Fourth of July: Beach, Sunburn, and Rooftop Love

4th-of-July-manhattan-skyline

I hope you spent a great Fourth of July no matter where and how you were celebrating! It’s only been ten hours since July 5 came around and I woke up with only a slight hangover this morning. Good sign, indeed!

Yesterday was my third Fourth of July in America (at least the third one I can remember) and of course I got to spend it in the city I live in. While I do vow every year to travel outside and FINALLY get to do a kick ass BBQ and huge party, I somehow always end up either in Brooklyn or Manhattan. My dreams of a New Jersey rave or Connecticut fest have once again been shattered, as in every year and as in this year.

Despite those undreamt dreams, this year was to date the best celebration I experienced! Possibly because nothing was planned and everything happened quite spontaneous. Don’t you just love those days that unfold as the hours fly by?

Riis Park Queens

It started off pretty well by me going to the beach with the boyfriend, who surprisingly had a day off (he works 24/7 in his own bar and rarely gets to spend summer days outside of it). We went to Riis Park, which is close to Fort Tilden (which I failed to blog about last year, argh!) and part of the Queens community called Breezy point. Riis Park is an extension of the Far Rockaway beaches and the only way to get there is either by bike, by bus, or by car. Since bike and car is currently not an option for us, we decided to take the subway to Flatbush-BK College (both the 2 and 5 lines go there) and then hop onto the Q35 bus. There is also a direct bus from Park Slope and Williamsburg which costs $10 one way. The advantage of this ride is that you don’t have to go through the hassle of switching public transit and perhaps it doesn’t take as long (well, you never know what the traffic situation is here). Switching from the subway to the bus only took us an hour of a commute, which really isn’t bad for NY standards.

Fort Tilden as of last year
Fort Tilden as of last year
Fort Tilden as of last year
Fort Tilden as of last year

Of course we weren’t the only ones with the great idea of swimming, so when we arrived, the beach was already well populated – filled with families, partying youngsters, and chillaxing hordes. Not as bad as Coney would have been on the same day but, yeah, beaches in New York tend to get crowded when everyone is off. We found a somewhat secluded spot close to the border of Ft. Tilden. Ft. Tilden was a great beach last year but unfortunately the community has not had the funds and helpers to clean it up for this year’s season. While Riis Park is usually a gay and lesbian beach, this year it was also a family beach because good sand is scarce here and any cleaned up beach is a good sign (yes, the aftermath of Sandy is still hovering over us). We stayed for the better part of that hot afternoon and unfortunately left with a minor, pinkish sun burn. Should have reapplied that sun screen after swimming, I guess.

After some Mexican food at the Habana outpost, I met with some friends in Bushwick, who had told me about a rooftop party with drinks and food. By the time I got there (perhaps 8 PM), the BBQ was already finished but drinks were just getting started. Bands were playing and people were happily dancing around. It must have been a crowd of 200 persons for the better part of night and that says a lot for a ‘simple’ rooftop in the middle of Bushwick.

Rooftop Love in Bushwick
Rooftop Love in Bushwick
Pre-party picture
Pre-party picture

While Teen Commandments (a local punk rock band) was performing, Macy’s fireworks were going off on the Hudson River. Although Brooklyn is on the East River, the roof was high enough to be able to see the fireworks past the silhouette of the skyline.

Teen Commandments
Teen Commandments

“I really don’t know why they changed the location to face New Jersey!” someone muttered next to me. I turned around and started a heated discussion with a long-term New Yorker who was outraged that 75 percent of New York was not able to take in the fireworks while New Jersey, the neighboring state, was. “They have their own funds and they do their own fireworks,” he pointed out. I agreed, as we had seen a few fireworks go off on the NJ side of the roof well before dark. Macy’s did a great job in providing us with 25 minutes of show time and even flagging up a few new forms, such as an UFO or a Jupiter (or any type of planet with a ring).

