Finding a Roommate in New York (Second Round)

While I had been really lucky during my first search, I got a taste of the potential problems my German friend had mentioned during my second hunt.
After eight and a half months of Flatbush, I decided to move out for various reason: First, my roommate had let an 18-year-old kid into our terrains who had stolen my jewelry. She didn’t find this a good enough reason to keep him away from the house, so I packed my belongings and tried to get out of there as soon as possible. Second, I had enough of the area and Haitian people treating me like I was an intruder of their territory and being whistled, yelled, or simply stared at when walking down the streets. I also didn’t appreciate being treated with contempt because of my skin color when buying my groceries from a local business.
Well, eight and a half months is enough time in New York to develop a pretty good idea of where you want to live and what type of roommate you can tolerate or which apartment you want to move into.

But two weeks later and after having looked at twenty apartments I still hadn’t found what I wanted. This time it was tough because I was working a 9-5 job and had to juggle writing E-Mails, calling people, and meeting up with them during my lunch breaks and after work. I think I crammed three to four locations in one extreme day. Needless to say that by the end of the day I was simply exhausted and unmotivated to move on.
The search by itself went over craigslist again, but even after haven written two ads nothing great had come along. The stories I can tell, though, they are worth it. I met the most unique people during this time period!

For example this one time when I had given other boroughs a chance and actually made my way up to Queens (again) to meet with the potential candidate. The address was almost on the last stop of the 7 train, which works great during the day but commutes badly to and fro Manhattan on weekends and nights, as I was told. From there it was an additional 15 minute walk, forcing me to picture the cold, icy wind blowing in your face for a quarter hour straight during the unbearable winter months. The guy was a friendly Indian who was already in his 40ies and lived in a shared apartment with three other girls – all of them doing their own thing, meaning they didn’t necessarily qualify in the category “social butterflies.” This was most definitely not what I was looking for. And, as I realized, I still hadn’t lost my heart in Queens.

So I focused my search on the Brooklyn sector, preferably around the Prospect Park area, because once you’ve lived there, you don’t want to live without that patch of green nature that lets you breathe fresh air once in a while. While being on my apartment-hunt, I met destroyed people, adrenaline-seeking people, artistic people … – you name it!

First category: The girl who had just divorced her husband and didn’t want any other guys visiting her future room-mate because the bare sight of a man would too hurtful for her. Splendid idea for a single girl like me! Then there was the 35-year-old lawyer who owned a thing euphemized into a “loft,” which was really only a long narrow tube and my “room” transformed itself into a box without a window. He freely admitted to smoking pot on occasion, too, and if this would be a problem for you me we’d rather not live together. I considered him a very representative man of the law and couldn’t wait to get out of the door.

Second category: The two apartments in Williamsburg who were either above a family of a drugdealer or right around the corner of one. One time I walked up the stairs and looked a desperate, homeless Junkie in the eye as I was finding my way to my appointment. That was sorta enough for me to figure that I did not want to be stabbed or shot when on my way home just because a criminal had opened up his business right next to me. I cannot believe how calm those girls were considering the circumstances they were living in.

Third category: Artists from Europe who were offering a short-term-solution. Such as this 40-year-old woman from Munich whose house was incredibly nice but I figured it would be too much stress to move out again after three months. Or the nice Swiss lady in an eight-bedroom-sublet who could only offer a month.

Surprisingly many families rent out extra rooms in their houses in New York, too. I met up with a few Haitian-rooted mothers who were showing me a hotel-style-room: Bed, closet, night stand. Maybe a lamp or two. This simply made me feel like an intruder of their family and labeled me as their paying rent-provider guest.

I even went back to looking around Flatbush, but I was glad when I came out of those rooms in one piece. No more Flatbush for me, I decided.

There was another apartment in Spanish Harlem, but this time closer to the subway station and in a livelier neighborhood. Still didn’t appeal to me. All tenants were students and appeared rather irresponsible. I also find it quite incredible what some landlords call a room considering the price they charge.

A constellation with two guys around Crown Heights might have been interesting but I did not feel too comfortable with this thought. It is New York after all, many crazy things happen here and I don’t want to play the main role in that. The same goes for two-people-households, where I felt that I needed at least another person to put some space in between. The nicest ones were of course too expensive price-wise. I still don’t get these two students who were living in a completely new apartment in Crown Heights but who didn’t have any electricity or warm water! They were still hoping that managemend would turn it on before the winter started, and, for their own sake, I suggest they did.

Finally, on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I trotted to a spontaneous apartment-seeing in Park Slope, close to the train and park, and in an excellent neighborhood. Being wary of what types of people I had encountered earlier in the Slope, I didn’t get my hopes up. Then a nice Belarusian girl opened the door to a clean, newly-renovated apartment and an unfurnished room with two windows. I knew I had what I was looking for right in front of me. I got the call asking me to move in with them that same evening and didn’t hesitate to fork over the deposit slip on Monday. Certain things take time, but I had seen my share of unlikely rooms to know when to take the right one.

So if you are ever on the look-out for longer than one or two weeks in New York, don’t give up. Something will come along but be fast and grab it! I have also come to find that going on a room-search can be surprisingly refreshing. You get to met many different people and take a look at where they live and how they present themselves. It is good to move once in a while because if you get hooked on the same persons over and over again, you might be missing out on the inspiration and ideas coming from new people. That’s is also the reason why I like sharing an apartment with roommates. Sometimes people move in and out and a new roomie can add a fresh, perhaps even good vibe, to the dusty constellation.

As you might be able to tell from my previous posts, I still live in beautiful Park Slope and I have managed to stay friends with my two Eastern European roommates. Until now this has been the longest living situation for me in New York. Well, to give it some credit, it’s only been 8 months. Because we were all new to the area, we discovered the nightlife here together, which makes our connection to each other more special than usual. We sought out what Prospect Park had to offer during the summer. And we even joined the same gym (YMCA) at around the same time. I feel lucky again. I guess the best things sometimes do take the longest.

Here is to hopefully 8 more months and beyond!

My roomies and I on a night out during our first month together
Celebrating my roomies' birthday in January...
My roomie and I in Vegas!

Finding a Roommate in New York (First Round)

Unless you are one of those “lucky birds” who have every minute of their life meticulously planned out, one of the first things you will have to do when you move to New York is to find a decent place to live in. And, depending on your budget, you will have to make the decision if you want to waste spend your pay check on your own lofty apartment or if you are willing to share some space with other random New York people. To me, the decision was pretty clear: I had my limited amount of savings, I didn’t have a job lined up yet, and I was in no position to demand extras when it came to living situations.
It is practically impossible to check out an apartment prior to your move if you are relocating from another country. You could look at pictures online and talk to potential candidates via phone, but in the end you will have to virtually see what you are getting yourself into and interact with the people. So it was pretty clear to me that I wouldn’t be able to have a room until I got here. I already knew of a few Web Sites but I really didn’t have that much of a clue where to start my quest. I didn’t have to wait long, though, as help came in the form of my first New Yorker, who suggested I put my own ad on craigslist instead of seeping through their incredible amount of spam ads, which were almost useless to me because I didn’t know where to live yet and which abbreviation to pay attention to.

The first day I was here, I wrote everything of interest in this ad and was even careless enough to include my new cell phone number. Soon enough I received my first calls from people all eager to be my potential roommate or offering me to take a look at their room. I do have to admit that my expectations were not high during this initial period of time and that I was really lucky when it came to finding a room. Beginner’s Luck, how Paulo Coelho calls this. All I had to do during this first day was to choose from a few of the calls and organize my schedule around these selections during the first few days. I say it again: I was very lucky and I didn’t have high expectations.

