The ESB Shooting: How to Create Hysteria on a Normal Workday

Going back to work on Monday was a bit awkward after the Friday happenings. Last week a supposedly disgruntled employee had shot his coworker dead and then was part of a gun fire that occurred right in front of the Empire State Building. All of this happened at 9:04 AM on a so far eventless morning.

“The start of just another Friday in the City”, is what most people must have thought while on their way to work.
“An exciting day for having a great view of the Big Apple” must have been the conceptions of the average tourist traveling out to our renowned platform.

I still remember it quite well. At 8:56 AM my coworker came inside the building. She was almost half an hour late to work and breathless. “I woke up at 8:40! No idea how I got ready but I took a cab over here from Hell’s Kitchen!” she exclaimed while rushing into the office.

Then, around 9 AM, another girl and I heard noise coming from outside. We are located on the 27th Floor but when the window is open you can still hear quite a bit from the traffic and sirens echoing through the streets. An image of gun shots flashed through my mind but I was quick to dismiss it. “Must be another movie they are filming in front of the building” I thought. My coworker dismissed it as construction sounds but we still managed to glance at each other for more than a few seconds, a worried expression on both of our faces.

Just ten minutes later the building intercom went off and a voice announced a “situation” on the 27th floor to which no one should react to until further notice. This happened to be the floor we were on. I poked my head out of the office door to see what was happening. Just in time to catch a building employee hurrying past me. He glanced back and managed to encourage me that everything was okay and I should not go downstairs. I wondered what that meant.

At the same time all of this was going on, another coworker was fixing up an ID at the downstairs security. He called up to our manager, telling him that it was believed 6-7 people were shot in the lobby. At 9:20 AM he was back upstairs, shaky but still able to tell his story: All doors had been locked at the first noise of the gun shots. It happened outside but had been heard in the lobby, which had led to his initial misperception. Everyone believed a madman had gone wild and had randomly fired his gun at passerbys.

We were all shocked at once but then remembered the noise going on just after 9 AM. Both me and the girl looked at each other and knew what we had heard. We started realizing that this incidence had unfolded in a matter of minutes and that the girl who had come in shortly before 9 AM had possibly been very lucky.

The velocity in which the news travelled during this morning still blows me away. FOX had a reporter close-by and she posted an initial story about three people being wounded in the gunfire, right outside the Empire State Building. Everything seemed to have occurred at 34th St and 5th Avenue, which is a common entrance for tourists and also ticket vendors. It was horrifying to think about the fact that my coworker seemed to have just evaded the entire scene: She had been buying breakfast at exactly this area only ten minutes earlier.

More news came trickling in. A friend texted me around 9:30 AM, saying her mother had given her a call and informed her of the shooting. The stories circulating the Web ranged from anywhere of 1 to 5 injured people but that was yet to change in the future. I am still amazed at the speed of how everything was delivered, the high amount of eye witness reports that were immediately released and of course tweeted pictures of the victims that should have never been circulating the Internet.

More and more friends grew worried and communicated via text. Even our customer service department started getting calls from clients who wanted to know if we were alright. The building sent off e-mails permitting people to exit the building but not to re-enter. We were all in a rather confused and shocked state of mind and tried to get over it by talking it all out. Many co-workers were on the phone with family and friends. It must have been a chaos downstairs.

Eventually, the news of what exactly happened came through to us. Mayor Bloomberg gave a press conference outside and outlined the events.

At around 12:30 PM it was permitted to enter the building again but only with an employee ID. Everything leading towards 5th Avenue was blocked off, so you had to go around the entire block to get somewhere. We stayed inside and ordered lunch to be delivered to us from a few joints downstairs, which offer food for workers and tourists.

Remaining press crowd

I started walking around outside at 1:30 PM, an extended lunch so-to-speak. Press and videographers were accumulated outside but most of them must have already moved on to a different event. Tourists were lead to the top again but only in the company of permitted ticket sellers. The overall flow started picking up. At 5:30 PM sharp I exited the building and 5th Avenue was back into business. No more crime scene tape, no more cops. It is amazing how fast things go back to “normal” here in New York.

The thoughts taken with from that one memorable Friday are easily summarized: First, even though this incident had nothing to do with terrorism, the Empire State Building remains most likely a top target. Second, the area is busy and overpopulated and police officers were at the scene in less than a reasonable time frame. Third, you never know what tomorrow brings.

(Most of this post has been written on August 24 to preserve the memory of the moment)

(If the story has not outlined it yet, I work in the Empire State Building on the 27th Floor and am giving you an inside view)

Time for Some Swing: The Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island (2012)

Yes! I did it! AGAIN!

It has been exactly a week since the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island. Exactly a week when people dressed up like there was no tomorrow and threw costumes on from over 90 years ago. The Jazz Festival only happens twice a year here in New York. First, there is the prelude in June. Right around the official summer start. Then there is the event in the middle of August, as a sad wave of goodbye to the season and all the dances it has brought. Music, laughs, and fun – one could really forget in which era one was on those particular weekends.

While in June I had still been too occupied with my half-a-day photography course (read more here), I swore back then I would make it happen in August. And fair enough, Sunday I was right there, in Bowling Green, standing in a dense line on the ferry to Staten Island. Compared to last year, I had even put more effort into my “extensive” costume of a Jazzage party girl: Curly hair, black dress, red lipstick, white feather boa wrapped around my arm – I was really into it!

Compared to 2011, the line seemed quite overwhelming. It reached all the way out of the ferry station to the Staten Island boat entrance. For all of you who are not familiar with this piece of New York: It’s quite a distance apart and usually you wouldn’t see a queue of this extreme. The fest runs from 11 AM to 5 PM, so I had considered a 12:30 PM departure in the right time frame. Together with countless tourists and other fashion snobs who just wanted to get an eyeful of a vintage dress-up – or so it seemed. I have seldom seen people give so less of an effort to dress up and it was almost an insult to everyone else in line and on the ferry who really had tried hard to look good.

Line to Governor’s Island Ferry
People in Ferry Line

Luckily, it only took half an hour until I finally made it on the boat. I would have thought the wait to be longer but they are good in navigating an additional ferry out to the Island when it comes to unusual circumstances. So just after 1 PM, I was there, heading to the entrance and ready to swing. They had upped the prices from $10 to $15 compared to 2011. They had also extended the lawn area and had a bigger isolated square where all the fun was to partake. More merchants had accumulated on the outskirts of the hype. So had the gawkers who were pointing their hideous telescope lenses into our faces just to get a good shoot without having to pay the cover charge.

