How it Feels to Go “Home”

I recently spent six weeks in Australia, so I could have a warm Christmas with my family, surprise my best friend at her 30th birthday party, attend my friends’ wedding party (those sneaky people went and eloped in Greece and only had a party instead of a big wedding), and see lots of friends and family spread between southern Queensland and Sydney.

When I got back, I didn’t expect to feel so disconnected from my former home. I didn’t expect to feel nothing but I did, and it was even more confusing since I thought about how I was meant to feel something. Here I was, back in a city I lived in for more than eight years, where I had great groups of friends and achieved huge milestones, and also back in my childhood home. It was as if I was visiting a distant family member I know I’m meant to like because they’re family, but still having nothing to say to them.

Even though the concept of “home” can be transient, or simultaneously applied to more than one place, the idea that where you’ve spent the most time in your life is to be thought of as your “real” home is generally applied. Except it’s not for me. In just under two years, New York has come to feel more like home to me than Sydney or Grafton ever did.

While I do miss the warmth at that time of year – going out, and celebrating Christmas and the lead up to it is just more fun when it’s warm and sunny – there are some things I don’t miss, or, am just indifferent about.

I say the same thing to anyone who asks me if I miss Australia here in New York. I miss my friends and family. I miss the access to Australian music. I miss the consistently good coffee. I miss going out at Palms on Oxford Street. But I don’t miss living there. This is usually enough for Americans, especially New Yorkers, who understand how privileged anyone is to be able to live in this city.

But Australians are harder to convince. I didn’t ever want to, or make, living in New York over living in Australia a competition for people to take part in, yet some seemed to think I thought it was. I will of course always say that New York is objectively a better city than Sydney (because it is), but at the same time, I know it is not a city for everyone. I know not everyone wants to live here, and that’s OK. But in Australia, I kept being asked the same question over and over again.

“Don’t you miss it?”

yamba
Whiting Beach, Yamba

Yamba
Yamba is a beautiful small town on the coast of Northern New South Wales. I grew up about 45 minutes away, in Grafton, and while Yamba is probably the best part of being forced to live in a place that doesn’t have traffic lights and where people drive around with stickers that say “Fuck Off We’re Full!” on the back of their cars, it’s not something I think about.

“Don’t you miss it?” a friend asked as we looked at the beach. “No, not really… it’s nice and everything but I’m not that keen on it. I never really came here even when I lived in Grafton anyway.”

While I understand many Australians’ general obsession with water and being near it or in it as much as possible, and then having to tell you about being near or in the water after they’ve been in or near it, this is not something I find particularly interesting myself.

People usually do this by posting pictures of their tanned friends wearing white, stripes, hats, or all three in front of Bondi Icebergs, pictures from the coastal walk trails between Bondi and Coogee accompanied by “#blessed”, or pictures of various bodies of water around the country that look pretty much the same as each other. I personally think applying some more sunscreen would be a better thing to concentrate on than adding more pictures of water to instagram, but that’s me.

bondar
We’re missing tanned people wearing white, stripes, and hats from this photo

Byron Bay
Byron Bay is another beautiful small town on the coast of Northern New South Wales, but it is bigger and more popular than Yamba, and further away from Grafton. My uncle lived there for a while when I was in high school. I have spent enough time there to know where things are, but not enough to feel personally connected to it outside of having a distant goal of retiring there when I’m a millionaire one day.

“Don’t you miss it?” my friend asked over a jug of beer at The Northern. “No… not really… I mean I miss it when I hear about Splendour in the Grass and how much fun everyone is having, but I don’t really think about Byron that much.”

My answer launched a conversation about how much she loves Sydney for its choice of beaches, outdoor lifestyle, and natural beauty, which I understand, but these were all things that I sometimes enjoyed and they weren’t major selling points for me when I lived there.

sydney

Sydney
Getting to the beach, even if you have a car, is a huge pain because of the traffic and the lack of parking/lack of a million dollars to be able to afford parking when you get there. Being outside is annoying when the weather inevitably turns at the end of a deceptively warm day, and the wind makes you flash your underwear at people driving past. (If that’s never happened to you, you’re really lucky, but try walking up Cleveland Street or near Redfern station in a dress and see how you go.) The comedian Wil Anderson put it best when he said:

“Sydney is like that girl at high school who got hot really early, and never had to develop a personality.”

