The Fifth Season of New York?

Forget about fall, winter, spring, and summer in New York. IT’s time for a NEW SEASON!

The past three weeks have challenged the meteorologists’ predictions and strained the New Yorker’s thoughts on wardrobe. It has been insanely warm for this time of the year. I think it’s time to come up with a new name for the fifth season in New York. When it is still cold in April, you say the winter has not vanished. When it is rainy in the July, you say the summer has been spoiled. But when it is WARM at the end of November, what would you call that? Fring? Spall?

Now I am usually not the person you find sitting next to you on a park bench and animatedly discussing today’s weather. No, NO! But compare today to 2010, during which this time of the year had been refreshingly cool, yes, even shivering cold, and a winter jacket plus some boots were surely needed. However, this year, after our first snow fall at the end of October, it has been sunshiny warm since the beginning of November. Indeed, it has been so mild, I packed my summer and fall jackets out again and even wore a T-shirt occasionally. Some days in between have been cooler, but now this week has started off in a spring-like fashion once more.
I really don’t know what to think of all of this. No one is in the mood to welcome the winter anymore. I am still hoping that this year winter has been miraculously skipped or that it will simply turn into summer in a few weeks. Insane thoughts, I know, but the current climate is really encouraging these. I don’t even know why I bought my winter jacket two months ago, but maybe eventually I will be able to utilize it.
When walking around the City or seeing people dress at work and in the subway, I see how they are equally confused about what to wear these days. In the beginning a huge amount of folks had their winter jacket in one hand and their shawls in the other. Now especially girls have considered the bright side of this climate change and are trying to pair thin late-summer dresses with early-fall boots. Wearing this combo in the winter is usually not very practical and doable, because it is simply too cold and the streets are drowned in snow, ice, or rain.

The sun is quite bright and everything around me feels like spring. But then the trees have lost their leaves, so they give the deceptive appearance of fall. Since it is definitely neither of those seasons and surely not winter, it must be something new. A season caused by global warming? Wouldn’t surprise me.
I guess I will simply enjoy it, as I’ve heard it will finally get colder by the end of this week already. So no more lazy walks in a sunlit park or drinking jamba juices in November anymore. No more mild brunch afternoons in an outside garden with a Bloody Mary. Guess I can really buy those heavy boots now, since I might need them soon. ..

This is me drinking a Jamba Juice in NOVEMBER while wearing a TSHIRT! Life is good!

Has your country experienced something similar? Or does this post make you jealous…!

“Black Friday Madness” Or “When to Avoid Shopping in New York By All Means”

In case you haven’t noticed yet, last Friday was a very special Friday. It was the day after Thanksgiving (hope you had a great Turkeyday, y’all) and therefore a day called “Black Friday.” Black Friday is pretty much the epitome of shopping madness and insaness coupled with ridiculous people who want to find even more ridiculous bargains. New York cannot be amiss amongst those cities real shoppers want to be in. Now I am definitely not a shopping-crazy person. I earn way to less to care about these things. I do love the bargains you can find in New York, though, and I thought it might be a good idea to check out what this city is about on the day after Thanksgiving.

I wouldn’t particularly say this is a bad idea. Had I laughed at my German friends last year for trying to find their way through the frustrated mass of people just to grab a T-shirt for 50 per cent off … well, I now found myself in named mass – the only difference being me, not my friends, who was more frustrated than ever could imagine. Now I wouldn’t say crowds make me feel at unease. But when I get pushed over to the side into a dangerous-looking pot of make-up or if I can barely stand on the steps leading upstairs, then I think it’s about time to get the heck out of that store. Macy’s shopping madness is a popular thing on Black Friday as well as the day after Christmas (another day you desperately want to avoid to shop on if you are in New York). And this time I found myself in the middle of this bloody crowd that was thirsty for bargains. Just to give you an idea of what exactly I am talking about:

Is this an exaggeration of facts? I think not! I think the picture is quite awful! And it was pretty much the same scene in every store I passed, except for a few, American Eagle being one of them. For a simple reason: They had lines forming in front of their store so that people would not overcrowd the shop. Very wise, indeed. I only stood in aforementioned line for about five minutes, and then I snatched a pullover for 40 per cent off until I disappeared with the goal to get away from Herald Square as fast as possible. I didn’t bother to check out the electronic stores such as Best Buy or other goodies but instead bought a chocolate chip cookie from my favorite bakery. Target wasn’t swamped with people anymore but when I got there it was already 7PM, not a typical Black Friday hour.

