Photo A Day: Decembeer 28 to the End

It’s a new year and the only remnant I am carrying over from 2012 is the photo challenge created by Liz from Be.Love.Live. Those last 4 pictures from December 28 to 31 are best to express how I must have felt during this past week. Liz has announced that she will not partake in any other challenges come 2013 and has not created another list for January. I myself have no desire to catch up with any other PhotoADay’s again, and therefore, will continue without a picture challenge this month.

[rolemodel]

dec28

What you see here are New Yorkers, some of which have become a true role model after living here for 2 and a half years. “Everyone trynna make it, everyone trynna shake it in a city this big!”

It always fascinates me how resilient New Yorkers are and how nothing can put them down. I wasn’t here during 9/11 but I witnessed how this city was turned upside down during hurricane Sandy. The chaos, the stress, the victims, and the lack of power – we made it through all of it and even more.
I once read a quote that it doesn’t matter if you dropped off the bus or I’ve you been here for years, you are a New Yorker from the moment you first set foot here.

I believe this is very true. You don’t necessarily have to earn your right to be a New Yorker but you do have to earn your weeks and days and hours to become someone people can look up to. I therefore cherish this picture and all the anonymous people in it for the inspiration they bring to me every day and the great memories they have created in the past.

[nature]

dec29

The day it snowed again. Or rather: Finally! I am beginning to fear that those pricy snow boots I bought two months ago will never be utilized when it comes to global warming affecting another New York winter. I am unsure whether or not this should make me sad or happy, for I still have the pictures in mind when we did have one snow day after another during the brutal time of 2010/2011.

However, on this particular day, it was snowing. It didn’t stick but it caused a blurry vision onto the streets of the East Village. The smoke rising from the middle of the road is from one of those multiple man holes that eject steam during pretty much any time of the year. It’s one of those “phenomena” that first make you stop if you are not used to it but then belongs to the city’s landscape like the array of skyscrapers do.

[memories]

dec30

The fond memories of a day spent at Fortt Tilden during late summer. I don’t think I will be returning this summer, as the area was completely devastated by Sandy. But I enjoy looking back at all I have accomplished last year and cannot wait to hit up the beach 5 months from now. The countdown is on!

[me]

dec31 - me

Self-portrait taken on New Year’s Eve. Ready to go to Manhattan and sit with friends having a get-together. It was nothing too fancy but nothing too boring either, just one of those evenings you need to say good-bye to a year and start another one. Lots of prosecco and home-made snacks. And a stunning view onto the disco-lit scene of the Empire State Building.

With this I am finally letting go of the old and welcoming 2013! I Hope you had a happy new year!

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My 2012 Year in Blogging

Rolling out of bed to see that the WordPress.com stats helpers have prepared my 2012 annual report for German-American Abroad. What a great comparison they have come up with!

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 14,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 3 Film Festivals.
In 2012, there were 129 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 230 posts.

I never even thought about comparing the quantity of my blog views to movies submitted to 3 film festivals at once. I am flattered by all the traffic I’ve gotten and how this blog has grown to reach more and more people around the globe.

A year in blogging has brought me closer to other writers and photographers. It has opened up new worlds to me and and endless opportunities to re-connect in creative way on the Internet. I am happy to still be a part of the WordPress community and look forward to every day a new post is created.

I want to take my time and thank every single one of you followers for being faithful and sticking to my writings, for contributing with likes and comments to several ideas this blog has expressed, and for still dropping by every day.

Happy New Year! Happy 2013! To another successful 365 days of blogging and sharing!

‘Tis the Season: SantaCon in NYC 2012

6 SantaCon 2012

‘Tis the season! The season of giving, being merry, and acting drunk! Or swarming in a crowd of festive Santas singing “Ho Ho Ho” through Manhattan and Brooklyn.

This year’s SantaCon was a highlight to me in many ways: First, instead of only blogging about how thousands of happy Santa Clauses ran through Manhattan, I was actually part of the entire fun. Second, I got to wear a costume around Christmas time, something I have never done before in my entire life. Third, the pre-Karneval feeling and daytime drinking catapulted me back to the days when I was roaming the streets as a teenager in Germany and being merry for no reason other than hanging out with friends.

But all from the beginning:

Two weeks before the event was to go down, my friend, who just moved to New York and therefore rightfully earns the badge of “Newcomer 2012” had the exorbitant idea of being part of one of the biggest events going on at this time of year. I myself had secretly already given up hope on ever being part of the so-called SantaCon party – mostly for the lack of knowing the right kind of people who wanted to go out with me. However, this year was a bit different. This year we actually took our time to go from store to store, on the look-out for a cute Santa Clause or elf costume that would not cost an arm and a leg burn a deep hole into our wallets.

7 SantaCon 2012

I really have to say, that among all of those very original reds and whites, in the end so original that they all look too alike from far far away, it was rather hard to find anything under $50. But after seeing the men’s choices (an entire Santa suit for no less than 200 bucks), we felt slightly relieved that we are lucky to call ourselves girls and simply come up with our own style in case all means fail. Somehow along the way of posing for a picture for a Lindt chocolate promotion and snagging free dessert, I finally found a decent elf shirt for only 10 dollars while my friend decided to go with a simply Santa hat in combination with a red shirt. Voila, that part of our mission was fulfilled, and quite inexpensively I dare say.

A few hours prior to December 15, more friends suddenly announced that this year indeed they had to be part of the one and only SantaCon. Had we known before, we could have possibly planned our encounters a bit better. But planning is for the boring people and since we’re flexible, I decided to meet up with a group in the early afternoon already. SantaCon runs from 10 AM to 10 PM, so 2 PM seemed like the perfect time to start day-time drinking, I told myself.

I didn’t know which bars were part of the entire shivaree, so I was lucky to have friends who were better informed and evidently followed the meticulous route starting out in Midtown. First stop: Playwright bar around the corner of Herald Square. But as soon as I got there, sober as can be, I discovered that none of us were really in the mood to push through the ridiculously overcrowded bar. After half an hour of entertainment outside, it was time to go to the next stop: Little Town Bar around Union Square. Here the same problem: More drunk people hanging inside and outside the bars, causing a bunch of chaos but not so much fun!

