Experiencing Bareburger in Park Slope for the First Time: A Food Coma Post

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Last month I was invited to my first Yelp Elite Event. Ever since becoming a Yelp Elite Member in October, I was seeking to finally attend some of their great events. One was ice-skating in Prospect Park, which I missed out on. Another was the opening night of a restaurant nearby, which I was also unable to attend. Read More »

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How the Barclays Center Changed Park Slope

The Barclays Center during sunset
The Barclays Center during sunset

Since I moved to New York, many things have changed. Some restaurants closed down which were blooming 3 years ago. Areas have become gentrified and the so-called-hood of Bushwick slowly turned into Hipster-area. Change is natural and in a city as big as New York, it happens on a much faster scale than anywhere else in the world. This is something I’ve always known and always come to love. But sometimes I just wish that things wouldn’t change as rapidly, especially in the area I am currently living at.

I moved into my new apartment about a year ago. When I moved here, the Barclays Center (described by wiki as “a multi-purposed indoor area”) was still under its way of being built up. It was a hideous line of construction running across the entire beginning section of Flatbush Avenue. For the 2 years since I came here until last year, all I could do is first ignore it and then wonder what on earth was going on when walking past it. A little research on my part and stories from an old New Yorker revealed a more than hideous story behind the (almost a) decade-long project the city had going on: Initially purchased in 2004 with the intention to build a Brooklyn-centered stadium for the NETS (who are not even from New York but New Jersey) it had been halted several times during its construction. Local residents, caring citizens, and larger groups of demonstrators made sure to extend the project with protests revolving around “eminent domain.” Eminent domain refers to a private property being taken for public use by state.

8 Barclays Center Brooklyn at night

You can see many examples of eminent domain throughout New York, especially in Brooklyn. Take a large part of the Williamsburg waterfront, for example. Take all those hideous condos blocking the neighbors’ view towards Manhattan and disfiguring the Brooklyn skyline. Not to mention the large project going on in Greenpoint right now, which includes further condo building and gentrifying of a neighborhood that once used to be traditional Polish. You might ask yourselves what condos have to do with public use (and you are not alone in this opinion). Bloomberg decided it would do the neighborhood good to have some high-income housing available so that the tax money can be used for poorer neighborhoods.
The city has systematically kicked out residents who were in ownership of their smaller apartments for decades, leaving them to decide where to move next. How does the government get out of it? There are a few ways but the most popular one is to claim that they will let a certain percentage of socially disadvantaged people live in these new housing “projects.” Which coincidentally never happens once the millionaires decide to buy it all up.

6 Barclays Center Brooklyn at night

Back to the Barclays Center: The neighborhood was clearly upset about what was going on and had regular protest a few times a month. I once saw one when walking home from the subway station: A smallish group with signs in their hands who were furiously trying to get in the way of a bulldozer. What used to be projects and buildings owned by private people, has been reduced to rubble within a few months only. Century-old townhouses and projects which were once homes for Brooklynites – demolished in a relatively short time frame.

Well, as you can tell, protesting hasn’t helped much other than increasing public awareness and getting a news channel out here once in a while. So the Barclays was doomed to open at what must have been the end of September. The glorious Jay-Z performed on its opening night and several weeks thereafter. The Nets prepared for a good season. The subway ads were covered in pictures of young basketball players and their infamous quotes.

10 Barclays Center Brooklyn close up

I once ran into a group of New Jersey people who were all dressed in white and drunkenly stumbling around the neighborhood, looking for a bar. They answered my curious question on their dress code by pointing out that there was an “all-white” house party going on in the Barclays, which they had been looking forward to for months. I wished to never see such a sight again… Oh how wrong I was! Not only did a new bar open up last August right across the street from where I live (the one and only KBH).
We also have a regular influx of Long Islanders, New Jerseyians, and other tourists overpopulating our area on random days of the week. My once favorite go-to-bistro has increased its prizes steadily ever since the monstrosity opened up. Bars and restaurants have switched their waiters for better customer service, which I approve of, but it’s seriously no fun to enjoy chips and guac if you have a screaming group of drunk Long Island chicks sitting next to you.

