Free Fitness in Brooklyn: Yoga and More!

free yoga in new york

This summer has been one in a million. It came around slow, started off with a heat wave, stayed rainy, and dried out fast. Being in full swing, there is more to do outdoors than at any other time of the year. Aside from free concerts, free movies, free plays and many many more, there are also free fitness options. Such as free Yoga!

Now, yoga has always been popular in this city. Bikram Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga – you name it!
From Yoga studios specializing in only one type of yoga to daily sessions in gyms circulating through the entire array of types – yes, New York is yoga-obsessed. Not surprisingly you can also find instructors who are motivated enough to teach you yoga classes for free in the summer. Outdoors. If weather permits. So here is a list of a few places you can go to if you don’t feel like paying a full gym membership or if you feel like bonding with like-minded people over your cheapness in choice.

1) Free Yoga in the Park (7- 8 PM, Thursday)

Prospect Park is huge. Therefore, it has more than one spot to go to when it comes to free yoga sessions. I ended up close to the Grand Army Plaza 2 weeks ago. About 50 more people joined me. Initially I was rather repulsed in taking part in this large group, but after one hour I thought it was a pretty sweet deal. The main instructor paces back and forth in the middle while barking her instructions. She was too far away from me so sometimes I didn’t catch what she was saying. However, judging by the moves of the people in front of me, I got the gist. Plus there were about 4 more volunteer helpers who went around and corrected people’s postures. Overall, a great lesson for absolutely nothing.
There are more spots at the 15th Street and Parkside entrance. Feel free to try them out and let me know how it goes. Bringing your own mat and towel is a must here.

2) Give-by-donation Yoga in Coney Island (7-8 PM, Mo-Thursday)

Coney Island hosts a ton of great stuff. Every Monday is movie night. And from Monday to Thursday, you can also do free yoga on the promenade at 21st Street. Supposedly, it’s give-by-donation (so you don’t have to give much if you don’t feel like it). If you don’t have a yoga mat, you can borrow one of theirs (free of charge). I haven’t tried this one out yet but perhaps will do so once I get back from my trip.

3) Bryant Park Yoga (6- 7 PM, Tuesday)

Want to get out of Brooklyn and exercise with skyscrapers in the background? Well, you get that chance at Bryant Park Yoga! Every Tuesday from 6-7 PM. I’ve never been here either, but the site says that it provides yoga mats in case you don’t have any. I’m not sure what the crowd looks like but I could imagine it’s busier than in Brooklyn… Hey, you get what you (don’t) pay for!

For more free yoga throughout the summer, check out this article on TimeOut New York.
Have fun!

Photo A Day: May 18 Through 20

Friday to Sunday:

Three lovely days have passed. Once again our weekend has been filled with sun, summer, and fun. Once again I was able to go to the Park and enjoy the weather. Although this time around was a little bit different as I was stressed – more than last week. I’ll tell you the whole story in a different post. However, I still think I managed to do the very best with the few free hours I had. And as it goes, it is once again supposed to rain from Monday on (all the way to Thursday or Friday, but since the forecast is never completely right I would flip a coin on that). Let’s start with the artsy side….

[Something you made]

So Friday, after work, I finally managed to do something I never really did before. It is completely senseless as I am moving out in less than two weeks but I finally hung up my collection of bracelets. Right there, on the old school wooden wall of my nice room in the Slope. A little bit of order in the chaos that is surrounding my life right now.

[A favorite place]

This should be places instead. My favorite places yesterday were an array of bars. Bars on 5th Ave. Bars on 7th Ave. We had quite a nice day with booze, sun, and summer feelings. This is a picture of the Austrian bar Steinhof on 7th Avenue (read more here). The day ended early thanks to day drinking. I think I might prefer this type of drunkenness over being tipsy at night and then missing out on the entire day after…

[Something you can’t live without]

Nature. And summer! So let’s combine it both and what you have is trees, sunlight, and maybe even a party. This weekend was the weekend of the GOOGA MOOGA festival in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. I didn’t reserve tickets, unfortunately, but I did get to hear the loud screams of the band and masses playing today. Most likely they’ll be on it for the next three days until the party comes to an end but that doesn’t count. People have to work during the week.
I wouldn’t know what to without the prospect of having summer every year. It is the season I love the most and where so much happens. Not only here but almost everywhere.

I do have to say, I really like the weekend challenges…!

Photo A Day: May 12 and May 13

The weekend has almost come to a close, so it’s the best possible time to get this post out before heading to the Park again to catch some more sun. The beginning of next week is supposed to be gloomy and rainy, that’s why I am striving to appreciate the last rays of good weather which is finally here.