You’d think this might be hard to digest on a still alcohol-empty stomach. We therefore spontaneously decided to pre-game in the mild outsides with a bottle of whiskey and a ginger ale. Divide this by three people and you certainly have a party going on already. So off we went, to the back-up and much less crowded but still Santa-filled location called Bar 13. Here a DJ was spinning the wheels with mostly electronic music. Happy elves and red-hats were jumping around, all immersed in the fun and game. Sober friends who joined us regretted not having brought their own bottle of booze. But we were friendly enough to share the remnants of ours with them.

Very original costumes here: Santa's best eggnog, Elf, and Christmas tree
Very original costumes here: Santa’s best eggnog, Elf, and Christmas tree
Mirrored Ceiling of Bar 13
Mirrored Ceiling of Bar 13

The last stop was scheduled to be in Williamsburg, where the Warsaw was supposed to end the entire shirade. We never really made it there. First we lost two-thirds of our group while using the restroom at Best Buy at Union Square. While we had thought it would be a great idea to wait on them, we decided to already jump on the L-train and make our voyage over to Brooklyn.

Three lost SantaConers at the Charleston
Three lost SantaConers at the Charleston

And indeed, we were the very first costumized people to make it to the Charleston, a bar on Bedford Avenue. Here we were craving some free house-made pizza (order a drink and get your pie) after a day filled with dancing and running around Manhattan. Then we slowly crawled over to Berry Park but found there were too many Santas inside to make us feel important. As we crossed the corner to Matchless, we finally ran across the rest of our 7 people we had previously lost. They had certainly waited for us at the one and only Best Buy in Manhattan but failed to check their cell phones (Stupidity, ignorance, or drunkenness? Who knows!) in order to find out we were long gone. On the downside, they had even made it all the way to the Warsaw but refused going inside after the bouncers demanded a $10 cover charge for everyone who wanted to rightfully celebrate SantaCon. The Matchless let us in for free, drinks were cheap and dancing was only partially prohibited. Shortly before the day changed over to the 16th it was time to call it a night. Almost ten hours of celebration came to an end and I would not have wanted to miss out on it again!

Celebrating until the early morning hours
Celebrating until the early morning hours

And for all of those posting nasty messages a la “the Santa I remember never puked on the L-Train” : Stop hating and be part of it next year, when it’s once again: SantaCon in New York City!
And with costumes ranging from Santa hat over Eggnog to Christmas tree, you shouldn’t have a hard time finding something you feel comfortable with!

[To read about last year’s SantaCon post, go here!]

Dealing with Sandy’s Aftermath: A Week of Chaos

A dark Lower Manhattan in Sandy’s Aftermath

This week is slowly coming to a close. However, the wounds caused by the hurricane that hit New York, New Jersey, and other states are still wide open. The full extent of the storm was well hidden to us at the time of the last two posts.

Wednesday morning I was supposed to report back to work. Such as thousands of other people all throughout the 5 boroughs. Since the trains were not functioning, our job asked us to take our own cars or cabs they would reimburse us for. Flagging down a taxi proved to be harder for everyone else, except for me. I had one down in only 5 minutes. Seeing the traffic all around the Barclay’s Center made me feel a bit queasy. And trying to get out of Brooklyn was simply hell. Driving over the Manhattan Bridge was almost a piece of cake compared to the bumper-to-bumper scenario in downtown Brooklyn and before.

We drove through a somewhat less lively but nonetheless depressing Chinatown. Unkempt people, no matter what ethnicity, waiting in a long line for the bus to Uptown. Students trying to get a ride out of this city. Then the ghost town of the West Village and the rest of Chelsea. A family with two small girls, evidently not having taken a shower in days, with desperate looks in their eyes and even sadder expressions while waiving their hands for a cab. An angry woman shaking her fist at us because I was the only passenger in an otherwise empty cab.

After one hour I was finally in Midtown – way sooner than most of my coworkers. The horror stories from them piled up one by one: People from Queens were stuck in traffic for up to 2 1/2 hours before they made it to work. Other Brooklynites paid 75 bucks for a 2-hour cab ride which would have cost them 20 bucks max under normal circumstances.

That one morning by itself was the beginning of an endless frustration reaching throughout the entire week. The Empire State Building had its power up, alright, thanks to its own generators and what-nots. However, ConEd had turned off the heating. We sat bundled up in our winter coats, trying to get some work done and being hit over the head when pictures from Staten Island, Breezy Point, and New Jersey reached us through the online news. A heartbreaking story of a coworker who had lost his house and car all in one night. Another who was scraping sewage water remnants from her basement walls. And yet another stuck without electricity in Staten Island.

Traffic in Brooklyn on Thursday

It turned out that a total of four people lived in Brooklyn, and since we were pretty much all on the same route (Park Slope and Sunset Park), a coworker with a car volunteered to drive us to and from work until the day the subway was running again. While driving down the FDR, we passed the East Village, or rather, the depressing sight of ultimate darkness of what had once resembled a carousel ride.

On Thursday, subways resumed partial service to Uptown Manhattan and from Queens to the City (stopping at Times Square). Brooklyn was still cut off from Manhattan. The MTA started engaging shuttle buses from the Barclay’s Center to Manhattan. The lines were a total chaos: People waited as long as 3 1/2 hours to get onto their “ride.” As we drove past one of those horrendous lines, we saw people lined up around more than 6 blocks. Traffic was still dense in the morning. Police officers were checking if the minimum of three passengers per car was met. Whoever had less persons was asked to pick up waiting hitchhikers on the side of the bridges or to turn around and not enter Manhattan.

We decided to evade “rush hour” traffic and drive home at 3 o clock already. A wise decision. Subways started resuming service throughout Brooklyn, but still not into Manhattan. The buses were still a complete chaos. Much more pedestrians than usual could be found on the bridge throughout this entire week. Horror stories from the working subway lines in Queens were discussed at work: People were fighting over seats and shoving others from the benches. Passengers were smashed against the train windows but at least they had gotten on.

