Celebrating a Little Piece of Deutschland in New York: Oktoberfest Season!

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Germany, specifically during this time of year? Dirndl, Lederhosen and beer? That’s exactly it! It’s Oktoberfest season worldwide – not only in the Bavarian metropolis! Even in New York people have come to like this time. Mostly because of the abundance of beer distributed during these days, needless to say, but it also seems that certain German traditions are never forgotten when being abroad.

Pennsylvania, for example, celebrates one of the biggest German festivals during this time of year. With parties throughout September and October, it is prone to have a high volume of happenings but these are geared towards smaller groups of people. Many German immigrants were on the East Coast so not surprisingly New York is a city that also has its festivities going on. After a steamship accident most of the German population drowned in the East River but parts of it survived.

The annual German-American Steubenparade in September is one of those crucial elements that cannot be amiss when celebrating one’s Middle-European heritage. After seeing it two years ago, I had missed out on it last year due to my traveling abroad. But this time I wanted to play an active part in the audience once again. My American friend was punctual as always, she was standing on 5th Avenue just when the clock stroke 12 o’clock noon. I arrived some tedious 40 minutes later – so much for Germans being on time. I wasn’t as unreliable as our other friend, though: He was 2 hours too late and only got to see the street sweepers clean the streets AFTER the parade was long gone.

He was clearly too late…

The New Yorker Steubenparade is one of those bizarre occurrences that don’t make sense to me as a German. It hosts floats and groups from different parts in Germany but then also Americans who just throw over a costume to look German. I am assuming these are the people living out their German-American heritage, for this can mean living in the US for a century without having been to Germany even once…

Either way, I was utterly confused when I saw the first group march past us, dressed in the typical Faschingsoutfit and throwing candy bars towards the waiting mass. Fasching happens from November to February but it is nowhere close to this time of year. “How good that Americans are gullible and don’t know that this has nothing to do with farmers and hunting, the actual reason Oktoberfest is celebrated” is what I thought when the next Funkemariechen group danced passed us. Many people seemed to have fun watching the comical but ill-timed costumes, so I guess the purpose of the parade was met. I even saw a “Bitburger-Beer”-float, which made me dwell in memories of the annual Bitburger Bierfest held in March. Bitburg is close to the town I grew up in, and it’s always good to see a little bit of Heimat when so far away.

Fasching outfits during the parade
The Bitburger Float

The parade itself lasted a good one and a half hours. After the last group of musicians marched by, most people broke away and walked towards the entrance of Central Park. Here is where the real party starts: The annual Oktoberfest and most likely biggest German celebration in the City, resembling its German counterpart but then not really, thanks to German Faschingoutfits. Usually it is even held on the same weekend the Munich fest is: 3 weeks before the first weekend in October. However, the Bavarian version starts this coming Saturday, so I don’t know the exact reason as to why the American Oktoberfest was pre-scheduled for September 15 of this year. Either way, a ton of people still showed up and it turned out to be a blast!

If you are familiar with Central Park, you might know the area around 70th Street, where Summer Stage is usually held during the hot season. On the exact same spot, numerous tents, food stands, a stage, beer sellers and other promoters positioned themselves to make out the biggest Oktoberfest in North America. This year we had bought our tickets in advance so we didn’t have to bribe security guards to let us through the gaps in the fence like we did in 2010. We started off with two different pitchers of beer: One was a typical wheat ale and another one was Warsteiner, one of the many sponsors of the fest. We walked past huge lines of people waiting for food, and an overcrowded tent reserved for the VIPs and parade participators. Everyone was exchanging different pitchers of beer and was in a jolly good mood. In all of the chaos, you saw little bands performing, such as the trumpet players who never failed to amuse the audience. I also remember two children handing out business cards for a German restaurant in Staten Island and then demanding one dollar for those…. Capitalism starts early!

Braided hair
… and the public version of it!
Us with cake and beer
The greedy kids who wanted a dollar per business card… tsss!

Watching the parade, walking around and drinking beer can be quite daunting, so I tried out a few of the food options: Mushy French fries and a plum cake with an awkward dough inside – I was not very thrilled. Then I came around to the fried dough stand. One thing I recommend you trying is their potato pancakes: Delicious creations dipped in apple sauce and seasoned so well, I was transformed back to a German street fest. Very authentic pieces of German cuisine, I must say!

The stage hosted an American band for a while, and then a female German singer ended up performing her by now very popular song of “I love German Boys.” I have never heard this song in Germany before so it must be something she only sings during Oktoberfest in New York. I have seen her perform it two years ago, I wonder how her record is picking up so far…

After about four hours of talking to people, taking in the atmosphere and drinking beer, we decided it was time for an after-party. It couldn’t be anywhere else than in the one and only “Zum Schneider:”
One of the most authentic German restaurants in the East Village and most likely the best German restaurant in the entire City. Here we ran into another group of friends and decided to settle for some dinner entrees consisting of a Bavarian cheese plate, a Wiener Schnitzel, and German sausage. The price-product ratio is very good here and you don’t feel you are being ripped off just because the restaurant has to import some food items from overseas. The servers are usually from Germany, so they speak the same language and understand what kind of beer you want when you happen to pronounce it the right way.

Oktoberfest people
At Zum Schneider in 2010

And that was it! An eventful day of fighting Heimweh and meeting friends who are interested in your foreign culture. Oktoberfest in New York equals Germans in New York – you’ll always run into a few of those.

If you are interested in taking part one of these years, make sure to get your tickets in advance, as they sell out as soon as in mid-July already. I paid 15 Dollars for mine this year, but I would assume prices fluctuate in the coming years.

Und weil es so schön war, gerne auf deutsch nochmal:

Woran muss man zuallererst denken wenn das Gespräch auf Deutschland schweift, besonders zu dieser Jahreszeit? Dirndl, Lederhosen und ein Bier? Ganz genau! Die Oktoberfestsaison hat begonnen – nicht nur in der bayrischen Metropole sondern auf der ganzen Welt! Sogar in New York kommt sie gut an. Natürlich kann es daran liegen, dass Bier wie am laufenden Bande ausgeschenkt wird in diesen Tagen, das ist doch klar. Dennoch scheint es, dass einige deutsche Traditionen im Ausland alle Jahre wieder gut ankommen und hoffentlich ankommen werden.

Wie zum Beispiel im Staate Pennsylvania, wo eines der bedeutendsten deutschen Feste im Ausland zu dieser Jahreszeit gefeiert wird. Mit Feten vom September bis Oktober passiert eine ganze Menge, aber diese Festchen sprechen mehr kleinere Gruppen an als die große Menge. Ursprünglich siedelten sich viele deutschen Immigranten an der Ostküste der USA an, deshalb ist es auch kein großer Zufall, dass die Stadt New York viel anzubieten weiß. Bei einem Schiffunglück auf dem East River ist zwar ein großer Prozentsatz der deutschstämmigen Bevölkerung umgekommen, aber ein Teil hat dennoch überlebt.