The first room I picked was in Spanish Harlem in Manhattan. A guy called Fernando was from the Dominican Republic and told me that a girl from Berlin had lived there up until recently. Sounded good to me. If another German chick could survive in that hood then why shouldn’t I, right? Dang, was I wrong! I got of the 1-Train and was surrounded by tons of bad vibes. As I walked those 10 blocks over to the apartment I had a hard time picturing myself skipping down the same road in a short party outfit during the hot summer months. Fernando was a nice pal and the apartment was a decent size. I didn’t appreciate the other drugged-out roomie, though, not to mention her spaced out boyfriend. I had to pass on this opportunity. When I walked back to the subway station I felt like I was walking on glass. Not just because I was the only white person around among blacks and Latinos. No one said anything to me but I knew that if I took a step in the wrong direction or said a wrong word bad things would happen. I was pretty glad to be out of that one.

Sometime during that evening I got a call from a Canadian girl who lived someplace in Brooklyn. I had this idea of wanting to move to Queens or Manhattan, so Brooklyn wasn’t really on top of my list.
While putting the other 40 potential appointments together, though, I made plans to scoop her in on the following day, not really expecting much from this encounter. “Just take the Q from Union Square and it will take you less than 25 minutes to this place”, she said. I was and stayed skeptic.
But the next day it really only took me 25 minutes of a ride to the Parkside Ave stop on the Q line. And when I got out of the subway I felt fresh air, saw trees shadowing the entrance to a park, and met a bustling lot of people on the streets. The vibes were good compared to last night. And the apartment was right across the street from the train station. Another huge plus for me as I was still unsure of what to think of certain New York neighborhoods by night. When the Canadian opened up the door, I felt like being transformed back to Europe. In a good way, that is. The interior was made up in the same style many German rooms in a city are. My allotted room was surprisingly big and let through a good amount of light. The Canadian also owned cats – creatures I had never looked at before. I wasn’t cat-phobic, though, rather curious what to expect from scratchy, hairy, living fur balls. To sum it up, the overall impression was good and I was considering not even going to a third seeing.

Well, I needed at least some sort of comparison so I took the train back to the City and then hopped on the 7 up to Queens. Bad luck for me as I wandered around and just couldn’t figure out the address of the apartment. After half an hour I gave up and didn’t even cancel the appointment. That was not very well behaved of me, I know, and I really felt guilty after this. But while walking through the neighborhood I had come to the conclusion that Queens wasn’t the right area for me anyways. Some spots over there are extremely family-oriented, such as the one I was in.

Glad to move out of my hotel soon, I met up with my German friend and as we compared our apartment-hunting stories I knew I had been very fortunate. He had slept on his friend’s couch for two weeks straight until he was able to find something close to suitable in New Jersey. Not his first choice of destination, of course, but hey, Weehawken has a good connection to Manhattan. And the prices are cheaper than in New York.

What we both found surprising was the fact that room size and room price do not seem to correlate. In Europe the bigger the room, the more you pay. Not here. Here you have a set amount of money that is divided among the bedrooms and no one pays attention to price in relation to size. Good for you if your room is big but it can be unfair when it is small.

Also, if you find something you like, you have to act fast. My friend had seen many nice rooms but was still in his German mentality of sleeping it over a night or two. Well, that is in general how things happen but in New York the demand ratio is quite high, so you have to be fast when picking. By fast I mean signing a contract before you leave the house. I know, pretty hectic. Deposits are usually three months rent. By an average room price of $600-900 in Brooklyn and more $$ in Manhattan, you can derive what high amount of sum you have to come up with. A good thing is that you can quit your contract if you find something better after your first month of stay. Here you either find a new roommate and suggest him/her to the rest of the household or give one month notice. Decent enough, considering the average three months of notice you have to give in Germany, which I consider pretty inflexible for an insecure life of a young student.

To emphasize my point: My first apartment took me less than 2 days to find and I ended up moving in with an interesting artist from Canada who was crucial in forming my first impressions of New York. I felt really lucky in those first weeks in New York…

My roommate and I having a fun time in Cali

The Versatile Blogger Award

Alright! Time to redeem this thing!

You might recall that Ginger Couturier awarded me with the Versatile Blogger in the beginning of June, 2011. As I checked my pages the other day I was painfully reminded of this metaphorically dead body in my cellar and that I finally have to get it out to the crowd. The main reason I have struggled to pass it on to other promising bloggers is because I really had a hard time digging deep and finding some blogs I consider worth this price. Time issues might have played a significant minor role, too.

Therefore, my list of blogs and people might be shorter than usual but I do believe that these are the valueable golden nuggets of the blogging world.

Many thank yous go out to Ginger, for giving my blog a chance at such an early stage in its development. I had started writing down my stories, experiences, and thoughts on New York and the US in early May and she was with me from the beginning baby steps of my works from the third week on. I really enjoy reading your life stories and I wish you luck in your battle with your disease. My best wishes go out to you and I will hope to hear more from you, be it personal or not, but let it be at least some written words soon again!

I have to mention another blog at this point, the writings of the Blogject aka Holly from London/England. She found me through Ginger and has opened up her world to me as I hope to have given her a bit of an insight into (my) life in New York .

For a start, let me state the

Rules of Accepting the Award:

This award comes with two conditions: 1) share 7 things you didn’t know about yours truly and 2) pass on the award to other wonderful bloggers.

Now, off to the raw diamonds of online writing. I have included one or two blogs from blogspot, and though I am unsure if this will break the rules (heck, who mentioned it only has to be WORDPRESS, right?!), I found these to be really entertaining and you shouldn’t miss out on them, either.


A Highway Habitat

If a book has ever been inspired by a muse, then this is what Sarah and Amanda have been to me: The inspiration to start blogging! They started their blog about a year ago to write down their travel experiences on their seemingly never-ending roadtrip through the US. After graduating from college in 2010, they saved up those $$$ to make their dream of seeing almost every single state of the US come true. I hope to hear from you guys on a regular basis again and I am oh-so-glad to welcome you back on board!

Courtesy Laugh

Two fine guys from Pennsylvania, one living in New York, one still in PA. They were featured on freshly pressed not too long ago and this is how they caught my attention. By far one of the best-phrased blogs I have come across and it is always a pleasure reading their opinions on various matters of time. Oh, and I hope you will have enough money one day to finally get started on your videos! 😉


She still does not get it! A girl living in Bohemia, dreaming of her dreams coming true one day and writing about her life in a way I couldn’t help but keep on reading. Be it going for breakfast by herself, quitting her job, dating the wrong man for a period of years, or racial issues – adorable! Oh, and I am curious to read on what the New World is about…


Indian-rooted but born and raised in Norway, he seems to fetch the plane/train/car to many places in and around Europe. His writings are short but witty and have cast me in his ban not too long ago. Some entertaining stories about different cultures, marrying via skype, and other goodies.


Cinnamon Buns

Natalie is originally from the West Coast but studies in Boston now. She has traveled to a good amount of places all over the world and likes to sum up her adventures with the undertone of some delish cooking ideas. I specifically like this blog because I, being a vegetarian myself, get some great ideas for re-cooking some of these dishes at home. Way to go, Natalie!

New York:

Biting the Big Apple

This is the feared blogspot blog. *haha* A French girl who moved to New York years ago and still has so many things to talk about and to share. What an inspiration, indeed, and I find tons of good ideas to do after going through her blog. It helps to read fellow New Yorkers adventures, you might be inspired to copycat these!

