End of Year Reflections: Why 2016 Was Not the Worst Year in History

Its’ the last day of the year 2016 and you know what that means: Time for the Year in Review!

NYE 2015/2016
NYE 2015/2016

This year has been certainly one of a kind (well, aren’t they all, the years?!). It seems that the continuous line of change, which has been a very strong part of my life since 2014 perhaps, is slowly but surely progressing. Change – in every way possible – I feel that is the code word of 2016, if any. Read More »

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7 Seasons of Thanksgiving: Re-capping the Past Turkey Days in the US

Thanksgiving Day Parade 2010
Thanksgiving Day Parade 2010

It’s Thanksgiving Day! And my 4-day-weekend has officially started! After an initial confusion over whether or not I’d have to work tomorrow, I decided to just ask for some time off, since the office is usually pretty slow around this time of year. So I am pretty stoked to just get things done in the next four day and be all calm.Read More »

Celebrating the End of 2014 and the Beginning of 2015: Happy New Year

Happy New Year, everyone! By now, even the Western-most time zones should have made it through the last day of December and welcomed the first few hours of January.

I hope you had a great time celebrating, counting down the hours, jumping up high at 12am and enjoying a new annual beginning overall.

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Every New Year’s Eve seems to be different here. This time I went ahead and Read More »

What Reality Is: Coming Back to the City

I’ve been back in New York for one week. A week can be a long or a short time, depending on how much occurs in that time frame. To me, it’s flown by compared to the three weeks I had before this. And it has also rather felt like a vacation than returning back to “home” or whatever you want to call a place you have lived in for the past three years.

A week is certainly long enough to go through a variety of stages: The honeymoon phase, during which everyone and everything around you seems absurdly sweet but you respect the differences and have enough distance to clearly see how unimportant it can all be in the grand scheme of things. The angry phase, during which arrogant salespeople might piss you off or the people on the streets who hatefully glare after you because you feel absolutely great and they absolutely do not. And then the acceptance phase, during which New York sorta turns into what it was before your departure: One of the biggest opportunities in the world, not without the necessary pitfalls that reveal themselves to you.

So that’s basically how long (or short) a week can be. Since I am currently not working full-time, I’ve had more time than ever to become acquainted with countless sides of the Big Apple once again. Just like in the summer of 2010, I’ve found that there are tons and tons of stuff to do that are simply for free.
Walking the Manhattan Bridge and crossing the Hudson River, for example. Or taking in the shouting vendors in Chinatown on a Friday morning. Not to forget discovering Brooklyn all over again. Greenpoint can be so peaceful on an average noon compared to the thriving masses of a Midtown weekday. Almost forgotten were the notorious side sweepers and how people have to park in second row on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in my neighborhood.

Somewhere in between Brooklyn and Manhattan
Somewhere in between Brooklyn and Manhattan

It’s the small things that make a city out (and perhaps life in general). Running down the freshly renovated boardwalk of Coney Island at the end of April – with no one really standing in your way and no one bothering you like they would two months later during yet another crazy hot summer. I might even get the chance to check out the wild Bronx Zoo on a free Wednesday, come time, future and opportunity.

The people who live here, they just fascinate me. All the hard struggles they’ve had to go through and still burden themselves with every day. The resiliency of a single person to all of the stressors of daily life – I’ve come to see this all over again in the city of cities. Why become a cab driver in a foreign country when you have a Ph.D. in your homeland? Why wait tables here when you’ve earned your Master’s degree in Switzerland and want to make it in film? Is life in New York really worth it – giving up the “good” life you had before to move to a city that won’t appreciate you or rather your skill set the way it should?

After three weeks of being away, I’ve come to realize a couple of things. I’ve realized that, in this humongously wide world, one person can have more than one home. The home where you grew up at, where your family still resides, where your friends still might be, and where food tastes the way you are used to. And then the home you’ve chosen to be, the home where life happens, where excitement is evoked and where another friend circle has been built.

What is reality? Could it be you realizing that you have better friends abroad than where you are right now? Ouch! Cold, shallow America, with its people who like to talk to you but never call you back! Or perhaps realizing that the rent is 3 times as much as anywhere else and that, after three years, you still don’t get what you pay for? Maybe.
Realizing that with the lingering hope of a better home somewhere else, each and every place visited becomes boring after a short time.

Like my Australian roommate pointed out: Life is pretty unexciting anywhere outside of the States. I’m taking it a step further: Life is unexciting anywhere outside if New York! The curse of the city is not its rudeness, or inequality, or Karma. The curse of the city is that you cannot live a satisfying life outside of it. The feeling of becoming bored constantly. It can kill you. Or annoy you. Or make you realize that you are addicted to the rush, dirt, hustle and bustle, and the wonderful miracles that happen each and every day. So for all of the sad thoughts I’ve sometimes had on life in an 8-million-citizen madhouse, I’ve also come to think about all of the great things that have happened. Being the main shooter at a UFC event on the Thursday I came back, for example. Or being able to see the skyline almost every day, if I wanted to. Not to forget the interaction with real New Yorkers and their hard-bred opinions. The opportunities in a city so big – they are simply endless.