Die alljährliche deutsch-amerikanische Steubenparade im September gehört zu den bedeutenden Ereignissen, die einfach nicht fehlen dürfen wenn es darum geht, seinem Ursprungsland treu zu bleiben. Vor zwei Jahren noch fieberhaft mitverfolgt, musste ich letztes Jahr leider aussetzen – das Heimweh hatte mich gepackt und in ein Flugzeug nach Hause verfrachtet. Dieses Jahr wollte ich wieder als aktiver Zuschauer mitwirken. Meine amerikanische Freundin war natürlich wie gewohnt pünktlich um 12 Uhr auf der 5th Avenue. Ich ließ mir gute 40 Minuten Zeit um von Brooklyn hoch zur Upper East Side zu gondeln. Noch ein anderer Kumpel gab uns erst gar nicht Bescheid sondern tanzte gute 2 Stunden später an: Als die Barrikaden sorgfältig zusammengeklappt waren und die ersten Straßenfeger zum Einsatz kamen.

Die New Yorker Steubenparade ist eines dieser merkwürdigen Geschehnisse, die nicht allzuviel Sinn für einen deutschen Eingeborenen wie mich machen. Verschiedene Wagen und Fußgruppen kommen hier aus allen Teilen Deutschlands zusammen und treffen auf Amerikaner, die sich mal grade ein Kostümchen überwerfen um krampfhaft deutsch zu wirken. Ich nehme an, dass diese Teilnehmer ihre deutsch-amerikanischen Wurzeln ausleben, die seit Jahrzenten in Amerika verankert sind, aber selber noch nie in ihrem Leben im tatsächlichen Deutschland gewesen sind…

Jedenfalls war ich ganz schön verdutzt als ich die erste Fußgruppe an uns vorbeimarschieren sah. Anstatt der normalen Oktoberfest-Tracht hatte sie ein typisches Faschingskostüm an und warf Kamellen in die wartende Menge. Fasching findet eigentlich zwischen dem 11. November und Februar statt und ist damit noch weit weg vom September. „Wie gut dass die Amerikaner so naiv sind und nicht wissen, dass diese Kostüme nichts mit der Bauern – und Jägertradition zu tun haben, wofür das Oktoberfest ursprünglich steht“, dachte ich mir nur als schon das nächste Funkemariechen an mir vorbeitanzte. Dennoch, viele Menschen fanden Gefallen an diesen witzigen aber komplett sinnlosen Kostümen, und damit war die Parade ein totaler Hit. Ich stieß sogar auf einen „Bitburger-Wagen“, der mich weit in die Vergangenheit schweifen liess. Erinnerungen an das alljährliche Bitburger Bierfest kamen auf, das jedes Mal im März stattfindet. Bitburg befindet sich nah an dem Dorf, in dem ich aufgewachsen bin, und es ist immer gut ein kleines Stückchen Heimat im fremden Lande wiederzuerkennen.

Die Parade selbst dauerte gute anderthalb Stunden. Nachdem die letzte Gruppe von Musikanten ans uns vorbeilief, brach die Menge auf einmal los: Es ging auf in Richtung Central Park. Hier ging erst richtig die Post ab: Das alljährliche Oktoberfest tobte und damit das größte deutsch-angehauchte Fest in New York, das seinem deutschen Gegenstück ähnelte, abgesehen von den Faschingskostümen und anderen Jecken. Typischerweise wird es sogar an demselben Wochenenende abgehalten an dem die bayrische Version anfängt aber aus irgendeinem Grunde hatte man es dieses Jahr vorgezogen schon am 15. September aufs Allgemeinwohl anzustoßen. So oder so, eine große Menge schaute vorbei und es war eine wahre Freude teilnehmen zu können!

Wenn man sich im Central Park etwas auskennt ist man sicherlich schonmal über die Summer Stage gestolpert, die es normalerweise, wie der Name schon verrät, nur im Sommer gibt und sich um die 70. Strasse herum befindet. Genau auf diesem Fleck standen nun anstatt bekiffter Rastas eine endlose Reihe von Zelten, Essenständen, Biertränken, Bühnen, und andere interessante Dinge, alle mit dem Ziel vor Augen mal wieder das größte Oktoberfest in Nordamerika auszumachen. Weil wir dieses Jahr unsere Karten im Vorverkauf reserviert hatten, mussten wir nicht, wie vor zwei Jahren schon, die Türsteher bestechen, die uns dann für ein komplett überteuertes Bestechungsgeld durch eine Lücke im Zaun durchließen. Nein, dieses Mal waren wir um einiges schlauer. So wussten wir auch direkt, dass wir uns einen großen Bierkrug zu bestellen hatten anstatt uns mit 3 kleinen Bechern abzumühen nur ums uns letzten Endes wieder durch die endlos scheinende Schlange zu kämpfen. Selbst fürs Essen stand man locker einen halbe Stunde an. Irgendwann schafften wir es uns mit Bockwurst, Pommes und Pflaumenkuchen bewaffnet durch die Menge zu boxen und das Spektakel zu verfolgen. An den angeheiterten Jecken vorbei, die sich den Warsteiner aus dem Krug schütteten. Irgenwann wurden wir in dem Chaos auf zwei kleine Kinder aufmerksam, die fleißig Visitenkarten ausgaben. Für die Reklame eines deutschen Restaurants in Staten Island verlangten sie eifrig einen Dollar von den verdutzten Passanten… Kapitalismus fängt früh an!

Weil die Fritten eher matschig schmeckten und der Pflaumenkuchen auch zu wünschen übrig ließ (an das gute deutsche Standard kommt so schnell nichts), traute ich mich vorsichtig an den Stand heran, der frittierten Teig und andere Spezialiäten anzubieten hatte. So wie zum Beispiel erstklassigen Reibekuchen! Die Kartoffelpfannekuchen schmeckten sogar besser als bei Muttern, was echt was zu heißen hat, und wurden zusammen mit authentischem Apfelmus angeboten. Mhmmm, lecker und echt zu empfehlen, falls es sowas nächstes Jahr wieder gibt!

Auf der Bühne wärmte sich eine amerikanische Volksmusikband auf, bevor einer deutschen Sängerin Aufmerksamkeit geschenkt wurde. Wie schon zwei Jahre zuvor führte diese ihren Feiertagshit „ I love German Boys“ auf und begeisterte damit mal wiede das ganze Publikum, dass den Ohrwurm bereitwillig aufnahm und sogar vereinzelte Zuschauer veranlasste mitzuschunkeln.

Nach vier langen Stunden herumgehen, Leute kennenlernen, feiern und trinken wurde uns so langsam alles über. Wir wollten After-Party, und wo anders könnte man sie besser halten als im „Zum Schneider“: Eines der originellsten deutschen Restaurants im East Village und wahrscheinlich die beste deutsche Bar in ganz Manhattan. Hier trafen wir spontan auf eine weitere Gruppe von Freunden und entschieden uns für ein Abendbrot der Extraklasse, zusammengesetzt aus einer bayrischen Käseplatte, einem Wiener Schnitzel und Wurst. Im Vergleich zu anderen deutsch-imitierenden Restaurants liegt es preislich im Mittelbereich, vor allen Dingen weil die Portionen großzügig sind, obwohl die Ware importiert ist. Die Kellner und Kellnerinnen kommen fast alle aus Deutschland, sprechen damit ein und dieselbe Sprache und verstehen ausnahmsweise welches Bier genau man haben möchte wenn man auf deutsch bestellt.

