The bad: on the J train

I live in Hamilton Heights and work al the way to Bushwick. It’s a LONG commute, about 1hour and a few minutes of my day. But had I not endured all these hours on the subway, I doubt I would have witnessed pretty much every vignette of new york life you can imagine. Oh the things I saw, heard, and smelled!

One time on the 1 train, a guy sitting beside me insisted on demonstrating to me the newly acquired flexibility of his broken arm. I declined and let out a nervous laugh. Broken arm guy shrugged one shoulder in sign of indifference but another stranger sitting across from me scolded me for making fun of him. This is one of many examples of the most unlikely interactions I had with other riders.

The weirdest, most shocking incident happened during a morning commute to work, on the J tain between Flushing and Myrtle av., I think. There was at the most, three other people on the train – usually people travel to Brooklyn from Manhattan in the morning, not the other way around. I was changing into my work shoes when I noticed the homeless man who had been sitting diagonally across from me since Marcy Av station. We locked eyes. I knew that look

I have been working with children since 2007, as a day care assistant and as a babysitter. I am very familiar with that look. I just had never seen it in an adult man before. To the untrained eye, it may be confused with the “glazed look”, but it reflects a person experiencing full concentration, pleasure, and slight embarrassment. More often than not, this look is accompanied by a semi-open mouth and a slight frown. This man was, without a doubt in, pooping. Seconds later, the most foul smell invaded the subway car, making it impossible to disprove my hypothesis.

Not giving a fuck about the $75 fine, I made my way to the next car. Of course, not before exchanging one las glance with the homeless man who now sported a very different look of utter satisfaction and mischief.

MTA subway map, zoom on Manhattan-Brooklyn line

The good: 4th of July in Bushwick

Gallery

This gallery contains 10 photos.

Hello there dudes! The week of the 1st of July was so packed for me that I haven’t even gotten the chance to tell you what what went down! I had quite a few friends visiting from Canada, Germany, and … Continue reading

The bad: bed bugs in my apartment

“Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite”

Some fool

Yes my friends, I had (probably still have) bed bugs in my apartment. It has been hell. HELL. When I came back from my graduation in Toronto, I started noticing these weird bite marks all over my body. They felt and looked like mosquito bites but they were abundant and in clusters of three. I was like “dafuq is this???”. Of course, I googled the symptoms and quickly realized that the cause of these bite marks were definitely a bed bug infestation. My roommate was in denial tried to stay positive at first because she hadn’t been bit yet and we hadn’t spotted any on the couch mattresses. I was certain from the beginning that it was bedbugs! Of course, a day or two after I had made my correct diagnosis, she started getting bite marks and she spotted one while folding a bedsheet. She was convinced We were soooo depressed!

I was really worried about two things: a) that I had brought them from toronto and b) that we were going to have to pay for the elimination of the bugs. It’s apparently very expensive. However, after talking to the superintendent, we learned that there had been an infestation in an apartment below us. So we figured the bugs had most likely come from there. Phew. I called my mother back in Toronto anyways and advised her to at least spray some raid in the house, just in case. The super also told us the landlord would take care of hiring an exterminator. Double Phew.

My roommate decided to warn the neighbour about a possible infestation with something along the lines of:

“yo we have bedbugs, so you might want to check your mattress to see if you have them too”.

To which the asshole replied something like:

“yeahh I definitely have them, I have had them for a while now”

In shock, unable to understand how someone might be OK with living with bed bugs crawling on them and biting them every night, my roommate asked:

“So I am guessing you have made plans to fumigate soon? They’re spraying our apartment tomorrow.”

And he said:

“No, not at the moment really. Actually The city recommends not spraying because they just move somewhere else. So now I’m just gonna get more bugs after you spray, ugh.”

He shut the door. My roommate might or might not have stood there in a catatonic state for like a minute, unable to process the information she has just received. We were both so disgusted by our neighbour! If you have never had bed bugs, let me assure you they are amongst the worst plague you can get in the city. They can survive without food (your blood) for a long time, they multiply super fast, they hide very well in sofas and mattresses, the bites hurt like hell, and they are very expensive to get rid of.