But all these things did not distract us happy dwellers from having fun and jumping around in our own little world. I am always attracted to vintage accessories. Last Sunday made no difference. The feathery headbands, the glamorous bracelets, the lush dresses – it was all a pleasure to look at and I even ran into The Odd Twin. They have their store right around the corner from where I live, here in Park Slope, so I’ve become acquainted with their selection a few times in the past. Aranella & His Dreamland Orchestra were ready to roll, hosting their own stand and a cute CD seller, who was wearing a dancegirl’s outfit while promoting the jazz band close to the dance floor. Unfortunately, I had missed out on the pie competition as it seems to take place only on Saturdays. I did however watch the bartenders mix thirsty guests an array of drinks and was quite fascinated at the quantity of high class alcohol and fruits found in one glass of a St. Germain’s cocktail.

The Odd Twin Jewelry Stand
Yummy Cocktails from St. Germain

Of course food cannot be amiss, even though the line was too extensive to even consider getting in it. The lucky ones who got to snag a snack had the choice between hotdogs fries, ice cream and much more. Most parties just brought their own picnic with and that was just as good if not even better smarter. I am still fascinated at how classy people can look when sitting on a picnic blanket in their 20ies outfit. To round it all off an old school photographer brought a half moon out and positioned people on it with a blue background for the 20th century look.

Ice Cream Stand
Classic Picnic
Classy Girl on a picnic blanket

And the best of the best was once again the dance floor: Happy people swinging their legs to fine tunes of Aranella’s Dreamland Orchestra and tender notes of the one or other soloist. Dance groups performing in front of amazed crowds until the dance floor was open to the drunken public. I always find it satisfying to watch good people dance. People who know why they swing their one leg in one direction while pulling up their arm in the other. Oh yes, it’s always a joy – jazz and swing both at a time!

Dance Crowd

At some point in the afternoon we were all called outside to take part in a classic tug o’war. This was the first time I had seen it during the fest so I was eager to watch. First it was the gentlemen’s turn. Then it was the ladies’ turn. And in the very end a wild mix of both genders pulling each other to the ground. I was bummed I couldn’t participate but high heels are not the best choice when dealing with a muddy ground. Kudos to all three groups who managed to delay the result until the bitter end (when no one had strength anymore).

Tug of War between the genders

Of course these events are over way too suddenly. And because they are so rare, it is even sadder to leave them at the end of the day.

I am still in the mood for some more jazz so perhaps next year it will be once again: Get ready for the 1920s! The party usually happens on Saturday and Sunday, the dates have yet to be set. Look around for a June venue and another event in August!

More pictures will be posted throughout today and tomorrow on A Picture Every Day.

Such as:

Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island (I)
Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island (II)
Rocking the Dance Floor

(Belated) Restaurant Week: Tasting French Cuisine

Before Montreal and the rest of the travel craziness happened, I got the chance to check out an annual event I always seem to forget until it is almost too late. Restaurant Week happens twice a year in the city of cities, once in the summer and once in the winter, but for some reason it is not as strongly advertised or billboarded as it should be, especially for someone as event-ignorant as me. Luckily, my co-worker once again managed to remind me during the last week it was hosted. I had the chance to still reserve a table at one of New York’s participating restaurants before the fun was over. It was a tough race between a classy French restaurant and an adventurous Italian joint, but in the end the classy French spot won. So on Thursday night I was on my way to Chelsea to taste the fine selection of La Promenade des Anglais.

Together with my partner in crime we entered through the chique doors and stood in front of two obviously gay hosts. “‘Tis Chelsea after all,” I thought, while we were led to our tables in the center of the place. La Promenade is a very dark place with sophisticated tables and servers who display only their best manners. Think waiters who have a napkin underneath the water bottle when they refill your glass. Imagine having just emptied your plate and the next moment it is magically cleared from the table without you having barely winked. Yes, impeccable table manners!

La interior de la Promenade
Table seats

Their special involved three to four options in each course.

As an appetizer, I opted for the shrimp ceviche, served with cucumber and ginger mingled in a citrus marinade.
My partner chose the Gazapacho, a cold soup Spanish-style, here served with Ricotta cheese and extra virgin oil. Why we found a Spanish dish among a French cuisine still puzzles us to date but then the main course was not too typical for France either. While the Gazapacho was well-received and tasty, I had troubles digesting the cold shrimp in an even colder marinade. To me, the taste was not enhanced by the temperature of the food and I would have found it better off for the dish to be served warm.

Shrimp Ceviche appetizer

The next round brought the main course:

A Branzino Filet with basil mashed potatoes, served with Nicoise olives and marinated tomatoes.
I believe I saw an entire olive chopped into three tiny pieces on that plate. The fish was good, albeit too small in size, and the mashed potatoes were a hit, even for a mashed-potato hater like me.
My partner ordered the Risotto dish with zucchini, goat cheese and “Meyer”lemon (explaining that fancy term later). While it was much tastier than my plate I wouldn’t have wanted to trade with him because the portion looked like a baby had just spat it out. A mushed pulp of rice so hideous, I didn’t even want to take a picture of it!

Branzino Filet with one whole olive

Finally, the highlight of the meal, once again the dessert:

Warm chocolate fondant with whipped cream for me. Greek yogurt served as Panna Cotta with roasted peaches and crumbles for him. And here I was really indulging in the good tastes of the French Cuisine. Warm chocolate frosting surrounded by a tender crust, dipped into cream and cherry sauce. Fantastic! After the initial sugar rush, though, we started applying our brain cells and came to the conclusion that this dessert is highly worth praising but not enough to convince us of the restaurant itself.

Chocolate Fondant dessert dream
Panna Cotta dessert

While the service was indeed impeccable, I cannot say the same about the food. There is not much reason for me to come back but the dessert and I believe that won’t be a reason enough to return. I also had the feeling that the restaurant was verbally enhancing its food by inventing fancy phrases to put on the menu (Meyer lemon? Seriously?! Who cares if your lemon is from China and a cross between two different citrus fruits!) to simply lure people into trying some of their high class dishes.

But hey, that’s why restaurant week is awesome: To introduce you to some restaurants you would have never gone to without the special and to see how your taste buds can digest what is brought to your plate! Chin Chin to that!

[To see a more satisfactory Restaurant Week post, go to last year and Bar Basque!]

Traveling This Country: Greyhound Stories

Many means lead from New York to Canada. One is Amtrak, the slowest national train service I’ve witnessed so far. 11 hours from the Big Apple to Montreal and this only once a day – that just didn’t sound too efficient to me. True, I heard the ride up was supposedly drop-dead-gorgeous and the seats comfy. I was still not satisfied when it came to losing an entire day just to travel to and fro.