Somit ging ein weiterer erfolgreicher Tag des Heimwehbekämpfens und Freunde in die fremde Kultur einweisen zu Ende. Denn Oktoberfest in New York garantiert eines ganz sicher: Ob man möchte oder nicht, man lernt hier gewiss Deutsche kennen– sie sind oftmals im Rudel unterwegs.

Falls ihr daran interessiert seit nächstes Jahr teilzunehmen, bedenkt bitte die Eintrittskarten im Vorverkauf zu bestellen. Dieser fängt schon Mitte Juli an und kann 2 Wochen später ausverkauft sein. Für meine Karte habe ich dieses Jahr 15 Dollar bezahlt, aber natürlich kann der Preis in der Zukunft dank Inflation und Nachfrage nur noch ansteigen… Prost!

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The Impressions of New York

It’s always an experience to get back to this city even when gone for just a few days. Every time I witness my return differently. Mostly I am not at all pleased but sometimes I am happy to be back. Yet, coming back from Canada was different in so many ways. When I saw the skyline from far away, I was thankful at once. Away from the awful greyhound bus, away from the travel on the bumpy road. It almost felt like home to embrace a city I’ve been in for so long. Home – a very tangible word.

However, my initial euphoria changed quickly after entering the subway. First, the endless wait for an express train at 3 AM around Times Square. I had forgotten how drunken people can act on a Tuesday morning out. Being stared at by random guys when you absolutely do not feel like meanly glancing back at them until they finally look away. On top of this, of course the N-Train that decided to switch over to the R on the last stop in Manhattan. The long walk over from Canal Street to where the Q stops. Having the Q shut its door right in my face. Fidgeting around for another eternity. It takes some long 20 minutes for another train to come when it’s the middle of the night.

Looking up when an aggressive group of teenagers walks up to you and the rest of the tired commuters. Spanish yelling, waving of the arms from their side. Everyone is staring in disbelieve rather than reacting sensibly. I even got pushed by one of the fat mildly overweight Puerto Rican girls. At least she said “excuse me” after striking my upper body. I was too startled to think of much to do. I thought it rather a bad idea to pick a fight with a group of four when all I have to defend myself is my heavy bag of souvenirs. So many underage people out on the streets and of course I ran into another group of chicks on the train, once it came. This time I kept my calm. Ten minutes later I was finally home. The thought I had when falling into bed was that this city is hideous, the people have ugly personalities and I want to get out of here right now.

The next morning. A beautiful day. The people still being a bit weird but manageable. I felt more like an anonymous commuter that day than someone who has to stand up for herself in New York. Peace of mind. But the ride back home complete chaos – again. A tunnel in Brooklyn that decided to catch fire, leaving the entire subway system turned upside down. Walking down the steps to the Herald Square underground I started wondering why there were more masses than usual accumulated on the platform. The B and the D were only running to W4. Even after heading over to the N and the Q, I was in no luck. The first one stopped, spat out a chunk of evening commuters and then announced it would be backtracking straight to Times Square (42nd St). The R came and announced that 14th -Union Square was its final stop (it usually runs to Bay Ridge). No one knew what to do. I decided to squeeze into an overpopulated subway car and try my luck towards downtown. I gave up after being held in 23rd St for ten minutes straight. A crackly voice over the intercom blared that all trains were currently held in the station due to the high volume of traffic ahead of us. I was one freaking stop away! And then the conductor laughed into the speaker. He actually cracked up! It made me smile. If people can still make fun of such an absurd situation, no matter how vicious their intentions are, you still have to see the comic of the circumstances. And how ridiculous is it to be stuck in Manhattan on a random weekday? Squeezed against hundreds of other commuters? I got off and wandered the streets of the Flatiron district. Eventually I made it to the 4 and 5, which thankfully ran underground and were unaffected by the sudden fire in Downtown Brooklyn. Of course a few thousand other people had also been forced to dodge towards this alternative. I have seldom felt so happy to get off the train than during this day. Atlantic Ave was jam-packed with masses. And I’ve seen it during a normal rush hour; yesterday was three times as many people.

Today I was more confident in the way of how to handle matters. I didn’t feel like an awkward piece sticking out of the grey masses of the City trying to fit in. Today I actually did fit in. And instead of feeling frustrated as I had before this trip, a different feeling overcame me. Happiness comes when least expected. It may come when you are sitting under a roof of leaves in Madison Square Park, clutching an umbrella with one hand, writing your thoughts down with the other. It may also come when jumping from puddle to puddle, finding your reflection in one of those. It’s an abstract concept but it brings back the memory of a time when everything used to be easier.

Summer Stuff to Do Before Summer Ends in the Big Apple

Let’s face it: It’s August! It’s about time to wrap up the summer-is-so-awesome-posts and start sharing with you what exactly makes this time of the year so exciting. Of course it’s hanging out in the open, drinking sangria under the star-spangled sky, and sauntering the streets without having to be wrapped into a thick winter jacket. While I’d love to elaborate on the second point but don’t have much to say on the third, it is indeed all about the events I am eager to share with you today!

Open-air-concerts have by now been extensively shared and talked about in this blog. Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park still being among one of my favorites. Read more here to find out about the smaller version of the Manhattan event and high-class performers jamming it out onstage, thus making this fest so perfectly quaint. After bringing a Berlin friend here this summer, I was able to impress him after winning a free picnic blanket from Googleplay and introducing him to a group of ten friends who had all gathered around the lawn. While I haven’t been out there too many times this year, I can only recommend going to the Bandshell. A side note: Leave your professional camera at home, they might not let you in depending on the mood of the security guard!

Then, summer stage in Central Park is of course among one of these summer open-air goodies, as well. Music, performances, dancing – all season long and most are for free! But where you should really try to go, once you are in Central Park, are the Shakespeare plays around the Belvedere Castle. Great actors and actresses convey a cultural vibe on stage. The first play I saw was the Merchant in Venice. My friend and I had managed to sneak in at some point in time and followed every scene from the back row. It was great! It’s what you should get on Broadway, only it’s for free and under the blue sky. Make sure you get your ticket either at 6 o’clock in the morning or snag them online before 1 PM. If you go via the online route, you will be randomly chosen out of a selection of a few hundred. If not, make sure to get up earlier and be in the Park by 5:30 AM. Or pretend to be a German tourist, don’t speak any English and sneak in after the break. Hey, works (almost) every time!

Since you are already on the cultural side of life’s finest options, you could also just check out a recital of the Met Opera! For free! No kidding, the renowned opera house actually practices their good stuff before bringing it at a much higher cost to the crowds. And these so-called practices are now open to the public. Their summer round is almost over, but you can definitely still catch a quick peak at Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens on August 9 (today). For more info, go to their Web Site and check out their agenda. They usually run 6 free performances throughout the summer, so make sure to get the best out of it!

More music can be taken in at Madison Square Park. I happened to be there yesterday after work. Didn’t even know of their weekly performances going on until I saw the stage and the list hung next to it. Supposedly yesterday was the last day of their summer series but you can enjoy it all over again next year. The season started out with James Maddock and ended it with chimes from Bettye LaVette. It’s really a pity I didn’t know about this earlier, I could have just stayed late at work and gone directly from there in the past six weeks. I do know for a fact that they build up a huge screen during the US Open and make it viewable to the public. Also a nice event to watch, I find!