I sometimes feel transformed back into Manhattan, most likely the Lower East Side. In a way, the Barclays Center can be described as the Times Square of Brooklyn: it’s becoming more and more of a “landmark” attracting all the wrong people. Nowadays I always freak out when I hear German in my neighborhood. I used to be curious how these tourists heard about Park Slope but now I just sneer at them and try to be as rude as possible. “Perhaps that will get them out eventually,” was my initial thought. It doesn’t seem like it.

An obnoxious amount of people in front of Brooklyn's Times Square
An obnoxious amount of people in front of Brooklyn’s Times Square

Now, in addition to the added stream of strangers in the neighborhood, the Barclays Center also happens to look quite hideous. If it at least had a classic appearance or a great architecture, I might be able to ignore all the tumult going on in the area. But no, it sticks out like a sore thumb in the crowd of appealing town houses. Its steel roof looks quite unfinished and a blinking hole in between makes it appear like an out of space invention. I’m sure it’s meant to be great modern architecture but so far I haven’t heard of anyone that it looks like art.

Well, what can I say? Rents have already looped up to a sky-rocketing price. What used to be affordable has now turned into one of the biggest real estate markets in town. I just hope I’ll be able to survive here for a little longer, because on normal weekdays, this neighborhood really ROCKS. And an added treat is the better customer service at Target, which was always one of the least friendly stores in town. Now if I could only remember to get off at “Atlantic Ave-Barclays Center” which used to be called “Pacific Street” when taking the subway… Phewww!

The dubious hole
The dubious hole

10 Barclays Center Brooklyn close up

[For more pictures, go to The Barclays Center in Brooklyn (night view).]

Nemo Flaking Its Way into New York

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Another storm has entered New York. This time in form of a blizzard. Heck, we haven’t had a blizzard in over 2 years! I had almost forgotten what real snow looks like until I left my apartment this night.
Crunchy white mass sticking to my shoes, flakes melting as soon as they touched my cheek. Snow in the Big Apple – it’s been so long.

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And while in the season of 2010/2011, we had two real snow days (snow days meaning days off work due to snow storms), today we had to work until the bitter end. Despite the weather forecast texting our all cell phones yesterday afternoon (Bloomberg must have paid an exorbitant amount to make sure every person in the metro area was well informed of the current conditions!), not every company allowed their employees to leave early, least to say, stay home on Friday (today).

It surely was not as bad at 5 PM but it got worse and worse until the constant flow of snow came drifting out of the sky. And still is. Most likely until tomorrow.

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These pictures were taken while walking around Park Slope just a few hours ago. Enjoy!

Hurricane Sandy: Day 2 – Over But Not Really – We got Hit!

Boy, what a night and day we had! While I was snuggled up in my Brooklyn apartment, all ready to fight the storm but essentially falling asleep over some old seasons of “Revenge,” the rest of New York was in the midst of a true battle.

Queens extinguished fires all night long and saw houses get washed onto the tracks. Staten Island also had some extensive burning and flooding going on. Lower Manhattan lost power at some point in time during the evening, starting at 7 PM. The first blocks to be affected were the Lower East Side and Financial District, city parts which are close to the water. Now it has jumped over to all households and buildings below 40th Street (or, better to visualize, anything south of Times Square). The Bronx had some destructive winds rage up there in the North. And New Jersey, poor New Jersey is completely screwed over with its extensive flooding and curfew zones. While Hoboken lies right on the water, it was not the only town to be evacuated. Jersey City is also still fighting its rivers of overflowing water in the downtown area. All the smaller places close to the water are basically destroyed. The same is going on with Long Island, which looks similar to New Jersey picture-wise. Power is out in 90 percent of the households. Flooded apartments and houses. Within one night people have lost all of their hard-earned savings, belongings, and memories. It is very sad to see such heartbreaking news on TV.

For once I am truly glad that I live where I live. I am happy that I am not anywhere close to Manhattan and what is going on over there right now. All those celebrities who paid millions of dollars to live in the Meatpacking District and around Gramercy must be really frustrated with the lack of electricity they are experiencing together with the average struggling citizen of New York. Well, as rumor has it, the power is supposed to be out for another 4 days. ConEd is having a hard time catching up. Some parts will even be shut down for another week. How people will manage to survive through the dark – I have no idea.

