The Annual Mermaid Parade: Colors, Costumes, and Chaos

mermaid parade 2013 - 11

Coney Island is already a pretty eventful spot by itself. The beach area hosts the Annual Hotdog Eating Contest on 4th of July, America’s biggest holiday. The Hotdog contest originated at the one and only Nathan’s and to date draws thousands of physical visitors to Coney in addition to millions of live viewers in front of the TV. Aside from it having a fantastic amusement park with more and more major attractions added each year, it is also home to the oldest wooden roller coaster in the US: the famous Cyclone. I once made the “mistake” of paying $8 for a ride that lasted 1 ½ minutes (beware, I heard they upped the price to $9 now) and came tumbling out of my cart soon after. I can see how some people complain about back pain after but it was certainly worth the experience and I can only recommend you trying it out if you are in the area.

mermaid parade 2013 - 14

Coney and its neighborhood have been struck by the fatal Sandy, like so many other parts in Brooklyn and Queens close to the ocean. It went through its own process of rebuilding and -construction. As I have been fervidly following its Facebook tweed, I have seen the great progress it made from November 2012 until May 2013, when it re-opened its shining gates to yet another wild season. Every year, Luna Park is scheduled to open fully on Memorial Day Weekend and to close around the Hollow’s Eve weekend. Aside from its many attractions, a significant parade has been an important part of Coney’s repertoire for the past 31 years: The one and only Mermaid Parade!

mermaid parade 2013 - 10

Now what exactly is this Parade about? It is held during the month of June, specifically around the weekend of June 21, as it symbolizes the beginning of summer. While at first I thought it was a Lesbian/Gay Parade aimed towards expanding Brooklyn’s repertoire to a fancy version of it, I did further research and found I was very wrong in this initial impression. The Mermaid Parade has three purposes, stated on its homepage: “It brings mythology to life for local residents who live on streets named Mermaid and Neptune ; it creates self-esteem in a district that is often disregarded as “entertainment”; and it lets artistic New Yorkers find self-expression in public.” Yes, you do see some gay floats and groups dance around in the crowd. But then you also have families dressing up with their children, floats of political statements driving through the crowd and drunken bystanders peeling out of their octopus costumes.

mermaid parade 2013 - 2

For whatever reason, I didn’t find out about the Mermaid Parade until I had already lived here for 2 years. By pure coincidence, I had gotten off the train on a Saturday afternoon in June 2012 and immediately fell into a great chaos of loud obnoxious screaming drunken masses of people. Now, don’t’ get me wrong, Coney has the reputation of being always drunken and partly ghetto when it comes to its people. After all, the projects are right next to the amusement park. Way back in the 20s and 30ies it must have been a pretty beach but with Moses’ Housing Project, things drastically changed in the 60ies and 70ies. Such is New York, and mostly Brooklyn, all of this makes out its initial sketchy appeal with a flavor of exoticism mixed under it.

mermaid parade 2013 - 5 car mermaids

But in the past few years, Coney has developed into one of the hottest tourist sightseeing spots and uppedy white people bring their kids here occasionally. However, this year it was very extreme and Sandy might have played a part in all of this. Through a humongous Kickstarter Campaign, the parade was able to initiate $100,000 in funds and donations, therefore still partaking. The final decision was made at the end of May and everyone was thrilled!

My friend donated to the Kickstarter Campaign and received this scribbled piece of paper in exchange....
My friend donated to the Kickstarter Campaign and received this scribbled piece of paper in exchange….

So the Parade seemed exactly what you would think of it with about a month’s time to prepare: Chaotic, sometimes long-stretched, and mostly not very original in costumes. Sure, you had some really great groups, you had an awesome local trumpet band, and you had creative floats. But during some intervals you had random families walk through the scene, holding children who were dressed up in a green blob as Mermaids and waving at the crowd.

mermaid parade 2013 - 13

mermaid parade 2013 - 8

Overall, I was glad to have seen the parade for the first time in full. It generated a huge crowd towards Coney during that weekend and that’s exactly what this area needed (bring in the money, hey!). However, after one hour of blinking into the blinding sun and looking at a few boring groups in the parade, my friends kinda had enough and went to a bar close to the subway station. Our luck that it wasn’t as overcrowded as after the parade. We only had to wait one hour for the food (does not include ordering, which took 30 minutes).

mermaid parade 2013 - 1

Another group of friends joined us and was keen on checking out the boardwalk. The parade stretches from the main street all the way around and comes back over the boardwalk so I already predicted us getting stuck at some point. True enough, we couldn’t even cross the main street to get to our beloved Nathan’s, as police only let us do so in 15-minute-intervals. Once we were there, we saw how long the line was to order a petty hotdog (more than one hour!). My friends were not thrilled by this idea and wanted to check out the food options on the boardwalk. So we went through the entire amusement park, just to get stuck, literally, in a massive crowd of people on the boardwalk. No way we’d get food here, either.