After so much music and culture, it’s good to just take a relaxing break and enjoy a movie. If you are up for it, go to Bryant Park around 42nd Street and make sure you bring a picnic blanket and five other friends. This is no joke but I saw a group of 12 people build up their very own Whole Foods picnic in the middle of the park while watching the Robin Hood feature film presented last Monday. If it doesn’t happen in New York, I don’t know where it does. And if you want to stay Brooklyn-bound, you can do the exact same thing every Thursday in Dumbo (yup, Dumb-o, we talked about it). In both locations the movies start when the sun sets, which is usually between 8:30 and 9 PM, depending on the month. They will continue on showing popular films until August 20 & 30, so you can still snag a few good ones before it comes to an end.

Bryant Park Movie Crowd

For further entertainment, please stay exactly where you are. Dumbo also offers free Zumba classes every Sunday afternoon during the months of July and August. Alma from the YMCA teaches it here. Remember my hard-sought fitness and the inevitable post on it? Well, this was also due to Alma and her kick-ass Zumba courses. She is a fun instructor and really likes to challenge the eager hobby dancers. Just be sure you make it there on time, because the class runs from 4 to 5 PM.

Oh and yes, every Monday they do have a reading! Readings are great – you get to know a book and the author in one session. All of this at no cost but taking some time out of your day and listening to the tender words of an aspiring young author. Find yourself at the steps on Pier 1 from 7 to 8 PM to get the most out of Books Beneath the Bridge.

There are so many more things worth mentioning. Union Square kicks off the summer season with a very special program. It features newcomer bands, offers morning yoga, and much more. Check out their Summer in the Square Series to get a full overview. I am afraid their options are almost exhausted, though, since they already start bringing out the really great acts in June.

And you’d think New Yorkers would eventually get bored with the tremendous amount of free fun, but it isn’t so. It’s rather the opposite: We just don’t know what to choose and where to be at what time of the day.
Because aside from all of the open-air events, we have the cultural highlights that are still going on at the side. Such as Restaurant Week. Which has by now fully extended its time frame. Lunch and dinner specials for three weeks straight, who couldn’t take advantage of this great offer? And then of course the all-time classics such as Governor’s Island Jazz Age Festival, which is running its 7th season this year!

You see, from all of these true jewels to choose it becomes mighty hard which one to pick. But I surely hope you will find your way to at least one of these!

Thoughts of a Humid Summer Night

Don’t you feel you want to start over sometimes? Turn back time to a few months ago? Go back in the past and make things right?
I feel like this occasionally. Today was one of the days. I was weaving through pictures from winter and spring. What hopeful visions I had then: of warmer weather, a better summer, more interaction with other people, and generally more action in my life.

Now it is already the end of July. Summer is over in a month. Unlike last year and the year before, I do not feel I have accomplished a whole lot this time around. It might have been the unusual working hours I’ve had to endure lately (more to come later) or in general being busy for a full 9 hours a day as opposed to the 8-hour-shifts I had at other jobs. Or maybe the friends who were less responsive this time then they were before. Perhaps I had also busied myself more in 2011 by actively seeking out more events and fun stuff to do. Either way, time has passed by so suddenly, it makes me gulp very hard. In order not to panic I have started writing lists over lists over lists of interesting stuff to do. Hopefully I will be able to accomplish at least half of these before the season is over.

And alas, this time I am not going home for three weeks, so September technically still belongs to my New York summer. Despite these advantages my breath shortens and my palms become sweaty. What if it’s over too soon? What if I miss out on too much? Manhattanhenge, for example, the twice-in-a-year sunset between New York skyscrapers. What beautiful shots the natural wonder would have provided for. In May, after the first chance to see it, I vowed to myself not to miss out on the second opportunity in mid-July. July 11 has long-since passed already and I am still mad at simply forgetting. And for a malfunctioning iPhone alarm.

Maybe I have also become more and more scared of the evitable change lurking in the depths of my life. It is decision-making time in many categories once again. My thoughts linger back to when I first came here and the motives that drove me. I was fresh out of college (three months post-graduation), I had no intentions in pursuing a master’s degree right away. I desperately needed a change to my life and New York brought this change upon me. But my role in bringing this change upon myself has of course been the active one. It truly is about the decisions we make in our lives that bring us to the spot we are in now. And perhaps this is what I am a little bit afraid of. Making the wrong decision, going down a wrong path.

Sometimes a slight depression overcomes me of not having accomplished enough with the resources I have at my hand. After all, I do live in New York, the city of unlimited opportunities. I am repulsed when I see locals here who’ve lived in the City for so long and take everything for granted. It might just be my foreign view of things. But I hope I will never take anything for granted in the Big Apple, will never unsee the beauty of this city.

Perhaps, lately, I have surrounded myself with too many people who have not been creative. A surprising amount of folks have a simple life here. I have never been attracted to them, I have only come to respect them. It is the artists I have started to admire, the people with an open head and dreams yet to pursue if not already in the process of pursuing. It is for these reasons I hope to stay a little while longer, in the right company, keeping my focus straight.

Photo A Day: May 24 Through 26

Today is May 27. It appears that this little picture project is slowly coming to an end. I am not sure if there will be a Photo a Day Challenge in June but I doubt I will once again participate in it. Not because I did not like it, just because this blog has a different purpose other than that. I had a blast following the daily suggestions and have definitely come to snap a lot more pictures than I usually do – which is typically already a good amount. I also very much enjoyed seeing the interpretation of these suggestions by other bloggers, even the ones who stopped doing it halfway through the month … HINT!

However, we still have 5 more days to go. Well, four, but I am only posting up to May 26. My day has just started here and I have yet to meet “something sweet.”
So let’s go on and see what Thursday through Saturday held for me.

[Something new]

I finally went to Macy’s again. It’s been raining a fair amount during the week, so I try to spend my lunch breaks inside. Floor 4 holds a pretty awesome collection of things. It is also here where I ran across the new designs of XOXO (yes, kisses and hugs). Don’t these bright colors make you feel happy just by looking at them? I am thrilled to see that their shirts and dresses are in accordance to my taste. I am also anticipating that I will have to stop by a few times throughout the summer to get some hard core shopping done.
On the same note, I finally fulfilled a small dream of mine: I ended up buying a nail color I had eyed since last summer. Not sure it is in fashion anymore but I simply do not care. Go blue is my motto now and I really love how the color matches pretty much everything I wear. Should have done this waaay earlier!

[Something unusual]

Well, this could apply to every day until Wednesday but last Friday was indeed the very first time I got to see them wandering the streets of New York again: It’s Fleet Week! Thousands of navy guys and marines are taking over New York. Concerts, boat tours, and other fun things are going on throughout the entire weekend. I might just have to head to Times Square today to see them perform live on stage. Or go to the Intrepid and take some good shots of the boats that landed over there. I took part in more activities of Fleet Week last year (read more here) but then, to give me some credit, the weather has really not been the best this year, either. Fleet Week will end on May 30 and I am already sad to see the uniforms go. They bring a very special vibe to this city.

[12 o’clock]

Possibly my favorite shot of the week! I had a date with my friends at the beach. We were scheduled to meet at Far Rockaway. On my 1-hour-trip over there on the A-Train this couple sat pretty much right next to me. They were German and also on their way to the ocean. I fancied their bodies covered in tattoos. Even though I could never do this, I still thought the tats looked pretty funky on them. Guess you do become alike after being with each other, right?!
I love how there is always something quite unusual to see on random days during random hours and noon time was that one occasion I wanted to share with you!