Today I walked through Park Slope and met up with a friend from Crown Heights. Many more people were out on the roads, picking up their little remnants of the storm (I forgot it was a tradition to collect fallen twigs from the ground after a hurricane). We went past over-crowded bars. Businesses were opening up slowly. Brunch in our favorite but packed Irish pub in Fort Greene. Just another frustrating day after Sandy. Everyone was happy to be around people again. Cabin Fever, is what you call it. Staying inside and being bored for too long. It was refreshing to walk back to Prospect Park and look at the fallen trees throughout the Slope. One giant hit the ground and took a few cars with it … Ouch!

While the MTA had been up and running only one day after Irene hit, this year it will take at least another 3 to 4 days to get started, as Bloomberg announced in the morning news. Because of flooded tunnels and power being out in the entire subway system. I wonder what happened to the rats… As of now, we don’t have any further updates on this matter.

In case you didn’t know or forgot: The MTA is the thriving force that holds this city together. If not subways and trains are functioning, people are stuck. They cannot go anywhere or leave to anywhere. The busses have already started limited service this afternoon and are scheduled to pick up within the next few days. However, a subway ride that would have taken me 16 minutes from here to my work will now take me 1 and a half hours on two different busses which have yet to start service yet. All of this is a huge mess! Or as my friend puts it: “This is crazy!”
She is stuck without electricity in Westchester, a county above New York City. While they managed to get out of Jersey City in time, they have no power and no connection to the outside world (well, except for an occasional update via text message). Unfortunately, even if she manages to swim through the still closed and flooded Holland tunnel, the PATH will not run for another 7 to 10 days! That’s over a week without any public transportation means. This city relies on it so bad!

I have already started to feel some de-motivation when talking to friends and my roommates. No one I know has a car. No one here needs one (except for now, I suppose). So if the only means of transport is not running, what else is left to do? Work has required me to come in tomorrow. They will reimburse us for the cabs we will have to take. Of course the Empire State Building is possibly the only spot below 40th Street that has power. But my friends have also been asked to come in. Some won’t be reimbursed for the cabs they take so they are thinking about bussing it (2 hours back and forth equals 4 hours of wasted time a day). It’s basically a huge disaster but I guess it could be worse. Let’s hope it will be running this weekend again.

Oh, and airports? JFK is scheduled to open up tomorrow again. La Guardia and Newark will be closed but maybe this will change again soon. Things change so quickly the day after the hurricane.

This is possibly the worst New York has been hit. But its spirit is what makes this city out: Dwell on it for a minute and then move on. There is work to do!

Hurricane Sandy – Day 1: Still Before but Somehow in the Middle

Frankenstorm has finally arrived. I decided to walk around Park Slope at around 1 PM in the afternoon…. Luckily I did my laundry yesterday already, because, alas, the only laundromat close to my building was closed, of course! They decided to call it the quits yesterday around 6 PM. By that time, the MTA had made the decision to shut down and the bus system was scheduled to ride at 9 PM for the last time. No trains and busses for almost 24 hours. I suppose this is what New York feels like during just another one of their hurricanes… This time it actually is not as bad as the year before. I have a ton of bar and restaurant options to choose from.

So I walked up to 5th Ave, since the bars on 4th Ave were closed down and no bodega was open. However, 5th Ave rocks! 5 bars in my vicinity and all of them are defying the storm that is safely picking up to its predicted speed of 90 MPH.

Of course I picked Uncle Barry’s, which was a deserted place early in the afternoon. However, the bartender came up with the one and only justifiable drink during that day: The hurricane! Made of 4 types of rum and a pink juice topped with a sweet cherry. Looked girly, tasted sweet, and hours later I am still feeling its effects.

Rightfully earned Hurricane drink!

After this, I walked past the packed Alchemy, which offered Sunday brunch and great Bloody’s. Then the rain started to pour down, so I sprinted back home. Just in time for some breaking headlines on the news at that time (actually, they are still reporting about it): Construction crane collapses in midtown!
Supposedly a crane on top of a 95 million dollar real estate project had not been lowered in time and is still dangling over 57th street, threatening to hit passengers who shouldn’t be out on the street and taking pictures with their iPhones in the first place. So beware of the bad crane, it might hit you people walking underneath it on 57th Street and between 7th and 6th Avenue…

Seeing some wet pictures of Long Island and Long Branch Beach made me slightly uneasy. I felt sorry for the poor reporters who had to waddle through knee-high water just to get the real shots of the day… Long Island always seems to be the main target when it comes to flooding (sorry, Queens, you are always screwed!). This is why I decided to keep my millions to myself and stay safe and sound in North Brooklyn!