So I checked my other options. Rideshare via the suspicious craigslist – not really what I was looking for either. Unfortunately, a $500 plane ticket was also out of my league. Megabus would have been my first choice, but the company only runs inside the country.

Sadly, I opted for the last back-up plan I made: The dreaded Greyhound Bus. Now, I am usually not against buses, don’t get me wrong. Check out my post on the Chinatown Bus to see how I usually embrace getting from A over B to C throughout the Northeast Coast. However, I’ve heard comparably bad stories about the Aging Dog. Such as a news report that went on a few years back when a young guy was brutally murdered by a fellow passenger (read more here). A German friend of mine had taken it up to the Niagara Falls only recently and she assured me that they had increased bus security and that her ride had been rather peaceful. It was solely her word-to-mouth-say and the small price that convinced me to get on a Greyhound after all.

It all started on that particular Friday evening when I decided to get in line a full hour before departure. I barely got to Gate 26 at Port Authority when I was already halted by a long queue reaching far beyond. Evidently, I had not been the only passenger who decided to be over-punctual. It also looked to me as if the previous bus had been severely moderately overbooked and involuntarily forced people to take a later bus.

After fighting for my spot in line as a single passenger and trying my best to occupy myself for another 45 minutes by doing absolutely nothing, a random French-Canadian thought it appropriate to sneak ahead of me and everyone else just to be one of the first to get on the bus. Of course his behavior was not tolerated. The fact that he was a full-grown man with a ten-year-old child did not matter to anyone. A young Montrealer behind me verbally lashed out and started a dispute in … French, how could it else be. I couldn’t make it all out but I believe the gist was that everyone in line is equally frustrated and that he has to go in the back where he belongs. This caused many angry glares between the two but luckily the older guy finally gave in and went to the back of the line – or somewhere in between where people didn’t care as much.

Right then the line started to move and I already considered myself lucky to almost be through with this. But only two people ahead of me the conductor stops everyone. “No more room! Only one spot free! One seat! One seat!” The couple ahead of me is severely disappointed. I volunteer to grab the last seat and off I am – hopefully to Montreal and never to stand in line again.

By now I am very tired and hope to catch some sleep on the ride up. But two hours later we are disrupted from our sleep. “Everyone get out! Albany! Everyone take all your stuff and get out!” the Chinese driver screams into his microphone (as if the fact that it already enhances one’s voice is not enough to get his point across). We are then led into an over-cooled waiting room and have to endure half an hour until it’s off to the border. No more sleep after this. The grimly looking border officers are not making matters easier, either.

While on the way to my destination there were only two stops (which were already brutal enough), the Greyhound managed to stop for five full times on the way back. I believe we must have taken with every New York town of insignificance, no matter how many people joined us at each stop. While it wasn’t so much the people I found annoying, we did manage to have a drunk guy from Albany back to New York, who only sat a few rows up. This time the bus was chauffeured by a burly, serious-looking driver, who certainly didn’t have much sense of humor and liked bluffing at us through the microphone every once in a while.

I believe the next time I will simply have to self-host my ride up (rent a car) or take the despised Amtrak, which loses too much time but maybe lets me sleep for longer than a few hours.

The Greyhound – an entertaining but rather desperate means of travel in case all back-up-options fail. I am sure it is better on shorter rides but 8 hours up and not being able to sleep at all was just too much for me. I thought it was just me and my small-minded view of things. Then I met a lively Cali girl in the hostel who was trapped in between a window seat and an overweight passenger on her ride up, which wasn’t too much fun for her either. The stories one can tell…

Don’t let this gorgeous view fool you…!

Taking with the Best of My Stay Up North

Montreal consists of several different parts which this city willingly opens up to outsiders. Since coming into existence in the 16th and 17th century, it has changed its name from Ville-Marie to Montreal. The name also refers to the actual Mont Royal, a panoramic platform on top of the city. Discovered by a French legation and since then captured in its fascinating French culture, the main language spoken here truly is French. Francais is everywhere: On signs, in restaurants, on TV, etcetera.

While I and most likely other Americans had imagined that the majority of natives fluently speak the language of English, only slightly over 50 percent of fellow Montrealers are able to communicate in Anglais. And when they do, you will most certainly hear an accent; unless you are talking to a particularly skilled young chap. I found this trait rather charming than frustrating, but then I also had the advantage of having learnt French in school and already being acquainted with the one or other foreign phrase. While I did not have trouble communicating in English and being understood, I did on occasion run into the one or other grumpy looking citizen who refused to answer me in English when asking him for a favor (such as taking a picture).

When sitting over a wonderful dish of possibly the best Italian pizza eaten so far (yes, Montreal also has a history of Italian immigrants), I got the chance to speak to a born-and-bred local who was happy enough to tell me more about the Quebecer culture. It is no unusual to start with French in school and then learn English later-on as a teenager (this would explain the accent in most people I’ve spoken to). It is further not unusual to for French Canadians to be regarded as lower class by the rest of Canada and to be looked down upon. This explains the animosity both sides of the country display, according to him, which is a pity if really true and which I never knew about. I must say that I found the Eastern Canadian culture far more interesting than what I have so far encountered from West Canada, but that is still unexplored lands to me.

With so many districts looking like a typical American city, one has managed to stand out to me: The historic part of the Royal Mountain, which I personally find the most interesting. Be it because I like cobble stone paths and nice churches. Be it because it reminded me of some old cities in Deutschland, my home country. Either way, I do not stand alone in this opinion and that must mean something. Past the Rue Saint Catherine and Chinatown, right next to the wonderful Notre Dame you can walk down to this part of town fairly easily.

Le Poutine – the pride of the country!

When I got here on my second day of the trip, I was starving for some good French-Canadian Cuisine. A fellow hosteller had recommended “Le Poutine:” A dish of fries served with gravy and curd cheese. While it was great to try out, it certainly tastes like what it sounds: A fast food dish with a nice topping, filling my stomach only until the evening hours. After walking up and down the main cobble street, I ended up in the Vieux Port, also known as the Old Harbor. It was here that another cultural festival happened to be held that weekend: A Middle-eastern fair which offered a few bands, fortune tellers, and many exotic looking stands.