The updated MTA map that was valid until Saturday

More stories from residents of Lower Manhattan made the round: Supposedly their Uptown brothers and sisters denied them access when they went into hotels and asked if they could at least charge their phones. The discrepancy between this city sometimes still baffles me: Only one block over and it could have been you without power for 5 long days, 40th Street!

On Friday, the ESB started having problems with electricity in certain rooms. Our Internet gave up. We basically were simply incapable of doing our work because of these technical issues. Electronic heaters were bought and put into our offices so that we could take our winter coats off. It was pretty much a wasted day.

Horror news of a snow storm hitting us next week made the round. All of Lower Manhattan was still darkened out then. I started asking friends if they knew someone who was still stuck there and that they should get out before the second storm hits. Work asked a few people to come in on Saturday, only if the power and Internet was working again, of course. When I told my friends, everyone was shocked. In a state of chaos, we need a weekend without having to go through the excruciating pains get to Manhattan. Everyone needs these two days off to recover from the bad news, the frustration, and the shock that surrounded everyone who had to return to work and go through disastrous traffic or deal with half of New York still being out of power.

Traffic jams everywhere

Another crisis was slowly creeping up on us: The gas shortage! When we drove home once again on the last workday of this week, we found a line of up to ten blocks long leading from the Brooklyn Bridge all the way to Atlantic Avenue. People must have been waiting for hours already! The news reported a man pulling a knife at someone cutting the line at a gas station in Queens. We had enough of this chaotic week and just wanted to be left alone with our own worries, not having to bother with getting to and fro the City.

It also happened to be my friend’s birthday yesterday, so I ended up walking those 1 1/2 hours from the Slope to Williamsburg. Since the cabs were now charging outrageous fees due to the gas shortages, I tried a bus first, but two crowded ones drove by without even halting. After 30 minutes I had enough. As it was still early in the evening, I made it to the isolated part of Brooklyn safe and sound. A short stint past the famous Marcy Avenue Projects, but it was still early at night. At the same time, power was restored in almost all of Lower Manhattan. From over half a million households, now only 5,000 are left powerless. What a true wonder ConEd performed last night! The happy Facebook posts on my friends’ walls were endless and heartbreaking at the same time.

And then this morning finally some more good news: The 4 and 5 were the first subway lines to go all the way from Brooklyn through Manhattan to the Bronx! Hourly updates poured in: The Q to be restored by the afternoon, the 2 and 3 by tomorrow. The D up and running on Sunday. Now the only trains that are missing are mostly in Williamsburg: The G and L lines will most likely take until sometime next week to function properly again. The L is underground and all the tunnels have been flooded. Seeing pictures on the Gothamist really makes me appreciate that at least a few subway lines are up in the running this weekend. I will not yet take advantage of them but hope to get to work on Monday that I have more options than a car or a cab.

New York finally announced that they won’t hold their marathon this coming Sunday. One of the sanest pieces of news I have heard do so far in this matter. It had caused a lot of disgruntlement and even hatred when it came to this topic. How could a marathon be carried out when Staten Island, Manhattan and other parts were still struggling to digest what had happened to their destroyed homes? Luckily, hypocrisy did not prevail, even though Bloomberg’s initial argument was that the marathon would bring in hundreds of millions of dollars revenue… So everyone who flew out to run can help as a volunteer if he or she really wants to support this city!

What is the situation right now? The gas shortage and frustration connected to it still persists and most likely will for a long time. While Manhattan is almost restored to its old self, the often forgotten and in this case even neglected borough of Staten Island is struggling to keep up with restoration. New Jersey, Long Island and Westchester are mostly still powerless and have no heated water. Whenever this will be back to normal – who knows!

Currently I am simply thankful for living in one of the lucky areas and having had the option of a ride to and from the city. The initial state of frustration is giving way to depression and sadness at all the damage caused in this city. We survived but the wounds are still fresh and nowhere closed to being healed.

9/11/2012: On Top of Manhattan

Today is the day. Today is a very special day. Not only for New York. Today is different for the rest of the world as well. There aren’t too many of these days, come to think about it. But for some reason everyone I’ve known can recall where they were when the catastrophe happened. Exactly on this date 11 years ago two airplanes piloted by Al Quaida crashed into the towers of the World Trade Center, causing both buildings to collapse and burying more than 3,000 victims in the shards of the unthinkable. The stories, the documentaries, the recapses – all of this took years of processing until the world finally knew the truth. Or rather the details of the circumstances.

I still remember when I heard about it. It was exactly 3:20 PM in Germany, when an announcement on the radio caught my attention. I was 14 back then, occupied with doing my homework at my desk. At first I couldn’t believe that the collision had indeed occurred. When I walked downstairs to our TV and saw the live pictures, it started sinking in that something horrible must have indeed happened. We still went to choir as if nothing special had come about. But that Tuesday will always be engraved in my memory.

And when I moved to New York, I was under the impression that this city must be holding this one day in a very special memory. Two years ago was my first 9/11 in New York. I was excited to walk through the streets and see what was going on. “What do you expect to see?” my former roommate asked me. “There will certainly not be a parade to commemorate the 3,000 people who died in the collision!” True, perhaps I had expected just that. A joyful parade or a mournful parade. Pretty much anything that involves a lot of people sharing their thoughts on the event.

I was severely disappointed. A band was playing at Bryant Park. The chapel in the Financial District had more than the usual amount of visitors. But that was pretty much it. No evening ceremony, no group of people hunched together, no national anthem. It could have been just another normal weekend day here in Manhattan. And then last year, even though I wasn’t here, my friend told me about unexciting occurrences happening throughout the city on the ten year anniversary. True, Obama paid Ground Zero a visit and opened up the 9/11 Memorial (read more about it here). A few press had gathered here and there. But still nothing too special.

I am starting to believe that people from outside of New York hold this day in different memory. They mourn it, they talk about it, they openly discuss what can be discussed from so far away. Everyone thinks that this city will make a big fuss out of that one day in September. But they were not here and the date is easy to forget if you are not surrounded by the ruins daily, when you are not close to the site of demolition.