Last, but not least, I want to mention two inactive blogs, that have highly appealed to me because of their contents:

Welsh Alien in New York

A welsh woman who has moved to New York, stayed for two years, and then discovered that she is better off on her British Island – at least for the time being. If a Highway Habitat has sparked an inspiration, then this blog is what has made me want to make my intention come true: After reading through her well-phrased stories and experiences, I was eager to start my own project. I felt with her, could relate to her problems in the city (to some extent) and shared some common European attitudes to being in a city like this and dealing with the nutcases people that sometimes come around. All the best to her and her journey in UK. Maybe New York will be waiting for her at a later time.

The Heimweh Safari

Same language, same continent, almost same country: Austria and Germany have their vast array of similarities and I have many Austrian friends I like to visit when I go back. So this was a really entertaining blog to catch up on, when I came across it on the expat community. He lives in New York but doesn’t like it here, at least some points about it, and I can UNDERSTAND! The fact that he stopped blogging half a year ago makes me hope he is still here and found some good things in this city!

If you are still with me at this point, then I would like to fulfill the core requirement of this blog and mention 7 random things you might not know about me (yet):

1) I love writing but my real passion lies in photography. I am saving up to buy my first DSLR soon and to take breathtaking shots from New York and other places.

2)Gina Vicenza: This is my second personality I need to justify my rudeness here in New York. And no, I am not crazy, I got this idea from an article from the Village Voice. 🙂

3) I still dream of moving to the West Coast: LA, San Francisco, San Diego – anything in California. I cannot wait to wave good-bye to the rude people over here and surround myself with folks who are nice and respectful, in a state that is sunny and dry (not humid, yuck!), and where life is a bit slower then here… One day, guys, one day!

4) I want to take one to two years of my time and exclusively devote it to traveling! I want to see every single continent on this Earth and am especially drawn to South America, Asia, and Australia.

5) I miss food, people, cultures, languages in Europe. At the same time I fear that living over there will just bore me out of my head and not satisfy me.

6) I grew up in the country and when I say country, I mean it! My first village of habitat consisted of 400 people, my second one (from when I was 13 years on) had a jaw-dropping 60 inhabitants. New York is definitely a change to this.

7) I want to improve my French. I want to get it on with my Spanish. I want to learn at least one more language. I have come to find that speaking a native’s language will earn you more respect in that particular country and it will make it easier for you to get around without being ripped off.

One Hella Weekend

Referring to my list of Things I love about New York City, it’s time for an update in the party and nightlife category. Last weekend was one of those innumerous great examples of how unexpected and unpredictable a night can turn out to be.
The Roomie and I had decided to meet up on a rooftop bar in the City. Until this date it stands undefeated as the best rooftop location I could find, read more here. On this particular Friday the Sky Room offered a special deal during which you could get one free drink when you RSVPed early enough ahead of time (this means simply sending an E-mail to the party hosts) and showed up before 8PM. I was one of the last ones to dive through their elevator door and to order their advertised Bacardi mix.
My drink in one hand and my camera in the other, I made my way outside and met this sibling couple from New York/New Jersey. I believe it was her 22nd birthday and they were trying to have a fun time just hanging out in a bar before hitting up the clubs. I still wonder why they picked this one, as drinks were pricey and they didn’t seem to want to spend too much money, but then again, the view is just gorgeous. We decided to go all the way on top, which was open to general customers this time (they usually reserve it for private parties during the week) and where we took in a wide view over the Island, with many comfortable seats, benches, and couches to sit on. It really cannot get much better if you want to inhale Manhattan air and flair, I’m telling you!

Over there, through pure coincidence, I met a son and his mother from GERMANY, and in addition to this, they weren’t too far from the town I am originally from, so many homeland feelings were evoked in me during this evening. Both Germans were lovely and entertaining. If I remember correctly, the son, about my age, had bought his mother a one-week-trip to New York for her 50th birthday and they were finally redeeming it (I know, many birthdays going on in this blog). We talked a bit and after a while of being up there along came the Roomie. At this point in time, the free drink deal had evidently expired and she got kind of bored at listening to a foreign language she didn’t understand. Understandably she wanted to leave and I didn’t mind, so we said our goodbyes. The sibling couple invited us to join them in a club around Times Square and at this time we were seriously considering the possibility of catching up with them.

The view from the upper deck at Sky Room

The birthday kid with her RED shoes!

Another amazing view by night

Well, of we went, on our way to Hell’s Kitchen first and with the best intent to check out another rooftop bar on 12th Avenue. On our walk over there, I remembered that Rudy’s was right in between and that we should maybe get a cheap beer before we head off to bars that have drinks for the normal insane price of $15 and above. Rudy’s offers a normal-sized pitcher for $7 and more, and it doesn’t taste that bad, either. For all those who care, you can snag unlimited hot dogs, too – I heard they taste descent enough. Rudy’s is a classic since 1933 and it’s funny because I only discovered it this year for my Austrian friend was told to go there when he was visiting me. I suppose it is handled as an insider tip in tourist guides, and you find foreigners mixed with hard-core Hells’ Kitcheners and other classic New York stereotypes in this establishment.

Rudy's mascot

Rudy's during day

The Roomie and I enjoying our pitcher of Rudy's Blonde

We had just ordered our pitcher of Rudy’s Blonde when we decided to take a seat at the second half of a table that was already owned by a mixed group of folks: A Mediterranean guy, a punk-rock girl and a blond Hipster-looking dude didn’t mind at all to share the space with us. As it turned out, we had seated ourselves next to an interesting bunch. All three were passionate travelers – but not just that. They belonged to a very special species of travelers called couchsurfers, meaning they are courageous enough to stop by at random people’s houses and use their couch as a hotel bed.The dark-haired guy was originally from Bay Ridge in Brooklyn and had met a freshly immigrated New Yorker girl from Russia who had stumbled upon a traveler and dancer from Australia. What a “coincidence” to meet just these folks in a random overcrowded Manhattan bar. We all had a pretty good time and decided to continue the night together at Hudson Terrace (the aspired rooftop bar). Unfortunately, the bouncers are unbelievably strict when it comes to guys and dress codes (not a great mix in New York anyways!), and because one guy was wearing shorts we didn’t make it in. No regrets, though. We waved good-bye to the Russian girl at Times Square and then went on to a gig in the Lower East Side. This turned out to be one of the best ones I had witnessed so far in New York. Thanks to the Aussie Benji, for making friends with the right people and being able to show us this hotspot!

The location hosts a soul music band introducing new artists to the crowd every Friday night (probably only during the summer). This time a shy Carribean singer from Montreal tried her luck and was met with enthusiastic waves of applause from a thrilled audience. Good for her! Her voice was impressive and it went well with the funky tunes of this particular band. A goodie was saved for the end, as there was a keyboard player who sang about masturbation and how good it feels… Yes, this is New York, you need a “shocker” like this once in a while. Considering the topic he’d chosen, he was able to convey it in a nicely worded song and it was a real hit with the audience. The entire one-hour –show in this location was for free. You just have to know where to find these things…

Soul Jam with a strong singer from Montreal

2 PM came and went and the Roomie and I were pretty tired from our week of work, so we decided to call it a night and save up our energy for the next day. (On Saturday night we completely avoided the City and tried out the Williamsburg crowd, but that belongs into a different post.)

For your information, we didn’t get a chance to catch up with this sibling couple from NY/NJ, but I hope they celebrated her birthday well and had a good time during the weekend.