Beautiful Old Harbor

It was here that I managed to take my first Canadian ferry ride: A boat towards Parc Jean Drapeau, on which the Heavy Metal Festival was being held. Beware, the ferry fee can be quite steep, with 7.50 CAD for five minutes on the water, but it is the definitely the most panoramic way to get over there. Another option would be to simply take the metro to same-named station and evidently pay a lot less. I didn’t see much of the festival, as it was gated off. Instead I was offered discounted VIP tickets by a beardy man with a huge beer belly for the bargain price of a couple hundred dollars. No thanks! The island also has remnants of the Olympic Park from 1976, the year it hosted the famous sport competition. It’s nice to look at and walk around a bit, but not much is out there aside from an amusement park in one part.

And then, finally, I did get the chance to experience Montreal’s night life. Although on a Sunday night out, there was still plenty going on in the streets. With a nice Aussie and a New Jersey girl I managed to navigate my way towards Rue-Saint Denis. Our hostel desk manager had told us of some great bars along this street. I guess I had imagined a strip-like atmosphere a la Mallorca-style: One joint next to another, a buzzing vibe. Not so much this night, on which it was rather dead. So we turned around and made our way to Billy Kun, a cute bar right next to the Mont Royale metro station. They have awesome beer and cocktail specials, which don’t cost an arm and a leg, as, unfortunately, Montreal can do to you. At 1 PM we decided to call it the quits and end my premiere out.

Lacking some necessary nutrients on this trip, I was able to take them all in on my last day there: We stopped by at the Marche de Jean-Talon, a huge fresh market place in the northern part of the city. One stand next to another, seducing us to try peaches, tomatoes, salted cucumbers for free when making our way from merchant to merchant. I highly recommend at least popping your head in here if only for buying some healthy fruit or vegetables and then wandering around the area. Such as we did, when we stumbled across a French-speaking film crew who were pointing their cameras towards, alas, another church!

After two days of exploring, I came to realize: This city is chill! I don’t have to stress myself to get from one place to another or to evade the masses. I can casually stroll the streets without being bumped into and having to excuse myself. The town has some very relaxed vibes and it was hard to let go of those.

Time in Montreal was short but sweet. Looking back, it’s worth a trip that’s so much longer. But it’s all about making the best out of the short time provided and that’s what I’ll keep in memory.

J’ai reve d’une ville de Montreal…

A Magical City Called Montreal (II)

At the St. Josephs Oratory I found wonderful flower beds and old-looking steps. Three flights up and I finally noticed a sign: “Reserve aux pelerins qui montent a genoux.” Meaning this section is reserved for pilgrims who will have to kneel their way up. At the far end I could even see two piteous looking women who were absorbed in their prayers and kneeling from one step to another. I couldn’t imagine this being the most comfortable way to ascend but it certainly looks impressive and worshippy.

A group of Indian tourists must have had thought the same. As I descended again, with a nice view ahead of me, they were on the bottom steps, praying towards the monument. I already found this rather amusing, even though I was able to hide my smile in the very last minute. The next thing I know another old lady decided it is time to kneel her way up the midsection. She goes down on her knees, ignoring everyone around her. The group of tourists, once done with paying their respects to such a foreign piece of religion, see how she goes about. At first they are a bit confused. Then the women of the clan start imitating her. They bend down, hold their arms out in worship and kneel up one step at a time. The children soon follow. So do the men. I can see their painful expressions when old bones rub against the what-must-be extremely uncomfortable stones. I am too baffled to intervene at first. Then I hold back. I feel stupid for telling another cultural group that this is not necessary to pay Montreal its respects. People are circumventing the group and using their legs to walk up the stairs. The Indian children look around, I can see the question forming in their mind: “Why do we have to kneel and everyone else gets to go up normally?” As far as I can tell, they followed the kneeling woman up all the way to the top. A total of four excruciating and painful staircases of stone, especially for the elderly. One observation I have taken from this misunderstanding is that their culture seems to be respectful of other nation’s rituals and that they couldn’t stand to make a mistake in public or disrespect the rites and passages of another group.

The rest of the day went by in a whim. Checking in at the hostel. More French dialects, a long line of young people. I felt that even though I am only in my mid-twenties I am among the oldest guests. This might also be because Canada has an official drinking age of 18. I was still a bit at unease. My room was shared with a variety of people: Two students from Boston. Three German girls from Stuttgart, who disappeared the next morning, not without knocking down a few beds and waking everyone up. A newcomer from Melbourne, who is scheduled to study in this city for one semester. A nice chick from New Jersey, who spontaneously joined her friends up to Canada. As you can tell, a nice intercultural mix making up for a typical hostel life. I really would not recommend staying in this accommodation in Montreal otherwise, though. The beds were pretty shaky, the bathroom was tiny, and the breakfast selection rather moderate (no free food).

While I had missed out on the Osheaga, the greatest music fest in Quebec county which took place only one week before, I did manage to stop by during a Heavy Metal festival. Supposedly, there was a concert series on Isle Sainte-Helene and many American and Canadian metallers had made it to the city to see Marilyn Manson and other icons. None stayed in a hostel though, as they camped out in the woods to defend their tough reputation.

The afternoon was well spent on Montreal’s main shopping street: Rue Sainte-Catherine. I had more opportunities to embarrass myself when ordering coffee in French and painfully noticing that my French skills have rapidly vanished within the past years I’ve been away from Europe and out of school. I’ve also had the chance to go into a real Canadian Aldo, to disappointingly see that their prices are still not comparable to New York sale bargains. It doesn’t make much sense to go on a shopping spree in Quebec, because even though the French-Canadian fashion style is different from what you find here, the prices are not too convincing. After all, the Big Apple is simply known for being a fashion mekka and for finding great deals.

Along the Rue Saint Catherine I must have ran across three different churches until I finally made a right down to Chinatown. This city has many churches, domes, and chapels, which make this town even more adorable. Le Quartier Chinois is small but quaint. Of course anything regarding Little China is disappointing after having been to New York and San Francisco. It’s still great to check out, maybe grab a bite, and then settle of towards the Notre Dame. And yes, Montreal has the same-named basilica Paris has. They even look alike, which makes matters even more confusing. The Canadian Notre Dame offers a light show at night and it’s also worth going inside during the day to marvel at the great ornaments and other decoration. It plays a significant part in Franco-Canadienne history and signifies a true milestone in this city.

After this rather eventful day I was too tired to explore Montreal’s nightlife on a Saturday evening out. I geared up for another day in little France and snoozed off for a good ten hours.

