Daily Archives: May 8, 2012

The Sunday of “Big NYC Weekend” was officially a party, with the inclusion of my roommate Güliz.  We almost missed the bus, but the driver kindly opened the doors for us at a traffic light, providing a suitably urgent start to the day.

An hour later, we arrived in New York, and headed uptown to Central Park, where we had breakfast at the Central Park Boathouse.  After my morning hit of caffeine (and one sticky raspberry Danish pastry later), the girls and I joined the queue outside the boathouse and rented a rowboat.  I’m not exactly the world’s best rower (I forayed in kayaking in Puerto Rico earlier this year, and was sufficiently traumatized), so I let Clare and Güliz take the reins on this one.  The weather was glorious, and the view of the park from the lake was beautiful.  We even saw a family of baby turtles, hanging out on a piece of driftwood.  It was perfect, and just like the movies, until I realised that I’d lost my receipt.  The staff were jerks, and wouldn’t refund me my $20 security deposit. Twenty fucking dollars!  You win some, you lose some.

We left Central Park for the deepest, darkest depths of Brooklyn… Coney Island!  Home to the legendary Lunar Park, Coney Island is a beach, located at the southern tip of Brooklyn, a 45-minute subway ride from Manhattan.  It was kitschy but charming, with excellent street food, gorgeous ocean views, a boardwalk, and best of all, a crappy theme park circa Adventureland.  We took a strip of photos in an old-fashioned photo-booth, rode the Ferris wheel and went on the park’s oldest rollercoaster, The Cyclone.  We ate hot dogs from Nathan’s on the boardwalk.

From Coney Island, we took the subway to the edge of Brooklyn, and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge at dusk.  There’s a reason why the Brooklyn Bridge is a tourist trap; it’s a truly breathtaking experience.  The view really is something that I can’t put into words.  If you get the chance to visit New York, you really do have to see it for yourself.  You won’t regret it.  I promise.

I parted ways with Clare and Güliz once we had crossed the bridge; they headed home, but I had other plans.  I had managed to get my hands on a ticket to see The Shins play the first of three sold-out shows at Terminal 5, and so I made my way uptown, and lined up with my ticket.

After being ID’d, the attendant emblazoned my hand with a humiliating black “X” to let everybody know that I wasn’t 21 (the legal drinking age in the United States).  Extremely aware of the fact that I was alone, at a concert, I wandered the venue to get the feel of the place (and to make it look like I was doing something other than standing there, like a loner), as the opening act, St. Lucia played.  The experience would probably have been more enjoyable, had I been able to sit at the bar with a bottle of Brooklyn lager, but alas.

I tried to make conversation with one or two people sitting upstairs, but it was to no avail.  Surrounded by couples and people who didn’t want to chat to me, I started to feel disheartened.

Then of course, The Shins came on, and they played Australia, and everything was ok.  I moved towards the back of the room, hoping that there would be fewer couples holding hands, and a slightly better view.  I took up residence next to “JenJen”, a voluptuous young woman dressed head-to-toe in black, dancing and sweating enthusiastically.  She was clearly far more interesting than me, and I figured that if I danced next to her, nobody would notice me (and the fact that I was there alone).  As it turns out, she was lovely and exactly the kind of temporary friend I was looking for.

As I relaxed into the evening, I started to make conversation with the people around me.  I made a crack about being short to the petite woman standing behind me (at 163cm, it’s not always easy to see at these kind of events).  This impromptu ice-breaker turned out to be the catalyst for one of the most awesome New York encounters I’ve had to date.

“Stephanie” and I bonded over the lure of the city; she had migrated to New York six years before, from L.A.  She gave me a soul-searching pep-talk about making it in the big city and crystallizing my passion for writing.  Director of the FLAG Art Foundation, a contemporary art gallery located in Chelsea, she gave me her e-mail address and told me to get in touch.  After the concert, Stephanie and her friends (two charming, art-dealing Upper East Siders) invited me to go for a drink, but not being 21, and aware that I would be stranded in New York on a Sunday night if I missed the last bus home, I had to decline.  I was astounded at their kindness though; I had been chatting to these people for no more than the best part of an hour, and they wanted to hang out with me!  My trio of guardian angels were just that; they refused to let me take the subway, and generously paid for a cab to Port Authority for me.

Everybody has an opinion about New York.  It’s true that it’s exhausting, it’s relentless and it takes no prisoners.  It’s true that New Yorkers always have something to do and somewhere to be; it’s a city full of desperately passionate people, all hustling, all trying to be somebody.  It’s true that New Yorkers will not let you get in the way of anything.  And yet, all of the New Yorkers that I’ve encountered have been incredibly kind and generous-spirited.  Everybody I’ve met has been insightful, helpful, and fascinatingly, endlessly interesting.  This tiny island is home to the most compelling set of people in the Western world.  I’m sure of it.

The memory of that bus ride home, of gazing out at the twinkling lights of Manhattan from across the Hudson River is burned into my memory.

I can’t believe my life.  How can one person experience so many overwhelmingly incredible things in one weekend?  How is this not a dream?  Now do you see why I have to be a part of it?

*Photographs by Clare Anderson.

After Friday’s solo excursion into the city, it was nice to be a tourist with a friend.  Clare and I decided to mark the occasion by Dressing Up.  She wore my disco pants (surprisingly comfortable if ostentatiously shiny), I wore The World’s Most Dramatic Dress.  We both wore red lipstick.  The seven- minute walk to the bus stop in our ridiculous, glamorous outfits was somewhat offset by the fact that it was 8AM on a Saturday morning, and so  most of New Brunswick wasn’t awake to witness.  However, once we were in New York and aboard an East Village-bound L train, nobody batted an eyelid.  Street fashion is one of my favourite things about New York, and I’ve found that below 14th Street are some of the most stylin’ on the planet.