The frustration about Black Friday and other happy-bargain-days is not so much in finding something among the huge amount of trash the stores sell at a bargain price. It is moreover the fact that you have to deal with so many people around you, on top of you, underneath of you. I do have to give the salespersons good credit: They were pretty much up-to-date when I needed to look at shoes or check out the right size. It took them half the time it usually does, so I can just imagine how their superiors must have pressured them beforehand. Most were really nice, too, even though they were having the worst days of their life (or else I can’t imagine). Oh, and I will forget about this one rudo at Macy’s, who simply had the worst day of her life or otherwise I cannot explain her backwards attitude!

This year, I have noticed that a good amount of stores must have been equally frustrated from the onrush of people experienced in the previous years. I saw a handful of shops who have initiated a “sales” week: American Eagle had their 40 percent off all week long from Monday to Saturday. Indeed, I had purchased a different pullover and some accessories beforehand, that’s how I knew which size to get and which color when retreating to their store on Friday. In hindsight it makes perfect sense that shops would also like to protect themselves from the ridiculous masses in New York by warding off the hype of one day and dispense it over multiple days.

And to fight a myth: NOT EVERYTHING is on sale on Black Friday. Most things at Macy’s which were reduced were reduced on other days, too, and then a good amount was average priced. Some stores gave you 50 per cent off on selected items only and then zero percent off on others. Others again had 20 per cent off, which I am unsure if it is truly worth fighting the masses for. If you’ve missed Black Friday in New York, you haven’t missed out on too much.

The deals are year-round, you just have to be at the right spot at the right time:
Four days after Christmas I bought a cute vest for 70 per cent off! It had originally been $70 but I got a hold of it for a mere 17 Dollars! So there is surely hope for bargains if you are in NY on simple days of the year.

Taking a Deep Breath!

Prospect Park during the hurricane

The roommate search is over! Today I have found the apartment I want to spent my remaining time in New York in.
Well, of course no one really knows how long they will stay in the Big Apple. But I have managed to move to a nice room close to Prospect Park, and yes, still in the Slope, my preferred area of living so far. I had looked at it on Thursday already and this guy had kept me waiting for a good three day weekend until he finally gave the okay today.

It seems like a good mix – he is vegetarian, into guys, and might be a fun character to hang out with. I really hope it’ll be less drama, more quality (cooking) time spent together and of course keeping up my own private sanctuary called home. Since the building is literally 7 minutes from my old house, I am right at one of the two subway stations I used before, which makes my commute to the City and work really sweet as in it stays about the same. It seems that my previous two living situations have been reunited by the fact that I am still in the same area, Park Slope, but only 3 minutes from the lovely Park, the heartbeat of Brooklyn. My first room was right across the street from Prospect Park but in a lousy area. Now I have it all and even more than imagined, sorta.

Not my door, but a typical door in Park Slope

I am again very glad that this awful nightmare of finding a suitable place is finally over. Two weeks of a nerve-wrecking search have once again been enough. I cannot believe all the bs I had to go through to find this one. More fakos, weirdos, and trashy places than before. At least no one tried to rob me this time. But young people in the Slope can be pretty stuck up, I have noticed. As if they were proud of the fact that their rich pricks of a parent pay for their teeny eetsy room which is completely overheated in the winter. Sorry, just had to let that out.

Then of course walking through Kensington, another decent area of Brooklyn. A bit too family-oriented in my opinion. Albeit it is the fourth most diverse neighborhood in the US, at least that is what’s being told. Past those Halal stores towards some Asian cuisine. Then the orthodox Jewish boys playing in the streets while two blocks further down the Irish-Americans are spicing up their pumpkin pie for the big celebration. It is quite a comical mix and the neighborhood is definitely cheaper than what Williamsburg, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hills, and Park Slope have to offer rent-wise. But I decided it was not for me so I kept on going.