So I hope you are enjoying this 3-day-weekend (for some even 4 days) and get a great BBQ on tomorrow!
Cheers from New York!

Belated St. Patty’s Day in the City Post

Yes, I know, it’s already March 20 – three days after the big event. Which doesn’t mean I can’t talk about it anymore, right? Three days ago was the day of the probably most popular occurrence in the spring: Saint Patrick’s Day and the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade!

And to this date, this was also my very first St. Patty’s Day I was actually able to fully take part in. You see, this year it fell on the weekend. And it was even on a Saturday. Ergo, the very first time I did not have to work and miss out on all the fun. A few million like-minded people had the same idea and came in masses groups from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Long Island – probably from anywhere BUT New York City. Although, in all fairness, I am sure a good deal of New Yorkers was also on the streets. Of course – no one wants to miss out on the first time it falls on a decent day.

Anyway, we did the only smart thing to do: We joined the drunken crowds around Central Park to watch the annual parade take off. To make matters worse, we were most likely three of the only people who stayed sober. Rewind an hour back, which would be me on the train: I had expected a nice peaceful ride up to Lexington/63rd St, to get off there and to carelessly stroll towards the waiting attractions. Wrong parade, wrong year, wrong date!

It started with people stumbling on the train right after Delancey St (Lower East Side). From then on, I had the chance to look at some really exotic and very green costumes. Then, getting off at aforementioned 63rd St station, I had to box my way past wasted teenagers who thought it a funny idea to pour half-empty water bottles over the heads of the crowd. Three flights of stairs and ten excruciating minutes later, and I was about to tell a cop to arrest these mean little rats.

Off to Central Park, where of course something like a line structure had formed, which could only be avoided by walking past with the most sincere determination. Then, convincing my two friends that standing against the parade and only getting to see the beautiful behinds backs of everyone participating in it might not be the best case scenario. We continued to walk a few blocks up, where we finally found a decent standing spot. Only two cry-babies and a worried mother ahead of us, that was much better than I had pictured. A few costumized pedestrians marching by. Numerous military brigades, FDNY, and other uniformed groups filling up the parade. Finally, one or two green color guards which happily swung their flags ahead of them.

After one hour I pretty much had enough and so did my company. We decided to go for a late brunch/early snack around Union Square. From there, we even made it to the East Village, where hordes of people were aimlessly standing outside, breaking up fights or getting involved in one, or simply trying to have a good time while puking into the next trash bin.

And what really astounded me but also made me smile: Everyone was all of a sudden Irish. Or at least making the best effort in appearing to be so. From the Haitian chick over the Latin Samba-dancer to the red-headed tourist – everyone wanted to dress green and be part of the fun.
My friend had half-heartedly thrown a blue shirt over her, so we got a few odd looks from the people that were not yet fully intoxicated. While we managed to stay pretty much sober throughout the entire day, I couldn’t help it but feel sorry for all the drunken faces walking around in the Greenwich Village. Because this is where I finally got my first beer. Guinness, of course, how could it else be! One hour later, my friend and I were over the entire party-scene and we decided to call it a day. Not without taking a few good shots of the crowd.

Random drunk guy wanting to be in the picture...

So, maybe you are asking the wrong person for how great St. Patty’s Day can be. I guess I am not much of a partier when everyone else around me is. But one thing is for sure: You can always be up for a good time! Even without much alcohol in your blood.

Oh, and do not forget to get the annual drink of the year: McDonalds peppermint shake which has been created solely for the purpose of the Green Day! It’s sweet, it’s green, it’s cheap – what else could you possibly want?! Way to go, Shamrock Shake!

The one and only Shamrock Shake!


[For more pictures on St. Patty’s Day go here.]

What to Do on Rainy Days in New York: Museums (II)

Yes, the rainy season is here again! Or rather, has never stopped due to our extremely mild winter for the past 4 months. Which is even better, I think. What a great occasion to fill you in on the latest excursions I have made after What to Do on Rainy Days in New York: Museums (I).

So lately I have been having some time on my hands again. Time to check out two more gorgeous museums the City of New York offers.
As promised, I made it to the Museum of Modern Art. The MoMA is a pretty neat spot for exhibitions and galleries. Like many other large museums, it also offers free entrance when you go at certain times. I know Friday past 4 PM is one of them. So one Friday afternoon I made my way out to Midtown again. The MoMA is not located on the Museum Mile but close to the Rockefeller Center. It took me some time to find the right side, but once I made it there, a long long line of people was awaiting me. “Of course, “I thought, “Whenever something is for free you can never expect to be the only one with the “bright” idea to go there by yourself.” But surprisingly it didn’t take as awfully long to get in as I had fearfully anticipated. A good 15 min wait of shoving Italian and Asian tourists out of my way (who always wanted to get ahead of the rest), until I found myself inside. The MoMA is beautifully build up with a small yard and fountains in a secluded outside area. Inside, you can climb up to six open floors. Each floor hosts one to three different topics. I was fascinated by the photo section, naturally, and quite taken in by the paintings, too. And then, on the upper level, you find an array of items modeled and invented by contemporary “artists. “ Such as a bicycle tire stilted on a kitchen stool, taking in the entire room. Or a mask drinking an old bottle of Coca-Cola. Or a hamburger wrapper on golden stone. Well, the last one was my idea, I am just kidding. It would fit into the other dubious pieces of art. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the sculpture of the runner and the three red pieces of plastic quite brilliant. But a broken down bicycle tire? Next! Use the space for something more unique, please.

Is this art?

The runner

Overall, the Museum of Modern Art is great to fill you in on what contemporary wizards have come up with. I am sure they always have nice exhibitions going on but it must also be hard to find competitive artists who are worth to exhibit here. They must all still stand in the shadow of artists from a different decade…

Next was the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum. That was actually yesterday, as it was cold and windy outside – most ideal time to finally make my way out to the Museum Mile again. Right next to Central Park, on 88th St and 5th Avenue, you can walk into the Guggenheim Museum almost every day except for Thursday. Or at least that is what I thought. But yesterday from 5:45 PM to closing time was a give-by-donation entrance fee. Meaning a long line of culture-hungry people was awaiting me here again. I am starting to see a pattern! Luckily, even though the mass wrapped around the building and almost to Madison Avenue, it only took us ten minutes to get inside.

And here another surprise was waiting for me: Picture-taking forbidden! Yes, that’s right, the Guggenheim is so far the first and only museum in which you are not allowed to shoot nice photos. Pictures are my passion and I like to keep some for the sake of my memory. However, I sadly had to discover that as soon as I put my Canon out and shot one memorable photograph on the second floor, a security guard came barfing at me, ordering me to pack that camera away. But after walking up the steep hill leading to the fifth floor, if you can call it so, because the museum goes up in a continuous flow, I also started noticing that some guards did not care at all if you snapped souvenir pictures right in front of them. Mind me, but once I made it to the very top, a huge group of tourists/locals/ who knows what were standing there and having quite a photo session. It was actually hilarious to see how most people were rebelliously posing for the best shot before the guards came and put an end to it all.