We had eggs and coffee at Veselka, a Ukrainian diner, before heading to Chelsea for a film screening, as part of the Tribeca Film Festival. I’d booked tickets some time ago, and so we were able to breeze past the rush line (though after last time’s rush debacle, said rush line had my utmost sympathy).  We saw Francophrenia (Or Don’t Kill Me, I Know Where the Baby Is), an “experimental art-house film”, about Hollywood actor James Franco and his stint on daytime soap opera, General Hospital.  The film was entirely self-indulgent, but kind of fun, and there was a Q&A session with the film’s director Ian Olds, and co-writer Paul Felton after the screening.  It was exactly what you’d expect from a dude who’s “been to film school”, but the film itself was appropriately self-deprecating, and not as wanky some of its reviews had suggested.

After the film screening, we walked over to Chelsea’s neighbouring district, the Flatiron, for hot chocolate at Sex and the City hotspot, The City Bakery.  The hot chocolate was decadent and the view perfect for people watching.  Refuelled, Clare and I took the subway to Brooklyn.  We visited the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens for the Sakura Matsuri festival, a celebration of cherry blossoms and Japanese culture.  We wandered the park, impressed and amused by the Anime-themed costumes, Samurai sword-dancing, origami workshop and real-life “Godfather of Sudoku”, Maki Kaji.

The Brooklyn Botanic Gardens are beautiful, and definitely worth a visit; Technicolor blossoms, naturally-formed woven huts and a stunning field of vibrant amethyst Turkish hazel were only made more magical by a wedding that we accidently stumbled across.  Apparently we weren’t supposed to take photographs among the hazel though, and Clare got some hilariously dramatic candid shots of me running through the field, my Dramatic Dress billowing dramatically behind me.

The festival ended around 6PM, and so we headed onward to Wild Ginger, a trendy vegan restaurant in DeKalb, for dinner.  One pot of Gypsy Love tea, a lot of Asian food and several layers of clothing later, we found ourselves at the DeKalb Twilight Market, a fairy-light strewn outdoor flea market.  We had cupcakes from the Robicelli’s stall, Clare considered purchasing a miniature terrarium, we made use of the free instant-photo booth, and discussed our shared love for red lipstick with the delightful ladies of vintage clothing stall, LoveJunkie.

Clare and I returned to New Brunswick exhausted, but elated.

If you had told me that I’d be having experiences like these six months ago, when I was living in grey, rainy Manchester, surrounded by a sea of paperwork and sitting in my bedroom, bored out of my brains, I wouldn’t have believed you.

I definitely wouldn’t have believed you if you told me that on the Sunday of “Big NYC Weekend”, things would get even better.

*The photographs in this post were taken by the lovely and talented Clare Anderson.

I can’t imagine getting sick of this city.

No matter how many times I see that Manhattan skyline, it never gets old.  I have had some of the most magical, memorable experiences of my life, let alone my semester abroad, in New York City.  Last time I wrote about New York, I wrote about how an ordinary, insignificant day was turned into something special by nothing more than the New York air.  Little did I know that that small, special afternoon was a primer for the next trip I would take into the city; a trip I’d been planning for weeks, a trip that Clare and I had been referring to for several weeks as “Big NYC Weekend”.

I arrived in New York on Friday afternoon, pressed for time and anxious that I wouldn’t make my manicure appointment.  First World Problems?  Perhaps.  I made it downtown to the Lower East Side in record time, to find the nail salon calm and serene, a quiet oasis in this bustling city.  A sweet girl gave me the most thorough, precise manicure I’ve ever had, and it only cost me $10!  After 45 minutes of affordable luxury, I headed to my favourite bookstore in the city, McNally Jackson, an independent bookstore in NoLita.  For dinner.  Of course, left to my own devices, I would end up eating in a literature-themed café.  I shared a table with a native New Yorker, who gave me some useful subway directions, and one soup/sandwich combo later, I made my way back up to Midtown.

A couple of weeks prior, my friend had informed me that writer-director Jason Reitman’s L.A.-based “Live Read” project was making its way to New York.  I immediately booked a ticket, but unfortunately said friend wasn’t quite quick enough, and so I ended up going alone.  I joined the queue inside the TimesCenter, giddy with excitement. I spotted Olivia Wilde (who, despite being a Famous Person, didn’t get to skip the queue!), looking blonde and perfect.  I sat in the front row, next to a friendly, dreadlocked screenwriter called “Damien”, and discussed teenage clichés and collegiate experiences and terrible movies.  How is it that all of the New Yorkers I’ve encountered are such great conversationalists?

The Live Read itself was fucking cool; a plethora of Famous People, including Emma Stone, Paul Rudd, Jason Sudeikis, Greta Gerwig, Tom Cavanagh, Cara Buono, David Wain and James Woods performed a dramatic reading of Billy Wilder’s The Apartment.  Greta Gerwig’s impeccable comic timing was my highlight of the evening, and comedienne Emma Stone’s performance proved surprisingly emotive and measured.  It was a one-off event and a pretty memorable New York experience, especially for a self-proclaimed cinephile like me.

I walked across the street to the bus terminal, wondering if this weekend could get any better, convinced that such a feat would be impossible, shaking my head at my own good fortune.