Other than this, friends seemed to be more bored than usual on the one and only other option to mingle – Facebook. I have the choice between answering my worried friends in Germany, who, after these dumb headlines from a German newspaper, are freaking out even more than I am. Not to mention the rest of America who is avidly praying for… us? We are okay, people, we are just fine!

My one friend has been baking cookies in the Upper West Side and invited her neighbors over for a party. My other friend is bored up in Dykman and keeping us updated about “rats climbing trees in Staten Island.” Those rats are wonder creatures! My cousin has been roasting a whole chicken and baking pies in Philly. I hope they are going to be okay, they don’t even have bars open to celebrate.

Wet streets in Park Slope

Other friends are just waiting it out in Crown Heights. I heard someone talk about wanting the subways to run again and return to work. Oh by the way, some jobs are even more incredible than mine: A friend was required to come into work because she lives “only” 20 blocks away (Manhattan). Others have been asked to do work from home. Excuse me? Possibly the power shutdown will prevent employers from coming up with more nonsense. ConEd has turned off the juice in Lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn already. People received a lame voice message on their phones before they were left to the dark. Which is why I want to bring this post up before the real deal goes down and I cannot roast my own chicken anymore.

So here I am, about to cook up some dinner and watching more breaking news with the roomies. Sirens howling in the background, winds gushing past our window. The tree across the street swaying dangerously towards us and the small car parked beneath it… Hurricane Sandy, bring it on! Luckily the fridge still has some beer…

Tasty Eats in Brooklyn: North Slope

As already mentioned in Tasty Eats in Brooklyn: South Slope, I am not a resident of this area anymore. So eventually it became time to try out what exactly my new neighborhood has to offer culinary-wise. With great success! From all of the 5th avenue spots, I have selected another three good ones, which have become one of my favorite eats over the past 3 and a half months.

1) Los Pollitos II

The very first restaurant I got to try out the day I moved here: Los Pollitos II. The number II is very important, as there is another one on Fifth Ave which I haven’t gotten the chance to try out yet. So we ordered Enchiladas the first day we dropped in. Some good enchiladas! And with $9 – 14 totally manageable. The max of cheapness came with brunch, though: Food and three drinks for a total of 12 bucks! Who can top this? No one! The food comes in Mexican and other Middle-American cuisine style. Huevos Rancheros, mushroom quesadillas, spinach corn omelets – the list goes on.

The portions can be extensive but sometimes they can also taste rather bland than well-seasoned, especially the rice sides. The drinks are well-mixed and two of these have so far been enough for me to get my day going. Even though they include up to three drinks, I wouldn’t over-do it. The Bloody Mary is not my favorite but the Mimosa and Screwdriver are good options. I found myself having overeaten here in the first two months, as I went here too often for brunch. After all, it is just around the corner… I shall return once my appetite for this type of food comes back. And who can top a $15 brunch deal ( with tax and tip included)?

2) Rosewater

A truly amazing dinner spot! I heard their brunches also rock, but so far I have not had the opportunity to try them out at this time of day. I discovered this quaint restaurant one day when walking down from 6th Avenue. It is on Union Street, between 6th and 5th. Hidden behind its romantic, rose-burdened wood fence, successfully shielding the outdoor front area from passerbys, it looked inviting and cozy at the same time. So one day in August we decided to check it out for good and got a great dinner out of it.

The menu consists of seasonal vegetables and dinner options. We started off with appetizers in the form of fried zucchini and a strawberry blue cheese salad. Yum! The salad was my favorite and the combo of fruit and cheese is unbeatable. Then we went on with a polenta served on top of mixed greens. My friend ordered fried chicken, which he said tasted good.

Strawberry blue cheese field salad
Polenta with mixed greens
Fried chicken entree

Both dishes looked appetizing, even though I found the portions to be rather small in size. With prices averaging $25 dollars for an entrée it can be on the pricier side but the quality you get is worth what you pay. The dessert was the absolute highlight: We devoured a blueberry cake topped with vanilla ice cream. You just know when something is made the right way!