A Magical City Called Montreal (I)

Montreal was truly a magical city when I first got there. I arrived at the Berri-Uqam at 7 o’clock in the morning. Let’s not talk about the ride up, that’s reserved for another post. Let’s not mention my confusion when it came to finding the way from the bus central to the subway and then heading back because there was only one restroom. Let’s disregard my initial fear of walking the streets around the bus station and ending up being begged at on every street corner…

My first real stop was Mont Royal. I thought I could get a fantastic view from the city in my first two hours of being here. After walking around the deserted market place, I asked a friendly-looking jogger, whom I took for a local, for specific directions. “You ‘ave to take the bus uep!” she exclaimed in a charming French accent. “It will take yu one ‘our to walk up othervise!” she went on.

I was first rather surprised by her accent and then I was appalled of having to walk up with my heavy traveler’s luggage. I therefore opted to take the 11 bus, which held just in time when I got to the stop. After asking the bus driver for directions, I ended up sitting next to a helpful lesbian Australian chick with chopped off grayish hair. She recommended I get off at the second stop on the hill, not the first as the driver had initially told me to. “It’s a much better view and you can see 180 degrees of Montreal” she advertised the platform. I thought her to be fairly knowledgeable in the whereabouts of this town and wanted to know what else is worth seeing. She mentioned a fountain here and there and then headed out because her stop was due. Not without banging against the window of the bus and giving me her e-mail address before we drove on. The friendliness of random strangers continued after I was stranded at the second stop up the hill.

I found myself helplessly looking through the gates of Cimetière Mont Royal , until turning the other direction and heading towards the green area. A guy with a dog was jogging and exercising along. Meanwhile, it was 8 AM and I was probably the only tourist around shooting pictures of the scenery. He stopped and asked if I was looking for something in particular. He then gave me directions to the ultimate platform of sight-seeing and view-intaking.

I made my way through the foggiest morning I’ve seen in a while. Mystical mists rising from the grounds, covering half of the path in front of me. After following another sign towards the platform I was standing above the city. At first everything was wrapped in fog. No view to be seen from either side. Then, slowly, the haze cleared. I saw a skyscraper here and there. 10 minutes later and I had a beautiful view on Montreal. Since I had all the time in the world, I could observe the people jogging around early in the morning. A lady with a dog stopped nearby. I asked her if this is just a special part of the town or if there is another spot in Montreal where I can catch a better panorama. Baffled, she told me about another platform where I can see more of the forest. Then she wanted to know what exactly is wrong with the view in front of me. I explained to her I cannot really see many tall buildings. She laughed and responded these are all Montreal has. Montreal looks like a small city from so far above. It has about five tall building that stretch up but the rest resembles a flat valley.

I decided to explore more of the Mont Royal, since I was there already and unlikely to return in the next two days. The tourists had awakened. I was not the only one with a camera and taking annoying pictures. A group of Japanese students noticed a squirrel in the trees and made a big fuzz about the small creature. I found it funny to take a photo of them gawking at the natural “wonder.”

Then it was off to the Oratory. Another stop on my way to the hostel. Check-in was at 1PM, I had a lot of time to kill. It was getting hot in this town. I started to notice that a summer in Canada is not always as cold as their winters are known to be. I had only been in this town for a few hours but I already cursed myself for not having brought more T-shirts and short pants. Of course I had a fat vest and sneakers but those will do no good once the temperature hits its 80 something degrees. Not only is the entire East Coast of the US humid but also Canada. Now that you know, don’t make the same mistake I did!

The Impressions of New York

It’s always an experience to get back to this city even when gone for just a few days. Every time I witness my return differently. Mostly I am not at all pleased but sometimes I am happy to be back. Yet, coming back from Canada was different in so many ways. When I saw the skyline from far away, I was thankful at once. Away from the awful greyhound bus, away from the travel on the bumpy road. It almost felt like home to embrace a city I’ve been in for so long. Home – a very tangible word.

However, my initial euphoria changed quickly after entering the subway. First, the endless wait for an express train at 3 AM around Times Square. I had forgotten how drunken people can act on a Tuesday morning out. Being stared at by random guys when you absolutely do not feel like meanly glancing back at them until they finally look away. On top of this, of course the N-Train that decided to switch over to the R on the last stop in Manhattan. The long walk over from Canal Street to where the Q stops. Having the Q shut its door right in my face. Fidgeting around for another eternity. It takes some long 20 minutes for another train to come when it’s the middle of the night.

Looking up when an aggressive group of teenagers walks up to you and the rest of the tired commuters. Spanish yelling, waving of the arms from their side. Everyone is staring in disbelieve rather than reacting sensibly. I even got pushed by one of the fat mildly overweight Puerto Rican girls. At least she said “excuse me” after striking my upper body. I was too startled to think of much to do. I thought it rather a bad idea to pick a fight with a group of four when all I have to defend myself is my heavy bag of souvenirs. So many underage people out on the streets and of course I ran into another group of chicks on the train, once it came. This time I kept my calm. Ten minutes later I was finally home. The thought I had when falling into bed was that this city is hideous, the people have ugly personalities and I want to get out of here right now.

The next morning. A beautiful day. The people still being a bit weird but manageable. I felt more like an anonymous commuter that day than someone who has to stand up for herself in New York. Peace of mind. But the ride back home complete chaos – again. A tunnel in Brooklyn that decided to catch fire, leaving the entire subway system turned upside down. Walking down the steps to the Herald Square underground I started wondering why there were more masses than usual accumulated on the platform. The B and the D were only running to W4. Even after heading over to the N and the Q, I was in no luck. The first one stopped, spat out a chunk of evening commuters and then announced it would be backtracking straight to Times Square (42nd St). The R came and announced that 14th -Union Square was its final stop (it usually runs to Bay Ridge). No one knew what to do. I decided to squeeze into an overpopulated subway car and try my luck towards downtown. I gave up after being held in 23rd St for ten minutes straight. A crackly voice over the intercom blared that all trains were currently held in the station due to the high volume of traffic ahead of us. I was one freaking stop away! And then the conductor laughed into the speaker. He actually cracked up! It made me smile. If people can still make fun of such an absurd situation, no matter how vicious their intentions are, you still have to see the comic of the circumstances. And how ridiculous is it to be stuck in Manhattan on a random weekday? Squeezed against hundreds of other commuters? I got off and wandered the streets of the Flatiron district. Eventually I made it to the 4 and 5, which thankfully ran underground and were unaffected by the sudden fire in Downtown Brooklyn. Of course a few thousand other people had also been forced to dodge towards this alternative. I have seldom felt so happy to get off the train than during this day. Atlantic Ave was jam-packed with masses. And I’ve seen it during a normal rush hour; yesterday was three times as many people.