So as of now, the exterminator came and sprayed the house. We had to put all our clothes and linens in bags and wash them with hot water and dry them or freeze them — bed bugs die in extreme heat or extreme cold. I think there might have been some survivors so they are spraying again this week and hopefully this via crucis can end. As for my neighbour, the landlord is forcing him to do something about it, which is a huge relief. Did I mention they have like eight cats. #eew.

So this is one of the really bad things about new york city: getting bed bugs is very easy. So when/if you move here, do yourself a favour and make sure to buy a new mattress and new furniture. Do not pick anything up from the street. I have done this in the pass in Toronto and nothing has happened so far but I think bed bugs are a bigger problem in this city. I told some people about my problem and it is unfortunately a very common thing. Tell me about the real new york experience, right? #GlassHalfFull

**Trigger warning** Pictures of bed bugs below

ewwwww

Bites (not mine)

The good: Spread Love Party in Greenpoing, BK (and how I avoided a fine)

Based on TV shows, articles in magazines, and my own wild imagination, I constructed a pretty solid yet possibly misguided image of what underground brooklyn dance parties are like, or should be like. I have been looking to experience this ideal since the first time I visited New York during Summer 2011 and the quest only intensified once I moved here in May. It finally came to an end last night at the Spread Love Party in Greenpoint, organized by the Brooklyn Good Guys. I am not sure who the Brooklyn Good Guys are. I just know that they are a collective of artists, musicians (and good guys?) who organize dope events. Dope as in fucking amazing. I found out about this one through a 3rdWard post on their blog about stuff going on this weekend, which you can find here.

The Spread Love Party was advertised as a live dancehall/rap/hip-hop music event with no cover, in front of the waterfront, and to which you could bring your own booze, drinks, beer, liquor, poison…. Now if that doesn’t sound like the best event, I don’t know what would. Unless you hate rap/hip-hop and happiness, in which case you should just die or something. Check out the awesome flyer below.

I went there with a new friend, Julio, who I met through couchsurfing. He’s from El Salvador, just like me! Other couchsurfers as well as my friend Jerome visiting from Quebec joined us later. Julio and I got there super early (around 8:30), with a 6-pack of brooklyn pilsen. We wanted the party to get more ballin’ before going in so just we sat down by the water, a few centimeters away from the venue which was half a construction site & half a backyard (?) behind an apartment building. Low resolution pictures I stole from twitter are below.

We started a-drinking… enjoying the New York skyline and the good enough sunset –mediocre compared to salvadorian sunsets obviously. Two guys came up to us at one point and asked us how to get into the party. Seconds after we directed them, Julio spotted a police car. I know, WHOoaaA.

We instinctively hid the booze behind a concrete slab and i lit a cigarette. Not due to stress but to seem like we had nothing to hide — it made sense in my head at that time. We also started taking pictures of each other as well as excessively and exaggeratedly pointing at the buildings in manhattan, to pretend like we were there for the view, YOU KNOW. The cops didn’t even come to talk to us or anything so IT WORKED! Unfortunately, the guys who asked us how to get in did get a fine. ha! suckers. Just kidding, poor dudes.

I actually took this one

After the cops left, we finally went into the party. I am still not sure if it was somebody’s house or maybe a studio but we definitely went through an apartment-like space. The first DJ set was very good. he was playing some cool vintage Rap and Hip Hop. The second set was OK although he didn’t have any Das Racist and was playing almost all top 40 music, which I dont mind. However, one of the highlights of the night was the live show by the band Nyle vs. the Naysayers, which played at around 10pm (after the first DJ set) and again towards the end of the party (after the second set). They were SO GOOD that Das Racist might have to make some room in my heart for them. Check their website and music here. If I had to describe their musical style, which I am not very good at doing, I would say they are a hip-hop/punk/reaggae group. But who isn’t these days? The important thing is that they fricking rooockkeedddd.

I am not sure if this would qualify as an “underground party” as ir was definitely advertised and the purpose was to celebrate the CD release of Nyle vs. the Naysayers. To be honest I don’t really care. I had so much fun and my friends did too! I think they under the erroneous impression that I am some sort of cool girl who knows about all these ~underground~ events. But I try to explain to them that I am just a really good researcher!!!

The good: I saw Das Racist for free in Brooklyn!