Blueberry pie topped with vanilla ice cream – so good!

3) Alchemy

I went here on three occasions – twice for dinner and once for brunch. While their veggie burger option was good but not mind-blowing, brunch was most likely on the more interesting side. We happened to order one of the better Bloody Mary’s in town – great seasonings, many olives, just what I am looking for in a drink to start of the day. Their egg dishes were tasty and well made up. I got to try their well-sized eggs benedict, served with a side of seasoned fries and mixed greens.

What I really like about this restaurant is that the servers are fast without being pushy and that they offer a big outdoor patio in the back of the joint.

One of Alchemy’s brunch options

My quest to find more good Brooklyn eats continues. Park Slope also happens to have a great bar culture, which I am eager to share with you in another post! Chin Chin!

Tasty Eats in Brooklyn: South Slope

Ever since I started trying out some decent brunch spots and dinner locations, I’ve been burning to share a few restaurants with you. Manhattan is not the only borough that has to offer high class cuisine at a decent price, of course. Brooklyn stands undefeated in its cuisine, being one of those areas I had the chance to extensively explore. As it comes to no surprise, the South Slope, my home for one and a half years, is the first location I’d like to share with you. Now, the South of Park Slope reaches anywhere from 9th Street to 21st Street along 4th Avenue to Prospect Park West, sometimes even above this avenue. Back in the days when I was still living close to Prospect Park, three fine locations in particular have grabbed my attention.

1) Giovanni’s

One of the finest brunch spots I have found so far! Located near 17th Street and 8th Avenue, it is unfortunately nowhere close to where I live now. However, I had the chance to try out this Brooklyn-Eats-approved location multiple times in the cold winter months, when indulging in different food cultures becomes an obligatory activity. What I adore about their menu the most: The food is extensive! Not only do you get one but two courses: Antipasti and Secondi. So far I’ve yet to come across this elsewhere so Giovanni’s will remain the true leader in indulgence.
Another great thing: Unlimited alcohol. Now for all of you who are hopefully pricking their ears: Offering unlimited drinks or a few free drinks during brunch is a New York thing. Brunch culture in this city has gone way overboard and currently an array of restaurants compete to offer the best deal in town. While I had my share of watered down Bloody’s and Mimosas (champagne with orange juice), this eat takes both drinks and serves them in a decently portioned way. Bloody Mary’s might be lacking a bit of flavor, but most certainly contain alcohol. Mimosas are mixed just right and served in a huge glass.

What to get food-wise: I am a big fan of their spinach salad and granola as first course options. They also offer wonderful egg dishes in the second round. Particularly their omelet and eggs benedict have proven in the past to be delicious.

Granola Dish
Eggs Florentine
Omelette served with chopped potatoes and greens

Be aware that portions are huge! Maybe it’s just the combo of the two, but either way you are most likely not going to be able to finish both without filling your stomach to the max. 16 bucks for food and drinks – not bad for this side of town. Cheers!

2) Le P’tit Paris Bistro

A different restaurant I have introduced my friends to is right around the corner from my old apartment. The French Le P’tit Paris Bistro caters to all age groups – I have seen young adults throw a party here and Slopers in their 60ies celebrate happy tea hour. Their brunch menu changes occasionally but I have so far tried out some of their egg dishes, which were decent sized, albeit I found myself ordering fries the one or other time.

Their brunch crepe is served with goat cheese and mushrooms, met by a nice side of fresh salad. One thing I truly recommend: their pancakes! It’s more like a fruit cake, really! A huge plate of baked dough topped with strawberries, pine apple, mango, powdered sugar and drops of fine jelly! Delicious! And so much! It’s hard to digest at times, by any means. Back then they did not offer a special but nowadays I found their sign to read: Unlimited drinks for an added dollar amount (I believe an additional $6). Which could be a good deal, considering that food by itself only costs 10 dollars. Let me know if you get the chance to try it out.

Paris Bistro’s awesome crepes!
Paris Bistro’s huge pancake with a fruit salad

3) Bar Toto

Now to dinner: Of all Italian restaurants I tried out in Park Slope so far, this one is my favorite. Right on the corner of 11th St and 6th Avenue, it was closer to my 7th Avenue apartment I shared with the Belarusians back in the days. Then the boyfriend and I have discovered this to be one of our favorite dating spots. For very good reasons: Good food, good booze, quiet atmosphere.