All I see is PEOPLE!
All I see is PEOPLE!

Somehow we made it back to the bar, the entire excursion taking us over 1 hour, which normally wouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes. Just to give you an idea of how crowded it was. So the parade was over by then and friend group number 1 (number 2 had successfully vanished in the subway station) was fed, drunk, and ready to check out the beach. Which happened to be swamped by unhealthy corpses of party people (big surprise here). We were in the sand, packed like sardines in a can, while a few of my friends jumped into the water (they assured me it was only cold for the first 10 seconds or so) but were freezing once a high wind hit us on the beach.

Beach "fun"!
Beach “fun”!

After another hour of lying around in a rave-like atmosphere we had enough of the fact that sand was being kicked in our faces every five seconds minutes and went off to the boardwalk. It was here that my foot hit a fatal plank, which tore my sole apart wounded it painfully. After dripping water on it, I decided it would be best to just go home and treat it under more normal conditions and with rubbing alcohol. My friends stayed and I am sure they had a drunkenly fun time…

So, in conclusion, the Mermaid Parade can be great fun and a once-in-lifetime experience. It’s worth taking tons of meaningless colorful pictures. Be aware of loose planks on the boardwalk. And make sure you get your 12-hour-sleep thereafter!

mermaid parade 2013 - 15

mermaid parade 2013 - 9

#BllPhotoaday for June: Simplicity

Unlike other times I participated in a photo challenge, I am announcing this one ahead of time. That’s right, this girl is doing another picture show during the month of June. And because I like her topics so very much (and actively suggested 3 of them! *proud-be*), I am being part of Belovelive’s A Picture a Day.
The idea is the same it was with the other four challenges: Take a picture every day, post, and enjoy other people’s ideas.

Theme for this month is Simplicity, as, I quote from Liz, “we can choose to live simply and to simply live.”
Since June also happens to be my birthday month, I think I’ll find a ton of simple, awe-inspiring things to photograph. I also like how she describes this challenge as an actual “journey” – 30 days out of the year to realistically venture out and see something else, be someone else, and do something else.

blllphotoaday june 2013

So, if you’re in, be part of something great that is becoming greater as we speak! Over 1,100 pictures have already been tagged with her picture challenge since December and figures are rising. Get your iPhone, your Android, your digi cam and snap away. Don’t forget to share, either.

Hashtag is #bllphotoaday and photos will be posted via blog and Instagram. But really mostly on Instagram, since that is where all the action is going down.

Peace, let’s stay simple!

Personality Types – Find Out Who You Are!

Recently I’ve stumbled across this cool site I found on Liz’s blog (she happened to find it on another person’s twitter – the word spreads fast!). It determines what personality type you are according to your blog. It is based on the Myers- Briggs personality tests and a pretty neat tool I wanted to share with you since this is after all a blogging community.

Because I have two blogs, I first gave in my main one, which happens to be German-American Abroad.

The result was: ISFP – The Artists.

personality type the artists

According to the description, I am NOT a friend of many words (most readers would strongly disagree since a majority of my posts are 1,000 words and above) and have to make sure that I am not being taken advantage of. Aside from this, I am very compassionate and genuinely care for my fellow human beings. I really like that last part of the description!

brain activity

I then typed in A Picture Every Day and received a very different response. According to this blog, I belong to the ESFP – The Performers.

As the description goes, I live in the current moment and experience life’s riches. I also love being around other people and have an eye for beauty and art.

personality type the performers

I guess if I were to combine those two descriptions, I would get a solid (and very flattering) observation of my current personality. It’s interesting to see how the test takes your blog and transforms it into a pretty accurate view of who you are or perhaps wish to be.

To a certain degree, the results took me by surprise. I would have thought the roles to be switched, after all my picture blog appears to be way more artsy than this one, the writing site.

Please feel free to try it out for yourselves and don’t be shy to leave your feedback!

Go visit the Typealyzer!

‘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!]

Fashionistas in New York: Get Ready For Some Glamour!

