Dreaming of the Big Apple

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When I left New York, I had powerful, vivid dreams that made me sleep so deep and still feel tired when I woke up from 12 hour ‘naps’. At first, I put it down to jet lag, but this lasted for six months. I later realised it was homesickness. It is silly really, to even think that you could be homesick from being somewhere for such a short amount of time. But it was the truth. I don’t believe in looking back at the past, but this was something that proved far more difficult than any other transition in my life. I put it down to the power of the city.

I’m not sure if I believe in the cliche of magic, but there is certainly some kind of spell that is cast over New York. One day, I hope to go back and stay. Stay for longer than the three months I was allowed, but the immigration laws will need to change before that happens.

I had always wanted to move to New York, and a younger, more naive me believed it would be as simple as buying a plane ticket with some savings, and going off ski. At the time of deciding to go, I was in a difficult place in my life. I had graduated and previously worked abroad for a year, and was in two minds whether to go back and travel some more, or get a stable job and build a life with a savings fund for a house in the city, similar to the rest of my friends. After trying the latter, and most probably applying far too optimistically for roles such as ‘Editor’ and ‘Director’, I  decided that even when realising what level I was really at, I was just not experienced enough to compete with the celebrity offspring, who still are – in my opinion, getting all of the good roles.

Knowing that it wasn’t possible to get a working visa in the States in my own situation, I looked at other ways in which I could go there for a long period of time on a budget, with the aim of finding writing work out there and building a more solid portfolio – something you will be pleased to know, I did! This resulted in me making plans to move to a boat. That’s right, a boat.

Living on a boat sounded anything but ideal, but it would cost nothing to live on. I had found it on one of those sites, where you can get free accommodation if you work for free, and for New York, it was the only and far better option of the two – the other helping out a magician in Times Square dressed as a clown everyday – not at all sketchy…

It was only when a few other facts came to light about the reality of living on the boat for three months that I stopped in my excited tracks and resorted in going back to the drawing board. As well as smaller things, like the location being very far out, I found out, two days before going, that I would be sharing my room with eight others. Eight. I am all for adventure, but this put another dimension to the expression ‘cabin fever’.

In between answering the phone at a temp job which was funding some of my trip, I frantically searched the world wide web for an affordable room, something far more difficult that I had ever imagined. When I did find a room, in my price range and available during the time of my stay, I felt like singing hallelujah sister liberty. Instead, I panicked – because it was in Harlem. So I told my parents I was moving to the Upper West Side, and prayed it was better than the papers made it out to be.

 

(Taken from my travel blog – The Grass is Greener).

Ultimate New York Nostalgia

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It has been a year since I first left the UK to go to New York, packing a tiny suitcase with me with five outfits, one bag, three pairs of shoes and a whole lotta dollar (well, not quite). My expectations of the city were very different to the reality. It was hard living there – especially in the humid heat. I stood out for the better and the worse with my posh British accent, got far too annoyed with tourists and found myself becoming far more direct and brash ‘New Yorker style’ towards the end of my stay (it didn’t last long – don’t worry).

I wrote a post about leaving last August and I wanted to re – post it to share. It defines my trip and my opinion and my experience of the city.

I’ve been waking up early a lot these last few days. The heat is so humid that I often wonder if I have been kidnapped, waking up in the wilderness of the jungle. Sometimes I think I really have. It’s just more concrete and less wilderness. There are similarities though. Looking around, there are beasts everywhere, both figuratively and literally. Rats, mice, humans – the most animalistic of them all. There is a fight for survival, the weak don’t stand a chance. Pushing your way around the subway crowds without smiling is a good method.

Unlike the real jungle, it is fairly easy to get out of here. There is nothing forcing you to stay, in fact most will say please go – there’s one less person to compete with in finding a place to stay, a subway seat, a table at a $20 bottomless brunch.

Yet there is something so beautifully gritty about this city. So repulsive but compelling, so crowded yet so peaceful. People come here from all over the world to settle. Seek refuge.

