Saturday, May 31, 2014

How to be a New Yorker

Tonight I attended an Off Broadway performance called How to be a New Yorker, put on by two long-time New Yorkers.
From showcasing accents of the various boroughs to quelling or justifying some of the city's numerous stereotypes, to sharing interesting factoids, the evening was both fun and enlightening.

At one point, they pulled me up on stage, asking where I was from, how long I'd been in the city and if I liked New York City, to which I replied, "Homer, Alaska, two weeks this time, last year, nine months, and yes, I absolutely love New York City."

They proceeded to quiz me on being a New Yorker and I am proud to say that I got 9 out of their 10 questions correct, including which is the largest borough (Staten Island), how do New Yorkers pronounce Forget About It (Faghetaboutit), three popular city food items (pizza, hot dogs and canollis), three items New Yorkers wear on a regular basis (sunglasses, earbuds and a scowl). The only question I got wrong was being able to describe what a knish is...

So, I have been officially crowned a New Yorker and now proudly wear a pin that claims this!

Among the many things I've learned, are not to ask for directions or assistance using the words "excuse me, can you help me" as this too closely mimics words used by panhandlers, but instead, to get to the point in as few a words as possible, like, "what direction is Houston street".

I've also learned that just because someone is wearing earbuds doesn't mean that they are actually listening to anything. Often, they wear them to avoid communicating with others. Ditto for the common use of sunglasses, even while indoors.

I've learned that what appears to be a frown on an unhappy or guarded person is often just their neutral face and once approached in a soft way with a kind word, a smile lights up their face and they are easy to engage.

I've learned that New Yorkers work hard to be guarded and wary of others out of necessity of living in a city of millions where people are shot, stabbed, robbed and pushed on to subway tracks. This is a mechanism for self preservation.

I've learned that it is not easy to live and thrive in the city. That it takes courage, tenacity, strength of character and a willingness to be vulnerable. It also takes a lot of money!

I've learned that when the going gets tough and *^#) hits the fan, New Yorkers come together, stranger helping stranger.

I've learned that New Yorkers are far from the stereotypes that cast them, but that they do very little to dispel those myths because there is a pride in that tough as nails attitude.

I've learned that New Yorkers are tough as nails and soft as pudding.

These are just a few of the things I've learned...

Brooklyn Flea

One of my favorite weekend activities in the city is browsing the flea markets, and especially the Brooklyn Flea. As always, I am left  wishing I had an apartment here to furnish or a bigger suitcase in order to take things home. I'm always intrigued and inspired by the creativity of local individuals, many who make their living as full time artists. 

I also really enjoy seeing what constitutes as vintage nowadays, as I usually see items that my parents or grandparents had around the house or occasionally, laying in the yard, tucked in forgotten amongst weeds.

Friday, May 30, 2014

A,B,C's of a Day in Manhattan

A is for an acupuncture treatment - thanks to my friend Ai for hooking me up with Kye and her positive energy and healing needles...

B is for books - miles and miles of books that spill out of the shelves at The Strand Bookstore...

C is for carrots - and other vegetables that sit plump and juicy in their boxes, just one of the treasures at a farmer's market

(Freelance) Working for a Living or My Like-Hate Relationship with Technology

When I was in New York City in 2012, I didn't have a smart phone and I relied heavily on the kindness, patience and knowledge of strangers for directions. In doing so, I not only made friends, but I got to experience first hand the rushed frenzy of city life and those who are willing to hesitate to stop amidst it and the gentle, calm manner with which New Yorkers are able to move from mistrust to a willingness to be open.

This time around, now the (often begrudging) owner of a smart phone, I mostly keep it tucked in my bag and continue to seek out the assistance of New Yorkers. Again, I am delighted to be met with openness and patience for the most part.

While I'm extremely grateful for the technology that I now lug around with me, including a smart phone and a laptop, because it allows me to work remotely, thereby paying for my playing, I find that I also resent these same devices because they keep me from wandering aimlessly the way I prefer, without distraction and completely on my own schedule. I suppose that this is the double-edged sword of a freelancer's life, especially for someone like me who loves to travel and prefers secluded and remote areas off the proverbial beaten path, meaning limited phone and wifi service, meaning having to plan my work time.

This trip, for the first time, I have worked on my laptop while on a plane, a bus, a train and a car. Perhaps I should return to hitch hiking, where a laptop would be ridiculous! I am trying to focus on the blessings this technology provides to me and not on the hassle, but on days when I want to walk the beach until sunset or stay on a wooded trail for hours on end and this time is interrupted so I can write or interview people, well, I never thought I'd complain about writing for a living. 