Another friend asked “Don’t you miss it?” as we looked at the Harbour, but I knew there was more to it, the way there was each time any other people asked me the same question. Conversations about if I missed Sydney were also chances for people to tell me about the “cool things” that have happened since I left that somehow justify still living there, even after many mutual friends and acquaintances have moved elsewhere. Even then that solitary “cool thing” is really just limited to The Lansdowne reopening and having live music now.

You guys are cute to be excited by that and stuff, but one small venue reopening and deciding to pay bands to play doesn’t make up for the rest of the shit we put up with in Sydney on a daily basis, including but not limited to:

  • Traffic
  • Disappointing and expensive public transport
  • A distinct lack of culture
  • A city full of construction as they tear up George Street and insert a light rail system that they already had and shouldn’t have gotten rid of years ago
  • Lock out laws dictating what time you can enter a venue and what time you can drink until
  • All the empty spots on Oxford Street and Bayswater Road that once hosted bars, clubs, and venues until the government decided they only wanted the city to host ugly overpriced apartment buildings that will likely remain empty after they’ve been bought by foreign investors

And I’m not the only one who feels this way. Every few months some publication in Sydney publishes a story about a disillusioned person who now hates it, either because they can’t afford to have a family there, or because Melbourne has more culture.

cross

When are you coming back?
I was also asked, many times, when I was coming back to Australia. It was a confronting question because not only do I not know, (job and visa renewal pending) I don’t want to.  If Trump decides our countries aren’t mates any more and revokes the E3 visa, and if someone in my family (God forbid, touch wood, all the rest) becomes ill and needs me back there long term, then I won’t have a choice.

I can’t imagine wanting to move back to Australia by choice, but I also find it strange that I can’t imagine it. Aren’t you meant to want to go “home”, eventually? Though, maybe, home doesn’t need to be applied to where you lived as a child, where your family live, or where you lived for the most time in your life.

Home as an idea can be applied to wherever you feel like you can be yourself. And for some, that might in Yamba, or Byron Bay, or doing “chin chin” Boomerangs with aperol spritzes at Icebergs. That’s great. We should all be able to find our homes, even if we end up on the other side of the world from where we started.

I’m Tired of Manhattan. There, I Said It.

I’ve lived in New York for 16 months, and I know that sounds weird to say. It’s not quite long enough to say a year and a half but it’s definitely more than one year. I sound like one of those new mothers who measures their child’s life in months, even when you can say “two years old” instead of “24 months.”

I’m unsure if my introversion, and possible social anxiety, has gotten worse since I moved here and I’ve been forced to cohabit small spaces with a lot of people every day, or if I just have a lower threshold for slight discomfort and inconvenience now that I’m 30. But I have recently made the decision that I do not like Manhattan.

It’s Not All Bad
Don’t get me wrong. I love living here. I have my moments walking around the Upper East Side and you can see allll the way down (or up) town in a straight line from 3rd Avenue. I feel a lot of nostalgia for, and an ongoing connection to, the East Village neighborhood between 1st Avenue and Avenue C, since I stayed around there the first two times I visited New York. I also love going to visit Washington Square Park on sunny afternoons, watching people come up with creative ways to make money (writing poems, reciting Shakespeare, blowing bubbles) and then immediately getting lost when I leave the park and end up over near the Meatpacking District.

Sometimes, the city is gorgeous and being here makes me feel connected to something bigger – maybe in the way religious people feel when they go to church, or annoying people feel when they go to CrossFit – and in those moments I think about how grateful I am to be able to experience this whenever I want.

But, Sometimes It Sucks
On other days, usually when I have to take the subway long distances and walk through tourist-crowded areas, I realize how many people are crammed into small places and just how annoying they all are. Walking around St Marks Place on a Friday or Saturday evening is a very, very bad idea. Not only do the people who hang out in that area not know how to walk on the fucking footpath (seriously, WALK ON THE RIGHT), they don’t move when they see me and other pedestrians coming, even though we are doing the right thing. There are also a lot more bikes around than there used to be, and I have almost been hit by rogue cyclists with their City Bike memberships who think they always have right of way (spoiler alert – they don’t) when they ignored me, other pedestrians, and the traffic lights that are put there for their own protection.

I am also really tired of catching the subway with people who don’t know how to behave down there. It doesn’t help that I work right near Rockefeller Center, and my stop is always full of tourists wandering around before or after they’ve been ripped off  by going to the Top of the Rock, who don’t understand that the stairs to the platform are not a good place to check their phones, and that people behind them might have been running to that train that just pulled up and is about to leave.