Manhattan with the Freedom Tower at the far end

So today, while I was working and walking around, I started to realize: This city will never forget. And it is surely not ready to forgive. 9/11 is not held in thought publicly like Memorial Day or other sad occasions. It’s been 11 years. The deceased still have family and loved ones they left behind. The wounds of this particular date gape wide open, as was seen in personal pieces exhibited at the 9/11 Memorial. Or the heartbreaking engravings of the deceased at the two ponds.

People lost their husbands, their wives, their sons, their daughters, their fathers, their mothers, their siblings, their friends – in short: somebody who meant a lot to them. So while the rest of America updates their Facebook statuses with the national flag and tips its hat at the shocking occurrences and the yearly anniversary, New York is silently mourning. It is grieving the loss of not only the people but also the significant landmarks. The jobs and the dreams that were connected to the World Trade Center. The tallest buildings of the Big Apple, the Financial Twins, and Yamasaki’s most famous creations.

No, this city is not able to forget and, least to say, heal. Every year so far I have seen more and more ads when taking the subway. These advertisements picture people who have health problems because of the pollution done to the air. Asthma, panic attacks, minor intoxication – just a few of the smaller issues that have turned into bigger ones over the years. While the rest of the world shuts its eyes for 364 days of the year and remembers the day only once a year, New Yorkers have been living with the tragedy and its side effects ever since. Even people like me, who are not natives to the city and who haven’t been around when it happened, can feel that no one is in the mood to talk about when the topic arises.

View from the Observatory at the Empire State Building

So I went on top of the Empire State Building today. I wanted to see how the Freedom Tower fits into the Manhattan skyline and I wanted to take the City in on this exclusive day of the year. A few hundred other tourists thought the same, but I was not bothered. It was nice. And while I walked towards my apartment in Brooklyn, I saw the Freedom Tower point a very strong light beam into the sky. The blue ray illuminated everything. I couldn’t help but think that this is New York’s way of remembering 9/11: Through the dark there shines a light and touches everything and everyone around it. While this city has been touched and will be touched in further decades to come, it will never forget that one day in September when its two twins were crushed eternally.

Where were you when it happened?

Fake Glamour and Cheap Wine: The Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

Thursday was the start of another famous event here in New York. It was Fashion’s Night Out, marking the beginning of a one-week-episode during which fashion gurus take over this city. More and more cities have started FNO, which is basically the first night of Fashion Week, initiating models, designers, celebrities and everybody else to flock the streets, go shopping, or simply celebrate the advent of one of the most popular events in the industry. Of course the Big Apple is one of the leading milestones when it comes to nice dresses, bulimic tall and slim models, and arrogant sophisticated designers.

I am usually not into this industry, even though I occasionally have fun trying myself out as a model (not runway, of course). Just by crossing the streets in this town or riding the subway, I have encountered many people who can be described as “interesting” at best and “shocking” at worst. For example a guy with a very eccentric, white-fur winter jacket one morning in January. Or the girl with the shortest skirt and skinniest legs I have ever seen. Many models come here to make a living but I am not sure what the average quota of success is. I can only imagine that strutting down a runway in a popular show must be as amazing but arbitrary as landing a hit as a teenage singer.

When I came to New York I’ve vowed to be part of as many events as possible. Fashion Week makes it hard for the average traveler to get a glimpse of the most wanted shows because most of the time you need an invitation. How do you get these invitations? You need to know someone in the industry and you should make sure he/ she becomes your best friend during this time period. Some shows allow for tickets but these are seldom the ones you want to see. Lots of private fashion shows are going on in random places, such as a rented cathedral next to Grand Central. These shows are in adherence to Fashion Week but they are not in the main location, which is the Lincoln Center. Whatever goes down there is where you want to be as a fashion fanatic!

I was still rooming with the Belarusians back then. One of them was working for a French fashion brand in Chelsea. She had already indicated that she might be able to snag two invitations off her boss who had connections to Haute Couture designers. So one Thursday in February of 2011 I get a text shortly before my shift at work is over. “Come on over to the Lincoln Center! You have to be here by 6 PM otherwise doors will close” was the short and demanding text from her. I was so surprised, I didn’t know how to react at first.

Then I raced down to the subway, sprinted home, threw over a nice dress, tried it with some make-up, ran back to the subway station and somehow made it on the A-train to Columbus Circle. A short walk to the Lincoln Center and I was standing in front of a building that didn’t give anything away. No fancy models or celebrities outside, only some lone photographers. The action was clearly inside. Here it was that the other roomie greeted me and together we walked towards the entrance of the show. A line had already formed, reaching around a few corners. Somehow people were still expecting to buy their way in if a few ticketholders were willing to sell their cards or if some spots turned out to be empty. Along the waiting masses a few tables with free wine had been built up and the audience was able to drink before watching the show.

The Belarusian came out just in time and handed us two printed out forms. Not very glamorous, I thought, before being ushered through the white doors. We stood in a relatively small room with a few hundred other people, all standing and chatting away. The room was completely white. On the side tribune-like benches had been built up to accommodate the viewers. On a cue, the light dimmed and everyone stopped what they were doing to take a seat. The photographers built up their equipment to the left of us, right in camera shot of the runway. We were sitting with other coworkers of the Belarusian and tried to keep a straight face. Whatever you see on TV, seat-wise and room-wise, is pretty much what reality looks like. The furniture is spartanic and fulfills only one purpose: Presenting the show and then getting the people out of there.

Photographers in action

Loud music started playing; the light was completely turned off by now. I had the feeling I was in an underground club.

Suddenly a spotlight turned on, casting light on the first model walking down the runway. She wore Naeem Khan’s collection elegantly, posing here and there in front of the cameras and then strutting back. Not all models did their job as well. Among the beautiful dresses and exotic make-up I had a hard time recognizing the persons underneath the masks. Hollow eyes looked straight ahead when their turn was up, most of which did not have a personality at all.