So this summer I am looking forward to more Bandshell concerts at Celebrate Brooklyn. I am desperate to hop on the F and swim in Coney Island (even though only in the beginning months of the summer, as everything past this gets too unhealthy). If I am still here this summer, I will most definitely take some gorgeous pictures of the Park. Maybe I’ll even go to the oldest Theater in Brooklyn a few times (as in cinema). But first winter is to come. So time for some drinks at the local bars and time for chilling on the couch or taking a stroll through the icy fields. Oh New York, you are so alive!

Cheers to a new start, this time hopefully it will not end in a bloody frustrating mess!

The cute streets I love about the Slope

NYPD: New York Police Dicks

Blue uniforms, blue vests, blue hats – this is how they proudly stand, the men and women of the New York City Police Department. But they are surely not as touristy, fancy, and professional as they appear to be…

When I first came to New York I paid attention to them mostly when I was wandering around Times Square. The cops on their horses, the cops in the middle of the square, the cops standing in a line…. Over the course of time, though, all the stories and observations started to accumulate and helped me in forming my own unique view on these uniformed people.

I collected my very first ticket when I was “drinking in public” in one of the most remote areas imaginable in Bushwick/Brooklyn. This car had been randomly cruising the side streets and must have detected our small group who was clustered around some deserted industrial buildings close to a dead alley. My friend was forethinking enough to throw his can of Coors light into the trash bin as soon as he saw the white-and-blue-car sneak up to us. I made a jump and hid it behind a stack of wooden boxes but failed to cover it up from every angle. Lucky for us, the cops were moderately friendly on this night; they disregarded the beverage my friend had so obviously thrown away but still fined me with a $25 ticket because the hidden can was not too-well-hidden after all. I also remember how I was bending down to get to look these people in the eye and explain to them that we were from Germany and that it was legal to drink on the streets over there. One of them said he understood but unfortunately it was not legal here. All arguments were basically in vain. Had I been smart, I had given them my wrong address, but at that time I wasn’t too acquainted with the methods of how to circumvent an arrest and a ticket in this case. Therefore, you should know. Just say you forgot your ID and give them a completely wrong address, make sure you mention a wrong apartment number in addition to this. Almost everyone in New York lives in an apartment.
I also remember how one of those officers’ eyes went down to my basically non-existent cleavage as if searching for something underneath that zipped-up-jacket. This was pretty much the first time the presence of a person who is supposed to make me feel safe in public made me feel very uncomfortable.

Weeks followed and my observations continued. From cops standing at my train station, delightfully eyeing the full rear section of the younger West-Indian ladies who had to pass them on the way down to the subway. How disgusted I was with this. Isn’t this almost sexual harassment, I thought? Over cops arresting a 16-year-old teenager because he had used his school-ticket to get into the subway. The reason for this arrest? Well, he hadn’t been on his way to school and therefore didn’t have the “right” to use it. Not to forget sporadic street performer arrests my former roommate told me about (read post here). To cops who hit the newspapers with true horror stories, such as raping a man with their stick or raping a drunk woman when leading her into her apartment.

My Austrian friend made a fast observation when he visited me back in May. He had only stayed for two weeks but to form this exact same observation it had taken me a good three months longer.
“The police here don’t make me feel safe at all,” he said after walking in after another rough sightseeing tour in Manhattan. “They seem violent and like to arrest people for nonsense,” he went on. “I don’t understand how these people can represent the law in this country.”
He had a few good points. I myself had sometimes wondered how a cop with waist-long braids fits the disciplined example and couldn’t really make sense of it. I thought these forces should reinforce similar standards the military does. So that everyone looks equal and feels equal in their group of work. Obviously not. I am not sure how true this is, but someone once told me the way they typically recruit police officers in New York came do a true down when they started aiming towards the socially disadvantaged places in town (Bronx, Bedstuy, Canarsie, anyone?) because they knew the people would be desperate enough to work for 30 k a year. Which is quite a high pay for someone without a college degree, at least in this city.