Why? Because it accepts everyone and everything. It might swallow you up some days, but it will spit you back out and allow you to see it’s unconventional beauty with a fresh eye. On these days, the days I hate New York and then suddenly see it again in new eyes, I realise how sad I will be when I have to leave.

Returning Home And Finding A New Normal

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As always, I apologise for my lack of posts in the last few months. Time seems to get in the way of well, time. It just kind of grabs you and drags you forward in leaps and bounds to another month, another chapter of our lives. Okay, I will stop with all this ‘deep talk’ now. But seriously, how can it be September already?

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Since my last post, I have been on a plane, been fed dog food (above) – I mean really, would you even let your dog eat this? And flew in the air miles and miles away from the life I had built over the three months I lived in New York, and returned to the ‘normal’.

Those of you who have lived abroad before, or even simply been away for a long time from your home will understand why the word normal needs to be quoted as such. It is impossible to just simply return home and say ‘oh that was a nice trip, anyway how is everyone’. Not in reality anyway. Although I guess if I think about it, that is what I have been doing.

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The thing that gets me is when people ask me ‘how was your trip’, as if I had just been away for a week and have come back with a tan, a memory card of photographs (that are all duplicates of my Facebook album) and a few parent friendly stories to tell the dinner table.

I always find it easy to adjust to new surroundings, but a hell of a lot harder returning to the same familiar ones. Last year, I lived in France for a year and it took me a good three months to recover from that. When I say recover, I just found a new way to enjoy being in the same old place again.

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Moving from the big lights of the city that literally never slept to a small, suburban town is quite a change. In my current ‘home’, the transport comes infrequently, I don’t have a car and very few people I enjoy spending time with live anywhere near me. This means that at weekends, Eastenders, long country walks (that basically go to the supermarket to buy crisps and then home again as it almost always rains) have become my new best friend.

 

New York Diary: Strong Feels And Those Sad Last Times

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The lack of posts these last few weeks has been inexcusable and acceptable on equal measures, I feel. I have been savouring every second here, not wanting to write about it as in every way the act of re-telling a story changes a moment from  the present to the past. Even though these moments are becoming memories far too quickly, I have quite liked cherishing them in my head. That way, I can forget how long I have left here and feel that the days are just my normality, rather than a count down to my departure. Even typing that word makes me feel rather strange. It can’t be time, it just can’t.

I’ve been in New York for 11 weeks now and I have seen myself slowly switch from being a wide eyed newbie unaware of the difference between an avenue and a block, the A and the D train and unsure of the worth of the strange looking coins in my purse. Through the weeks, I have swapped from giving a shit about yellow taxis, the Empire State and rats on the subway (well okay, they still freak me out somewhat) and instead just feel at a comfortable ease in this huge beautiful mess of a city.

What makes me most sad, is not having to go home, but knowing I can’t stay. US immigration, you’re a bitch.

Then there is the dreaded return flight. I feel like my life is hanging in limbo. The possibility of what my life could be if there was a way of staying in New York, and how I predict it will be when I go home: dull.

Returning when everything is the same apart from you is one of the most lonely and frustrating feelings, that only others who have lived abroad can understand. You need to figure out a way to re – enjoy your past life, or most likely, change it up again. This is most definitely not a bad thing. Who wants their everyday lives to stay the same. Especially in your twenties. That to me is more depressing than leaving here. Which is a lot.

I guess I am trying to say that I am more than sad to leave New York. Even though I know I can come back, I feel that I would only want to if I was able to stay. Otherwise it’s like giving candy to a baby on Halloween and taking it back, saying “you said for trick”.

If there are any tricks and tips for staying here, apart from a quick fix green card marriage (something I have already thought of many times), please write below.

New York: So Much Love And So Many Feels

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I’ve been waking up early a lot these last few days. The heat is so humid that I often wonder if I have been kidnapped, waking up in the wilderness of the jungle. Sometimes I think I really have. It’s just more concrete and less wilderness. There are similarities though. Looking around, there are beasts everywhere, both figuratively and literally. Rats, mice, humans – the most animalistic of them all. There is a fight for survival, the weak don’t stand a chance. Pushing your way around the subway crowds without smiling is a good method.

