Five Seasons of Thanksgiving: A Recap of My Time in the US During this Holiday

[This post was supposed to air 2 weeks ago, but due to procrastination the publishing got delayed to… today!]

Thanksgiving Day Parade 2010
Thanksgiving Day Parade 2010

Oh Happy Thanksgiving Day, how it comes and goes every year. Ever since I moved to New York, I tried to make a point in Read More »

The Fifth Season of New York?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Halloween in New York

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attempted Cowgirl costume...not!

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

Union Square Zombie

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

Parade in Greenwich Village

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

But other than that it was a fine event!

Village Madness

A Day in Queens

Last weekend my friend and I tried out something new. We went all the way from Brooklyn to Queens!

Now this might sound unexciting to some of you. “Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, isn’t it all the same?” you might think. “Isn’t it all pretty darn close to each other?” No no, I have to tell you, it is not. You can actually spend a good 2 and a half hours of travel from the midst of Brooklyn to heart of the Bronx, and this is by means of normal subway (as I told you, most folks don’t have or need a car here).

So getting to Queens from Park Slope was very … interesting. Since it was a Sunday, the train schedule was messed up, of course. Trains usually arrive every ten minutes on weekdays and Saturday, but on Sunday they like to show up every 20 minutes, which is about three times an hour. Once we finally hopped on the F, we traveled all the way up to Roosevelt Av and switched to the 7-train. The 7-train is basically the connecting subway from Queens to Manhattan and it stops at Times Square. I rarely take it as I don’t have any reason to go to Queens. Indeed, I recall, the last time I jumped on it was exactly a year ago, and that was when I was looking at a room around Jackson Heights.
Anyhow, the 7 is tricky as it goes local or express. Local means it will halt at every useless stop. Express is the better option. After one and a half hours we finally breathed in fresh air when getting off at the Mets-Willows Pt stop. Destination: Flushing Meadows Park!

Flushing Meadows is a well-known park, as it is right across from the Mets stadium (football freaks!) and as the US Opens court is directly in the heart of all the green. Regretfully I’ve only made my way out once since I’ve been here. This was last fall and I had a good time shooting a few lovely pictures, taking in the last rays of the autumn sun, and watching Mexicans play soccer. Then a tragedy happened and in February I lost all the pictures I had taken in New York due to a hard drive failure.

Shit happens.

Now I am slowly rebuilding my path from last year without getting lost on its way.

So I definitely had to check out Flushing Meadows in October again, just to retake those infamous, beloved photos. My friend had never been and I considered this to be a great occasion to show him around.
We started walking towards the well-known emblem of this park. You know, the first thing you notice when watching an episode of “The King of Queens,” which by the way is completely shot in LA and, therefore, not really authentic. Back to the story. We started walking towards the Unisphere, illuminated by the sun shining through the metal bars of the back of the figure. This year as in last year there were many Latinos out, playing their soccer and having fun in the sun. It was an unexpectedly warm day outside and we didn’t need the jackets we had brought with just in case. But this time I didn’t know whether I should be happy or sad. Mexicans in New York definitely deserve a separate post, so I won’t deliberate too much on them here. It’s just so sad to see them playing out and knowing their life is better than the small village they came from in Mehiko but that they are still not being treated unbiased by the people here. More of this in a later post, though.

We shot some excellent pictures of the Globe. Basically, we had our own private photo session in front of it and I reveal to you some good photos worth posting.

The one and only Unisphere

Then I showed my friend where the US Opens are being held and we carried it on from there, walking around, until we got to a river-like structure. I still didn’t know whether to feel sad or happy. The murky water was filled with trash and I doubt any animal would survive in it. Families were posing in front of this pile of junk and acting as if it were a great scenery. Then the pigeons which were fed by passerbys. The few Orthodox Jewish kids who were running around in a minority compared to the Middle-American crowd. On our way out I passed a dancing group of teenagers. I think they were trying out the some Salsa steps and I couldn’t help but take a picture.

On the subway ride back we got off at Jackson Heights, as I remembered a block that was called Little India in the midst of Queens. I was eager to check it out and we walked right into an Indian street fair. Seems like we were at the right place to the right time, as it happens quite often. Since it was 5 PM already, some stands had wrapped up, but most were still open, advertising their good food, their colorful shawls, and other Indian exotics. I helped myself with a buffet, my friend got a cold dish the name of which I’ve forgotten made up of chick peas and various vegetables served in a sauce layered with bread. Both were really good. For dessert I sneaked around a kettle in which something resembling fried calamari was swimming around. Turns out these were traditional Indian sweets called Imarti. I bought a small bag and took a bite. Pure sugar mounted on top of fried pastry but very good indeed. I don’t think my teeth will like this dish in the long run, but it was worth trying.