The Guggenheim right now has the John Chamberlain exhibition going on. It opened up three days ago. In addition, it is quite sad to know the background story as John Chamberlain passed away just two months ago. Either way, the exhibition was scheduled to take off now and they couldn’t or wouldn’t interrupt the installation, as they were already in the process of building up his art. Therefore, you can regard this special exhibition as a homage to the artist Chamberlain, who never got to open up his own work of a lifetime.
In addition to the contemporary pieces, you find paintings sponsored by the Tannhauser Gallery in a side section, featuring Picasso, Pisarro, van Gogh, Rousseau, and many, many more. What I found interesting were the paintings themselves. They were not the famous pieces you learn about and get to know in school or history books, but rather pieces of art you didn’t even know existed. A colorful painting from the 19-year old Picasso, for example, before the time his work became more and more blurred up.

Chamberlain Art (taken with iPhone 4S)

The Guggenheim is a museum I had always wanted to check out and I now finally got the chance to do so. Albeit its small size it does offer some true masterpieces and is definitely worth the visit. Take advantage of the free Saturday evenings, as they are not too crowded after all.

Me and my forbidden picture!

[For more pictures on the MoMA, go here.]

Just Another Chillaxing Weekend in the Big Apple…

Last weekend was a really relaxing and fun-filled time off. Two of those days simply taken to enjoy the wonders of New York.
First of all, I got to discover one of the best brunch locations in the Slope I have come across so far. Giovanni’s offers Italian eats at a reasonable price with unlimited bloody’s and mimosas. For 17 bucks you get quite a huge amount of food, as antipasti is served before the secondi, with the first dish being almost the size of the second. We couldn’t finish up our plates, in a good way, that is. I have seldom tasted anything as well seasoned and put together than in this Brooklyn Eats restaurant.

Antipasti....
... Secondi!Yaaaaaam!

With full stomachs, which almost ached because of the food overload, we decided to go for a walk and ended up at the Steinhof. The Steinhof is a spot that sorta reminds me of home but not really. My old roomies and I used to spend a good amount of happy hours and weekend time in the only Austrian bar in Park Slope. It also helped to only live two blocks away from it, as it’s right on 7th Avenue. Now that I’ve moved two blocks over, I have to walk a bit further, but it’s still less than 10 minutes away. For some reason I don’t go there as often anymore, it seems like a completely different area to me now. And I guess I people get lazy after some time, too.
So the Steinhof is a pub I’ve really come to like. They have happy hour from 4 to 7PM – every day that is. We got there just in time for our first half-priced beer. It still blows my mind how often the bartenders change in this spot. The waiters stay the same, as long as I’ve known them. Long long ago there used to be this Australian cocktailmixer who liked to flirt with every girl behind the bar. Then he got fired and ever since the selection of newbies went from grumpy bartender to bossy bartendress. Well, guess you have to get used to some things in your life.

interior of the Steinhof

Sunday was a day ridden by emotions and krass situations. First, the Chinatown Parade and our successful escape from the masses of tourists and other idiots longing in the wrong direction. Then I met up with another friend in the St. Marks area. I hadn’t been there in a while, must have been a few months ago, at least. We walked over to Washington Square Park. The day was beautiful, as the sun was shining and it was relatively mild outside. Winter has still not shown his rough, scarry, frosty face to us this year. Because my friend is shooting a video next weekend, we were on the lookout for various props. First a sports outfit at American Apparel. All sales girls looked like models, with a tall, lean figure and a funky outfit. I guess they were hired because they meet certain criteria.
Then we ended up in a stretch of the Village I had barely touched upon. It was the street of the second hand stores, how I like to call it. The MONK with its scented candle smell and its chaotic racks of muffy clothes. An army store where you could get FBI batches for ten bucks a piece. And many more little shacks which were fun just to check out. I am not even into handed-down clothing but it’s definitely an experience to just walk in and take in the vibes of such a store.

Washington Square Park at Sunset
MONK second hand store

Then Adorama around Union Square. It’s a well-known camera equipment store but the sixth floor has a rental section. After seeing the low prices on renting a lens for one weekend or longer, I was rather taken aback. Definitely planning on checking out a few of those items and shooting the power out of my camera whenever I get a chance.

A fine end to all of this: An evening at Diablo Royale! My favorite, favorite Mexican restaurant in the City so far! Fajitas and Enchilada time, everybody! And no, I still cannot get enough of it!

Diablo Royale
Diablo Ricky - the restaurant's specialty!

So that is how my weekend went. After the past two weeks of constant stress I definitely needed a bit of a time-out and being surrounded by people I like. New York has so much to offer, even in the winter. It’s insane!

Being Employed VS. Being Unemployed in NY

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. I’ve been catapulting myself into the beginning weeks and months of my time in the City and how it felt to live life then. I know, it’s not terribly long ago. But I feel like the memories are fading already, after a good one and a half years.

One thing I will always look back on and feel good about is not having a steady job when I first moved here. This might sound backwards to you. Most people do it the other way around: They get their visa which is connected to a job offer in the States and then move over here. At least this is what my German friend did. We moved here at about the same time, only one week of a difference, and we ended up still being here. Ironically, not at the same job, not in the same apartment, not even with the same friends, but we are still around.

What I remember is that he had always been intensely stressed out when first moving here. His former job site in NJ had surely kicked his a** and his boss made him work a good 12 hours through the entire day. So it seemed that during the week and even on some weekends, he had basically no time left to explore New York and see what this city is about. I, on the other hand, had been busy looking for an apartment for 2 days (what a joke compared to his 2 weeks of fruitless efforts), and had then taken it pretty easy, living off of the savings I had accumulated in Europe. The first month I was here, I felt like such a tourist, it was incredibly refreshing. After about six weeks though, money become sparse, how unpredicted indeed, and after a few unsuccessful applications I entered the American food industry and waitressed my way through the LES for two steady months. I am not encouraging anyone to become a waiter or bartender. I hated that job, there is simply no career made in a bar filled with scum bags and cheap bosses. But it did give me enough leisure time, as I only worked three days and nights and had the rest of the week to myself. Since this was during the summer, it was sweet to be able to go to one of New York’s fabulous beaches on a Tuesday or Wednesday (read more about beaches here). It was nice to be able to hang around in Bryant Park on a hot August afternoon. It was enjoyable to go out during the week without having to jump out of bed early the next morning.

And even though I had been looking for something steady, it is, in general, pretty hard to find a job here in the summer. You might wonder how this is relevant upon season, but NY has this thing of snatching underpaid interns who are eager to get into a business during the hot months. Not really a good time for desperate college graduates to get their foot in the door AND aim for a decent salary. And true enough, I made it into my first 9-5 in the beginning of October. After 6 months of dwelling, exploring, and seeing New York at every possible hour of the day it was time to enter the working world. And ever since then I have basically never taken enough time off to get the feeling back which I had during those first sweet months in the Big Apple. The pros of having a steady job here are that it is nice to have a routine, to be able to get to know other working people, to expand one’s friend’s circle, if possible. But on the flipside, it compromises a great deal of your time and might stall you in a way never foreseen.