Today I was more confident in the way of how to handle matters. I didn’t feel like an awkward piece sticking out of the grey masses of the City trying to fit in. Today I actually did fit in. And instead of feeling frustrated as I had before this trip, a different feeling overcame me. Happiness comes when least expected. It may come when you are sitting under a roof of leaves in Madison Square Park, clutching an umbrella with one hand, writing your thoughts down with the other. It may also come when jumping from puddle to puddle, finding your reflection in one of those. It’s an abstract concept but it brings back the memory of a time when everything used to be easier.

Summer Stuff to Do Before Summer Ends in the Big Apple

Let’s face it: It’s August! It’s about time to wrap up the summer-is-so-awesome-posts and start sharing with you what exactly makes this time of the year so exciting. Of course it’s hanging out in the open, drinking sangria under the star-spangled sky, and sauntering the streets without having to be wrapped into a thick winter jacket. While I’d love to elaborate on the second point but don’t have much to say on the third, it is indeed all about the events I am eager to share with you today!

Open-air-concerts have by now been extensively shared and talked about in this blog. Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park still being among one of my favorites. Read more here to find out about the smaller version of the Manhattan event and high-class performers jamming it out onstage, thus making this fest so perfectly quaint. After bringing a Berlin friend here this summer, I was able to impress him after winning a free picnic blanket from Googleplay and introducing him to a group of ten friends who had all gathered around the lawn. While I haven’t been out there too many times this year, I can only recommend going to the Bandshell. A side note: Leave your professional camera at home, they might not let you in depending on the mood of the security guard!

Then, summer stage in Central Park is of course among one of these summer open-air goodies, as well. Music, performances, dancing – all season long and most are for free! But where you should really try to go, once you are in Central Park, are the Shakespeare plays around the Belvedere Castle. Great actors and actresses convey a cultural vibe on stage. The first play I saw was the Merchant in Venice. My friend and I had managed to sneak in at some point in time and followed every scene from the back row. It was great! It’s what you should get on Broadway, only it’s for free and under the blue sky. Make sure you get your ticket either at 6 o’clock in the morning or snag them online before 1 PM. If you go via the online route, you will be randomly chosen out of a selection of a few hundred. If not, make sure to get up earlier and be in the Park by 5:30 AM. Or pretend to be a German tourist, don’t speak any English and sneak in after the break. Hey, works (almost) every time!

Since you are already on the cultural side of life’s finest options, you could also just check out a recital of the Met Opera! For free! No kidding, the renowned opera house actually practices their good stuff before bringing it at a much higher cost to the crowds. And these so-called practices are now open to the public. Their summer round is almost over, but you can definitely still catch a quick peak at Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens on August 9 (today). For more info, go to their Web Site and check out their agenda. They usually run 6 free performances throughout the summer, so make sure to get the best out of it!

More music can be taken in at Madison Square Park. I happened to be there yesterday after work. Didn’t even know of their weekly performances going on until I saw the stage and the list hung next to it. Supposedly yesterday was the last day of their summer series but you can enjoy it all over again next year. The season started out with James Maddock and ended it with chimes from Bettye LaVette. It’s really a pity I didn’t know about this earlier, I could have just stayed late at work and gone directly from there in the past six weeks. I do know for a fact that they build up a huge screen during the US Open and make it viewable to the public. Also a nice event to watch, I find!

After so much music and culture, it’s good to just take a relaxing break and enjoy a movie. If you are up for it, go to Bryant Park around 42nd Street and make sure you bring a picnic blanket and five other friends. This is no joke but I saw a group of 12 people build up their very own Whole Foods picnic in the middle of the park while watching the Robin Hood feature film presented last Monday. If it doesn’t happen in New York, I don’t know where it does. And if you want to stay Brooklyn-bound, you can do the exact same thing every Thursday in Dumbo (yup, Dumb-o, we talked about it). In both locations the movies start when the sun sets, which is usually between 8:30 and 9 PM, depending on the month. They will continue on showing popular films until August 20 & 30, so you can still snag a few good ones before it comes to an end.

Bryant Park Movie Crowd

For further entertainment, please stay exactly where you are. Dumbo also offers free Zumba classes every Sunday afternoon during the months of July and August. Alma from the YMCA teaches it here. Remember my hard-sought fitness and the inevitable post on it? Well, this was also due to Alma and her kick-ass Zumba courses. She is a fun instructor and really likes to challenge the eager hobby dancers. Just be sure you make it there on time, because the class runs from 4 to 5 PM.

Oh and yes, every Monday they do have a reading! Readings are great – you get to know a book and the author in one session. All of this at no cost but taking some time out of your day and listening to the tender words of an aspiring young author. Find yourself at the steps on Pier 1 from 7 to 8 PM to get the most out of Books Beneath the Bridge.

There are so many more things worth mentioning. Union Square kicks off the summer season with a very special program. It features newcomer bands, offers morning yoga, and much more. Check out their Summer in the Square Series to get a full overview. I am afraid their options are almost exhausted, though, since they already start bringing out the really great acts in June.

And you’d think New Yorkers would eventually get bored with the tremendous amount of free fun, but it isn’t so. It’s rather the opposite: We just don’t know what to choose and where to be at what time of the day.
Because aside from all of the open-air events, we have the cultural highlights that are still going on at the side. Such as Restaurant Week. Which has by now fully extended its time frame. Lunch and dinner specials for three weeks straight, who couldn’t take advantage of this great offer? And then of course the all-time classics such as Governor’s Island Jazz Age Festival, which is running its 7th season this year!

You see, from all of these true jewels to choose it becomes mighty hard which one to pick. But I surely hope you will find your way to at least one of these!

10 Things You’d Wish You’d Known Before Coming to New York (Part II)

(continued from Part I)

6) It’s easy to meet people

One thing I always tell newcomers: Go out by yourself! Experience the nightlife, the shows, the concerts – and if you don’t have anyone to join you, then just go alone. It is not like in other cities, where no one will ever talk to you and eye you as a weirdo or outcast. Here, it is easy start a conversation with people, even when you are just nipping on a beer at the bar by yourself. I am not talking about sleazy pick-up lines from desperate men. I am talking about having intellectual talks with either gender. In the beginning, if my friend or roommates did not want to join in to the fun, I found myself torn. Torn between either missing out on the entire fun by staying home and not doing much or mustering all my courage to go out by myself and have the best evening in history. Luckily for me, 99 percent of the times I chose to experience things alone. And ended up meeting new people in a zing. Sometimes I still have to convince myself that going to the museum alone is not the worst case scenario. It’s easy to forget the courage from the past. But the fun experiences have been engraved in my memories and I am happy I can pass this little wisdom on.