Unlike the real jungle, it is fairly easy to get out of here. There is nothing forcing you to stay, in fact most will say please go – there’s one less person to compete with in finding a place to stay, a subway seat, a table at a $20 bottomless brunch.

Yet there is something so beautifully gritty about this city. So repulsive but compelling, so crowded yet so peaceful. People come here from all over the world to settle. Seek refuge.

Why? Because it accepts everyone and everything. It might swallow you up some days, but it will spit you back out and allow you to see it’s unconventional beauty with a fresh eye. On these days, the days I hate New York and then suddenly see it again in new eyes, I realise how sad I will be when I have to leave.

New York Diary: Taxi Rides, Dollar Pizza And The Most Epic Adventure To Date

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As I am writing this I am still replaying the events from last night over and over in my head, as I used to do on my cassette player when the sound track ‘Wannabe’ came on play. Oh, The Spice Girls.

The Spice Girls, Harry Potter and the Queen are all people many many Americans assume I am friends with, or at least associated with. When I proudly told a group of people at a party last night that I had an audition for Harry Potter, it was shut down with “yea right”. However, said girls friend then went on to ask me if I knew Harry Potter. “Here we go again” I said.

It can be flattering at first when people are interested in your country and ask you to say a sentence in your “wonderful British accent” over and over again, but in week 7 of being here, it has become rather draining.

Forgive me for dithering and not getting to the point. It was just one of those nights where so much happened, it all sort of then blends together and cooks up a storm. There wasn’t a literal storm, although it did rain at 5am when I finally got home.

So to the story. Me and my friend Vittoria went out to a bar in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Welcome to the Johnson’s. Yelp had given it good reviews, I had seen some of the cool NY kids whom I Instagram stalk had been there and all in all looked a fun, cheap venue.

As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by a long, heavy rocker, Jesus look a like who insisted on following us while we stood in the bathroom line and told us that we ‘looked like interesting people’. From someone who had hair longer than Rapunzel, I guess it was quite a compliment..

We sat down, tried to ignore him but he was still hovering over us at our table, insisting on telling us fun facts about himself. When he asked me where I was from and I told him London, he went on to say that ‘London was rubbish’. I then asked him if he had ever been to England, to which his reply was ‘no’. You get the drift, he was an odd ball. What then surprised me even more, is that out of nowhere he decided to lean in and try and kiss me. Horrified that this Jesus maniac turned Judas was in such near proximity to my face, I pushed him away and told him to leave. That mega bitch defensive side of me comes out far too often here, but on this occasion, I didn’t feel even slightly bad. Creep.

We then went on to meet some normal guys from California, who were staying here for a few nights. When they left, we wished we had got their numbers as they seemed normal – a rarity here for sure. We left and went on a mission to find another bar that didn’t close by 12am and hopped on the Subway, avoided (and ran like girls) past a stray rat and finally ended up walking back to where we were before, this time to a club called Pianos. The chances were slim, but blow me down, the two Californian guys were in the bar.

We had a fun time until one of them became too forward and told me he wanted to kiss me (am I just English, or is that just weird) which then made me scuttle off to his friend, who got out crystals and told me and Vittoria to feel the energy and heel ourselves with them.

You think that was weird enough? It gets stranger.

Next, I meet a guy who asks if me and Vittoria want a shot. I managed to upgrade this kind offer to a gin, each and for a good three minutes I sipped it in peace. Vittoria then comes brushing past me and my gin, the glass and the lemon on top all fell to the ground in a dramatic fashion. This attracted the attention of a new potential friend, who told us his friend was having a party in Harlem and that we should go. Why not, we thought.

A 40 minute taxi ride, greasy pizza and taxi driver chit chat later, we were Harlem bound. The after party turned out to be a real bore. His friends were rude, obnoxious and even told me they didn’t like British people. Because I want to end this post by telling you the climatic, dumb quote of the night, I will just point out in the end we left and got back safely (this is mainly if my parents or grandparents ever read this).