The image I had of New York before moving here was probably similar to the picture most Europeans have in mind. Fancy ladies clutching their Louis Vuitton bag while walking down elegant streets of Manhattan. Models with long legs and full eyelashes strutting down the catwalk of SoHo. Elderly ladies wearing the latest fashion while hiding their little chihuahua in their purse… Nothing else but pure style confidence occupying the minds, and the epitome of elegance roaming the streets along the higher end shops.

Now that I’ve been here for 2 and a half years, this image has been severely revised, of course. I would have never imagined women with a hideous Brooklyn accent delicately discussing the subject of Gucci bags . Or homeless people overpopulating Washington Square Park. What was up with the tourists in socks and sandals defining subway life new? And then those students in Midwestern baseball caps cheering for football teams in American sports bars… Just a few of the daily themes going on in this city.

Of course fashionistas are not a rare occurrence in the city. Take Fashion Week, for example. Models, designers, and fashion crazies from all over flying into this city just to make it to a show or to photograph haute couture and street styles. But they are certainly not in the majority when it comes to an average New York clothing style.

Still, fashionable people are a crucial element of New York’s day-to-day life. Sometimes I forget that they even exist until I run across one of them in the subway, on the streets, or in a café. In this city, most people walk around however they want to walk around. While I detect an underlying theme in all other cities I’ve been to (people either dress according to the latest fashion or they look plain boring), it is not as easily defined in the Big Apple. Just as my friend from Europe liked to put it a few years back: “People run around the way they want to here. It seems they dress according to mood!”

Especially around Union Square, the best place for people watching because of the diversity of characters it represents, you see the most bizarre combinations in hair styles and clothing. The twen punk who has not grown out of the daily tradition to shave his head on one side and put colorful highlights on the other. The young skateboarder racing down the handrail while a breakdancer is trying out some moves in front of the crowd.

Fashionista crossing street

In all this chaos of colors, styles, and trends, it’s almost always a nice surprise to see a woman walking by in a slim coat that matches her shoes and purse. Or a handsome guy in a nice suit with a colorful handkerchief and a fancy hat. Fashionistas are the underlying pulse of this city. They keep this town alive because they are the heartbeat of everything evolving around them. Every day they remind us what real fashion should look like and how it can be combined to look quite unique and overly attractive.

Fashionista in Pink

Today was one of those days I became particularly aware of people with a fashion obsession. Maybe it was after I had devoured my 1-Dollar-pizza in Chelsea and was almost run over by a lady in pink and high heels. Possibly it was after a miniature, ten-year-old version of Paris Hilton crossed my paths. Either way, I had to stop for a few minutes and take in all these different looks coming towards me and vanishing into their own special worlds again. The mid-twenties girl in her wedges squeezed into a skirt way too short for her thick legs. She made me pause and redefine the term “fashionista”: They are not defined by body type and age, not even budget. This definition was immediately confirmed by a 60-year-old lady who was stoically swinging by me in her Mickey-Mouse sunglasses, one of the most elegant dresses to be seen with and a Citarelli shopping bag. Yes, fashionistas are not a spleen of the young – they exist in every age group. And after finally mounting the subway, I ran across my matching blazer, matching skirt kinda thing: A 55-year-old citizen dressed in an interesting Bordeaux suit while studying the subway ads above her.

Subway fashionista

Sometimes I can’t help it but to wonder: Who do I inspire and who will I come across the next time?

Fashionistas of New York: You keep this city alive!

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

Yes! I did it! AGAIN!

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

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

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

Line to Governor’s Island Ferry
People in Ferry Line

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

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

The Odd Twin Jewelry Stand
Yummy Cocktails from St. Germain

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

Ice Cream Stand
Classic Picnic
Classy Girl on a picnic blanket

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

Dance Crowd

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

Tug of War between the genders

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

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

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

Such as:

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

Exploring Beaches: Far Rockaway in Queens!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the menu…

the outdoor seating area
…the food!

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

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

Life Is Alive in Summer

Yes, you guessed right! Only one more post to go to fulfill the annual four-seasons- series. So far I’ve talked about the months from October to May. What else could be amiss then what is going on right now?