“I’m at the Pizza Hut
I’m at the Taco Bell
I’m at the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell”

– Das Racist

Anyone a fan of Das Racist? They may come off as a joke rap group at first, but they have a unique hip-hop/electro/rap/hardcore/punk sound that really sets them appart from any other rap group. In addition, they are lyrical geniuses, often inserting a clever racial commentary and obscure references in their songs.

They were playing a FREE show last night at the Red Hook Park, in front of the Recreational Centre, in Brooklyn. The event was part of the SummerStage concert series, which I highly recommend checking out. Find more info about lineups, dates, and locations here. Actually, SummerStage is ran by the organization I am interning at, which is the City Parks Foundation. Represent!!

location

The show was AMAZING, to say the least. The crowd was great. This for me means that most of the people there were over 21, that it was only about 30% white hipster, and that people actually danced. Not bad for a free, all ages show in Brooklyn!

I also discovered some great new muzik: rock/punk group Trouble Andrew and rapper Action Bronson. Action Bronson at one point threw little bags of weed to the crowd and smoked a blunt on stage. I may or may not be in possession of one of those bags. Can you fricking believe it? I still can’t This is America people, and it’s great. Actually NO, this is Brooklyn people, and it’s fucking dope. Literally.

Also I think I fell in love with Dapwell (from Das Racist)

Brooklyn unexpected industrial pockets

On my way to she show from the Caroll St G,F stop

Trouble Andrew

Dapwell (Das Racist)

The good: Bryant Park

In the map I posted yesterday, I mention that Bryant Park is my favourite park. And why is that? Not only is it super close to the New York Public Library, they have a ton of events and cool stuff going on during the summer including:

– Free outdoor movies
– Free classes (yoga, fencing, languages, juggling, etc.)
– Concerts
– Free wi-fi
– Board Games (definitely less than $5, I think $1)

Do check out their events calendar here

Following the advice of Petula Clark,

“When you’re alone and life is making you lonely you can always go down mid town!
When you got worries, All the noise and the hurry seems to help, I know down mid town. Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city,
Linger on the sidewalks where the neon signs are pretty. How can you lose? […]”

The good: My internship at the CPF

So I am interning at the City Parks Foundation (CPF), which is a non-profit organization that runs cool programs in NYC city parks, including Central Park’s Summer stage concert series! I am working in an environmental education program called “learning gardens”. So far, I’m truly enjoying it, learning a lot, and I hope this will help me to make a career out of doing this type of work.

In a nutshell, the program provides a wonderful opportunity for kids and teachers in “high risk” neighbourhoods to come to a a garden and learn about ecology, biology, horticulture, and the environment in general. We have them plant veggies and flowers, write about their experiences, and participate in different arts and crafts activities. I really like hanging out with the kids, talking with the teachers, and learning a little bit more about gardening.

I’ve worked with kids before under various circumstances and with different types of kids. I’ve been a teaching assistant at a private school and a babysitter for a couple of rich or well-off kids; I volunteered in an education a community centre in a culturally and economically diverse area; I also volunteered at a farm in Argentina with at risk children.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that kids from racial, economical, culturally privileged and heterosexual households are harder to get excited about or engage in activities that have to do with self-expression such as story-telling, art, music, dance, etc. They often seem bored, jaded… with a “i don’t need that crap” attitude when you ask them to talk about their thoughts, their experiences. This is presumably, because they’re right, they kind of don’t need to! This is probably a huge generalization, but in most cases, they have had plenty of experiences where they’ve been able to express how they see the world, their thoughts, goals, aspirations, etc. I mean, it’s hard for me to think of instances where these kids could have been subject to any type of oppression or discrimination. Amirite?

In contrast, kids who’ve had tougher experiences such as belonging to racialized sections of the population, living in these so-called high risk neighbourhoods, coming from single-parent or abusive households (well, you get what i mean) are very much appreciative of these opportunities for self-expression. These kids I’m working with were very open to talk about their feelings, what they had learned and gained from the program, and what they wish for their community. It was such a non-issue – everyone was ready to talk about it. I found that very interesting. I mean, they’re still a handful but they’re nice kids, tough kids.

Well, here are some pictures 🙂

Bushwick

Gates stn

Nasturtium

Unripe strawberries