So I’ve had experiences with a few cops in those one and a half years that have passed. Some have indeed been very positive, no doubt. Such as the nice Latin woman and the white guy who were trying to make my former roommate come to her senses when I had been robbed by her younger boyfriend. I will also always appreciate the cops who give the right directions and are honestly trying to help out people who are lost.
But then somehow the bad stuff sticks out. Such as the Halloween parade three weeks ago. I had been sitting on a fence drawn to regulate the flow of oncoming and going pedestrians. Because the crowd was pushing me almost off of it I was desperate to jump on the other side and circumvent the horrible crowd of squashing people. All of a sudden there is a cop behind me. One of those mean a**holes who like to get meaner. As soon as my foot goes over the fence he is there trying to prevent me from jumping away from the crowd. I try to make it clear that I would be squashed to death otherwise. He doesn’t care. Even better, he gives me an ultimatum of either “going back or I will make you go back.” I am courageous enough to ask him how he would do that. He then he slams his fist into my back and before he can deliver the final push I voluntarily jump back. I then look him in the eye and say: “Ah, I see, you’re gonna push me you as**hole”.

Two of those messed up cops at the 2011 Halloween Parade

Pretty incredulous to be part of this at the moment. I also witness how he whacks a Japanese tourist in the face because this one had poked his head one inch too much over same fence. So much aggressiveness was going on that evening. I already told you about those five cops arresting one drunk guy (read here). It was just a mess and its’ a pity that the whole evening has been ruined or at least has left me with a bitter aftertaste because NYPD clearly doesn’t have its workers under control.

Police in New York – it is really too bad that those few nice cops are being drowned by the immense amount of all the cops who like to take their aggressiveness out on innocent people. Take the pepper spray attacks on passive Wall Street protesters for a start.

I guess I am happy I am not in LA, though. Their police system seems to be messed up to a whole different degree that will hopefully never hit New York! Other than that I will do my best to circumvent anyone who is dressed in this awful hypocritical blue uniform!


Tasty Delights: Italian Food in New York

Let me tell you something about Italian food in New York. If you want to eat decent, if you want to eat authentic, if you want to experience the ultimate highlight in taste, then avoid Little Italy! At least the one in Manhattan. Disregard those tourist tips you find in New York in your Pocket or NFT (Not For Tourists). This is a simple rule and easy to follow.

Last week my friend took me out to the West Village. Now the West Village can have some really awesome food, as I already told you about Diablo Royale (go here to read post). The Italian counterpart to this tasty delight would be a hidden gem called L’Artusi – a restaurant with top-notch service and absolutely unique creations.

We dropped by on Wednesday, just us two people, no reservation, just popping in after a long day at work. My friend had already warned me that this place tends to attract the snobbish, rich upper-class of the Hamptons. And, fair enough, I didn’t see too many representable New Yorkers in this joint. More of the thoroughly dressed, over-styled, perfectly trimmed-and-manicured-nails kind of crowd. So in short, the crowd was too much for New York and easily recognizable as the Hampton people. However, they can have taste, these Hampton folks. And L’Artusi is surely going to challenge your taste buds, even if you don’t believe it. At first we started out with a nice glass of a 2006 Savuto. We then went ahead and ordered a roasted beets appetizer and a side dish of brussels sprouts to start with. Our main entrees consisted both of pasta, but in different variations: I chose filled pockets of tortellini with squash while my friend took the special of the day evening, which was truffle fettuccine.

Despite us having to wait a teeny bit too long for our food (I think at least ten minutes too much for my taste), the food was absolutely stunning. And to give L’Artusi some credit, the restaurant was crowded at this point in time. They have an open cooking area in the back of the restaurant, in case you really want to see how your meal is prepared.

Best Brussels Sprouts Ever!
Pasta filled with squash
Truffle dish
Tiramisu seduction

So my favorite part about the appetizer was the brussels sprouts dish. Crisply cooked in a garlic-sauce, peppered up with pecorino cheese on top. The main dishes were equally appealing: My squash in the pasta pockets melted in my mouth! And the dessert, a tiramisu, which we shared, was the right roundup for both of us after a culinary feast like this! It had just the right level of sweetness and was freshly made, convincing us both that it had indeed been the best option of the night. So don’t let the small dishes fool you, you can feel full after those in no time.
The prices might be a bit steep, with 16 to 28 dollars just for an entree (which is actually not too bad for Manhattan). You could use this restaurant for a special treat for yourself or an anniversary dinner. Unless you come from the Hamptons, then you can snag in your brunch here before heading off to Gucci and Versace.