So back to the house and the bad conversation. After declaring their hatred for British people, one of the girls then asked Vittoria where she was from. “Italy”, she replied. The girl then asks “where is Italy, is it in England”?

I died. Oh dear girl, I would understand if it were a smaller country that maybe has no ties to the USA. Riga for instance. Fair enough if you haven’t heard of it. But in New York, you have Little Italy, ITALIAN dollar pizza joints on every corner, and a huge Italian community. So to ask if it was in England, is just a little bit awkward.

I don’t mind too much though, I wish England did have its own Little Italy too.

New York Diary: Brunch, A Grand Reunion And Typical Bad Luck

11742656_10206636486738503_2660771760828166799_n Cheers Christine for the great weekend. We said cheers a lot at the bottomless brunch we sat at for a rather long time, mainly because I was taking advantage of the deal. The cultural barriers between us are always so fascinating that we say we have a language barrier. You wouldn’t believe that we both speak English as a first (and only) language. Like or comment on this post if you too would try and have as many free alcoholic drinks with your brunch after paying $30. While Christine had 2 to get her moneys worth (the were around $11 each), I had 6. I feel in the end, the staff started to put less and less champagne in my Mimosa, until it became simply orange juice. Either way, at least I got a good vitamin fix. 11752051_10206636485418470_3756382804636141528_n Christine, pictured above posing in Central Park arrived the same evening I spotted the mouse run across my kitchen sink. It was as if it was a warning sign of more unlucky adventures to come. On a side note, me and Christine are both notoriously unlucky and whenever we meet up we seem to give each other that extra boost of bad luck powder. So I didn’t even flinch when she messaged me to say her plane was delayed, nor when she said her shuttle bus from the airport was going to be delayed too. When we finally met at midnight, we headed straight to the bar where they said they were closing in half an hour. Of course. However, we still managed to squeeze in two beers, a huge catch up and then walked along to Times Square to take some of those typical cheesy but fun touristic photos outside the billboards that you just seem to do when you have a visitor or visit the city. Horray horray.11059964_10206636486898507_198658714555356118_n Christine, being Canadian is super nice to everyone she meets. The cleaner came in to the apartment early Saturday morning and said good morning when Christine said hi to her. When I said hi, she grunted and turned around. She also didn’t say bye to me, answer me when I asked her if she had a nice week, nor did she clean my room. I think she really hates me, and I should be slightly worried. In the evening, we were supposed to be going out to a bar where I had arranged for some of my friends to meet us. Christine was too ill from the sun and walking around the city to come out and when I arrived, I found out that one of my friends wasn’t going to be making it either. It was a disaster and I wish I had just stayed in with the mice and practiced my bonding skills/ not jumping up and screaming every time I see something move across the floor. Ahh, life in New York. Sometimes it defeats you, but it gave us a great story and platform for fun. I hope you haven’t been scared for life Christine, New York is a gentle giant really! Ps. Despite the bad luck, it was still the best of weekends!

New York Diary: Mice In The Kitchen, Rats On The Subway And Bed Bugs Everywhere You Look

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This is now my face. Permanent facial expression for the next two weeks. The next two weeks until I leave my current home. Why? Because today I was going about my normal business, getting a drink of water at the tap, and all of a sudden I saw a mouse run across the sink. That’s right. Run across. Zoom, swoosh. Innocent little sprint. Not. You see, I can deal with most ‘fearful’ animals. Dogs, spiders, snakes – bring it on. But not rodents. Mice and rats are my biggest fear, and now it seems I am living in the same space as one of them.

I am now looking for it constantly everywhere I go. How do you get used to the idea of having to live with a stray mouse? If that wasn’t bad enough, I am constantly finding rats on the subway (something that NY is notorious for, and at least there are normally other people around). There are also bed bugs on the subway, probably in my bed thanks to the mice and anywhere I go really.

Oh, and did I mention I live in Williamsburg. The mice is definitely a hipster.