We usually find ourselves ordering Italian Peroni to start the night out. Then, another goodie: Their huge Olive plate. Huge, by the way, is not an exaggeration in this case. The size is meant for two persons or for someone who can eat two portions at once. Three different olive types are arranged in a neat bowl, seasoned with olive oil and other herbs. Their pizzas here are also very good. I have so far tried Pizza Margharita and Toto Vegetale (keep in mind, I am a veggie). Their pies are thin-crusted and in no way resemble the oversized American/Brooklyn pizza you find around here. So it is truly Italian and that is what I aim for sometimes. Their wild mushroom and cheese pasta has so far also been a great success.

It is good if you want to escape the 5th Avenue craziness just one block over as it is sheltered on an inconspicuous corner that it has often been overlooked by me until I had the desire to try it out.
Bar Toto’s outdoor seating is great, even though this will not be a main asset for too much longer as winter is acoming. However, keep it in mind for all seasons, as they do have a great inside salon, too.

Bar Toto’s Peroni

Of course there are more try-worthy eats in the South Slope than this. This is just what I prefer so far. Unfortunately, my current life style does not drag me close to it anymore. Stay tuned for “Eats in the North Slope” and until then read more reviews on my yelp!

Have a fabulous weekend, dearies!

Photo A Day: June 1 Through 5

Why do this? A fellow blogger had the courtesy to describe the Photo A Day May as my diary and told me how eager she was to read on what was happening to me on a daily basis in New York. It is mainly for this reason that I decided to carry on the Photo A Day Challenge in June. Even though I have the feeling that I am writing less on the topics I used to, it keeps me occupied and gives me the chance to reflect on certain aspects of the day. I also like the idea of participating in random things throughout the month. So overall, I am taking on the challenge for another 30 25 days – starting now!

Fat Mum Slim has composed another splendid list. Among certain times of the day, foods of the day, and views of the day, a ton of personal and recreational stuff has been included. Even more reason to be part of the photo project, especially since the summer is now in full swing.

[Morning]

June 1st was my birthday. The first thing I saw when I woke up was my hotel bed. The day turned out to be great: With the biggest pancake breakfast at a typical Montauk breakfast house, a tour to the lighthouse, and a quick dash for the beach. Then of course the obligatory birthday dinner, ending at an old-school outdoor fire place. So this depicts the beginning of a truly amazing day.

[Empty]

Empty was our car when we dropped it back off in Manhattana on Saturday. Filled with memories and a good time. More about this adventure to come soon, promised!

[On your plate]

The day I finally moved. I AM NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN! Bags, suitcases, bed, mattress – just a ton of unnecessary stuff. After the move I tried out a great Mexican restaurant just around the corner. My area is called the North Slope. 5th Avenue is notorious for having a great selection of restaurants, bars, and other recreational spots. Los Pollitos offered a reasonable price for the quality of food they had on their menu. And the best part about it: They host brunch for a mere 10 bucks – including up to three drinks! I am well aware where my next brunch location will be!

[Close-up]

Close-up of the American Flag. Alas, I do live here now, in the US of A. A bit of patriotism is in order. Walked past this huge piece of cloth swaying from one side to another when dropping off the keys at my old place in the South Slope. It had gotten windy during this particularly rainy and gloomy day. I found it to look quite beautiful then. New York is not the average American place to be. Aside from American flags, you see any other nationality represented on any random street here in the Big Apple. Which is what this city stands for: The diversity it represents and the cultures it attracts.

[Sign]

Stop! A one way street! Not to forget the notorious landmark of New York in the background… Life is sometimes a one-way-street. There is no backwards but only forwards. That is why sometimes we have to stop to reflect and see what other options are out there. Or just throw ourselves towards the end of the road. Maybe there will be a crossing waiting for us. And a solution to the problems occupying our minds.

So this challenge will proceed throughout the month of June. I hope it helps to keep fellow bloggers and friends overseas updated on everyday happenings. I am also still eager to see what ideas the rest of the blogging/ instagram/ facebook community will come up with in the remaining 25 days!

Happy Blogging!

