourselves in environments that have your culture and ethnicity intertwined. For me, Chinatown feels like home. It's a mixture of my two cultures, being in America but also being Chinese. I went recently when my mom and dad were visiting Brooklyn, and we got Peking duck and we walked around, and it just happened there was a parade. To be there with them was really special, and to know that regardless of where I am in the world, and if it's far away from where I grew up, there's still always going to be this piece of familiarity in Chinatown.
The Stairs at Fort Greene Park | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
“I love going grocery shopping. It's one of my guilty pleasures in life. Sometimes, I'm like, "Is it weird that that's my hobby, going to a grocery store?”
I love going grocery shopping. It's one of my guilty pleasures in life. Sometimes, I'm like, "Is it weird that that's my hobby, going to a grocery store?" TenIchi Mart is one of my favorites, because after 8:00 p.m. they have a discount on all of their pre-made food. It's really dangerous because it's all really good. They have rice triangles, pre-made sushi, poke bowls, and curry. I go there pretty frequently if I'm not feeling up to going to Chinatown, and I can find mostly everything at that market. I go, honestly, if I just want a snack.
In the evening, I'll watch people play tennis in Fort Greene Park. There's something that's so hypnotizing about people playing tennis, but it's also really entertaining when maybe there's a group that's not quite as good and it's just them finding their bearings. I grew up with people who loved tennis, and watching it. I did go to tennis camp for one whole summer, where I ended up playing on the camp counselor's iPad most of the time and eating potato chips. I wasn't very good at tennis, so I've always really loved to watch it instead.
After 9:00 p.m. is when the off-leash dog hours happen. If you go early enough, before 9:00 a.m., it's also off-leash. Who am I kidding? I'm not awake that early. I see it after 9:00 p.m. instead. That's fun. I love when dogs are running around with their glow-in-the-dark collars. It looks like a doggy rave.
Scanning Items at Tenichi Market | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
“If I have a friend who's visiting the city for the first time and they're like, "I want to go to Brooklyn, but I don't know what to do in Brooklyn," Prospect Park is the perfect park for that. They have so many activities.”
On Sundays, if I'm there early enough, there's usually some sort of drum circle that's going on, which is just fun to hear and watch. There's so much shit that happens in Fort Greene, it's crazy. It's a smaller park, but it's wild how much actually happens on the grounds of it. There's a dude in Fort Greene who rides his bicycle around the perimeter of the park, bouncing a trash can on his head, and he's there all the time. The first time I saw it, I was like, "That's strange." I saw him again, and I was like, "Does he just do this all the time?" I saw him a third time, and I was like, "Yes, he does do this all the time."
There's also so much happening all the time in Prospect Park. When I'm there, I tune out the noise, and I'm in my own bubble. I usually go biking. It's fast-paced. You just go by all these crazy things. If I have a friend who's visiting the city for the first time and they're like, "I want to go to Brooklyn, but I don't know what to do in Brooklyn," Prospect Park is the perfect park for that. They have so many activities. We'll bike around the park. It has all of the things centralized, making it super easy to just show what's happening in Brooklyn. I have a lot of people that are like, "Manhattan, Manhattan." I'm like, "You don't need to go to Manhattan."
I have always really loved being in nature. I think New York has a really great integration of the parks and being able to find those spots within the city that you can feel like there is peace. When I look outside my window, normally it's just all these buildings. It's so much concrete. You can go to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, where all of a sudden it's completely quiet. You're away from the streets, you're sitting inside of their apple orchard or cherry lane or rose garden or seeing the Japanese garden. It's wild to me that that serenity exists in a city that has so much hustle and bustle in it. I can slow down for a second, which is something I really relish.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
“It's fun for me to go to a place in a different state that also resembles that activity that I would do with my family.”
My managers work in Dumbo, so it's easy for me to walk down there after I'm doing work meetings. Because I grew up in Oakland, with the view from my family's house, you can see out on the bay, and being near the water is really special to me. Visiting Brooklyn Bridge Park is just really nice down there. They've landscaped it beautifully, the walkway is really nice and long, and you can take your time there. It's another great people-watching place, too, just to see families and teenagers playing basketball. I like any place that lets me sit down and take a second and also watch what people are up to in their lives.
I love going to see movies and I live close to BAM, so I've gone to see movies there. I see movies a ridiculous amount—it's a little bit concerning. I don't think the average person spends nearly as much time in a movie theater in their life as I have already this year.
A lot of the things that I find myself doing in Brooklyn are really reminiscent of activities that I loved to do in Oakland growing up. There was a theater in Oakland called the Grand Lake Theater, which was this renovated old building that kept the same funk and pizazz of all the old theaters. BAM is super reminiscent of that. It's fun for me to go to a place in a different state that also resembles that activity that I would do with my family.
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