Eating Italian in Manhattan – this had been indeed the first restaurant I liked. Back in May a friend and I had tried out Little Italy in Brooklyn – and yes, it does exist. Maybe a bit remote from the rest of the crowd, as we took the D train to the 18th Ave Station and walked a good 20 minutes to the Tommaso Ristorante. Or rather some creepy 20 minutes past some deserted industrial area until we found those four restaurants that make out Brooklyn’s Little Italy (right next to their Chinatown). Here we ordered a prix fixe for 25 bucks each (even in the evening hours), which included an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert. All of these were very tasty! Starting out with some mussels in white sauce and mozarella with roasted peppers. Compared to restaurants in the City, the dishes are significantly bigger in Brooklyn! Then a fine-spiced Filet of Sole Francese with a meat dish combined with some of the best roasted potatoes I have ever come across. Dessert consisted of Italian Cheesecake and Panna Cotta. And don’t ask me how we both finished our dishes, but I assume we were quite stuffed when we exited the ristorante!

Tommaso appetizers
Filet de Sole Francese

Italian Cheesecake with a Panna Cotta

I will explain why I don’t think too highly of insider tips given in tourist guides for New York. One I had tried out was the infamous Totonno in Coney Island. When we walked in, the place had the feel of a fast-food joint rather than a notorious pizzeria. The waitress was indeed the same person displayed on the cover of the fancy magazine 10 years ago, but now significantly older and even with a hump. That’s right, a hunched back! So whatever photo-editing devices these glamour mags use, I’ve seen living proof of that they must be severe! Before eating my friend and I wanted to wash our hands so we each took turns to squeeze into the little booth Totonno calls a restroom . We disregarded the dirt on the floor and the hair in the sink because we both weren’t in the mood to puke. We then ordered a simple cheese pizza topped with some basic ingredients such as mushrooms and peppers. Even though we were both starving we both weren’t too impressed by its taste! Best pizza of Brooklyn – pah! Maybe best overpriced pizza of Brooklyn!

The awful Totonno in Coney Island

Grimaldi’s Pizza right in Dumbo always has a queue waiting outside that reaches around a few blocks. I wonder why. After experiencing Totonno, I doubt their pizza is any better. And the best thing about it: The last time I checked they had a sanitary “C” grade, which is about as bad as it gets in New York. After seeing this red flag I definitely did not feel in the mood to try them out.

Now, there is hope! There is a location in Bushwick called Roberta’s which has gained increasing popularity not even among the locals anymore. I have yet to try out their delicacies to give you an authentic food update on them. However, my friend, who happens to share my taste, has let me know that not only their pizza but also their pastries are supposed to be a tongue-tingling experience… If you get there before I do, let me know!

New York: Embrace the Change

I miss writing! Don’t think I have forgotten you, I am just insanely busy at the moment! Not only is the new job eating up most of my daytime hours and leaving me with practically nothing at the end of the day. But I am also in the process of moving.
That’s right! It will most likely be no more Park Slope for me by December 1. Because of unexpected circumstances I am looking for a new apartment/room in Brooklyn. I am not even dealing with other boroughs. Forget Queens, the Bronx, or anything North of Harlem. My heart lies here, which means I have to take my time, sort out some appointments and look at potential houses. I have to say, so far the Slope, Kensington, and even Bedstuy have been represented in my search.

Hey, don’t judge! The realtor after all did put “Crown Heights” in the ad. But a place off Nostrand Ave on the A-line is most definitely not Crown Heights anymore. I thought it still essential to at least check out this spot before I could judge and kick it out of my considerations. With some caution I stepped off the train and saw a good amount of homeless people already. I guess a homeless shelter was close to the station. Walking down 4 long blocks to the advertised location proofed to be very errr … interesting. Good it wasn’t too late at night, I think I would have been more scared otherwise. The area seems to be very West-Indian, but compared to Flatbush, another West-Indian neighborhood, the vibes are completely different. Oh boy, I definitely have to write a ghetto post on Brooklyn! The part of Bedstuy I was in is already starting to gentrify – I saw more and more white faces when walking towards my destination. And the houses are beautiful, almost like in the Slope, built sometime in the 19th century, which stoic stone-steps leading up to the high-ceiled buildings. “Pity that the wrong sort of unappreciative folks live there”, I thought.