Let’s start with something easy aka as something that makes me happy:

Prospect Park just yesterday

Lying around on a lazy day in Prospect Park/Brooklyn. As for now, I still live an easy 5-minute-walk from this amazing park. Designed by the same people who have constructed Central Park, it is smaller in size than its Manhattaner Big Brother but nonetheless beautiful. Matter of fact, so beautiful, I’d prefer it any minute over Central Park. Lots of fun things go on here during the summer, such as Celebrate Brooklyn (read more here), an equivalent to the Summer Stage in Manhattan. The only difference: You actually get a spot here and can easily jump up and down to some great vibes of numerous artists.
Yesterday the temperature hit a satisfying 24 degrees (75 Fahrenheit), so it was the most ideal time to wander the ways, sit in the grass, and watch families trying to start a kite. Not enough wind for this, but I saw a cute shark kite I’d definitely would have bought my child, too.

Let’s not forget what this weekend is really about: It’s all about you, Mom!

My Mom being slightly annoyed with me playing a photo journalist

Happy Mother’s Day to all the great mothers out there! And the mothers-to-be.

Unfortunately I am nowhere close to mine, so I really hope that the folks who are make the best out of this day. I am sending virtual kisses over to Germany, where my parents reside and hope that you had an awesome, pleasant, fun, and loving day with the rest of our family!

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!]

Life in Flatbush

My first apartment was in Brooklyn. It was across the street from Prospect Park, the one I love the most! Brooklyn is a very diverse city to live in. You have a few good areas, a few bad areas, and then plenty of places in between which are boring, not close to the City, or right next to the ocean. When I first got here, my priority was probably not to be too far from Manhattan, as I knew this is where everything would be eventually going down.

So I moved in what can be called Prospect Park South or Lefferts Gardens. I am not too sure about the distinction. I simply call it Flatbush, because I was literally two minutes away from Flatbush Avenue. It was a good location for people who do not know much about New York yet and who want to be on the road all the time. I just had to walk 1 minute to the Parkside Avenue stop on the Q train and within 20 mins I was catapulted to Union Square or Canal St – whichever one I preferred. The Q back then (that makes it sound sooo long ago, but we are talking about less than one and a half years ago) was one of the better trains. It never seemed to have many delays, came regularly, even at night, and did not have as much trouble with weekend construction other trains usually have (but that is an entire story in itself). If I wanted to go elsewhere I took the orange line, meaning the B (that was when it had still stopped there), which took me right into the Lower East Side or Greenwich Village. Sounds like the sweet life? I guess it could have been….

Even as a newbie coming to New York and not knowing much about good and bad neighborhoods, I quickly made up my mind about Flatbush and its inhabitants. It is a West-Indian area with many people coming from Haiti and Jamaica. Although I saw one or two white faces wandering the streets, I always felt quite in a minority when doing my daily chores at the Laundromat or food shopping at the Pioneer. My experience when walking down one block to Flatbush quickly turned into a torture. West-Indian guys who were yelling vulgar remarks at me – a situation I really did not know how to deal with in the beginning at all. Rude cashiers at the 99ct stores. Other shoppers who just shoved me out of their way without saying a word or simply looking down upon me when standing in line. I believe this is how black people must have felt back in the 60ies, when they were walking through a white neighborhood. The reverse reaction in a modern setting did not suit me well. It first made me feel helpless, then mad, and finally I gave up finding a good reason as to why people react stupidly, and stopped caring.

Walking down to Duane Reade always seemed like running the gauntlet, though. Even after seeing how my roommate, a blond Canadian chick, who absolutely could not be mistaken for a Latina, dealt with all of the curious looks did not made me feel less uncomfortable. I always had the feeling I was the outsider, the awkward shaped piece sticking out of the mass. While my body language and also demeanor changed over time, I did not enjoy walking around the neighborhood and even further than to the stores I knew. The post office, which was a good 15 mins walk away, was always an interesting experience. Frustrated employees who liked to yell at their valued customers. Then of course the MTA ticket booth, which was a pure game of power between the victim standing outside and the “officer” sitting inside.

One thing you should know about Flatbush is that it is one of the neighborhoods who are still actively fighting gentrification, despite more and more newcomers (mostly whites) moving into the area. The prices are good, so is the location – a few reasons as to why it could become quite popular. At the same time, the old inhabitants do not want to be driven away from their neighborhood – their home. This might have caused a reasonable resentment that has been carried over to every non-black or non-Haitian person in the area.

