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

What to do in New York City 2: the great city outdoors

New York City in the summertime is a great place for free outdoor events. For example:

Now all we need are friends. Aw 😦

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: 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? […]”

How to find Friends? pt. I

Yes, friends!

I can’t be the only one to have thought about that! About how sad would it be to move to a new city, the best city, and have no one to share it or discover it with. Right? I worry. Human beings need to feel connected to other human beings. Social isolation hurts as much as repeatedly getting punched in the face. LITERALLY. Maybe not, but having a high sense of community (e.g. friends, family, groups) is predictive of happiness and subjective well being (Davison & Cotter, 1991). True story.

So how are we going to meet people, make friends, develop a high sense of community, and be happy when we get to NYC?

Everyone knows that people in OKCupid looking for “new friends”, are in fact looking for “new friends with benefits” and those looking for “activity partners” would like that activity to be sex. No judging. Au contraire, go for it guys. My point is that you won’t find friendship through online dating sites. So what to do?

The surest way to make friends in any city is to just go out, get a lil’ drunk, talk to people, and if they’re cool, get their number and ask them to hang out. I know, easier said than done. Unfortunately I can’t really teach you or anyone how to make friends. What I can do is draw from experiences where my friends and I have met people in NYC and managed (or failed) to make these acquaintances blossom into friendships, and try to give you some tips about how you can do that too. Read on!

Step 1: Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I already have a friend in NYC?
  2. Do I have an acquaintance in NYC?
  3. Do my friends in my city have friends or acquaintances in NYC?
  4. Do my parents have friends or acquaintances in NYC?
  5. Do I or my friends know someone who is going to NYC at the same time I’m going?

If the answer is YES to at least one, continue to Step 2, if you answered NO to all, skip to Step 3

Step 2. Contact every single friend, friend of friend, or acquaintance living or going to NYC. 

 

It won’t be creepy, I promise. Send a personalized FB message telling them that you’re coming town and would love to see them when you get there. Although, if they don’t reply, drop it. Also, if they’re not actual friends of yours, remind them of how you met them or who gave you their contact info. I’ve met up with a few of my non-Torontonian friends’ friends when they’ve been in town. It’s really totally OK to do that.

Knowing as little as one person in the city makes a huge difference. If they’re good friends, you’re all set. For one, they’ll introduce you to their group of friends and you’ll hopefully befriend them them too. In addition, when you go out with them, you’ll meet more people  and potential friends. Maybe this is just me, but I am more likely to meet new people when I go out with a few good friends. Although I’ve never gone out by myself so maybe someone should try it and let me know how it go. Actually maybe going out all by yourself is a genius idea.

If you have no friends but decide to meet up with acquaintances or friends of friends, don’t expect too much out of it. Maybe they’re busy. Maybe they won’t like you. Maybe you won’t like them. Do try it anyways. If anything, they are someone to potentially go out with and perhaps someone through which you’ll meet a new friend!

When I’ve visited NYC in the past, I’ve always gone with friends and on a tight tourist schedule. Therefore, I actually haven’t had the chance to meet up with any of my friends’ friends or acquaintances who live in the city yet. I  do plan on reconnecting with them in May though. If not, I fortunately have two good friends who live in the city.

Apart from already having friends in the city, the next best thing is to know someone who is also going to NYC for an internship, school, or whatever. You’ll both be in the same boat and become buddies. I guarantee it.

Step 3: Couchsurfing!

I can’t stress enough how necessary it is to be on couchsurfing if you plan on travelling or moving to a new city. Couchsurfing is an online travelling community where you can find all sorts of great stuff for people living or passing through New York City (and almost every big city in the world), from a place to stay, activities, places to rent. Before you become a member of the site, I should warn you that couchsurfing is more than a free place to crash, it really is about meeting locals, spending some time with your host, exchanging stories, culture, recipes. Eitherway, it’s free and I highly recommend it. If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment below.

Useful CS links:

Step 4: Take advantage of your neighbourhood

The thing about living in such a monstrous city like New York is that people become very attached to their neighbourhood, or so I noticed in my many visits. I have three friends, each of them living in different neighbourhoods: Manhattan Lower East Side, Crown Heights in Brooklyn, and Corona in Queens. They each kn0w of a place in their neighbourhood where they have “the best ___ in New York!” The best brunch, the best bagels, the best coffee, the best burger, the best fruit vendor, the best sandwich, the best pizza, the best drink specials, you name it. It’s so funny.

SO, when you get settled, I recommend you take advantage of this pride people have of their neighbourhoods to make friends. Join a dance class, or a fitness group, start frequenting the same coffee shop or the same bar. I plan on taking zumba classes once I find a place. I’ll let you know how that goes.

I want to tell you guys a few anecdotes about a couple of cool and weird people we met in NYC and how we met them but I don’t think I can fit them in this post… Keep an eye for my next posts.

References

Davidson, W.B., & Cotter, P.R. (1991). The relationship between sense of community and subjective well-being: A first look. Journal of Community Psychology, 19, 246–253.