Naeem Khan Fashion Show

“Designers really do use their models only as a better piece of equipment” I thought. I felt my skin cringe when I saw the bony back of one of the girls. Bulimia and anorexia must still be an issue, even after the new “guidelines” of model types had been introduced. I didn’t feel too comfortable seeing the sickish girls and had a hard time focusing on the dresses. It put a damper on things but most people in the room must have been used to it. They were able to admire the dresses and to clap once the designer Naeem came out. An Indian native who had made it to the top through hard work and the right connections in this industry. A total of 40 dresses for the autumn/winter collection of 2011 were introduced in his show and I have no doubt they were successfully sold out that night.

The after party included free wine. It certainly was not the expensive stuff but two glasses of red fulfilled their purpose. We were introduced to a funky looking couple of dancers and more fun people. Not everyone at Fashion Week is stuck up but you do have the occasional eccentric. Such as the girl who wore wings and was walking through the crowd, oblivious to the fact that they bothered people who were struck by them.

I enjoyed being part of it but I don’t really have too much motivation to go back. It’s one of those events where once you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. Unless you are a true fashion fanatic and want to check up on the newest (and most beautiful) fashion, then this is just the right place for you to be. For New York will represent the best of the best of the best – that’s a promise!

[Author’s note: Excuse the horrible image quality! I had to take screenshots from an old video I uploaded and that’s what it turned out to look like. Unfortunately I don’t have the pictures anymore due to a bad hardware problem with my old computer… BOOOH!]

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)

The Euro 2012: New York in the Front Rows!

Jubilant crowds of people jumping up and down, making the bar shake and the waiters despair. Five different tricots watching a game of two teams. Many versions of why the winning team was on top but in the end the fun factor determined how great the game had been.

It’s been a month and I still haven’t had the chance to blog about it. The Euro Cup from June 8 to 30 was a wonderful time for New York to demonstrate how embracing this city is towards European soccer. The bars were eager to show how willing they are to accommodate a large mass of viewers. Many fellow citizens couldn’t wait for their favorite team to win, or at least try to win. All throughout the month of June there was a total of 31 matches being carried out on large screens here in the entire city.

Two years ago the World Cup had already channeled a great interest throughout the New York, with more and more bars showing the games on their screens the more they saw how interested the drinking masses were throughout the four weeks of the tournament. Back then I was still working in a bar, so I had the perfect view on every other event and was able to follow every tedious move of the teams. I had a great time watching the rest of the games in the German Loreley in the Lower East Side or the Austrian Blaue Gans in Tribeca. While the German spot was at times way too overcrowded for us to move more than a few inches and was horded by a moody bouncer who wanted to kick me out for smuggling in a bottle of water (Hello? Dehydration?), the Austrian place was depressingly calm during the final match despite a humorous bartender from Düsseldorf. Yes, the World Cup had definitely been an event the first time around and the Euro was soon to follow in the footsteps of its big brother.

Bars were in it again this time. But surprisingly I was able to find even small joints, such as Bark Hotdogs or other “fast-food” places showing the games on a wide-screen set in their spot. More and more people were participating and this year the American team was not even part of the tourney. Not that it mattered much; most American viewers tend to be on the side of any other country but their own. Italy and Spain always being a favorite, it seems. But also Germany was among the top of the notch when it came to jubilant screams and cheering from the American side. With glowing eyes they witnessed how Deutschland won against Denmark. But with angry and sad faces they saw the same team depart when it came to the Germany losing against Italy in the all-or-nothing match right before the finals.

Viewing at Barks Hotdogs

I had the chance to see a total of 7 games throughout the entire season. Of course some German games had been amiss, especially the beginning ones. Work did not grant me off, unfortunately. The entry game I indeed watched at Bark’s Hotdogs. I remember it well, as I was just recovering from my first summer flu and walked into the joint, wondering what all the noise was about. A veggie burger and soccer – a great way to start viewing the Euro Cup, I find.

Other viewings soon followed. Most were indeed just around the corner from where I live, in Fort Greene and our now favorite sports bar called Mullanes. The American-Irish pub miraculously always had two seats open for my friend and me. After a brunch, which usually consisted of a choice between (veggie) burger and fries or egg dishes, we went ahead and enjoyed what little was left of the game. Sometimes the bartender was entertaining enough, especially in the beginning, but of course towards the end of the season the bar got more and more packed, leaving less room to swing over some well-mixed Bloody’s. Yes, we had a fun time in this bar and I can only recommend it to other sports freaks as the screens are of great quality and dispersed throughout the pub.

Which I cannot say of the Blarney Rock Pub around Penn Station, to which I had snuck out on a typical work day (lunch, of course!). During the losing match between Germany and Italy I had been switching from screen to screen, in a desperate attempt to find a TV without a grainy or a shaking picture. Finally, I found a niche filled with other Germans in the last five minutes (including) overtime and was able to witness the single goal Deutschland managed to shoot to defend their position throughout the game. Yes, it was quite depressing, this day, but perhaps not as depressing as Italy must have felt a few days later in the final game. dirty-laugh

The best experience I had (aside from some Mullanes’ viewings) must have been in the humongous Radegast Hall & Biergarten over in Williamsburg. I was with a huge group of German people and already too drunk to say more than “meh.” Their screen was good, the viewers fair, and altogether this memorable Sunday afternoon made out for a great day which ended hopelessly drunk in the streets of the Burg (Note to self: Do not drink superstrong Bloody’s at Juliette’s before going out for the Euro Cup!).

Viewing at the Radegast

So yes, the Euro in New York: It has been a wide success. And if you’re thinking the average crowd consisted of Europeans mixed with a few Americans, you are mighty wrong in this assumption. I would say the average crowd consisted of 75 percent of Americans and the rest was a mix of South and Central Americans and Europeans. I had Americans explain the term “offsides” to me in a more comprehensive way than any German guy has ever managed to blurb out so my respect for this type of crowd has grown over the past two years. And while Europe is known for its Public Viewing and games under the sparkly blue sky, this approach would simply not be feasible in New York. Thanks to the heat wave and summer (and New York bar laws) it was all shoved in a cool room inside.