While spring and fall only last a few weeks if even a month, it’s up to summer and winter to make out the extreme and long-lasting times of the year. I have never experienced such a long summer as I have here (and the same can be said about winter, of course, but let’s not go there). Beach time from mid-May to September. Hot temperatures from June on. Even though most people seem to loathe the heat and cannot see the beauty of the so-called Dog Days from July on, I almost embrace them. After so many disappointing summers in Germany, the heat has been a welcoming change. Instead of windy and rainy weeks, which usually never turned into what I wanted them to, New York has given me just the right amount of sunshine I could possibly ever want. My desperate tries to catch a tan at one of Deutschland’s man-made lakes have been exchanged by long beach days at the Atlantic Ocean. No need to carry a jacket with you in the evening as the heat still lingers between skyscrapers all day and night long. The last two summers I have even made it through the humidity and sweat without an air conditioner. This year I gave up and crawled to Target to have one set up.
And even though this sounds like an incredibly hot season to bear, it really is not too bad. I’ve had worse down in Florida, where you truly have to hop from building to car, from car to building in order to avoid major sun burns. I believe the Northeast has found a great balance in being very hot but not hazardously burning during this time of year.

Of course there are also aspects that annoy me when it comes to summer. The way strands of my hair stick out to all sides once humidity reaches the dreaded 80 percent. But I carry my sun bleached strands with pride. They are a proof of many successful beach days and hours in the park. I have been able to dip them into salty cool water and have them washed out by sun and sea water. Accomplishing this without even going to an exotic location such as Spain or Italy – what a great feeling this is indeed!
And then the heat in the subway once you enter the underground. Boy, how all your efforts of looking good can be destroyed by a mere 5 minutes of standing in this boiling part underneath the City. Of course there is not much you can do about it other than sucking it up and trying to force a smile on your lips when your make-up is smeared by sweat and heat and your hair style has been effortlessly destroyed. Not to mention the cranked up air conditioners in the stores and offices. But you also have these during the winter, so I am not going to pin this one solely on summer!

New York offers an incredible array of things to do during this season. While spring has already kicked off a few events, summer is truly when this city comes to a full awakening. Band Shell music in Prospect Park from June to July. Further Open-air-concerts at the Summer Stage. Shakespearean plays in Central Park. Free movies screened outdoors beneath the Brooklyn Bridge and in Bryant Park. Operas shown at the Lincoln center and, and, and… And the best part about all of these outdoor events: They are for free! They cost zero. Nada! Null!

The Big Apple’s cultural list of things to do during the warm months is about to explode. And if you ever find yourself bored with any of these, you still have events at a low-cost to attend. Such as the Bi-annual Jazz fest on Governors Island. Or a boat tour on the Hudson River. Or you can simply take the train to one of Long islands fancy beaches ( Long beach, Fire Island, the Hamptons – the list goes on). Not that you really have to. You can go surfing right here, at Far Rockaway in Queens (and get badly burned if you don’t watch it).

Beergarden outdoors. Brunches outside. The Eurocup, Fourth of July, and Labor Day! Yes, summer is simply amazing in the city of 8 million!

Surfing at Far Rockaway/Queens!

The Game – Recap

Less than 2 weeks ago I started this project called the Game. While I had vowed to ask at least 10 people for their insight into the world that is not always conveyed to us readers, I hardly made it to a handful. I know, bad bad me. So even greater was my surprise when I found out that the few bloggers I had selected almost all came up with a great post. From 6 writers, 4 wrote an actual essay and 1 commented lengthily on the question I had posed. What a success the Game has been!

Of course I don’t want to give away the best parts but simply point you in the direction of these five talented bloggers and their excellent posts.

Here I also want to stop and thank all of you for being such a great sport by writing about topics that might have been too personal for some. Thank you, dear bloggers, I really appreciate the time you took to sit down and think about my challenge!

The very first to respond was Amanda, the fast shot! Her blog Amanda P Overseas is mostly about her life in Germany, specifically Heidelberg, where she moved with her husband, an enlisted Army paramedic. I even happened to meet her in person once when I paid my hometown a visit (read more here). Whereas her stories about how she experiences the other culture, restaurants, and towns in Deutschland are already interesting enough taken by themselves, I had a very different question for her. So I asked her how she met her husband and how she experienced her relationship to someone in the Armed Forces. Based on my own experience, it can be quite difficult to be engaged in a relationship with someone who never knows when he will be pulled out to fight a war or go on undefined assignments. Read her great answer here!

Next, the Sweetkitten from Cosy Travels of the Viking and his Kitten happened to raise an eyebrow with her equally fast response towards the challenge I had set out for her. While I am not too familiar with her blog yet, since she is what I consider a “new” reader, I went through it a bit and found some humorously composed stories on how she and her Danish husband experience life together in Brussels. I also found that she is engaged in a high amount of interesting matters (find more on her UNESCO project here) and am thrilled that she took her time to sit down and briefly write an answer for nosy me. The question was: Why did you decide to move to the country you live in now instead of staying in the Viking’s home country? More on this topic here!