I am also still impressed at how easy it is to bump into fun people on a random night out and how some of these acquaintances turn out to last for a longer time than expected. Benji, the Australian, joined us for a fun surf trip to Far Rockaway two days after this and ended his stay in New York with a hopefully fun time. Thumbs up to New York City nightlife and the adventures they lead to!

Surfing at Far Rockaway

Sand, Sun, and Saltwater – I guess that is going to be my general theme throughout this summer. New York gives you many options to enjoy yourself on the beach, though, which makes it really easy to try out new things.

This weekend has been a blast, I’m not going to lie. I did something completely different from the ordinary beach trip and something that hadn’t been on my list of things to do during this summer.

The Roomie had booked an introductory surfing lesson on one of New York beaches a few weeks in advance and I vouched to take a few pictures of her jumping around in the water standing on her board throughout the course. Another friend spontaneously joined into the fun (heck, it’s a lot better to make it through a 2-hour-surfing-lesson if you have something called company, right?), so we, the trio, made our way up to one of the beaches at Far Rockaway. This time we took the A-train all the way through to B67th St and entered the sand around 69th St. This part is destined for surfers and surfboards only, and no one is allowed to simply go for a swim here – for reasons of safety. There is nothing more dangerous than to be accidently hit by a lone surfboard or to be cut by those three hard plastic fins hidden underneath the board.
We arrived there relatively early and were just waiting to see what the day would bring along. The Roomie then joined a group of almost 20 people – so much to her one-on-one lesson she had initially paid a higher fee for. I think I would have at least complained to the instructors about this, but everyone is different. My Australian friend and I watched as the people assembled into a sect-like gathering, swinging their arms around and rolling their heads up and down like crazy. Then one of the teachers pulled out two boards and demonstrated how to use your arms as a paddle when in the water. The first 45 minutes were meant to practice a few moves and let everyone demonstrate their newly-acquired skills in front of a professional. As everyone was waiting for their wetsuit, one of the instructors practically forced a wetsuit top onto me and my Australian friend was handed the same by another teacher. Well, it surely looked like the group was enhanced by two eager surfers after this!

Sect-like movements
The instructor and his movements on a board
Us three ready to take over the sea
Parts of the group grabbing their boards

So, each of us grabbed a board and paddled out into the ocean. Not too far, of course, since no one was meant to be lost, but still far enough to be on top of some significant waves. I think the ratio was one instructor to 4 to 5 learners – actually not that bad. I had enough opportunities to be pushed into a wave by them and tried to find my own luck one or two times.
The Australian was quickly appointed the pro, since he was from Australia (even though he really did not surf over there!) and didn’t receive as much care. Which totally worked out for us. The Roomie got scared of the waves, the board, and about anything else in the ocean because it was out of her control. I managed to stand on my board for 5 seconds maximum, but my main problem was to differentiate a good wave from a bad wave.
The rest of the two-hour-lesson went by in a blink, and everyone seemed to have a great time. I managed to painfully scrub across the sand at one point in time and still wear the proofs of this – an ugly wound on my left foot. I guess this can be called collateral damage to the fun. The Aussie, very blond by nature, caught an evil-looking sunburn, and it turned into an ugly lobster-red by the end of the day. He didn’t really seem to care as much, because he considers himself already prone to skin cancer (great attitude!). I actually happened to have a face in the same distinct red tone up until a few days after this; it just took a while until my sunburn showed. That is probably why the instructors were wearing a white, thickly-applied layer of sun screen on their faces while teaching. I will remember to bring my sun block lotion with me the next time. Yes, the impact of the sun is still highly underestimated over here, because it is far enough up north to think it won’t do too much harm but it becomes very strong and hot during the summer. Never ever forget means of sun protection in New York, folks, just saying!

The Aussie/Pro
Us three after taking over the sea

In the end, I have to admit that all the inflicted wounds and burns were totally worth it. It was one of the best days I’ve had so far during this summer and it inspired me to do some further surfing throughout the season. It is not very hard to find your balance on the board but it might be a more difficult thing to ride right upon a wave. I will keep you updated on my progress.

If you want to share any tips on surfing, please do not hesitate to voice them here.

A fun but maybe posed picture of me trying to surf

The Things to Love About New York City (Part II)

(continued from Part I)

Cowgirl at Times Square

6) The People of New York
Artists, blue-collar-workers, businessmen, food industry servers, students, legal employees, illegal immigrants – if you haven’t seen it here than it is likely not to exist. The city has a great vibe for a very good reason: Because so many culturally different people come here with their different ideas of how to make it here or how to enrich this city in their own terms. It is lovely to walk through the streets and see different occurrences on almost every street corner. While you inhale campus air around the NYU buildings, you are drawn into unique music tunes by a singer playing on the streets of the Village. Or you see the show-off- rich cruising the streets in the Meatpacking District or Upper West Side. The city’s diversity is unlimited and it is so in a good way, I have to say.

7) The Boroughs…
… are about as unique as this city by itself. Manhattan as a main workers’ hub, a financial capital, a commuter’s destination. Brooklyn as a culturally diverse neighborhood with its uprising, hip areas, its dangerous ghetto blocks, its beaches, and the most populated borough aside from the Island. Queens as a family-oriented place with cheaper rent than anywhere else, and with its great ethnic diversity, which adds up to the cultural melting pot. The Bronx, still home to more people from the Bronx than from outside, but gaining a better reputation from day to day and home to the biggest zoo in this area. Not to forget Staten Island, the most isolated community, only accessible through a 20-min-ferry-ride. Once you end up in Staten Island, you won’t crawl away from there anytime soon. This is pretty much one of the main reasons I have avoided Isolata for the most part. Great for an upper scale family life and people who can afford to have a sassy, bulky car. Brooklyn is really one of my favorites and this might be the reason why I live here, but I cannot shy away from all the cultural activities going on there and sometimes even its night life. Every borough offers different things the others might not have and New York is wide open to explore.

8) Freedom, Inspiration & Independence
New York makes you feel independent to a great degree. You don’t need a car, you have the subway system. If you don’t like one venue, you can move on to the next. Broken friendships, shattered relationships? This city has 8 million people to make you forget. There are downsides to this, too, of course, but I am not discussing these now. The City has given me this great feeling of deciding on my own what I want to make of my time here and this is worth a lot. Without it I wouldn’t have stayed for so long and I am still here, discovering my limits, trying out new things, creating myself. The unlimited amount of options over here can make you crazy dizzy at first but they also give you opportunity to move on, to find some new sides about yourself which you weren’t able to discover elsewhere. Every time I go to an area I know I see sides of it I didn’t pay attention to the last time. If you went on a date with someone at a certain spot and are afraid to return because of nostalgic feelings, this is not going to happen over here. There is just too much change to even develop something coming close to it. In a good way, that is.
I believe that this city symbolizes a new beginning more strongly than elsewhere and that the American Dream, if it still exists, can be accomplished here more than anywhere else. No one knows you. You have to pave your own way, have to make your own connections, and have to work hard to show where your talents and passions lie. This is a beautiful opportunity to create what is hidden inside of you.