Brazil is hosting the World Cup in 2014 and I am already looking forward to it. If I am not here anymore and cannot be in Rio either, I know I will find a good game pretty much anywhere!

The final viewing at Mullanes

Fleet Week 2012 OR A Tour of the USS Wasp


Fleet Week in New York has been over for a good week now already. Time to get this post on before it will be entirely forgotten in the fogginess of my brain.

As in last year (read more here), thousands of navy guys, marines, and coast guard folks came swimming sailing full winds into the City. An average of 6,000 people in uniforms roamed the streets of the Big Apple this year. In 2011 I had been working closer to their ships, so 8th Avenue had been populated with them fairly soon. This year I got to see these three exotics walking past the Empire State Building on 5th Ave towards the Flatiron District.

Air shows over New Jersey and Coney Island, community and park events in Staten Island and Brooklyn, scheduled parades all over the city and state of New York – there has been a fair amount going on in those sweet six days of Fleet Weekishness. All of which I had missed out on, due to work and other beach plans.

Never mind, though, as Sunday was the day I decided to regain responsibility and finally take on Fleet Week 2012. While last year I had strolled Times Square and been part of the music-eager crowd listening to random navy pals giving mediocre but fun concerts, this year I headed towards the Hudson River. Pier 90, right on 55th St and 12th Avenue, is the spot at which you will walk past the Intrepid and see many of the fleet week boats in harbor – ready to be boarded by the average New Yorkers and other tourists. It was about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I didn’t have much of a choice so I just rowed myself into a random never-ending line, which closed down shortly after (lucky me). As I found out, it belonged to the queue leading to the popular USS Wasp: The ninth one to date and proudly commemorating its eight battle stars earned in WWII.

I usually wouldn’t recommend anyone standing in line for a full 1 ½ hours in the May heat just to get a peak of what’s happening onboard the Navy liner. But in this case it was worth it. I had always been excited to check out what exactly can be found on those boats and after 90 mins of standing, waiting, and drinking tons of water, I was reimbursed for my hard efforts.

We were first seen over a bridge towards the inside belly of the ship. Past the tanks built up in the body and past a wonderfully selected buffet meant for Navy officers and guest list attendees. Up a steep, steep hill (could be dangerous when walking down again) to the events hosted outside under the blue sky. Colorful flags everywhere. Groups of Navy guys and pilots waiting to tell you more about their job. Helicopters you could climb on and get to know the story behind. All of this conveyed with the beautiful Manhattan skyline in the background.

First I just took pictures. Then I went forward and climbed a helicopter. The pilot told me how it had taken him three years to complete the training until he was able to fly this toy. After looking at all the switches and knobs, I wouldn’t doubt the fact that it could take up to a year to understand only the technical part. After entering a small airplane and putting on the seatbelts that wrapped around my entire upper body, I was impressed. A private event must have been hosted later-on in the evening, as a hundred white chairs were neatly arrayed at the far end of the ship and a guy in a white uniform was desperately trying to get the microphone to shut off.

After the stint outside, I managed to crawl get down the steep hill without incident and to check out what was going on downstairs. I stopped to ask a Navy girl if they really had to march down like this every day and she said, yes, unfortunately, but running was prohibited. Good for them, I can see how accidents might happen!

Different sorts of tanks and guns were built up in the body of the ship. Young Marines were explaining how the ball got inside the machine and was catapulted out again. The technical talk on how to kill an enemy might have seemed heartless or shocking to bystanders listening, but then they never grew up with the military and got to see the other facets of this type of life.

Everyone was friendly and eager to help us out if we had questions regarding certain machines or tasks. Especially the Navy officers on the USS Wasp were very forthcoming and seemed to enjoy their day with the normal crowds that had come to the city to see how our wars are fought.

Fleet Week 2012: It always brings this special vibe and national pride to New York – quite astonishing to see how it unravels. One short week of uniformed sailors marching through the streets, and I wish I had done more with it this time. Oh well, I guess I just have to wait it out until next year when it is once again Fleet Week in NYC!

[To see more pictures on Fleet Week, go to Fleet Week 2012 (Round 1) and Fleet Week 2012 (Round 2).]

The Badoo Project Launches in SoHo/New York

SoHo, last week. The Badoo Project has launched on Thursday in New York and has made a dream for (almost) 1000 New Yorkers come true: Being shot by a top photographer and getting an insight into the very first campaign started here in the US. It ended last Saturday and I was among one of the last to get my pictures taken.

The funny thing is that I never knew about this campaign until a friend told me who planned to go there on Friday. The Sunday before I checked out their Web site on http://theproject.badoo.com/ and snagged one of the last few spots for a Saturday arrival.
Badoo had rented out an old loft in SoHo, in the middle of the busiest tourist area ever. When I got there I was greeted by one of Badoo’s employees to first set up my own account. Badoo supposedly is a big thing in Europe already (even though I myself have never heard of it, guess it never made it to Germany!). It is an online platform for social networking meant from all walks of life. The nifty thing about Badoo is that you can meet people in your area and that you can literally see where exactly this person is right now if you click their info. While this might be too personal of an invasion for some, others think it quite a great idea. With the aforementioned campaign, Badoo has been trying to set their foot in the doorway of American social networking and plan to become as big as Facebook (which will hopefully never happen, there is only one Facebook out there!).

Many New Yorkers came out during those three days to look quirky, good, dancy, or goofy in front of the camera. The idea was to simply be yourself and show off what you want to show off. You had the person who felt awkward when being photographed, you had the dancer who grooved some moves for the pictures, and many more. Check out the gallery here to see the full amount of unique photos taken.

After having set up my own account, I was led to a waiting area consisting of comfortable white couches; snacks and drinks were provided right next to that. After 20 minutes or so, a girl called my name and led me to the “backstage” area. High chairs, huge mirrors – it was hard not to feel important. A young make-up artist touched up on my eye shadow and rouge. A hair stylist turned my curly hair into a true mane. Both did a good job and I felt like a star/ model/ significant character when sitting in those two chairs while being styled.