When I walked close to the given address, I saw another guy who had already been waiting. The appointment was one was one of those “open-house-come-ins” people tend to have in New York, so I wasn’t too surprised. What was different about this seeing was that we had two different names for who we wanted to see and didn’t know which apartment number to buzz. After waiting some precious 5 minutes, a girl came downstairs and fetched us. Supposedly the rooms were not even renovated yet and the entire place was in the process of being built. Yup, as far as I could tell the floor had only recently been installed. So a completely new apartment with five bedrooms seeking to be filled on a first-come-first-serve basis. The kids who found the spot were confident that it would be done by November 15th… Which would have been in a week from when I had looked at the rooms. I never followed up with them but I am curious to know if they are able to move in by Tuesday, which I highly doubt. The girl who had discovered this “raw diamond” was nice and had already bonded with an Australian guy. There were four other people looking at the three spare bedrooms. As we got to know each other, I found out that only a guy from Long Island and I myself had lived in New York for longer than one month. So no wonder these folks were quite enthralled! If they were to know that the real ghetto starts just 4 blocks down, I doubt they would have even considered checking out the room … But I have to admit all persons were equally social and I sure hope they found their match in roommates. I decided it wouldn’t be for me this time, though. Of to the next one.

Aside from the aforementioned apartment I have checked out a few places in the Slope and sorta given up the idea of living in a decent spot over here. One potential candidate wanted me to pay 600 bucks just for her “new” furniture she had bought from Ikea (!) and which she wouldn’t be able to take with her on her move back to Austria. Then there was a situation during which I had to wait for 20 minutes just to get into a place. The girl who had been looking before me had locked herself into the apartment by accident and it took some three strong women to pry the door open (it was wooden and had been caught in the frame).

I am really not in the mood to look at another 20 places, just as was the case last year. I remember saying to myself I never wanted to go through this again! Boy, was I pleased when I had found the “right” place. And here I am, once again on a search for a room in New York! I will keep you updated on the progress. Until I figure out how to squeeze in more hours in a seemingly fast-paced 24-hour-day or until I find out how to sleep and write and work at the same time, well until then, keep on following. I will try to keep you updated more often.

Have a great Sunday!

Halloween in New York

Halloween in New York starts early. This year I saw a girl in the midst of July wearing a tiger mask while leaning against the door of a subway car…

Joke aside, Halloween seems to start as early as Septemberish over here. You can see the first decorations popping up along the houses and entryways in early fall. The fences are decorated with fake cow-webs and scary pumpkins, an enumerable amount of lights blinking around the doors and windows, no doubt scaring of every thief in the neighborhood.

This year was actually the first time I was sorta able to enjoy the pre-Halloween fanciness and creativity. Ever since I moved to Park Slope, which is an area where you can indeed find single houses, I have been able to witness how the neighborhood has dramatically changed from stoic to crazy, from old-fashioned to exciting – all of this practically over night. And even out in Bay Ridge, where a friend of mine used to live, I have run across some scary-for-fun-appearing witches and a unique grave yard in the front garden.

Halloween in the Slope
Halloween in Carroll Gardens
Halloween in Bay Ridge

So whatever drives the rest of the US at that time of the year can definitely be found here in New York (and especially Brooklyn) in a highly representable manner.

With all these impressions, I was mentally prepared to do something equally representable on Halloween. Sadly, I have to admit that last year was surprisingly lame, since my friends had convinced me to not go out and nourished the fear in me of getting robbed by masked people in the Village (“Oh yes”, they said, “people in New York use these masks and then just jump tourists.”). Instead, we stayed in and drank a bottle of wine while chatting away – which was nice, too, but not really the proper Hollow’s Eve I had wished for, if you know what I mean.