7)But it’s hard to find true friends

While meeting new people is no hard feat, it is difficult to stay in touch with these people and form long-lasting relationships. Yeah, you go out a couple of times, put some more experiences on your friendship resume, but in the end it is about the quality time spent with soul mates and so-called friends that make out for a great stay abroad. Unfortunately, New York is known for being a tough town when it comes to relationships and friendships. I so far can count all of the true friends I have ever possessed in this city on one hand. That’s about five, just so you know. And two thirds of these people are not even in the City anymore. The Big Apple can be lonely at times. It can tear you apart from what you thought was so important because it offers constant entertainment. Finding friends that want to and will stay in your life – it’s hard!

8) Possibilities only limited by yourself

There are so many different paths offered, so many different careers to pursue, and so many exotic things to experience. It might become overwhelming and challenging to pick what exactly to opt for at the moment. As mentioned in Point 5, flexibility is easy to live out in NYC. And what is even better: The possibilities that exist are truly only limited to yourself and what you are willing to make out of them. But, since Point 2 and 3 also exist, your mind can sometimes play some vicious tricks on you when it comes to making the right more justifiable decision. I truly believe that this is the city where class and cultural issues are of no prevalence and where you can work yourself from washing dishes to being a millionaire. But of course you will have to work hard towards this goal. And part of this is overcoming your inhibitions and stop worrying about the potential outcomes too much. Sometimes just accepting the current moment is all it takes.

9) You have to get away once in a while

This city is exhausting, overwhelming, loud, crowded, polluted, mean … All reasons to not stay here eternally. But even after 2 and a half years, I have come to find that a little trip elsewhere mostly does big wonders. Just a hop over to Boston or DC on a weekend. Or up to Canada and down to Florida. Maybe even across the state lines to the West Coast. Either way, leaving, if only for a day or two, will set your mind straight and make you breathe more freely. Because breathing sometimes becomes very hard in New York. When everything is not going as planned, it’s best to simply escape for a little bit. “New York is only as good as you can afford to leave” is a valuable saying. Even though you mustn’t be a super-rich prick who drives out to his summer residence in the Hamptons all summer long.

10) You need experience for everything

A portfolio for being a showroom model? References for volunteer work? A resume for waitressing? Yup, the truth! Ridiculous, but the truth. And once again, this leads back to the high competition and art of bullshitting this city so readily offers. I walked into my first bars in the beginning and was already slowed down because I was missing a piece of paper that was utterly useless to the businesses in this city. Experiences all over Germany but no American contact number? What good is it for newcomers to even write it up? Well, they want to know you did something here, and the more experience you can show, the better. This is why it’ s important to keep in touch with every (work-related) contact you ever had, in case they happen to back you up for a specific job. It appears that experience gets your foot in the door, but of course you have to endure several training days and other ordeals until you finally have what you wanted. So even though you might have a fancy resume, you still always have to prove your money’s worth in the end.

Yet, there are numerous other daily hassles I could point out. Don’t ride the subway if a guy across from you is repeatedly rubbing his crotch. Don’t’ get in fights with teenagers that outnumber you and are willing to follow you home. Don’t assume picking your nose in public is acceptable! Ever!

But I will leave it to this Top Ten for now and am expecting you to add more points in your comments starting now…

10 Things You’d Wish You’d Known Before Coming to New York (Part I)

New York – the never-ending mystery. Dreamland to some, playland to others, tough reality to yet the rest. Certain topics are avoided and just never touched upon when outside of the Big Apple. They are called the things you’d wish someone had told you about to prepare you when arriving in this city.
Evidently, no one ever mentioned these to me, so I had to come around and painfully discover them myself. Some of these are fun but others can become annoying at times.

1) You will be broke!

And you might even stay broke for a while. The thing with New York is it’s expensive. Of course everyone knows that certain cities are on average cheaper while others are pricier. But New York allows you an unlimited time of fun – at a high cost. To keep up with this, you will have to spend money. After a few restaurant visits, a few bars, a few clothes, and a few other must-haves, you find yourself having spent 100 percent more than you had in your wallet. My savings had been exhausted only 4 weeks after I came here. Paying first and last month rent for the apartment being one of the most harmless expenses. All of a sudden I had to keep up with everything going on around me. While my former roommate had warned me to take it easy on splurging spending, of course I couldn’t listen in the beginning. So six weeks later I found myself waiting tables and working the bars to get some of the money back. Ouch! But beware, this also applies to tourists. I had friends from Germany who had to fly back earlier than expected because all of their savings were spent within a week or so. Even more Ouch! And what really sucks is that you have to find a way to pace yourself soon, otherwise you won’t make it around to the monthly paycheck.

2) Competition is everywhere!

We have over 8 million people in this city. Obviously, everyone has to make a living. And as many jobs there might be, the quota is limited. Thus, you will compete for everything and everyone. Be it pre-qualifications, languages you speak, people you know – you will have to stand out for some reason or another to not sink into the faceless crowd of losers. It can be tough. At times I had three different interviews on one day for jobs I would have never accepted otherwise. Luckily, I was never offered the positions I felt uneasy about. I also tried myself at modeling once and was face to face with a transvestite looking man girl individual who caught the attention with her flamboyant appearance. At times I am so exhausted of competing, I am voluntarily succumbing myself to the faceless crowd just to get some peace of mind.

3) Everyone is bullshitting!

Consequently, since everyone is competing against everyone, you have to possess the art of bullshitting. Think about a few reasons why your education, your home, your face, your nose, your voice, your who-cares-what is a thousand times better than that of others, and you are on your best way in deceiving yourself. Hopefully also deceiving others. I once read a freshly pressed on Everyone is faking it. The author had it to the point what is so prevalent in this city: No one knows what the heck they are really talking about but everyone knows how to sell themselves successfully. After taking the wrong directions from a 6-year-old who had confidently described me the way, I had enough of this nonsense. Sometimes I just long back to the times and cultures where honesty is valued and where admitting one’s wrong-doing is defined as strength rather than a weakness. Where you aren’t humiliated when you don’t know a certain thing but where people readily explain to you what exactly you have to do next.

4) Everyone is jealous!

After competing and bullshitting so hard, you think you’ve won the battle? Wrong! You will have to deal with everyone being jealous about everything you do, have, know, and possess. It starts with girls eyeing you on the train to the point where you angrily glance over and they smile because they have achieved what they want. Or the friends others want to grab away from you because they think they are much cooler than you. Not to mention the salary you make in comparison to your coworker. It doesn’t matter that they agreed to these terms in the beginning, now that they’ve worked there for ten days surely they must be entitled to the same. Jealousy is an underlying current in this city and it is not so evident when you are only here for a few weeks. But after the initial honey moon period you start noticing some really evil looks you get if you are dressed up but no reaction at all when you are dressed down.