Trip to Harvard/Cambridge

9) Travel Opportunities
No, New York is not the center of the world, even though it gives its best to make you want to believe this occasionally. But its three airports surrounding the metro area sure make it easy to travel to destinations all over the world. Their names are Newark, JFK, and La Guardia, and they lead to pretty much anywhere in the US without having to switch flights plus they surely lead to Europe without too many complications. Disregard air travel, though, as you can discover beautiful towns around New York at a low cost: Hop on the bus to Washington DC, Philly, and Boston, and, if you’re brave enough, you can even make it up to Montreal or Toronto in roughly 8 hours of drive. Because this city has so much competition going on, it is quite easy to find good deals when deciding on leaving. And I rather suggest you leave on occasion, for the city is only as beautiful as you can stand it. Summer getaway packages to Long Island or the Jersey shores and upstate New York such as Catskills offer travel at convenient prices. Winter deals to Miami, Jamaica, or the Caribbean Islands make the cold months over here endurable. Yes, this city has options; you just have to prepare for them!

10) The Memories Created
Well, surely you create memories no matter if you’re in New York or anywhere else. I just have the impression that the experiences I had over here have impacted me more and maybe even changed me in a more extreme way than any other city had been capable of doing this before. Fashion Show in February, the nation’s largest Food Show in July, being an actress in a music video, attending press events, surfing at Far Rockaway, discovering Harlem’s seedy areas… After only three months of being here I knew no other city in Europe had given me this vast impression of achieving anything anytime you want. The things to do here are unlimited. During only one day you go through a full array of emotions: From tiredness when waking up, over anger because of rude Subway people, over happiness because of a random smile on the streets, over frustration over the city’s policies, to wisdom at the end of the day. And I’m not the only one going through these stages, I swear!

New York will never leave you unimpressed. Love it, hate it, or do both, but you will always FEEL some sort of emotion going on inside of you.

The Things to Love About New York City (Part I)

I feel that I have sometimes not been too fair to the red-cheeked apple of New York. If you’ve gotten the impression that I talk badly about her on an occasion or two, it is merely because I like to approach issues from a critical standpoint. A view like this is essential in gaining a healthy outlook on the City and it nourishes the all-so-typical hate’n’love relationship to it. So publishing this post was really just a matter of time, as there are too many good things New York has given me and many other people. Most points will be touched upon in the following weeks and elaborated to a greater degree. For now, time is overdue for a post on the great and truly entertaining advantages of living in New York City.

1) Nightlife/Bars/Clubs
I had great nights out in Germany. For Europeans, being pushed into the entire game of drinking, flirting, and dancing starts earlier than here. Legal age over there is 18. Which kind of made me want to puke when I saw 18-year-old teenagers in a bar while I was 22 already. New York is like most of the rest of the US: No chance to get in or buy drinks when you are not 21 years old (or haven’t found a sufficient fake ID yet). I have to say that it makes things a bit different – in a better way because you are not surrounded by drunk teenagers or are hit on by 20-year-old youngsters.
I love going out with my friends at home but here the entire night scene is yanked up a few notches – to the better! I rarely went out by myself in Germany, here I do it all the time. And I have fun by walking into a spot alone, believe it or not. It doesn’t take much here to be involved in a conversation with another person. You are as independent as you want to be when it comes to deciding where you want to go, what you want to do, and how long you want to stay. No limits, and certainly no whiny friends who want to move on – just you and your own demons. All of this while being able to choose from a great bunch of THE best night clubs in the entire world, which have only been waiting for you to enter – or so it seems! And if you become bored in one area – well you have a quazillion other places to choose from.

NY Summers

2) Summers
I already hinted how cold German summers can be. Which is basically the main reason I LOVE New York summers and I want to embrace them as long as possible! They are far away from rainy, chilly days spent inside. Up to this point, I’ve only witnessed one and a half summers but it made me want to stay here just to experience another summer after these awfully cold winters. New York offers an incredible choice of things to do outside once the higher temperatures kick in: free outdoor concerts in Central Park, Prospect Park, Pier 6, and elsewhere; cheap boat tours on the Hudson or East River; affordable commutes to its beaches and even Long Island, if that is what your aiming for; music festivals at remote areas which will rock your world, and so on. Matter of fact, there is so much going on, I have started to compile a list of things to squeeze into my week and weekend calendar – already noticing that it is almost impossible to check off some of the plans I’ve initially had.
A summer starts early, around late April/ beginning of May, and ends in late September or mid-October. That’s well over 5 months of fun, I say!

Celebrate Brooklyn

3) Free Events
Free concerts in the parks during the summer are my favorites, as mentioned above. On top of this, don’t miss out on Shakespeare plays in Central Park, during which you can witness high-class actors and actresses perform for absolutely free. The Brooklyn Museum offers entrance at no charge every first Saturday of the month- its so-called “Target First Saturdays.” Aside from seeing crucial parts of their institution, it hosts guest speakers, bands, and even a party DJ who play music to entertain the crowds. Bryant Park and Dumbo have movie nights during which films are played on a wide screen for anyone interested. Art galleries in Soho and Chelsea sometimes give you the chance to take a look at their exhibitions when they are about to wrap up. You just have to keep on digging until you find those hidden treasures, but they are entertaining and well worth a visit!
And, contrary to my roommates’ believe, free things are not called this way because they are of bad quality – a common misbelief of persons who have been blinded by the hideous NYC glamour side. Yuck! My favorite word is: RSVP! This is an E-Mail list you get on and it will slip you through to the finest bars, clubs or other events – sometimes even including a free drink, depending on the event. That’s how I made it to a couple of rooftop bars throughout the season.

4) Cultural Experiences

No other city in the US offers as much culture as this town does. Broadway shows, comedy stand-ups, poetry readings, museums, galleries, concerts, music festivals– the list goes on! Sure, some things are more expensive than anywhere else. But this city continues to attract high-class actors and singers who give their very best even though they are completely underpaid in the job they are trying to accomplish. The options by itself present a nice setting which will never leave me bored at the end of the day. Important landmarks of American history are scattered throughout the area, too. Just take a look at the Statue of Liberty, the first settlement around Battery Park, Harlem and its African-American story, and other classics. New Yorkers who are educated know a great deal about their city and are eager to tell you more in some of their city tours.

5) All the Cultures in this City
Let’s face it: This city is not the salad bowl version but an ethnic mishmash of every possible culture out there. It combines an innumerable amount of different ethnicities and it does this in a rather unconflicting way. We do not have the gang troubles of Philly or LA, we don’t have the high crime record Chicago shows. Whites move into Black neighborhoods, and vice versa. Italian communities go over into Chinese immigration areas, Spanish-speaking parts switch to Indian and Bangladesh habitants. All this in a rather peaceful way, I have to say. Sure, you have people causing trouble, crying gentrification out loud, or pointing out other problems. You still have a criminal statistic, because, after all, the staggering number of 8 million citizens are not completely controllable. But do those things really have to do with cultural differences or are they just generalized hatred? Who knows!

Drinking alcohol like in the 20ies and out of cups! Nightlife in New York!

(continued in Part II)

Writer’s Block

I have been suffering from something called the writer’s block lately. I have been feeling burnt out for a good while already, to be honest. I try to blog because it’s fun but in the pastime it has been kinda hard to come up with a neatly written story.

You might have not noticed my struggles yet because I still try to get those 3 – 4 blogs out every week but it seems more difficult for me every time to give my okay to the stories I’ve composed lately. I have the story laid out in my head, have a great amount of topics I could write about but then, when I finally get around to seeing it in front of me, I am deeply disappointed. I feel like my earlier posts were more productive than my latest one. Maybe I’m too hard on myself – I do aim for the near to perfect work. I don’t know, but it’s starting to bother me like crazy. My thoughts are spinning around in my head and I sometimes lack the ability to put them in a clear order or in the way I wanted them to look initially.