I was glad I only lived 1 minute away from the train station. Flatbush could turn into a dangerous area during the dark hours. I never had any reason to make my way past the station and I really did not have much desire after being eyed by a gang of girls on one memorable summer night.

This was also the very first apartment in which I had bedbugs. Now for all of you who do not know what this is: I was about as clueless as you. Then I moved to Brooklyn and found out that itchy mosquito bites that won’t go away after 2 weeks most likely do not mean you were bitten by an insect. After careful examination of my bed sheets, I discovered a total invasion of those brown creatures, which you happen to see with your bare eye, no worries. Two exterminators and some very poisonous spray later we had gotten rid of those awful bloodsuckers. They were still among my top reasons of why I eventually moved.

I guess I am making matters sound a bit worse than they are. There are many advantages of living close to Flatbush. The quick transportation to the City being one. Then I really loved the proximity to the park. One quick jump over the street, and the green trees were all mine. I developed a daily jogging routine during that one hot summer of 2010. We also attended a few BBQs and even had some of our one. My roommate’s birthday in May was the best mixed-racial experience and cultural event I have witnessed so far. I remember us carrying bags of groceries and hot dogs to where her West-Indian friend had found an old grill, while preparing the foods for the gazillion amounts of relatives that kept stopping by and eating our food away. The laughs at Memorial Day. A certainly most interesting 4th of July, during which ambitious churchgoers tried to convince us to attend mass in Harlem.

BBQ-day in Flatbush

And then of course long nights contemplating life in the park. Seeing my roommate get fancy Jamaican hair styles at the Caribbean hair salon right around the corner. Hearing our ghetto neighbor yell at her grandchildren and beat her dog half to death. All of that was part of my experience in my very first apartment here.

After 9 months it was time to move out. First, my roommate’s latest lover, who happened to be a mere teenager and a full 18 years younger than her, managed to swipe my sterling silver jewelry I had left on the window sill. Second, I was still not too impressed by the neighborhood and decided to check other lands. And lastly, the bed bug epidemic was literally haunting that area of town and I was afraid of being struck again.

No real harm was done, and I was gone soon enough! I still like to go there every once in a while to snag a delicious slice from Family Pizza. Truly the best on that side of the park!

The Best Season: Spring in New York

All of a sudden all hardships seemed brushed away with a single hour spent walking around outside. Running past newly sprout flowers and breathing in the freshest, warmest air of the year. The last few months – swept away by the tickling smell of a new beginning, the scent of a fresh awakening. The grayness, the darkness of the winter months, albeit mild themselves – forgotten because of the past few days which have brought us more sunshine and joy than any November afternoon ever could have. Everything that was and everything that had been seemed irrelevant.

So spring has finally made its way here! As I had already indicated in my last few posts, our half-winter has been bypassed by a wonderful, wonderful thing. It has cared to show up this week and given us one gorgeous day after another. Today a high of 72 degrees (23 Celsius), the air so warm I could feel the breeze of summer already getting to us.
You might have guessed it from the title. You might have also figured from my fall and winter posts. I am a person who embraces warm temperatures. The best seasons of the year are spring and summer to me. Each one of them is so unique in what they have to offer, it is hard to choose between them.

I personally love spring for various reasons, but only one I can justify: I came to New York in spring. It was the first season I experienced in the Big Apple and every time it comes around it reminds me of how things had been way back then. Spring makes me forgot about how hard life had seemed just weeks or even days before. This season also makes me feel very alive. I see objects, colors, persons from a different side than winter and fall ever could reveal to me. I like to compare it to a veil that has been lifted from my eyes and gives me a review of how life had been just 9 months earlier. So yes, spring will always carry a very special meaning in my heart when it comes to New York.

Dumbo in Spring

I remember doing so many things during this season. Wearing my first green T-shirt in March already. For Saint Patrick’s day, the crazy Irish holiday Americans on the East Coast like to celebrate because all of a sudden they remember their Irish roots and how they have to want to prove the amount of whiskey they can down. Exploring Dumbo in April, when it felt like summer already. Consuming my first ice cream during that same time. Walking the Brooklyn Bridge one fine May evening, with a light wind caressing my face. Our first barbeques in Prospect Park. My first time lying on a blanket jacket nothing in Prospect Park or aimlessly wandering around the huge greeneries. Noticing the skateboarders and sports fanatics trying to prove a point and showing off their skills in the open. Wearing my first dress or skirt without freezing or feeling silly.