So this year I had really wanted to do something more exciting. But how it all went down – oh, it was such a pity:

Halloween turned out to be on a Monday (whereas last year it was on a Sunday). Needless to say, that a big bunch of friends and coworkers were confused as to when the BIG HALLOWEEN PARTY was supposed to go down. “Shall we do it on a Friday, on a Saturday, or indeed on a Monday?” most asked themselves, including me. The general notion was to celebrate on Saturday, for this is really the party day of the week, no matter what. But when Saturday came around, a good piece of the Northeast Coast experienced something completely out of the ordinary: IT SNOWED! At the end of October! And I, who had first planned to go to the 9/11 Memorial (which was shut down due to the bad weather conditions) and then dress up for the evening, had to admit that it was completely senseless to get out in the snow mud and cold just for a party probably only a third of the people would be. Not that I even bothered to get a costume beforehand, as I had figured to simply dress up last minute.

Attempted Cowgirl costume...not!

I think I can speak for everyone when saying that Halloween 2011 was a great disappointment for New Yorkers. As I overheard a conversation of two guys on the train the other day who were describing this year’s hollow eve as “half-a**ed” and quite confusing. So I think a good deal of people felt betrayed of their party, get-together, and what not.
Monday was my first day at the new job (read here) and out of great spontaneity I suddenly decided to check out the notorious Halloween Parade in the Village. Yes, the one I had missed out on last year, as the crowd from Union Square had been just obnoxiously huge.

Union Square Zombie

This time I got off right at W4 and even managed to get a good spot right upfront by standing on a fence and shooting some pictures. The general vibe I got from the crowd was mixed: Lots of dressed up college students and other folks, but then also some aggressive gangs who wanted to get into trouble and fight others. And the cops, oh boy, I have to mention them in a whole different post, but they were absolutely ridiculous. I almost got attacked by five of them when they were chasing ONE drunk guy who desperately threw himself on me. This was not very funny, and I was dumbfounded at first but managed to get out of there quickly.

Parade in Greenwich Village

So, after watching for 45 minutes, I sorta had enough. Then the question of interest was: How the heck do I get out of here? I could move neither backwards nor forwards and the crowd was pushing me in two different directions. I am not claustrophobic at all but I can now understand how some people are after experiencing last Monday night. I never got to see my friend, as he was standing somewhere completely different and neither of us could meet in between. Totally frustrated I gave up, there was no way I would make it back into the subway station without being smashed by drunks or waiting 30 mins straight. Therefore I ended up walking through Greenwich Village, past one of those quazillion Darth Vaders, even past a cute quartet of Panda bears (must have been college students), and past the sweet ginger bread man on 14th Street. Finally, after two whole hours, I was back home, way tired and not really in the mood for a good Halloween anymore. So my recommendation to you is, if you really want to celebrate Halloween in New York, do it in private, with a group of friends. Avoid the awful Halloween Parade, unless you want to be trampled on, and make sure it doesn’t snow on THE PARTY DAY of the year!

But other than that it was a fine event!

Village Madness

Working in the Empire State Building

I feel rejuvenated. I feel strong and capable of doing so many things at once. Something completely unexpected has happened and turned my world upside down within only a short time frame.

The turmoil started about two weeks ago: I went to an interview for an Austrian-rooted company and last week I received an offer to start the job. This past Monday was basically the start of my first week of work and, as you might have noticed already, it’s been crazy busy! I haven’t had the chance to write one single post during the past five days so today I want to take my time and update you on the newest events going on in my simple life.

The job in particular might not be of great interest to you. I want to respect the company and keep it rather confidential. However, the location will hopefully blow you away.
I’ll give you a few hints: So, I still work in Midtown. To be specific, I even work close to 34th Street, just as was with the old job (remember the Penn Station stop I used to walk out of? Get the full story here). But I am a few blocks off towards the East. To be very specific, I work at 350 Fifth Avenue. Now google please…

If you still don’t get it… I work in a well-known symbol of New York, part of the slogan for the state of New York (Empire State of Mind), and perhaps the most popular landmark in the one and only skyline of Manhattan…

I work in the Empire State Building!

Oh, don’t worry, I would have eventually told you about the interview – even if it hadn’t worked out with this job. That by itself was pretty mind-blowing. Five doormen who cheerfully and solemnly greeted me with a striking “Good morning to the Empire State Building.” They held the door open and swiped my guest pass to guide me across to the seemingly endless amount of elevators… Yes, that first day of my interview was impressive by itself, no doubt!