I’ve been also writing an awful lot lately, though. I have found a Brooklyn-based magazine online which has already sent me on a few assignments (so far two articles and maybe another one in progress, I will see) in the past two weeks. Then I FINALLY got around to start a project I should have started on a lot earlier: I wrote the first two pages of a book about my first year here in New York (to not forget how I felt, to reflect what I’ve been through, and to have something I can look back at). I started with English, then switched to German, and now I am confused which language to pick. I am most comfortable writing in German, as I feel I have mastered this language to perfection, and I am able to play with words and phrases in a way I cannot do (yet) in any other language. English is not my prime language and I am still learning a lot when writing. New Vocabulary, grammar errors, sentence structures… a good amount of deal. I am still getting those things right and trying out some new approaces. But when I wrote in German I felt that piece of writing was plain boring and without much passion. Maybe I will go back and stick to English. Just another problem of a bilingual writer!

I’m not sure if I ever got around to tell you the real reason why I began writing this blog. There is an overall reason, too, of course, but what really triggered me to finally realize this “project” were two fine guys my age, whom I had met on a night out in Park Slope (yes, Brooklyn neighborhood). They were both grad students aiming for their Master’s in creative writing so I felt I could learn a lot from them and exchange ideas. Anyhow, we got to talk about some projects and I told them that I really, really wanted to write a book about this life-changing experience but that it seemed so hard for me to realize because I didn’t know how and where to start. I asked them for direct advice. They said I am a great talker but I have to start somewhere. So I started with this first. To see where my limits are, if I experience any improvements in my writing, if I am ready to hold up a certain amount of stories a week….. And now I started coming up with articles (for fun) and drafted a few pages of a book.

Unfortunately it’s not going exactly the way I want it to go and that is currently frustrating and a bit de-motivating. Probably this is completely normal not only for new writers but also for life-long narrators. I guess I am looking for some sort of inspiration. Or an English composition course!

Writer’s block – yup, it got me and I don’t know how to get out of this one!

California Lovin’ 2010

Have you ever noticed how bright and sunny the world outside looks when you take your sunglasses off? I happen to do just that when I walk through Manhattan lately and wonder where my eye sensitivity to the summer has gone. It’s not that you really need your shades over here, so far up north, unlike other areas in the States.

The sun was pretty bright all the way across the continent in California, where I happened to spend a nice week exactly one year ago.

You see, my former roommate was an artist, a singer to be specific. She had been living in New York for well over 8 years and had built up her own little network of friends and people who could promote her in the music industry. Tucker was one of these. He had moved out to Santa Barbara and opened up his own studio. My roomie was determined to fly over and record her third studio album but she suffered from flight anxiety. Therefore, she asked me to be with her and hold her hand when her fear of flying overcame her.

So off to Cali I went, kind of happy to escape New York for a week after being here for three months already, and eager to see more of the US.
The flight wasn’t too bad, as we hopped over Dallas and landed in Santa Ana pretty timely. Getting out of this town to Santa Barbara proved to be more difficult, though. I had almost taken for granted how convenient NYC transportation to and from the airport was, so when I had booked my trip I hadn’t considered the difficulties of getting around the West Coast. The problems already started at the airport: We had the choices of either renting a car for 170 dollars, taking the shuttle to LA and then a train, or figuring out a way to get to the train station directly. Since we were kind of tired after 6 hours of flying and more hours of being on the road, and the time difference was kicking in, neither of us felt qualified to drive a car up to Santa Barbara. Not to mention the high cost for renting it at one place and returning it at another.

Santa who-gives-a-dime Ana

After one hour of discussing and becoming more and more frustrated, we ended up calling a taxi to the Santa Ana train station, where I made my first encounter with Amtrak. Amtrak is the American answer to the German ICE or other fast trains in Europe. Except for ours was going locally and took well over 5 hours from point A to point B. It wouldn’t have mattered really, if Amtrak’s air conditioning system wouldn’t have bothered us so much. After one hour we felt like we should have taken our winter jackets with, as two sweaters on top of each other weren’t enough to keep us warm. In addition to this, the people on Amtrak were weirding us out, as well. During the entire ride we thought we were in a badly produced movie about surreal worlds and creatures from outer space. So we focused on taking in parts of the landscape outside until it got dark and then we were just exhausted and cranky and ready to get off this ride!

Were we simply experiencing another culture shock? I don’t know, but the people in Santa Barbara seemed relatively normal to me. When we finally made it there, that is. And this is where the better part of our trip started:

The guest house

Tucker, my roommate’s friend, had invited both of us to stay at his cabin and guest house up on Montecito mountain. It belongs to Santa Barbara but somehow not, and is surrounded by California’s beautiful lemon trees and other natural wonders. His family owned an area that was right beneath orange trees, lime trees, plume trees, avocado trees – everything you need to make your stay sound good. The first day we were exploring the area and found many exciting things. A lizard fled from us while we were picking lemons off the lemon trees in the backyard. The sun was smiling nicely with us as we sat next to the pool and ate self-made croissants and avocado dishes. The ocean was seducing us to jump into the cool Pacific water when we stopped by at the sea.

Montecito mountains

The days were long and there wasn’t much to do. Finally I had some rest after three very busy months. We usually got up for a swim in the parents’ pool every morning and then we made breakfast with hand-picked fruits and avocados.

The pool we swam in

My roommate and her friend drove off to the studio to get an entire day of recording done and I went to one of the fabulous beaches Santa Barbara has to offer. Occasionally I joined them for a session or two, but, honestly, if you are not doing anything than listening to a singer recording her works, the stay can be tedious. It is the same song over and over again for x amount of times and some parts are repeated right after each other for 20 times or even more. It was interesting to see how an album is being put together professionally. I was impressed by the great sound quality Tucker’s studio had to offer (supposedly one of the best ones on the West Coast) and flipped through some pictures of artists who had recorded here earlier. Mariah Carey, Katy Perry, and some other biggies had stopped by so far. We had missed Katy Perry by two months – it might have been interesting to get to know her. I think what it all comes down to, is that these people are surprisingly normal, earth-centered people when you work with them. They definitely don’t have much reason to act eccentric or snobbish if they are not surrounded by any cameras and just want to get their art done.

The studio

I was at the beach every single day and got quite a few burns which eventually turned into a decent tan – my very own California souvenir. The downtown area of this city is really cute with many tiny surf shops that are just waiting for you to explore them! The second day I was wandering around and I already heard a few groups of Austrian and German tourists – which somehow did not fit into this idyllic little community. But it was nice to hear a familiar language and to see what had brought them over here. There were many other Europeans roaming the streets, enjoying the beach, or sitting in a restaurant. I was positively surprised by Cali’s food and their freshly-made Mexican cuisine. Haven’t eaten better Mexican food until today: Tasty guacamole with spiced up tortilla dishes topped with cheese mixes or other goodies. They had different seasonings than they have over here and the ingredients seem to come straight from the origin, whereas over here they first have to be imported to make it so far up north. Another yummie experience: Seafood! Freshly caught and prepared in such a tasteful way, it was a delight to simply look at it!

Beach time!