Throughout the night the rooftop crew decided to shoot some firecrackers into the sky, so we had our own “special” fireworks going off above our heads. At some point, the cops must have told them to stop and that was it. A rave-like party happened after the last band stopped playing and then everyone vanished in a drunkenly lost night.

4th-of-july-rooftop-party-skyline-new-york

Crappy picture of Macy's fireworks
Crappy picture of Macy’s fireworks
party blues
party blues

What a wonderful 4th of July it had been! Even better than a proper 4th of July weekend. Because this time most New Yorkers stayed in their actual city (a lot of people had to work today or didn’t want to take a vacation day).

Oh, and in case you wondered why the Empire State Building was going crazy: Supposedly it was part of the Macy’s fireworks grand finale theme and changed its colors at light speed rate. At times it looked like it was rotating but that was just part of the effect.

Finding a Roommate in New York: The Exhausting Round 4

So here’s the deal: I am not opposed to moving. Not at all! On the contrary: I embrace the feeling of leaving a place behind to settle in a new one. Heck, I moved all across the ocean from one country to another to start a new and exciting adventure in New York.

This city, though – I don’t know what it is. Maybe a living curse. Or Karma. Or a ghost haunting me. Me and finding a room – it’s just not working out as smooth as it had before, in good ole Deutschland.

I found my first apartment within two days of being here (my personal record, by the way). But then I also ended up being robbed by my roommate’s boyfriend/ affair/ 18-year-old thief who swiped some jewelry and also almost my cell phone. After this rather bad experience, I set out to search for a decent spot in a decent neighborhood. Read all about it here. And luckily I was able to upgrade to the wonderful Slope. This is where I roomed with the Belarusians. The White-Russians were nice but it didn’t work out in the end. That one year with them is to date my top performance when it comes to living the longest in one place in Nueva York. Then came a 6-month-stint with a gay guy and his boyfriend. It was short and sweet. Lots of cooking from their side. Not so much contribution from my side. The new job and all had me pretty much occupied to my teeth. Much happens in six months. Such as their decision to finally move together – into the current apartment. Resulting in me giving up the room. Which is why I was busy for over a month in finding another spot. All of this sounds plausible. But taken together, it’s adding up to four different places in 2 years and three months. Which is also a personal record to date.

I do have to say, you start getting tired of packing your belongings and to roam from one place to another. The more you’re here, the more furniture you have. Oh how I kinda want the time back when all I had to worry about is whether or not those two suitcases would fit inside a subway or a cab …!

This time, though, the challenge was not so much in packing but rather in finding an actual room. And boy, had I looked at a bunch of crappy shitty rip-offs interesting spots. Until now I am still convinced that it must have been this time of year working against me. My opinion was assured by other people who were offering a room.

Such as the guy who deliberately overcharged his roommates from the start. “I am not asking you for last month’s rent or a deposit***. All I am asking for is first month’s rent and a 3 month commitment. Because I absolutely do not look forward in filling this room during the summer hole,” he sporadically announced when I walked up the two flights to the entire floor in which more than three people could have comfortably lived. In turn for his “great” offer he already made it clear from the beginning that I would be overcharged a good 100 bucks a month. Fairness of the situation? I am not so sure about that. But someone else must have thought these to be splendid terms as the room was taken the next day already (according to the e-mail I received).

You find a ton of crazy-creepy spots here in New York. My search was luckily only in Brooklyn. Which also turned out to be a real pain in the arse. Just excluding all the areas that were unsuitable: Bedstuy (ghetto), Canarsie (even worse), East New York (death sentence for a white skinned girl), Coney Island (too far), Brighton Beach (too far), Sheepshead Bay (still too far). Only a handful of areas were left. With Park Slope still being my top preference. Cobble Hills following as a second winner. And then Williamsburg, Greenpoint, maybe Bushwick. Gosh, the search was very exclusive this time. But mostly also because pretty much nothing of greater value was offered. Whatever causes the summer draught – I started believing in it. The first few rooms were among the best, but also the most overpriced expensive ones. Then I found a very nice girl in Greenpoint. Only, my room was like a studio: No separate bedroom and the entire area combined with kitchen and bathroom. Which I wouldn’t have minded if I could have had it all to myself. But not with another person walking in and out of this room randomly using my shower and the kitchen. Where is the privacy here?