And then Monday came around, and I found myself on my way from Herald Square one block over to Fifth Avenue, not knowing if this was a dream or my real life. I would have never imagined myself working on Fifth Avenue. But even less, I would have never imagined myself working in the Empire State Building.

To not bore you with the detailed facts: I started working with two other nice pals, we all get along quite well, and training has not ceased to strain our intellect and patience. This in a good way, I dare say. I haven’t had one day yet that I consider boring. Long gone the days filled with social networking, blog posts, and endless amounts of pointless E-Mails. Long gone the days when being annoyed with stupid office bureaucracy and hassling with superiors who barely made it through their high school degree. Long gone the days when feeling like an awkward, unshaped piece of a puzzle I no longer wanted to belong to…

Another training session before lunch...

I have to say – my day starts out pretty sweet. When I exit my F-train, I walk right into the side entrance to the Empire State Building. Past the Steve Madden and Aerosoles stores, away from the ESB ticket sellers, right through the revolving doors into the ground floor. In the beginning, we three newbies obtained a guest pass at the front desk, and this only when someone from our office gave his okay. On Thursday, our trainer led us into the basement and we got our permanent passes taken. The picture looks quite awful but after comparing them to each other we didn’t care anymore for everyone looks unauthentic and unappealing on these spits of plastic.

Most unrepresentable pass ever!

Today I took my fancy camera with me and shot some nice pictures of our view from the 27th floor (this information, indeed, I can tell you). The sun was mockingly shining through the glass and winking at us. I found out that employees get a 50 per cent discount if they want to go to the top. When I went in April it had cost me $22, but now it would be reduced to a temptingly low $11. I am positive that my coworker and I will check out the top one time soon, as we are almost the only ones hanging in front of our office windows and competing about who takes the better pictures (sorry, I don’t have an iPhone!).

Then I went on a small tour and found a “kosher” pizzeria on the ground level. This was actually the place my former coworkers (I used to work for a Jewish company) had ordered their lunch from and I had jokingly told them to visit me whenever they would be around. I didn’t try it, as I have eaten enough kosher food for the rest of my life, and I wasn’t really turned on by their pricing or customer service, either.

Before ending my tour, I asked one of those fancy-looking guards to look sweet pose firmly for me and got a nice shot of him, too. He carefully pointed out to me that he is only allowed to have one picture taken of him… Which I am unsure of what one picture means exactly. One picture per guard (I would have went right on to the next), or one picture a day, an hour … ? Next time I will ask him!

Kosher pizza
A guard trying hard to look good for his only picture

Well, after taking this symbolic one picture, I stepped into the elevator. Or rather: One of those ten leading up to the 27th floor and beyond. I am not sure how many lifts exactly exist, but they are divided into the floor level you want to reach, so the one shooting up to levels 24 through 40 is for me. The elevator is a typical build for the City, as it has a screen showing the current weather forecast (definitely will need this when on my WAY TO WORK) and current updates on what’s going on in the Empire State Building (girl scout cookies sold on the ground floors). These updates I do consider sweet and surreal at the same time. Sometimes I feel like pinching myself and asking: AM I REALLY HERE?! How could I not be living the American Dream? Not only am in New York and work for an interesting and mentally-challenging company. But I am in THE one and only epitome of this city …
I truly achieved what I never imagined to achieve and now I am floating on this log in the middle of the whirling river that makes out my time here in the Big Apple. Unsure of the destination but my time here filled with some special treats and unexpected twists.

So as you can tell, I am still adjusting to all of this and try not to shake when I enter the building or stand still in awe. Which I really feel like doing every single time. One thing I have promised myself already is to say a cheerful “Good Morning” back to those fancy-looking guards. They already make my day in the morning, might as well make theirs. Not like some ignorant people who just walk past and who have seemed to forgotten where again they really work at. And how suddenly it could be over. We are, after all, in New York, New York!

So here I stand, one of those thousands of people working in the Empire State Building. And I cannot wait to go back on Monday!

Back to my own office

I hope your guys’ week has been equally splendid!