Spring here has so much to offer. The City is most likely one of the places you want to take in every minute of outside, if you can. So this time of the year finally makes it possible for you to do so. Not only can you visit one of the numerous parks NYC has to offer. But you can walk through the streets, from one sightseeing attraction to another, and actually enjoy the outside scenery. Appreciation for this season does not come hard. Usually winters are so cruel over here, people are simply happy March has finally started.

New awakening festivals are emphasized in so many different forms, no matter how small they might be. The Cherry Blossom Festival, for example. It happens every year at the Brooklyn Museum and it cherishes, go figure, cherry blossoms. Last year it had been at the end of April/ beginning of May – that particular day being rather cool to jump around in Prospect Park and worshipping some white blooms.

Another good celebration is the First of May German festival going on at “Zum Schneider’s” in Alphabet City. Last year, Heimweh had actually badly kicked in during that time, so that I had gone there with another German friend on the first day of May. Maifest is what Germans celebrate to welcome spring. The Schneider’s had its own little variation of the fest, as it was roasting a pig outside and giving out plenty of beer inside. Then, once cooked through, people joyfully danced around the traditional Mai-pig as it was being carried inside. At that time, I had already been too drunk to care about German traditions, so I cannot say how everything ended.

Spring is also one of those seasons during which you never know how to dress. One day it’s warm and in the 70ies, and you regret ever having brought that winter coat with you. Another day it’s turned blistering cool, and your sandals and tank top look outright ridiculous on you. However, a trench coat might be the easiest way of how to circumvent these fashionable weather mistakes and I actually plan on buying one. One day. In the future. After that Gucci dress I always wanted…

Today I was simply walking around in a trance, gawking at the green grass in the park and contemplating about the bare tree stumps. I was purely happy. How sunshine and high degrees can make you feel satisfied with almost everything – I had almost forgotten how that feels. I hope this year’s spring, which has so carefully started, will bring many glories with it. So far, I have a few travels planned out. We will see how the rest goes…

Prospect Park in Spring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At Flushing Meadows in Queens, Fall 2010

Stories During the Hurricane: Day 2, During and After

Hurricane Irene – have you been downgraded to a tropical storm when you hit us sometime during the night (exact time still unclear) or where you indeed doing the things a normal hurricane of category 1 does? Because if you were, you seem to have been the most harmless hurricane ever witnessed.

I woke up today around noon, after cramming in some extra night time to get things done before the electricity was supposed to go out (and as everyone thought it would). Puzzled because I did not hear the rain falling down on me, I peered out of my window and saw an almost clear sky. Still greyish and a bit windy, but clear compared to the past 24 hours.
Confused about the treacherous peace and silence outside, I opened my door and met my enthusiastic roommates, who were dancing around the apartment and screaming : “It’s over, it’s over!

Then, the first text messages came in from friends saying “most boring hurricane ever,” writing about their deep disappointment of not having witnessed the storm of the millennium. Next time, folks, next time! And what a typical reaction for a New Yorker to have, by the way.

My worst episode during this “hurricane” was when water came crashing down into my room from a hole that had formed in the ceiling (as we are directly beneath the roof). At 7 AM short I was awakened by a drip drip drip drip drip. Sleepy and irritable, I didn’t know what was going on at first. Then I grabbed two buckets and was swarming around, desperate as to what to do if this devious hole would not stop letting down water soon. Somehow, after emptying two buckets, the drain did become less and I was able to go back to sleep, wishing that the rain would stop of course and fearing more outcomes of this storm. Well, as described above, there really were none, and that episode was and stayed the worst that had happened to me during the hurricane.

Most people took this entire weekend with a great amount of humor. One friend posted hourly updates on Facebook about how he would be waiting in front of a bank to see its roof come off and then steal its money (Very funny indeed! Who would ever come up with this?). Some voiced what they thought of the safety precautions taking 3 days ahead of time (They didn’t think too much of these). And then again others were just mad for buying those huge amounts of food for no reason. Yep, seems like this is the right city to be in for a hurricane.

The Hudson was the only river which eventually overflowed and caused some flooding in the West Village and along 12th and 11th Avenues. Hilarious, if you think about it! The beautiful village under water… I also wonder how many rats might be swimming in that sewage. Staten Island and Queens have power outage problems, once again a reason why I live in Brooklyn (Well, it does sound like a good reason I considered this location 9 months before the hurricane!)

The MTA is supposed to be running tomorrow again, albeit not in the morning, meaning I might not be able to go to work (No, I am NOT taking a cab just to get there!).