I would certainly have had enough privacy in the room offered by a former real estate agent over in Bushwick. Sorry, my bad: East Williamsburg – as advertised. She had spun her net around two other girls who were desperate to find something (and who were also new to the City).
“Disregard the projects right next to our house. I find the people rather cute when I walk past them every day to the train,” she chirped. Not that living next to the socially disadvantaged would have been uhm dangerous … And I was eager to see how much more BS she was able to tell. “The pressure in the shower is the best you will find” she added. “I am notorious for not taking a shower when I am gone on the weekend because I miss this one.” Aha, random stinky roommate who does not give too much about hygiene on travels. Not to mention the sauna-like atmosphere in the apartment because of the open kitchen and her efforts of having cooked brownies. But the best part of course was the room itself! I could hardly believe it when I opened up the door: The ceiling was about as tall as my hip! Meaning you had to bend very deep (and I am tall, I almost crawled) in order to even access the room. What claustrophobic people would have done in this situation – I can only imagine. A pathetic mattress on the floor replaced the common bed. You could picture its inhabitant trying to blow out her hair in cross-legged manner on the floor. Not to mention no window (but where would the construction people have cut that out?!). Needless to say, even this room was taken within a day. Everyone is desperate in finding something, not only me. I had to pass on this great opportunity, though!

So what else was left? A bunch of windowless rooms this time around. Not that it really matters if you are living with very cool people but I would like to have a morning breeze when I wake up. Or be able to look out of the window in the winter. Just random things you would never think about because a window is pretty much a standard requirement for those $800 and up these people were trying to charge for the place. Then of course the average nutcases. The girl who lived with her dog, a parrot, and her pot-smoking boyfriend. Pass! Then the woman who had the oldest cats ever seen but whose house smelled like a constant accumulation of cat piss. Pass! A cool four-roommate-situation on 4th Avenue, but way too far from the train station. Pass!

Or the indecisive Japanese girl who pushed her decision-making off until probably today. I waited one and a half weeks for her to say yes or no but always got the same standard response: Sorry, I am still seeing a couple of people today/ tomorrow/ on the weekend/ for the rest of my life and will make a decision after those appointments. I really hope she found someone, June 1 is approaching very fast (as in tomorrow). So I grudgingly went back to looking at rooms. Until last Thursday I found what I call a decent match: Only a 5-minute-walk from the main train hub in Brooklyn. Now I can choose between 6 different trains that will catapult me to the Empire State Building in less than 20 minutes every weekday. It is half the size of the room I have now. But the area is gorgeous. Still Park Slope, only the north side. A good 15 min walk from the Park – not as bad as it could be if I were to move to uhm Williamsburg. And you just cannot beat having those 12 trains right next to you (well, in walking distance). Or a German beer bar which will show all Euro cup soccer games from June on! Win!

So I guess I am settled. I was about to despair and call myself homeless. I even started eyeing those bridges that were not yet taken by other bums. Finally I found something. We will see how long it will last this time. I will keep you updated.

Round number four: It has been the most exhausting and extensive search so far. And also the most fruitless. If you want to move in New York, try to avoid the awful summer hole – that is the only piece of advice I can give you this time!

[*** It is not uncommon to pay a three-month-fee (first, last, deposit) when moving with roommates in New York. Some people, including myself, simply don’t have a total of $3,000 or higher all at once – especially when you’re struggling to make it here. That’s why this arrangement could be seen as a “deal” by some people. Not by me, though. I don’t mind paying less a month but getting my deposited money back.]