Seafood on the pier

Santa Barbara downtown

The week went by very fast. The artist had wanted to stay for 2 to 3 weeks and I had already prepared for a peaceful, unexciting flight back home, but due to the oak trees and the climate she had developed some pretty bad allergies which made her book her flight back on the very same day I was leaving.
So on our last day we were in a similar setting than we were on day one: Sitting in Amtrak on our way back to the horrible Santa Ana. Because we hadn’t made it out to LA anytime during our short stay we figured we might have 2 hours time to see some bits of this crazy city. At the Los Angeles stop we spontaneously jumped out and went on a search for the city’s metro station. Bummer! I had a hard time detecting it at first glance, as it is considerably smaller than the MTA system. Then I was perplexed about whether or not I should care to purchase a ticket. It didn’t seem like you had to buy a farecard since you just went straight through the gates. Once or twice we saw a police officer patrolling the stations but on most occasions I think riding the tube without paying might be easy to accomplish in LA. Please correct me if I am wrong!

We spent two very short hours in the touristiest spot ever and discovered the stores around Hollywood Boulevard. At one point we grabbed a few corny Hollywood T-shirts for one dollar at a souvenir store. Matter of fact, I still have mine and always think of my trip to the West Coast when snuggling into it.

Hollywood Boulevard LA

In general, I have to say that I really, really like the people in California. They are pretty warm-hearted and include you into their lives in such a natural way. It was a pleasure to be around these folks. This state is one of the politer ones and even though the people’s attitude might appear to be fake at first, I prefer this over East Coast rudeness and shoving people out of your way without excusing yourself. It made my day to be respected in the same way I respect others and having some funny small talks with random cashiers, people on the beach, or waiters in the restaurant. I feel that I am missing out on the main asset of American culture when being in New York and that is friendliness.

A Taste of the Narcissism Apple, Anyone?

“If you were to be naked and let your personality dress you, you would not wear the most beautiful dress.”

“If your character were to show on your outside, you would not be the prettiest person among others. “

Narcissism is a big thing in New York. Self-focus and selfishness, they’re all here, crowded together in one area, trying to fight love for others. The more self-centered you are, the better. Survival-wise, you could have the best premises if you display this characteristic. As already implied in the NYC Charade (re-read here), the more feathers you ruffle and the bigger the show you play, the better for you. Don’t forget, you and only YOU are the main characters in this act.

It’s okay to find your life great. But please do not let it have an effect on others if it is not in a good way. I talked to people who got very mad as soon as the subject changed from THEIR house, THEIR children, THEIR dress, THEIR WHATEVER to something that wasn’t related to this. Even worse when I tried to talk about MY things because this gave them a reason to compare and to drag my stuff through mud – and this in such a begrudging manner. As if they couldn’t just get over the fact that other people have great things which make them feel happy, too.

Some people are so sad. I’ve worked with colleagues who had nothing else to contribute to human society than to marry a doctor. Their own life being miserable enough, they tried to make other people’s life miserable, too, by talking to them derogatively or not giving them a chance to progress career-wise. If they didn’t have power over this part, they made sure they could at least make this person look bad in front of a supervisor or other boss. I guess they saw others’ happiness as an insult to their dullness, and others’ success as a threat to their nicely laid-out plan of being successful themselves. There is a lot of competition in this city, no doubt. But it isn’t carried out in a fair way or in a way that makes me want to take part in this competition. Playing dirty for what? I don’t feel like I am on that kindergarten-level anymore but rather that competing for something can be carried out in a mature way without emotionally harming anyone along the way. Maybe it is just American mentality but I have more the feeling that it is especially a part of New York than anything else.

And why do I have the feeling that the “How are you-”mentality is carried out on further topics than this? We all know that ‘how are you’ does not really refer to how you feel or how crappy your day has been or if you’ve been doing well lately (it actually does mean all of this in German culture, a fine difference!) but is seen as a simple, polite, set phrase. Which is fine. But when people ask me how my vacation was or how I spent my weekend, I do want to tell them what I did, how much fun I’ve had, and what my experiences were. I know I cannot talk to this with anyone. Aside from the selection problem, the majority of some people here don’t care to know about the good things in my life. They take it as a careless hint to tell me all about THEIR experience in that city, how much fun THEY had, and what THEY did. Mhmmm, not quite balanced here, is it? It wouldn’t bother me as much if I weren’t to see their malicious gleam in their eyes that cries out BRAGGING loudly.
I’m getting tired of it. It seems harder and harder to stay away from these fake-os. I bought a new dress at Macy’s? They have a nicer one and mine is too cheap. I bought a ticket to Europe? Good for me, I will be missing out on half of my monthly pay because of this. New shoes? They were fashionable last season…

Is it cool to only see the negative all the time and to make others feel bad about themselves? It’s quite nerve-wracking and simply exhausting to deal with these nutcases. I was well-equipped in Europe, I had my cushion of real friends I could fall onto when this bothered me. But here it is a bit dis-arming, I have to admit. It sometimes turns your values upside down, but not in a good way.

Of course I am aware that, psychologically seen, these people are mostly grown up children who have not received enough attention in their lives. Whatever they were not able to receive from their parents they are now trying to get from strangers or so-called friends. Respect, acceptance, love, and other basics. These people are not able to build up real friendships, by the way. It’s all a matter of trust and they don’t trust in anyone – not even themselves. Their quest on filling in the sometimes huge hole of whatever they are missing will be never-ending until they accomplish self-insight. But try to criticize someone who is unstable and narcissistic. You will have him/her against you in no time because you have offended this person bitterly. They are not too much into self-improvement, these people.

Beware of narcissism. There is nothing wrong with a little bit of self-love and finding yourself a valuable person. But if you came here as someone who cared for others and if you had other thoughts on your mind than your own problems over and over again, try not to fall for New York’s biggest danger. It might be hard to crawl away from it.

Pier 6 – My Quest to See More of Brooklyn

After being here for well over a year, I thought I had seen it all. I thought nothing in Brooklyn could be new to me. I didn’t’ expect to stumble across some exciting places that are so close-by to the ones I know so well. Well, Pier 6 in Brooklyn Heights is one of these spots.

Due to an article assignment I was sent over there last Sunday and I must say that I am very glad it happened to be me who ended up discovering it. If you’ve ever been to New York, you might have gotten the chance to walk the Brooklyn Bridge (Tourists who have only been here for two days don’t count. I understand that it is not your top priority to walk the bridge when you have a limited time in this city). Starting out in Brooklyn or Manhattan, most people explore Dumbo first or end up there when crossing the oldest bridge of the Big Apple.

Dumbo, such a funny name, isn’t it? Whenever I heard this term in the first few months here, it reminded me of the elephant cartoon which used to be popular in our childhood years. This Dumbo has nothing to do with flying circus animals, though, as it stands short for DownUnderManhattanBrooklynbridge. I guess the correct abbreviation Dumb or Dumbb was too self-explanatory or simple for even the most correct New Yorker, so a nice twitch was added with an additional “o”.

Dumbo-food outside in the summer

To get back to the story, Dumbo is fairly common to not only locals but also tourists. They stroll across Pier 1 and the parks in between both bridges. They stand in line for Brooklyn’s “Best Pizza,” which has a sanitary B grade. They buy $7 ice cream at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory because their tourist guide tells them to do so. They are simply being ripped off and they enjoy wasting their money on these things. Well, I used to be one of these creatures and I thought Dumbo and the parts of Brooklyn Heights from the High St Station to the water were all that was worth seeing. Wrong!

I should have known better. Occasionally I saw a group of people approaching me from the other end of Brooklyn Heights. “What train station are they coming from?” I wondered, “Am I missing out on something over there?” But yesterday, the day of enlightment, I actually read the signs right because I was on a search and I finally saw the pointer to Pier 6!