Then we were brought to the accessories area. The girl did not want to give me anything else, though, she thought my outfit had it all. Now the shoot by itself was pretty much over in 2 seconds minutes. Dan Martensen was in Studio 4, and that is where I ended up. He introduced himself as “Dan” and tried some small talk while shooting away a good 20 or 30 pictures. I wondered how many people he had already shot today and he mentioned it had probably been around 80 or 90. Whoof – that is a ton to digest, so I won’t take it against him that he never gave me feedback when my hair was sticking out to all sides and looked outright ridiculous.

When all was over, we were able to choose up to 8 photographs. One was printed out for us and the rest were put on our online profile. I really want to compliment the guy who had to sit with me while going through one picture after another. At first I liked none and then I couldn’t pick less than 8. He must have a lot of patience to deal with the moods of all of the people throughout the day.

After all of this, we got to take home a free T-Shirt (in which I have slept this night) and Badoo even started an open bar from 7 to 9 PM. From what a few employees told me, they had been working 12-hour-days straight from Thursday on and were truly exhausted but also very happy to have accomplished a monstrous project. All acted very professional and forthcoming in making us feel as comfortable as possible. So a big thumbs up to being able to be a part of all this and we’ll see who of those (almost) 1000 New Yorkers makes it on a total of 24 billboards throughout the City!

[For more pictures, go to A Picture Every Day: The Badoo Project.]

Greeting the Year of the Dragon OR The Horror of the Chinatown Parade

Last Monday was the first day of the New Year according to the Chinese calendar. The Chinese say it is the year of the dragon, which is a year highly desirable in their cultural beliefs. Chinese try to give birth to their children during this year and to accomplish a great amount of other heroic things.

Unfortunately to me, and most likely a good amount of other people walking on this Earth, I was not born in the year of the dragon. Mine is the year of the rabbit, and it came around last year. However, last year, my so-called “birth year,” I haven’t been able to cross something off my list I was highly motivated to do: Witness the Chinatown Parade!
To be honest with you, I didn’t even know too much about this parade. Not until my former Chinese coworker mentioned she would be attending it in the heart of Chinatown. Now last year also happened to be one of the coldest winters in the history of New York winters. Not the most ideal weather to be standing outside in the cold and freeze your hands off. Needless to say, I was not in the right mood to attend it in masses of snow because I knew it would be at least a few hours long.

Therefore, what I didn’t accomplish last year I tried to make up for this year. It happened to be that the great annual parade was just yesterday, about a week after the Chinese New Year had started. This time I took some company with me, better safe than sorry. A good thought this was from my side – as I was soon to find out.

Just like many other landmark parades in New York (read more here), the Chinatown procession attracts many people. Of course also a good amount of tourists, if not to say: The majority of bystanders are tourists.
My friend and I got there relatively early. Even though it was scheduled to start at 11:30 AM, when we exited the subway and made our way through the normal craziness of Canal Street vendors, people who don’t understand English, and other paradox situations, we couldn’t make out any real signifier to indicate the start of the colorful ceremony. A few barricades had been built up here and there on the streets. A few cops were standing around – some in groups, some by themselves, looking bored out of their minds.

We stopped at a street cart because my friend recommended trying some of the Chinese cakes (she calls them donuts) which were sold by the locals. I had never tried these before nor had I even thought about just buying them from these little carts, but they tasted surprisingly good. Somewhat like the waffles we have back home but then they are formed different. For a buck you can get 15 small balls of crisp waffle dough and munch on them. We happened to keep on walking until we hit the corner of Canal and Mott Street. By then it must have been 12 PM already. At that time, a crowd had already come together and made out an assembly of onlookers waiting for the parade. Here, indeed, more barricades had been built up. We stopped right in front of a Chinese bakery, which somehow reminded me of the one in Boston (read more here) and any pastry shop you can find in Koreatown. While we were anxiously awaiting a sign that the parade had already started, both of us took our turns to explore the inside of the bakery a bit more. I even went twice and bought first a scallion and green pea twist, then a pastry filled with egg cream inside. The price was unbeatable and both tasted very good. Not to mention they had been freshly made and were still warm from the oven.

Chinese Cakes
Chinese Bakery

Finally, as we were about to give up hope and continue our walk south, something came our way at 1 PM. At first we heard music approaching us, then we saw the first wagon: A dragon shaped car with Chinese people dancing in front of it in dragon masks. Overall, the parade was mixed. Most costumes were themed around the figure of the dragon, not surprisingly. Sometimes you saw the typical hideous banners of a cell phone provider such as Verizon or AT&T marking a car. And once we were puzzled because we saw a random group of African-Americans cheering and dancing on top of a wagon. After 30 minutes we had our fair share. We wanted to go with the parade and then make it out to the Brooklyn Bridge before heading back home. However, going with the marching and cheering people seemed simply impossible. By then the crowd had grown enormously. While an hour earlier we had still laughed at people becoming sour when others were pushing them out of their ways just to get past, we now had Karma on our side: When making the mistake and trying to turn into the overpopulated Canal St, we got helplessly stuck. All of a sudden a wool hat was swiping my face from the woman standing an inch in front of me while my friend was stuck next to two impatient Asians who wanted to get through no matter what. The parade all of a sudden became irrelevant. There was no forwards and no backwards. We were stuck, by all means. The crowd swayed us back and forth like flowers in the wind. Two Germans girls standing right next to us on the side and who hadn’t even meant to be in the middle of this were astonished at how the situation had changed within minutes. They weren’t the only ones. One minute we were trying to pass the corner, the next one we had a line of people piling up behind us.

Masses from the front....
... and in our backs!
While some people are still celebrating with cheap Asian wondersticks...
... others are trying to catch the parade.

The situation grew worse over the course of the next hour. That’s right! We were stuck in one and the same spot for an entire hour. From this stand point we admittedly had a better view of the parade then at the spot before. But no one was in the mood anymore to watch the singing and chanting Chinese people in the same costumes over and over again.