The Sweetkitten probably stumbled over my blog when I published a post on Bucketlist (read more here, and yes, another Heidelberg post – alas!). Bucketlist belongs to Lesley Carter, a writer, traveler, photographer, and who knows what else(sounds like a good description for all of us, right?!). I am not sure she fully understood the purpose behind the Game but her response still deserves to be mentioned here. While I had asked her travel-related questions, she lengthily responded in a comment only a few minutes after I had posed my question! How could I ignore her efforts on this one? Exactly! So here is the link towards her post and comment (hint: it’s on the very bottom of the page)!

My Russian friend Elena has been inactive from her personal blog for a very long time already. While certain circumstances might have played a big role (she is pregnant AND moved back to her hometown St. Petersburg = move, new job, baby – what do you think the stress level could be?) I was happy to see that she revisited her blog and scraped together her English skills she most likely is hardly using at all in Russia at the current moment. Elena, great job! Thanks for coming up with that splendid post on 1) What you missed most when being in New York and initiated your move back to Leningrad and 2) when you started traveling and which culture/country you found the most interesting so far. I know, some questions might appear repetitive here, but that is just because I am asking folks whose interests overlap. Read her sweetly written response here, composed two days ago.

Lastly, Liz from Be.Love.Live took me by surprise. She published this great write-up just today. The busy bee is blogging at least once a day it seems and is completely immersed into challenges such as the Photo A Day and other Blog Awards. However, she seems to really enjoy writing and I know for a fact that she has outed herself as a social media addict. Therefore, I concluded she would have the most fun with this and maybe by conclusion was right, eh? Either way, I really enjoyed reading your original response on moving to Sweden and how you experienced your initial time in a foreign country. I also deem this has been the longest reply I’ve gotten for the Game so far.

Yup, you’ve heard correctly. I am thinking about recruiting five more fine bloggers and to hear their life story. So unless one of you folks wants to chime in and find someone you want to challenge, you will have to wait until the next time.

The Game: Play or Lose. But it would be rather nice to play, right?

The Game : An Insight into Other Bloggers’ Worlds

Recently I have come across quite a few projects and challenges swarming around in the World Wide Web. I find some of these ideas excellent and very effective towards getting to know other blogs and exploring a variety of worlds. Being part of an on-going project which includes the entire blogger/ instagram/ facebook scene is a great way of connecting to people around the globe. People who perhaps would have not stumbled across my writings or whose Web page I would have probably not found as easily as I did recently through these media.

So with all these Photo a Days, Versatile Blogger Awards, and What Nots going on, I have decided to come up with my very own interpretation of providing readers’ feedback. My idea is based on something I have not yet been able to find while surfing the Internet, therefore I want to fill in the gap. After all, isn’t blogging about creativity and introducing new ideas to the crowd? And what better way to share your thoughts on another person’s write-up if not commenting on various posts? Or even better, giving the specific blogger a challenge?

Such was my thought process, when an idea crossed my mind. Which then again turned into a whole new notion until it ended up in a final plan. And this is where I proudly present to you: The Game! A concept based on digging deeper into a blogger’s life (as long as he or she is willing to participate) and posing several little challenges in the form of so-called autobiographical articles.

The way the Game works is relatively easy: I will be selecting up to 10 bloggers who have been following German-American Abroad in the past few months (10 makes out for a good start, don’t you think?!). On their latest post I will comment and pose a challenge. It can be a question anywhere from How did you meet the love of your life and Your move to a foreign country to A life-changing story from your high school years. I then challenge these “authors” to write a separate post on these topics. Of course this is done on a purely voluntary basis from the to-be-challenged and all in the favor of the challenger. I just thought it would be fun and also informative to get to know the person behind the blog a bit better. I also find that even though these questions can be answered in a personal e-mail, it has more appeal to inquire via a blog and to spread the word to others who might have a similar interest in getting to know the person behind the creative words better.

The Game can be seen as a form of readers’ wish list as to what they want their favorite author to talk about occasionally. I sometimes find it hard to get feedback from my readers on what exactly they want to know about my life in New York, so maybe this will break the ice. I also have a ton of questions on the blogs I follow, so I am eager to see if this will be answered in my favor.

Like I mentioned, this challenge is absolutely voluntary. Under the current motto The Game: Play or Lose (insight into an interesting life) there is really not much to lose, I promise. Let the fun begin! I hope you guys find this worthy to participate in!