This is reality. This is currently life.

Celebrating an All-American Thanksgiving in New York

Of course this post was a must! I didn’t get to write one last year, so suffer this year!

Officially, this year was my third year I had the chance to take in one of America’s biggest holiday celebrations in the Big Apple: the one and only Thanksgiving Day. Informally also known as Turkey Day, Stuff-my-Face Event and under other symbolic nicknames.

The two occasions before really did not count: Last year had been quite depressing with a friend flaking out on me, leaving me stranded in a theater and with a depressing movie, and a burger meal at a local bar. The year before last year had been exclusively German as two high school friends showed up, dragged me to the highly overrated Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, and cooked a meal. Therefore, this year offered what I had waited for so long: An All-American Dinner surrounded by friends, good booze, and the chance to contribute in some sort of way.

For fellow Germans, this holiday has no great meaning other than Americans gaining yet another 15 pounds, bragging about being in the kitchen all day long, and watching TV with the whole family. For my family, it has more of a meaning, as we celebrate it regularly, thanks to our bi-cultural household and keeping American traditions alive in a foreign country. The traditions were known to me; celebrating it with anyone except for the family rather not.

I probably would have been a bit more anxious had I not received an invitation to my friend’s party well in advance: Thanksgiving Extravaganza, hosted by three people at a Crown Heights apartment. Needless to say, I was very excited! How could I not be? 10 people had said they would be there, the invite looked great, and the concept was simple: Do not show up empty-handed! True vegetarian as I am, I opted for a veggie casserole and a few bottles of sparkling wine. A reason to celebrate, after all!

Labeling my glass with name and images – hooray!

As the date drew closer, the recipes and plans became more extensive. Typical New Yorkers as they were, half of the guests decided to flake out last-minute with some really lame excuses. “I can’t squeeze in another dinner, I am invited to two others already,” one guest wrote. “If my dog is not invited, I cannot come either,” were the words of another. The list goes on, but in the end, it looked like it would only be 5 meager guests with a shitload of food that had been prepared for way more people than expected.

True enough, as I got to the apartment yesterday early afternoon, the huge turkey was baking in the oven, two sorts of stuffings had been prepared the night before, a huge dish of homemade Mac’n’Cheese was waiting to be eaten, chopped potatoes were about to be fried, collard greens were sitting in a dish…. The list of pure deliciousness goes on! And I had yet to create my casserole out of vegetables meant for more than 5 people. Somehow it all was accomplished, though, with the help of the hosts: A self-proclaimed chef, a hobby baker, and an experienced pasteles creator (this is a Puerto-Rican dish).

Wine and eggnog party

While waiting for the food to cook itself, we started off with eggnog made by one of the friends. Supposedly she had mixed it according to a recipe that was more than 200 years old (or “something ridiculous like that”, as she herself expressed it). Quite strong in taste but nonetheless delicious, this must have been the highlight when it came to drinks. And boy, did we have enough of those! 2 bottles of sparkling wine, 2 bottles of red, 2 bottles of white, eggnog, and more to come as the non-cooking guests arrived, happy to hand over a bottle instead of food.

In the end, it truly did turn into an All-American Dinner: A guy from Baltimore, two girls from Pittsburgh, and a Native New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent. Her idea were the pork and veggie pasteles according to a family recipe, which in the end were never eaten out of lack of stomach space.

Surprisingly, my casserole turned out to be quite tasty, as were the other dishes mentioned above. While the turkey of course could not be amiss, I must have missed somewhere along the line that Mac’n’Cheese is a must when it comes to Thanksgiving. And somewhere in the background, almost forgotten, two pies and home-made peanut-butter fudge cookies waited patiently for their turn to be devoured.

The one and only pumpkin pie!

After two plates I was officially full. My friends tried to squeeze more in by taking turns in lying on the living room floor and waiting until their stomach would magically empty out for the next round. We must have eaten for three hours straight, slowly stuffing ourselves until the point of no return, when three more guests showed up with, alas, more wine: A North-African guy and two French girls. So we had a multi-continental evening after this one, which turned the party around another 180 degrees.

Friend lying on floor

At 11 PM, most of us were simply exhausted. The leftovers, about two thirds of food, were packed away or bagged up, to be taken by some of the guests. Half of the group decided to end the evening in a bar, while the other half had enough. After all, Black Friday was happening and some had to work (including me).

To read more about the ultimate craziness happening during one of America’s most insane shopping days, go to last year’s post. It certainly is still valid today, especially after I carefully evaded the masses at Herald Square when walking to work!

I guess I should ignore the fact that on this day, as on July 4, some friends are sensitive towards the real meaning of Thanksgiving and see it as hypocritical that America celebrates the day extermination was brought upon the Native Americans.

handmade decoration – you trace your hand and cut out the form to get the turkey