[Read more on the Photo A Day Challenge here]

Finding a Roommate in New York: The Exhausting Round 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving to Park Slope

After being a Flatbush resident, I did what can be seen as the total opposite: I moved to Park Slope. Yes, the fancy part of town. And on the opposite side of Prospect Park. Park Slope is considered a family-oriented neighborhood but nevertheless it still holds its reputation as being posh and quite overpriced.

I got a room at a reasonable cost on the liveliest avenue the Slope has to offer: The fantastic 7th Ave. The walk to the train station was now a good 7 minutes away, but walking past all the restaurants, coffee shops, and other culinary joints made me happier than a 1 minute walk past Prospect Park in Flatbush ever had. Moving here was a relief compared to from where I had come. And I felt I had really earned it after the hard times I experienced before. No yelling neighbors who wanted to kill their children so they could have some peace. No abused animals barking in the lonely dark. And no bed bugs to worry about anymore.

So I really enjoyed time in the Slope. One of our favorite neighborhood bars was just two blocks up: The Austrian Steinhof and its great happy hour special. A little bit of Germanness and home brought to me by simply sipping their Franziskaner or looking at the ads in that pub. Being able to go out after work and eat at one of the numerous restaurants on 7th Avenue was enough to keep my attention occupied for months. Then of course celebrating at a few dance bars on 5th Avenue, which had to be explored by me and the roomies every once in a while.

I had Cafe Steinhof

The cultural experience I had so badly longed for before was now right at my doorsteps. I could see myself developing a completely different social life and having more diverse networks than ever before. Just going to the gym, which was two minutes away, and attending all of their different classes felt simply good. My dream of living in an area that was in New York but did not necessarily feel like New York seemed to have come true. At the same time I did not feel threatened when returning home late at night. That was before word had spread on several instances of rape and molestation around 5th Avenue. Today I still feel safe in the neighborhood, though.

I now had two trains to choose from if worse came to worse. So while the Q got stuck for two full days during the blizzard of 2010, the R on 4th Avenue was running just fine and getting me to the places I had to be. The F-train, with its local stops, still only took me 20 mins until I was in the Lower East Side. And if we felt like partying in Williamsburg, we surely had the G (whenever it decided to run), which we could take a short ride up to Lorimer Street.

True, my room was about half the size it had been before. But this time I had a gorgeous roof top from which I could see New Jersey and Manhattan at the same time. Celebrate Brooklyn in the summer was just 10 minutes away (by foot), and I made a point to see almost all of their Saturday evening concerts from June on. The oldest theater of Brooklyn, the Pavilion, was a fast walk up to Prospect Park West and, even though it was not too comfortable to sit in, I still had the chance to see a few good movies during rainy or cold days.

Rooftop Love!

Of course you start adapting to everything after a while. And surely Park Slope is not without flaws. Annoying children running loose on the sidewalk, while their mothers are talking with each other and expecting you to move out of the child’s way. An appalled look from the caretaker once she realized I just did not care if her spoiled brat fell down in front of me and pointed out they better watch their children better.

And every once in a while you saw a mother carry a baby to a bar. No one needs a crying infant at a place you want to get drunk at. Also worth mentioning are the high prices for groceries and the outrageous rip-off at the one and only Union Market. Even though it is considered a gourmet store, I had a few fights with the cost-value relationship of the items they offer. What had been known in Flatbush as funny looks towards white people now turned back into the opposite. My Dominican friend once visited me (he is black) and felt very uncomfortable walking the streets of this neighborhood. He claims everyone was observing him, waiting for him to make a wrong move. I wouldn’t know. But it wouldn’t surprise me. I have yet to find an area in which both races are equally accepted. While 7th Avenue is still quite snobby, 5th Avenue can be seen as the Latin part of the hood. Many Hispanic folks live here, own their store, or like to wander around. It is a peculiar aspect of the Slope but it surely exists.

A stroll past those two summer street fair on both 5th and 7th Avenue made up for all the hardship accompanied in living in the Slope. Just walking all the way down to Crown Heights and seeing the differences in worlds was an eye-opener to me. Sometimes you simply know when you fit into a hood and when you don’t. I like to believe I have found my perfect match just here, in the quiet, overpriced Slope!

Brunch in the Slope

[For another post on Park Slope, go to Life in Park Slope!]

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!