So I made my way past all the other piers, wandering around the green areas, always with the Manhattan sky line to my right. One of the most beautiful views you can have when heading off to a new destination, by the way. And eventually, after passing couples who were picnicking on side benches, Orthodox Jews who were posing for family portraits, and boys who were trying out their new skateboards, I made it. I arrived at Pier 6! I had expected another park, some people there, nothing out of the extraordinary. So I got confused when I approached and heard kids’ laughter, joyful screams and other soundtracks indicating a bustling scene. Boy, did I feel stupid! I couldn’t believe I had been missing out on this fun park for so long.

Pier 6 offers beach volley ball courts for sport nerds (doesn’t that exclude each other? Playing sports and being nerd?!), a grand playground for children, a fountain area for the entire family (I’ve seen them jumping into the fun and getting all wet!), a nice park, and a roof terrace with refreshments! No wonder some families choose to spend an entire Sunday afternoon over here! You also have a nice scene because ships enter and leave the port-like area (hence the name “Pier”) – something you will hardly find anywhere else in Dumbo made accessible to the public.


Beach Volleyball

I didn’t have my imaginary kids with me, and I had forgotten to bring my sportswear, therefore, I decided to go for the refreshment part. So I walked up to the roof to see what they had to offer. The walk up was designed in a square-like shape. Remember those circle-like entries that lead you up to a platform? Well, this was about the same, only in squares. I walked up, cornering the walls a few times, until I found myself in a quite exclusive area that was nicely shielded from the rest of the park but still offered an amazing view. A few picnic tables with umbrellas made sure the crowd did not overheat during the hot summer day. And a Bark Hot Dog stand offered … yeah, well, hot dogs (surprise!) with a variety of toppings and prepared in many different ways. Bacon Cheddar Dog anyone? Bark’s also had other types of food, such as sandwiches, fries, onion rings, and sausages. They deserve a huge plus because they offer something called the Veggie Dog: A vegetarian hot dog, unfortunately $2 more than a usual hot dog (why so expensive, there is no meat involved?). Aside from food, they had beer and soft drinks, making the beer garden atmosphere almost ideal. All of this topped with the New York skyline in the background and the proximity to the East River, which might ensure a cool breeze or two during the hot summer months.

Exploring Brooklyn: I am TOTALLY into it!

Just Another Day in Midtown

This is Midtown Manhattan. This is where I work. Midtown is large, its core reaching from 31st to 59th Street, from 3rd to 9th Avenue. It is the epitome of business, commercial, retail and what most tourists think New York is about. The heart of the Big Apple employs more than 700,000 workers who make their way into this busy center of New York each day. I am one of them.

Every morning I hop of the blue line at Penn Station on 34th St and 8th Avenue, finding my way through the usual suspects hanging around as soon as I reach the top of the stairs. Most major bus and train stations not only are a means of travel for tourists and commuters but also show a high amount of homeless people, drug addicts, and seedy characters. Penn Station does not differ from this image – a situation I had to get used to in the beginning. It surely was a change to see a business man in a dry-cleaned suit walking past an unkempt and unbathed guy in a dirty sweater and filthy pants. Just another hint to the wide gap between poor and rich and how this city deals with all their different social statuses.
There is always this big group of homeless people around 35th Street, lingering around a food store and talking loudly about whatever is on their minds (not always in a coherent manner). My coworker used to joke about her not being dressed up enough if one of these men did not whistle after her when she got off the train on any given day.
Midtown is relatively sleepy in the morning, awakening from its shady night business, being a home to the early sightseers and people who have to get to work on time.

Among the suit guys, the extravagantly dressed girls, the tourists, and the crazy men I make my way up to 36th St and enter the building with 20 floors. Not the highest around, but not the shortest, either. Double security check is required around this area, making me show my electronic ID to the woman at the door and having an electronic key for the entrance on our floor, past another grimly looking security guard. I found out that this procedure is common here in New York, maybe it makes some people feel important when they have to go through all these obstacles before they can actually do what they are being paid for.

When I exit the building again for lunch, I find myself in a bustling Midtown, as alive as it can get, for now the late tourists, the retail stores, and almost everyone else, who has to go to work, has awaken. Now is the time the minimum-wage workers stand on the streets, dressed up as a mascot or wearing a sign around them, advertising for pubs, pizza places, or jewelry stores. Some do their job convincingly, some just stand there wordlessly and hand me their flyer. Lunch options are vast in this area and, surprisingly, you can get a good deal because of all the competition going on. There are at least seven different pizza stands, half of them offering the $1 pizza special. Some are good, some are not even worth mentioning. At the corner of 37th St the 2Bros subsidiary has opened up a $1-pizza bistro, which is always packed, and its line continues to attract an even longer queue of hungry people. As I found out over the period of 9 months, you tend to get tired of it very fast, so diversity is important.

There are two good falafel places two streets away, and the shops Amici and Food Emporium offer every other kind of edibles such as a full salad bar, sushi, or cooked goodies. They do have their price, though. Fast food joints have opened up all along 8th Avenue, making White Castle one of the worst and McDonalds one of the most popular.

The proximity to Hell’s Kitchen seduces many people to grab their lunch at a good-tasting Thai, Irish, Spanish, Chinese, or other restaurant on 9th Avenue. The prices are good during restaurant week in January and July, offering a prix-fix meal at a relatively low cost without having the quality suffer.



Fastfood on 8th Ave


Thai food Hell's Kitchen

Once in a while I use my lunch break for a shopping trip to Macy’s at Herald Square. Distance is not relevant, as it is only 7mins away. I try to only stay in that store and to not look around to see what GAP, H&M, Victoria’s Secret, and Daffy’s has to offer. I try.

The Post Office Building on 33rd St and 8th Avenue is a cultural eye catcher as it was built in 1912 and displays many Roman architectural elements. Sometimes I feel like sitting on its steps and taking in my food while viewing rushed people, relaxed people, freaky people…you name it! I have also found that I am not the only one doing this and that some guys consider it a great spot to whistle after a random girl who walks past them while high-fiving each other for their courageous move. People use it as a meet-up point (you definitely cannot miss this building), hurry inside to take care of their mail errands or simply just sit in groups and are absorbed in their meal.

Bustling, busy, overcrowded Times Square

This neighborhood is mellow, compared to the one and only tourist hot spot: Times Square! Occasionally I find myself going to 42nd St, about a five-minute walk from where I work. I pass Port Authority with its commuters and buses coming to and from New Jersey (the picture very much resembles the one at Penn Station). The Times Square insanity already starts on 40nd St and 8th Avenue and I only make it up to Broadway until I decide I had enough and walk back, this time escaping the foreign crowds by taking some back roads.

There is nothing that beats the view you have of New York in Midtown, though. Sky-tall buildings, one cab after another, rich people in pimped up cars with chauffeurs, models on their way to a call, either dressed up or looking natural… One day I saw an obese girl in a pretty blue dress walk down the sidewalks while posing in front of a video camera. I guess they were filming for a new show. Another day a grungied up Punkrock model catwalked across the street in front of Penn Station – and had to do it again as the photographer was not satisfied with her first three performances.

After work, while on my way to the subway, the Midtown rush and hurry has vanished, giving way to tired business guys who are either going home or coming from a different district. People are getting ready for an eventful night out, starting out with a drink at happy hour price, chatting with their coworkers at a local bar, or simply enjoying being off and in Manhattan. They go shopping, since retails stores are open until 8 or 10PM. They run all their errands they weren’t able to do during lunch. Or they simply hop on a train to get out of the business center and dive into calmer realms.

Working in Midtown – you gotta love it or hate it!