It had been a long day. We were tired. Off to Brooklyn we went. This time I wanted to take a different way, so we stopped at Bryant Park and walked to the F from there. Then we had to wait those full 20 minutes until the next train showed up. So it was another one and a half hours back to the Slope. The colorful day had made up for the tedious trip, though!

For more pictures on Flushing Meadows, go to A Picture Every Day.

Fall in New York: It’s That Time of the Year Again!

Yesterday was the first day of fall in New York. The air was crispy, the trees still wore their leaves, the people were partly bundled up – the peace of a different era was lingering in the atmosphere. When floating down the streets towards Prospect Park I had mixed feelings of both fear and sadness but also joy when looking forward to a new season and a fresh beginning.

Technically fall is supposed to start September 23 all around the Northern Hemisphere, and when I came back from my trip on the 18th, I was surprised at how chilly the City had gotten. However, we still had our share of repeated warm stretches in the past two weeks and last Friday I was out in a T-Shirt – just like back in May, the beginning of summer. Sunday was finally our last nice day, as we enjoyed warm rays of sun shining down on us and triggering thoughts of how this summer should never end.

When I woke up Monday morning and stepped out of my door, I was tempted to go back in and snag my hat from underneath the pile of winter clothes lying around in my closet. It was unexpectedly chilly! Today was indeed the first day since March during which I’ve worn my wool hat again. While last week I had still walked around in open sandals and flip flops, this week made me want to go look for those winter boots I haven’t touched in over six months. The extreme change of weather is so typical for this city.

This will officially be my second fall in the Big Apple. As I remember from last year, fall in New York never lasts long. It’s the same with spring. Those two seasons do not get enough attention here, weather-wise that is. They seem to be going on for only a month or one and a half and then either winter or summer marches in with its extreme temperatures. The two seasons I actually love the most in Germany for they symbolize action and change are sort of forgotten and left out over here. I guess you have to enjoy every single day of fall here to say you have experienced it. Because once you’ve finally acknowledged it has come around, that summer has secretly disappeared and that there will be nothing stopping the inevitable, once you’ve done all that it will already be winter. Typically this weather only stays for a short period of time. In less than six weeks it will most likely be freezing cold outside and time for a true winter jacket. Yes, it goes quick here, the turn to winter.

Another true problem aside from the length is the fact that no one knows how to dress during this season. Yesterday I saw a mixed group of people: The summerlies and the winterlies. The summerlies bravely shoved their feet into open-toed-shoes and flip flops, showed bare legs in short khakis and skirts, and only threw on a sweater, as it “was surely not that cold.” The winterlies bundled up in scarves, boots, and jackets almost as thick as winter coats while marching down the street. I’ve decided to go with a mix of both: A thin wool hat, a fall jacket (yes, I bought it in Germany), ballerinas, and long pants. Maybe I’ll be able to wear this outfit for another four weeks until it gets too cool.

Aside from all the aforementioned drawbacks, this season is one of the best. My hair is feeling the difference in humidity already and on dry days it is easily tamable (oh all those summer months that had made me desperate to fix these sticky strands of hair which stubbornly ignored all of my attempts to straighten them out). Also, the heat has not yet been turned on in our apartment, so my skin does not fear the dry air we have during winter times. Our office has already unpacked their heater and when we got in today it was irritably hot compared to the outside temperature. A forewarning to what I can expect in the next 5 months….

What I am afraid of the most during fall season is the awfully cold winter that will always follow it. Last year’s December was already packed with icy cold temperatures that I thought I’d never make it through January and February (as you can tell, I did, but to what degree?! Certainly not completely undamaged!). No more tanning at the beach, no more watching Salsa groups at Coney Island, no more enjoying drinks on an open rooftop, heck, no more rooftop parties on my own roof. How sad. Officially a bit less than 8 months until I can go for a swim again, at least in New York.

Back to the gist: Fall is truly awesome! It is just the right time to start with the habits you almost forgot about during the summer: Brunching is more fun insides and more justifiable during this type of weather. Bloody Marys taste better on a chill fall day. You can still linger outside without being annoyed by the cold wind blowing in your face. You can go for a stroll in the park and see how the leaves start to change. You can visit museums and not feel like you are missing out on the outdoor weather. The air is surprisingly fresh and the people are still peaceful enough to not annoy you. The grumpiness starts way later, so you still have hope that this fall might bring a different winter with it. You start considering different paths and rearranging your life. To me fall brings opportunities. New York has many to offer.

Now, let’s not talk about those 80 plus degrees Germany had on the weekend! Despicable! How could they have warmer weather than we do?!

At Flushing Meadows in Queens, Fall 2010