5) You can be flexible!

Finally a positive aspect! New York has offered me one of those rare moments I’ve seldom had anywhere else: I can be what I want and no one will give a darn! It doesn’t matter if I decide to go underground for a bit, because I know that in a few weeks or months from now I can be the shining star on the horizon again. In Germany, things are more rigid. Your life path is seems to be set in stone; you are more urged to choose a career suddenly, whether you like it or not. While experimentation is accepted it is not necessarily embraced by everyone. Here, on the contrary, the more you’ve done the better. The more flexible you are in your schedules, the more you are viewed as a great match. The more interesting hobbies and passions you have, the more likely it is to be regarded as a hot shot. Of course it always depends in which business you are getting yourself into. I just feel that here I can truly experiment with many careers, try out new and exciting things, and still be regarded as a serious match when it comes to job hunting. But beware: While flexibility can certainly equal freedom, at the same time it can also create burn-out and pressure.

Exploring Beaches: Far Rockaway in Queens!

It’s August! Already! And after so much talk about the one and only Coney Island I found it to be at order to mention another fine beach of New York: Far Rockaway or the Rockaways!

Briefly touched upon on Ocean, Sand, and Fun, I have now had more time to extensively explore the (unlimited) possibilities offered out in Queens. This year as well as last, Far Rockaway has been my go-to choice, especially after the month of June has passed. Coney Island and Brighton Beach might be easier accessible by public transportation but this also brings one huge disadvantage with it: Many people go there. Huge crowds equal a more disgusting environment, especially when you are talking about a public place. After catching a nasty rash after swimming in the murky waters of Coney, I decided it was time to spend an extra hour on the train to get a beach that is still decently clean. Ergo, a trip to Far Rockaway became a must!

The best way to get there is if you hop on the A-train towards Queens. And here is where it could get tricky: 3 different A-trains lead to Queens! Make sure you don’t enter the one that goes to Lefferts Boulevard. This will catapult you to a housing area nowhere close to the water. If you hop onto the one leading up to Far Rockaway, be aware that you are approaching the numbers B67th St and less. If you are in the one riding up to The Rockaways (very similar in names) you are approaching the numbers B90th and up. There is no train between B67th and B90th St but the distance is easily walkable.
If you happen to be on A-Train number 2 and want to go to the higher numbered streets, get off at Broad Channel to catch a Shuttle towards the Rockaways.

As you can tell, many ways lead to the same destination. B67th Street is designed towards surfing and surfers. A separated area has been designated for the sports freaks and two great surf schools. I had the chance to take a lesson myself last summer and it was a blast. This summer I have been quite busy during the weekends and not been at the beach as many times as I would like to. My tan is practically non-existent and my bathing suits are dusting in the closet.

So yesterday was one of those rare occasions I took the train up to the shore again. It turned out to be a fantastic day! Past the surfer boys and girls, I found a nice spot right next to the lifeguards around 70th St. I always plant my colorful yellow-orange towel and hideous Whole-Foods-beach-bag next to those folks whenever I am by myself. It’s the best way to make sure your stuff does not get stolen by random thugs. Certain gigolos also do not see a reason to bother you with annoying flirt approaches once you are next to these red and orange coated heroes.

Today I even got to talk with two of them while they were routinely checking up on swimmers not getting too close to the rocks. “Last week we pulled some surfers away from those” one explains. “I cut my leg and another lifeguard was badly injured when his shoulder hit the rocks and was sliced open.” He bends down to proudly show me his battle wounds and then goes on. “Them surfers who take the lessons once or twice and then go out there with their own boards are the ones we have to look out for! They don’t have the experience and underestimate the currents.”

I also learn that a beginning lifeguard gets paid $13.50/h when starting out, with chances to increase up to $17.00/h depending on experience and years of service. Not bad for 8 hours of summer work, enjoying the outdoors and tanning non-stop. “I might have to consider working there next summer,” I thought, as the two guards ran off to help a child in the water.

The ocean behaves differently out there. While Coney Island is protected in its bay-shaped area, the Rockaways are open, letting huge waves form, especially towards the end of the summer. You also find more crabs here that like to pinch your foot if you stand in one spot for too long when being in the water.

Brooklyn has a flamboyant beach culture with is cheerful Luna Park and other fantastic rides, not to mention restaurants and bars right next to the action. In comparison, Queens’ beach culture is more subtle and evidently more relaxed. Of course you have some spots right on the boardwalk. If you walk up to 86th St you can grab your first set of burgers and even listen to a band jamming it out on Saturday afternoon. Walk up ten more blocks and around 96th St you have 5 different food joints catering to the needs of the hungry beach folks. My friends and I happened to stop by here sometime in June. After a taco dish, ice cream, glazed fruits and a plastic cup filled with beer, we had thought this to be one of the best beach days in New York.

Turns it the food is way better only two blocks down. I am talking about the one and only Rockaway Taco. Hyped by the press (see an article in the Times on this) and of course word-to-mouth propaganda, this little shack has become a big shot within the past two to three years. As a lifeguard nostalgically remembers, the menu used to consist of “two items and I kept the small square in my pocket”. Now they added quesadillas, chips and guac, corn and cukes, and a few other items to their initial selection of fish tacos. While the tacos cannot motivate me to go there another time, the quesadilla is very good and the Mexican corn was also satisfying enough. Hopefully I’ll be able to try out more of their choices before the summer comes to an end. Of course the line can get crazy busy during certain peak times. I found 7 PM on a Saturday night to be a great hour to stop by. It only took me 5 minutes of waiting and then I was happily munching away. Yesterday I went around 5:30 PM and had to wait altogether a good 15 mins until I had the food in my lap. Luckily, they offer an outdoors area with benches and more Taco nuts to meet.

But there are other places right next to it, such this sammich place and ice cream shack.

the menu…

the outdoor seating area
…the food!

I am sure there is so much more to explore but as of now, these are the places I was able to check out. I am curious to see what the local bars are made of and I am eager to try out more dishes around the block. It is a splendid location for swimming, tanning, and socializing and at this time of the year it makes out for the better alternative to the overcrowded Coney Island. Let’s just hope this area will not become as hipsterised as Williamsburg and Bushwick already have…

To read more about Surfing at Far Rockaway go here.
To see pictures on Surfing at Far Rockaway, go here.
To be creative go to How to Handcraft Your Own Shell Necklace.