New York Cafe Review: Black Brick, Williamsburg

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Finding a reasonably priced coffee shop in New York is a difficult task. There are only so many times you can go to Starbucks without feeling insanely guilty that you are missing out on a far more inviting environment while you get your caffeine fix. Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg is notorious for its many rows of coffee shops and bars, and even thought I live so very near by, I always end up some place else.

Today was different and I made it my main task of the day to go and check out a new cafe. Black Brick (300 Bedford Avenue) was rated highly on Yelp and so I thought I would give it a go. The fact it only had one $ sign meant it was even more worthy of a visit.

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I ordered an iced Americano for $3 and it wss pretty damn good. I have found that a lot of coffee in artistically decorated (a polite way of saying hipster run) cafes, especially in Brooklyn is terrible. This coffee tasted great and was strong without sending my brain onto the treadmill. I also overheard the man behind the counter talk about his passion for coffee and how he must like, taste every bean to know what suits the blend. So you know, a bit obnoxious maybe – but at least he got it spot on! You can also buy a selection of cakes and pastries, all for under $5.

The only downside I will say about Black Brick, is that it has very slow, barely there wi-fi. I had gone there to do some blogging, catch up on my emails and do some much needed writing. However, this was all virtually (well un – virtually in this case) impossible as a result of no world wide web to hop onto.

A cafe for admiring the interior (there are plenty of magazines, a few type writers and plenty of tables for large groups), drinking good coffee or simply a place to go to for a reliable to – go coffee. However, don’t make the mistake of lugging your laptop there, as the vintage inspired interior stretches that one bit further to the technology use.

The Pros And Cons Of Living In New York

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The common statement I get from friends and family back home is this – “Omg, I’m so jealous/ you’re so lucky that you are in New York”. If ever I complain about it for even a second, it is shut down with “but it’s New York”. This perceived notion of the city by all (some who have never been) is one of such enthusiasm that I felt inspired to make a list of not only the good, but the bad aspects of living here. You see, once you’ve gotten over Times Square and seen the statue, you start to notice it’s not all bright city lights and big apples.

These are all my own observations and I am in no way generalizing or stereotyping the entire city. If you are sensitive, you should probably stop reading around now.

Incase I sound like an ungrateful, spoilt British girl, I will begin with the pros.

GOOD

  • There is every type of cuisine, at any time of day. Pizza for breakfast, Bagels at 4am? Go for it, nobody will judge.
  • There is always something to see. I was naive and thought I would be able to explore every district and neighbourhood in the first two months. I am coming up to month number two and I still haven’t even been to Queens.
  • You can feel like you have travelled to another city just by hopping forward or backwards a few stops on the Subway.
  • Bodegas.
  • Coffee.
  • $1 pizza (when you know where is good, avoid the bad places you will get ill)
  • Brooklyn Bridge Park
  • Red Hook – so far out, yet so very very cool
  • Getting lost and looking up and seeing The Empire State building in the distance
  • The triumph of navigating your way through the city and finding your desired destination first time around (or maybe that is just me)
  • The free events that happen daily
  • The artistic cafes in LES make you feel like you have witnessed a free art exhibition

And now for the cons, the bad that they don’t show you on the New York tourism sites

BAD

  • The rats on the subways, especially at night
  • The ants, mosquitos and bed bugs that end up on the subway, in your room and basically stalk you around
  • The obnoxious hipsters in Williamsburg
  • The obnoxious jazz singers who have their own CD and therefore think they are God
  • The price of a shot is normally $6
  • None of the deodorants smell nice, so much so that I have debated not wearing it on several occasions
  • You can’t drink on the streets
  • You can’t buy alcohol in a normal shop
  • ^ This means it is expensive when you do go to a Liquor store
  • ^^ Ps. I am not an alcoholic, just British
  • The subway might be 24 hours, but you might have to wait an hour to change trains
  • American guys in clubs really don’t know how to act smooth around girls and don’t understand the word “go away”
  • The crowds in Midtown make you want to fly off to a desert island forever
  • Not many people understand sarcasm