Children, old people, the rest of us: All squashed together right next to each other with hardly any air to breathe. Now I am no one to become easily claustrophobic. But the crowd that day almost made me hate my wish to see the parade. After 20 minutes had passed, a chanting went on: People ahead of us saw jumping over the barricades as the only possibility to get out of the mess. Of course no one wanted to infuriate the all-so-respected (and hated) NYPD (read more here). After some fruitless efforts to draw their attention to the bad situation by claiming a few people had fainted and needed their help, the FDNY rolled up. Without doing too much. The cops also basically just stood there and either did not get the situation or were oblivious to people who needed help. Possibly both.
So the crowd starting chanting in a chorus: Let us out, let us out, let us out, let us out! After 10 more minutes, they finally let a few small children and very old people go, together with their families. Now the masses were pushing from behind, maybe expecting to get out of there sooner if they were to put some pressure on the weak spots. Bad idea. I will never forget this old Asian woman who tried to force a person in front of her away by using her arm. The only thought I had at that time was: Hopefully she won’t break her bones. An Asian family next to me began to cry. Emotions were getting intense.

No way to escape!

We all feared a riot was about to start and I was a bit surprised to see no pepper spray had been used by the police. My friend said they wouldn’t dare use it because of the small children and the old people, and that was a good thing. Exactly 55 minutes after we had walked into this chaos we got out of it. A few cops had made their way into the crowd from the other side and were directing the people to go one way only. Some folks still tried to swim against the current and I can understand how others got mad at them. Eventually we were out. Safe and sound, two blocks and a fright later, somewhere on Canal Street, far far away from the parade that had become so meaningless.

The day was definitely an experience to us. But I am not sure I would try it out again. I recommend watching it somewhere else. Maybe Roosevelt Park was less crowded. Avoid the Canal Street area by all means next year, if you can!

Bye Bye Year of the Dragon!

Where is the Winter in New York?

Ever since November has come around I have been fearing the cold. I have shivered at the thought of putting on two extra layers, and a hat and mittens. I have been grossed out by the prospect of how long yet another winter in New York would be.

But now it’s January. We had spring-like temperatures in November. We had 10 Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) on New Year’s Day. And we had a wonderful warm, sunshiny day last Saturday. I am beginning to wonder what the lack of cold means for the rest of this year. So far, this has only been my second winter in New York.

Last year had been quite the opposite: After the summer of the century, the winter of the decade followed brutally and without much of a forewarning. Snow chaos one day after Christmas. Streets left uncleared days after the storm. Subways, which weren’t operating, and snow days at work. Feet-high piles of the white wonder which could not disappear to anywhere – not back onto the streets it had come from and not to the sideways which were still blocked themselves.
It had all started quite innocently on December 26th, when the first flakes of snow had come tumbling down the sky.
“Oh, how beautiful – your first snow in New York!” my German friend had exclaimed. She was visiting me together with her sister, and both had had their share of snow in Deutschland already for the year 2010. However, this was my very first snow in the Big Apple and I was pretty excited. But for some reason, the snow decided not to stop but rather to keep on coming down from the sky. During late afternoon we were fighting our way through a full-blown blizzard when coming from the post-Xmas-shopping spree (not worth it!) on 5th Ave. At night time I received a call from a friend who couldn’t make it out to his apartment in New Jersey. Both tunnels were closed and there was no way of getting across the bridge to the other state. He had to stay over in my place, which was slowly but surely turning into something resembling a youth hostel. We crammed together a few blankets and air mattresses but my friend and I thought we had to work tomorrow so we didn’t stay up as late as the others did. Of course the next day was a snow day. Snow day meant a work-free-day in New York.
The next day, I remember wandering around deserted Times Square which was covered underneath a still fluffy white blanket. I remember slipping when trying to cross streets. Then checking out Century 21, possibly one of those few stores open during that time. More snow coming down on December 27th. New Year’s Eve had indeed turned into a mess for those who stayed in the City. Philly was a bit warmer.

Hidden cars one day after the first blizzard
The streets were still not cleared two nights after this...
Troops of snow shovelers driving down Manhattan

And then January of 2011: Bittercold wind howling through the streets. So frosty that even the weather-proof BelaRussians did not want leave the house unless they really had to. I truly got to understand the meaning of wearing a hat: Not for the sake of looking good but for the sake of keeping your ears warm and your mind sane. There is nothing worse than cold wind that blows through one ear and escapes through the other –leaving your brain at a cold temperature. That is possibly also the reason I bought a fur-coat with a hood this year: After seeing how practical a knee-long coat was that offered the possibility to keep the wind away from your head, I was easily convinced to buy something equally practical for this winter. Up until then, I never understood the countdown advertised all around New York. “The countdown is on, 120 more days until winter ends,” I heard on the radio and read on subway ads all over the city. But those two months in the beginning of the year, I’m telling you, they really made you believe that counting down days to spring is the only option you have to mentally survive!
And while winter in Europe starts to clear up in February, this month is the worst on the American East Coast. I thought it couldn’t get frostier after December or January. But February pretty much topped it all: Getting outside was a true torture! Walking around Manhattan for no reason was not an option for me. Going out, having fun, or partying meant running from one bar or one club to another. It was definitely one of the worst but also one of the most entertaining times of my stay here. You really start appreciating the plans you have for New York when the weather is utterly disgusting outside. You start missing every minute of the past summer and start loathing the time spring will show up. Which of course was a long time from then, but how could we have known?

So, that was how winter in New York in 2010/2011 had been.

A nice contrast to what it is right now. I just started wearing a hat this morning. Not even for the purpose of necessity but just because it got “a little too cold” outside. Last Saturday felt like spring in March: People were wearing sweaters, dresses, or T-Shirts and strolling around Prospect Park and the Slope. In the beginning of January! If winter is truly to last until March, then we have about two more months to go. Two more months that might resemble winter. This year it just doesn’t appear to be very extreme. This being said, I’ m not sad anymore I never made it out to Jamaica in January. It has indeed been so mild I am not even getting the winter blues I had last year. The sun likes to shine very brightly now, feeding us with hope that spring will come around. I guess I’ll save that money up and spend it on other travels I intend to do during the rest of the year!

Prospect Park one year ago...
Prospect Park today!