I consider winter the best time to be employed, if there is ever a season to be named. It’s good to be inside, to evade the cold, and to be occupied instead of feeling depressed and lonely. Once spring comes around, though, this city shows a completely different face. It is like a circus around Times Square, quite colorful in the Village, drunken in the Lower East Side. The warm months are most likely the best to be unemployed. Of course no one can really live like this over here, unless they switch jobs twice a year.

I know that some Americans have come here to pursue a serious career. Bankers, investors, advertisers, … you name it! I sometimes pity them and their life style somehow and wonder if it is worth going through all the stress during a time most crucial in their life. They are nothing I would like to become but then again it is very interesting to witness them and see how they undergo the metamorphosis of a naive student to a serene business man (who will eventually end up on coke).

To me, New York is not really about a career. I know I will eventually have to say good-bye and go back to college to pursue a graduate degree. To me, New York has always been about the journey. About breaking out of a boring everyday situation, away from the rigidity and stubbornness of the European system and meeting a bunch of crazy people. It’s about living somewhere far away from home, coping with different cultures and personalities, and gaining some valuable experience on the trip overseas.

I am sure a year, even a few months of employment will look splendid on your resume and appear impressive to recruiters. But it is often forgotten that you can surely slave yourself to death here. It is after all the city of which if you make it here you can make it anywhere. For a very good reason: See New York as the training for everything else in your life, be it a job, be it even life, and then working or living in every other state, maybe even country, might seem like a piece of cake to you. The stress levels you reach here couldn’t be higher than anywhere else.

So if a job simply drains you, takes all your energy, and doesn’t even leave you with a tiny bit of satisfaction, then I am not sure it is worth pursuing for too much longer. It’s all about the memories created during your life time, and New York especially is one of those cities you want to focus all of your energy on. Where you want to take in every sight, witness every oddity, and not waste away at a frustrating job site.

Taking a Deep Breath!

Prospect Park during the hurricane

The roommate search is over! Today I have found the apartment I want to spent my remaining time in New York in.
Well, of course no one really knows how long they will stay in the Big Apple. But I have managed to move to a nice room close to Prospect Park, and yes, still in the Slope, my preferred area of living so far. I had looked at it on Thursday already and this guy had kept me waiting for a good three day weekend until he finally gave the okay today.

It seems like a good mix – he is vegetarian, into guys, and might be a fun character to hang out with. I really hope it’ll be less drama, more quality (cooking) time spent together and of course keeping up my own private sanctuary called home. Since the building is literally 7 minutes from my old house, I am right at one of the two subway stations I used before, which makes my commute to the City and work really sweet as in it stays about the same. It seems that my previous two living situations have been reunited by the fact that I am still in the same area, Park Slope, but only 3 minutes from the lovely Park, the heartbeat of Brooklyn. My first room was right across the street from Prospect Park but in a lousy area. Now I have it all and even more than imagined, sorta.

Not my door, but a typical door in Park Slope

I am again very glad that this awful nightmare of finding a suitable place is finally over. Two weeks of a nerve-wrecking search have once again been enough. I cannot believe all the bs I had to go through to find this one. More fakos, weirdos, and trashy places than before. At least no one tried to rob me this time. But young people in the Slope can be pretty stuck up, I have noticed. As if they were proud of the fact that their rich pricks of a parent pay for their teeny eetsy room which is completely overheated in the winter. Sorry, just had to let that out.

Then of course walking through Kensington, another decent area of Brooklyn. A bit too family-oriented in my opinion. Albeit it is the fourth most diverse neighborhood in the US, at least that is what’s being told. Past those Halal stores towards some Asian cuisine. Then the orthodox Jewish boys playing in the streets while two blocks further down the Irish-Americans are spicing up their pumpkin pie for the big celebration. It is quite a comical mix and the neighborhood is definitely cheaper than what Williamsburg, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hills, and Park Slope have to offer rent-wise. But I decided it was not for me so I kept on going.

So this summer I am looking forward to more Bandshell concerts at Celebrate Brooklyn. I am desperate to hop on the F and swim in Coney Island (even though only in the beginning months of the summer, as everything past this gets too unhealthy). If I am still here this summer, I will most definitely take some gorgeous pictures of the Park. Maybe I’ll even go to the oldest Theater in Brooklyn a few times (as in cinema). But first winter is to come. So time for some drinks at the local bars and time for chilling on the couch or taking a stroll through the icy fields. Oh New York, you are so alive!

Cheers to a new start, this time hopefully it will not end in a bloody frustrating mess!

The cute streets I love about the Slope

A Few Words on Heimweh

The first feeling of homesickness showed up unannounced on my doorstep on January 15, 2011. I remember this day so exactly because it was the day I thought I would turn crazy. All the ups and downs of emotions I was going through and all the things I was trying to do to prevent this feeling from slowly taking me over – oh how I still know it all too well. I posted a long status on homesickness on my Facebook page. I shot a video about homesickness with my cell phone camera. I wrote down a journal entry on homesickness. Nothing seemed to help. I went through weeks of sadness and pain, only increased by the bland, gray winter that had taken over New York.

My Austrian friend finally gave me a good tip. She said I should not dwell on this feeling but rather distract myself with other things to do. To emphasize her point, she wrote me a few nice lines and gave me some treasure hunts to accomplish. This finally gave me the idea of discovering new places and trying out new locations in New York and around, albeit it was in a hurtful manner I took these on, for my heart was still aching every time I thought about Germany.

Up until recently I didn’t notice that I had probably never overcame the feeling of homesickness after it took me over in January. When I booked my ticket en route home a few months ago I finally felt a relief of several sorts. First, I was happy to set foot back again in the country of honey and milk. Second, I couldn’t wait to see those few friends who hadn’t made it out to a visit during the past one and a half years. Third, I was desperate to travel to more locations in Europe to check out some other big cities.

I had felt so good in the beginning, because New York had kept me busy for the first 9 months of my voyage. Even though I had a return flight scheduled for August of 2010, I never took this opportunity to go back because I felt no need to fly home after five months already. I wanted to wait until I had achieved something I could tell my friends and family about. The airline set the ticket back and determined the latest date I could use it would be March of 2011. The closer this date drew, the more I knew I would not be able to afford to go back in spring by means of time and money. Maybe this is also when I realized that the date I would return home would be indefinite and it could have triggered some negative thoughts about being stuck in New York.
Indeed, a friend from France thought it not wise to stay away from home for so long. He makes the effort of going back to Bordeaux every now and then, in intervals of four to five months. I consider this not to be a bad idea, either, when looking at how many weeks I have felt miserable just because I couldn’t take my thoughts of the question of when would I be able to return home.

I had effectively managed to keep myself quite busy in the months before: There was so much to explore in this area that I felt satisfied just walking up and down the streets – watching the people, the buildings, and the surroundings. Truly, I felt quite the opposite way: Whenever I thought of having to return home, a feeling of pressure overcame me. I knew it was not yet my time, there were still so many things undone in the Big Apple, which had to be carried out first. I had German friends here, who brought with them the native language and the European mentality I was really not missing all too much in 2010.

On top of this all, I was distracted from the so-called family-oriented holidays because of my visitors during these crucial times: Two of my closest German friends paid me a visit during the two big holidays in fall. For Thanksgiving my friend from high school came to New York and stayed for one week straight. We had our own dinner-to-say-thanks and brushed off the chaos of Black Friday with a laugh. During the Christmas days, known as the ultimate family holiday, my friend of the past 15 years came to Brooklyn with her younger sister and I never thought about being home for a second. They also brought many German sweets which lasted a month and stilled my cravings for home-known food.