Today afternoon I packed my camera and walked outside, into a neighborhood that was up on the streets, doing the same thing I was: Taking in the fresh air and estimating the damage Irene had left. I have rarely seen so many happy and peaceful faces at once. Supposedly, the big thing to do was to collect fallen tree branches as a souvenir of the hurricane (always in for a trend, these people).

The following are a few pictures I took while out and about.

Now the only problem I might have is JFK and its backed-up flight schedules, but I supposed Thursday is still long enough away to have those difficulties figured out by them. Then it indeed will be time to wave this city good-bye, at least for a good amount of time!

Independence Day Stories

4th of July Weekend is coming up, and with it the entire package of festivities, BBQs, and down days at work, which are connected to the holiday.

For all of you who do not know by now: 4th of July is a HUGE celebration in the States (you don’t have anything comparable in Germany, and NO, the day the wall came down does NOT measure up to it!), as many excited Americans are celebrating the day of independence from the British Empire. This year, July 4, 2011, will be the 235. anniversary of the date the first 13 American colonies gained freedom from Great Britain. This so-called Independence Day has ever since been a national and federal holiday, on which patriotic symbols are displayed – the American flag being among the most typical ones, of course. You find the notorious Stars&Stripes in various forms, not only in its original one, so do not be surprised if it shows up on a cake on the buffet table or is worn as a funky motive on a shirt or body painted on some American faces. Yes, the US is a very patriotic country, and this is especially revealed on their biggest day of the year.

Macys contributes to the annual insanity surrounding the 4th of July celebrations by paying over half a million of dollars for the biggest firework of the nation on Hudson River (it used to be facing the East River, but they switched locations a few years ago). It is perfectly viewable from the New Jersey waterfront, at which most camera teams and reporters tend to pitch their tents hours before sunset. The view is the best, I have to admit, and if you want to see it, go to Weehawken or Hoboken. My friend and I made the bad mistake of actually staying in the City last year and trying to catch a glimpse of the colorful sparklers at Time Square! BAD DECISION! He was double pissed, as he lives in Weehawken and could have seen it perfectly relaxed from his great window view or roof! O well, it’s never too late to learn.
So we ended up being smashed in a crowd of mostly tourists and people from Queens and Brooklyn, having to tolerate sweaty bodies, screaming infants, and ruined shoes as one foot after another tried to shove through the crowd and happened to find my bare toes. Yes, it wasn’t too nice, but now I know better. And the highlight of our adventure was that we couldn’t see half of the fireworks for the police only let us through to 10th Avenue and the massive buildings ahead of us blocked out the best part of it – or so it seemed. Needless to say that I didn’t take one decent picture from the spectacle, as it was too much of an effort to navigate my arm around the tightly pent-up crowd. Uff, just thinking about this makes my heart race again!

The day by itself had been pretty eventful: I got to check out numerous BBQs, but unfortunately nothing resembled the “real American experience,” as I like to call it. We first went to a private party in Greenpoint, to which we made our way from an overheated subway station through the hot streets of Williamsburg. In case you forgot, last year was the big heat wave season throughout the East Coast, and July was consistent with this. When we got to our friend’s house, we were welcomed by a crowd of only two people. Oooops, seems like they were let down by quite a few of their friends on that day! Well, they definitely tried to make the best out of their situation, as they had their own little BBQ going on. We ended up staying for a chat, while they switched my water glass up to an Eggnog mix, which is great to drink during the summer, believe it or not. After some time more people showed up, so we excused ourselves (my friend was bored) and returned back to Prospect Park, where we took part in a bunch of other BBQs. Since we were on the Haitian side of the grounds, almost every other family had their own party going on, and we wandered from crowd to crowd, being invited to eat and drink and thus collected an overload of corncobs, bread, juices, and other edibles in our hands.

Me holding Haitian Flag
Us taking a break from food on 4th of July

It ended up being more of a Haitian-American experience, with people dancing to their bongas and waving their national flag to its rhythms. Which was a very interesting cultural experience by itself, too, of course.

In general, it appears to be more difficult than elsewhere to have a BBQ here in the City due to reasons of space and dimensions. I know some people give a party on their rooftops but it is rather hard to have a large crowd on top of a building. That is why I am still determined to travel to other places to finally see an “all-American” 4th of July party with many people, buffets and a huge green space. Wish me luck, maybe I’ll witness this sometime soon.

It is also not uncommon that a good amount of folks likes to escape New York and take advantage of their 3-day-weekend, which they sometimes extend to a 4-day-event. Quite naturally. Such as in the case of my coworkers, who are hitting up Florida, Pennsylvania, or Maine, and who had their last day of work today. How I envy them!

What are your plans for Independence Day?