In the meantime, I'm in New York City having fun and working as I need to, tossed back and forth between the present moment and Alaska life, which leaves me feeling a bit run ragged and fragmented. But, it is what it is, which is exactly what I asked the Universe for, so, I'm just still figuring it all out...

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Subway Entertainers

I'm always amazed by the talent of the subway entertainers. They are just one of the endless reasons that I love the city so - I never know what or who I will encounter when I step out my door...

Security & Trust

I'm always stunned by the long line of locks that march up and down the doorframes of New Yorkers apartments. I can understand one lock, but three and sometimes four? Who are we keeping out of our apartments?

Coming from such a small town where everyone knows most everyone, locks are rarely used on cars or houses. This is a blessing and joy - this knowing our neighbors and trusting. Everywhere I turn in the city, it appears on the surface that there is a general lack of trust in your fellow man, but when I think about the city and the people who call it home, I think it takes an incredible amount of trust in others just to exist, let alone thrive. Trust that when you leave your house to catch the train for work, that the man at the Deli actually gives your kosher food when you ask for it. Trust that the person sitting next to you on the subway isn't going to harm you or steal from you. Trust that the person driving the subway isn't drunk or angry and is alert and aware and will get to your destination safely. Everywhere I look, I see strangers trusting one another, whether they consciously realize it or not.

Today, as I was photographing the locks in my friends apartments. Afterwards, looking through the images, I noticed that I had caught my own shadow in some of the images and I have spent the rest of the day contemplating my own inner locks and blocks, walls and defense mechanisms used to keep others out and myself in...

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

T&T Views

Taz and I share our mutual views for the day. He from our deck in Homer, Alaska and me, from a coffeeshop in Manhattan. To me, they are equally beautiful, even while they each touch my soul in vastly different ways. This is one of my many joys in traveling, the discovery of what moves me, what keeps me still, what engages me and what closes me in. My external explorations invoke internal explorations - exhausting and exciting...

Free to Be

It always makes me smile a bit when I realize that while in this city where I am surrounded by strangers, I could adopt any persona I choose; that is to say, I could fake a French accent, dress goth or like a hooker, spike my hair, color it purple or wear a wig, scream or talk to myself while riding the subway and pretend to be crazy, sit on a street corner with a homemade "I'm homeless" sign and see who would give me change. 
In the end, the middle and the beginning, I am free to be me or whomever I want to be in any given moment. The freedom is delicious and intoxicating and while I spend this time wandering the streets of New York City as me, with my Alaskan/Canadian accent, casual, ready to go hiking anytime attire, ponytailed hair, talk to others on the subway and give change to the homeless, I love knowing that I could let go of inhibitions and play if I wanted to, if I were brave enough to.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The High Line Hotel's Intelligentsia Coffee Shop - An Oasis in the City

Thanks to Jared for introducing me to the High Line Hotel's Intelligentsia coffee shop. Nestled behind the five-story brick building in the hotel's expansive and secluded courtyard, benches, tables, chairs, songbirds and 'New York City quiet' await the visitor seeking a great cup of coffee and a refuge. 

Today, sitting in the courtyard reading The New York Times, I see a headline and brief story referring to the fires that are currently burning on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula, my neck of the woods. From this news brief, to the numerous encounters I've had with people who have lived in Alaska, to texting a wrong number in Homer and discovering that the person I erroneously texted had family from Homer visiting New York City at that moment, this trip has definitely reminded me that no matter where I am, home is never far away...

High Line Hello

As the sun set today, I return to one of my favorite places in Manhattan, the elevated park known as The High Line. Trees, shrubs, bushes and flowers are bursting with color and fragrance. The air is cool as the sun sets, casting bright red, pink and purple streaks across the darkening sky. Couples stroll hand in hand and others lay across one another on the benches scattered along the paths. A saxaphone can be heard among the quiet din of late night traffic and drinkers and diners pouring out of cafes, pubs and bars.

Walking The High Line is always a pleasure. Not only is the green space incredibly beautiful, but the other people visiting tend to stroll aimlessly along as I do, and this is one of the places where I experience New Yorkers to be taking their time to relax and smell the flowers, lilies and morning glories, serenaded by singers and musicians, dreamers who come from all over the world to share their passion.