Thus, November and December were quite tolerable. January was different. January brought the cold and made me hate winter for the first time here. I couldn’t bear the thought of witnessing yet another snow fall. I was convinced I would never see the light of day, not to mention spring, in the City again. The summer seemed so far away and like another era long passed and certainly never to return. Everything appears to be more depressing during winter days over here, so it certainly did not do much in alleviating my sorrow.

After giving into my pain for a while, I jumped into the opposite direction and right onto the travel track: I made it to Boston, DC, and Las Vegas – three trips within one and a half months. I did help as I met many like-minded Europeans and other travelers from all over the world who could share my pain and distract me from my pitiful thoughts. They also showed me how to have a good time despite homesickness and opened my eyes to a world dedicated to discovering new continents, triggering dreams in me of traveling the globe one day.

Unfortunately, homesickness does not only happen to me (I am sorry to say). And New York has this thing of you being completely satisfied and occupied in the city of heaven and hell until well into 9 months of your stay. Then it slowly creeps up on you and hits you with such a force you have no choice but to fall down hard. Which makes it so much more difficult to get back onto your feet again. I heard from several other accounts that nine months is a good point in time to expect homesickness kicking in. So prepare yourself for this if you are thinking of moving to the Big Apple.

Now it is two more weeks until I will board my plane to FRA International Airport and spend 18 lovely days on the continent of Europe again. I combined a stay at home with a stay at my university town and even managed to shove in a visit to London (this has been on my list ever since I moved to New York as I am itching to compare these two cities).
Maybe when I come back I will be able to appreciate the beauty of New York once more in a way I have not been capable of since the beginning of this year. The wish of being home again has been just too deeply rooted in the back of my head.

Just Another Day in Midtown

This is Midtown Manhattan. This is where I work. Midtown is large, its core reaching from 31st to 59th Street, from 3rd to 9th Avenue. It is the epitome of business, commercial, retail and what most tourists think New York is about. The heart of the Big Apple employs more than 700,000 workers who make their way into this busy center of New York each day. I am one of them.

Every morning I hop of the blue line at Penn Station on 34th St and 8th Avenue, finding my way through the usual suspects hanging around as soon as I reach the top of the stairs. Most major bus and train stations not only are a means of travel for tourists and commuters but also show a high amount of homeless people, drug addicts, and seedy characters. Penn Station does not differ from this image – a situation I had to get used to in the beginning. It surely was a change to see a business man in a dry-cleaned suit walking past an unkempt and unbathed guy in a dirty sweater and filthy pants. Just another hint to the wide gap between poor and rich and how this city deals with all their different social statuses.
There is always this big group of homeless people around 35th Street, lingering around a food store and talking loudly about whatever is on their minds (not always in a coherent manner). My coworker used to joke about her not being dressed up enough if one of these men did not whistle after her when she got off the train on any given day.
Midtown is relatively sleepy in the morning, awakening from its shady night business, being a home to the early sightseers and people who have to get to work on time.

Among the suit guys, the extravagantly dressed girls, the tourists, and the crazy men I make my way up to 36th St and enter the building with 20 floors. Not the highest around, but not the shortest, either. Double security check is required around this area, making me show my electronic ID to the woman at the door and having an electronic key for the entrance on our floor, past another grimly looking security guard. I found out that this procedure is common here in New York, maybe it makes some people feel important when they have to go through all these obstacles before they can actually do what they are being paid for.

When I exit the building again for lunch, I find myself in a bustling Midtown, as alive as it can get, for now the late tourists, the retail stores, and almost everyone else, who has to go to work, has awaken. Now is the time the minimum-wage workers stand on the streets, dressed up as a mascot or wearing a sign around them, advertising for pubs, pizza places, or jewelry stores. Some do their job convincingly, some just stand there wordlessly and hand me their flyer. Lunch options are vast in this area and, surprisingly, you can get a good deal because of all the competition going on. There are at least seven different pizza stands, half of them offering the $1 pizza special. Some are good, some are not even worth mentioning. At the corner of 37th St the 2Bros subsidiary has opened up a $1-pizza bistro, which is always packed, and its line continues to attract an even longer queue of hungry people. As I found out over the period of 9 months, you tend to get tired of it very fast, so diversity is important.

There are two good falafel places two streets away, and the shops Amici and Food Emporium offer every other kind of edibles such as a full salad bar, sushi, or cooked goodies. They do have their price, though. Fast food joints have opened up all along 8th Avenue, making White Castle one of the worst and McDonalds one of the most popular.

The proximity to Hell’s Kitchen seduces many people to grab their lunch at a good-tasting Thai, Irish, Spanish, Chinese, or other restaurant on 9th Avenue. The prices are good during restaurant week in January and July, offering a prix-fix meal at a relatively low cost without having the quality suffer.

2Bros

 

Fastfood on 8th Ave

 

Thai food Hell's Kitchen

Once in a while I use my lunch break for a shopping trip to Macy’s at Herald Square. Distance is not relevant, as it is only 7mins away. I try to only stay in that store and to not look around to see what GAP, H&M, Victoria’s Secret, and Daffy’s has to offer. I try.

The Post Office Building on 33rd St and 8th Avenue is a cultural eye catcher as it was built in 1912 and displays many Roman architectural elements. Sometimes I feel like sitting on its steps and taking in my food while viewing rushed people, relaxed people, freaky people…you name it! I have also found that I am not the only one doing this and that some guys consider it a great spot to whistle after a random girl who walks past them while high-fiving each other for their courageous move. People use it as a meet-up point (you definitely cannot miss this building), hurry inside to take care of their mail errands or simply just sit in groups and are absorbed in their meal.

Bustling, busy, overcrowded Times Square

This neighborhood is mellow, compared to the one and only tourist hot spot: Times Square! Occasionally I find myself going to 42nd St, about a five-minute walk from where I work. I pass Port Authority with its commuters and buses coming to and from New Jersey (the picture very much resembles the one at Penn Station). The Times Square insanity already starts on 40nd St and 8th Avenue and I only make it up to Broadway until I decide I had enough and walk back, this time escaping the foreign crowds by taking some back roads.

There is nothing that beats the view you have of New York in Midtown, though. Sky-tall buildings, one cab after another, rich people in pimped up cars with chauffeurs, models on their way to a call, either dressed up or looking natural… One day I saw an obese girl in a pretty blue dress walk down the sidewalks while posing in front of a video camera. I guess they were filming for a new show. Another day a grungied up Punkrock model catwalked across the street in front of Penn Station – and had to do it again as the photographer was not satisfied with her first three performances.

After work, while on my way to the subway, the Midtown rush and hurry has vanished, giving way to tired business guys who are either going home or coming from a different district. People are getting ready for an eventful night out, starting out with a drink at happy hour price, chatting with their coworkers at a local bar, or simply enjoying being off and in Manhattan. They go shopping, since retails stores are open until 8 or 10PM. They run all their errands they weren’t able to do during lunch. Or they simply hop on a train to get out of the business center and dive into calmer realms.

Working in Midtown – you gotta love it or hate it!