Move Bitch, Get Out The Way
On Thursday, I decided to do something different instead of having yet another sad desk lunch, and walked to Central Park to eat. It is only eight blocks from my office, which is not a far walk at all, but I felt like I was running an obstacle course. Look out! Here comes a family staring up at the skyline, letting their child stop and start walking as they please, with little regard to the rest of us. Oops, almost bumped into the idiot who stopped to check Google maps instead of crossing the street, the way you’re meant to when everyone else around you does. Watch out, here comes someone trying to sell me a bike tour even though I don’t like bikes and I’m not a fucking tourist. By the time I got to the park I was exhausted, and immediately depressed that I’d have to do it all again on the way back.

I recently went to a class on the other side of Times Square from my office, and for some stupid reason, I thought it would be a good idea to walk there. DO NOT DO THIS. DON’T. I was met with crowds of people looking at out of work actors and musicians (and probably writers) dressed up as cartoon characters, who don’t seem to understand the skill it requires to move out of someone’s way. It got to the point that I was deliberately elbowing people who walked towards me on my side of the sidewalk, so they would have a story to tell back in middle America about those “rude New Yorkers.” I regret nothing.

Image taken from Natalie Walker’s Twitter

 

Other than people walking on the wrong side of things, trying to hassle money from you, and making you miss the train by being slow and selfish, it also really sucks when you try to do something as out there as try to get a drink or dinner after work.

Again, my experience is limited to midtown Manhattan, as that is where I have worked since I moved here, so this may be different in other neighborhoods. Just daring to get a drink at a bar near my old office on 42nd Street and 2nd Avenue, or near 51st Street and 6th Avenue, where I currently work, is like agreeing to walk into hell.

  • What’s that? You want somewhere to sit? There’s a tiny little table in that corner – no chairs – but you can rest your drink on it.
  • You want food? That’s $20 and a 40 minute wait.
  • You want a drink? Oh, that’ll be $9 for a basic beer and you’ll have to wait 20 minutes at the bar before you can order.
  • You want to be able to speak to your friends without having to yell over 100 other people and our loud music? Good luck.

The gloss has worn off Manhattan. Give me beautiful, relaxing Brooklyn any day.

Miranda, you ended in Chinatown when Steve cheated on you. Let’s not throw stones now, K?

Moving Apartments in New York 

The last couple of months have been busy. Partly because summer = more socializing, work stepped up as I moved to a new account, but mainly because I have been getting ready to move house.

My friend and I decided we didn’t want to renew the lease on our apartment in South Slope. The subway stop right outside had been shut for a while, which added an extra 15 minutes and a walk through the summer humidity to our commutes, and the apartment itself is located on a turn off for the BQE.

An otherwise relaxing Sunday morning could be ruined by loud honking and yelling as someone dared to pause before the turn off. We were tired of the commute and tired of the noise, so we started making appointments with real estate agents to find a new two bedroom apartment in Brooklyn.

Looking for an Apartment
The first day we looked, we were shown two tiny “two bedroom” – e.g. one bedroom with a big closet – apartments in a building in Clinton Hill. Neither had a living room, the tiny bedroom had no closet, and there was nowhere to store anything in the apartment. The smaller “bedroom” would have fit a bed and nothing else. One had the redeeming quality of a private roof deck but with New York weather as unpredictable and cold as it is, it would have gone to waste.

We were then shown a larger apartment, with uneven floors, an old kitchen, but two big, equal-sized bedrooms. I felt this place was ugly and boring, but my friend was happy to settle for it. I nicely reminded him we had other apartments to see, and would then subtly change the subject when he brought it up after that. When that didn’t work, I said “That place is old and ugly and the neighborhood sucks. No.” The next one we saw – a huge and gorgeous two bedroom in Gowanus – was perfect but since we’d organized awkward meetings with other real estate people, we had to go do that first.

We went back to Clinton Hill to see a fifth floor walk up, which would have been nice had it not been occupied by a woman yelling at us to leave before we’d even gone inside. Our agent thought he had access to the apartment for the whole day but evidently he didn’t. The second he turned the door handle, a woman screamed “WHO IS IT?!”

When he explained he was from the real estate and he thought we had access that day, she screamed through the closed door “NOT ALL DAY! You CANNOT come in here. This is LITERALLY the worst time you could have chosen to come here.” We stood around looking at each other awkwardly while the agent apologized. As we were walking down the stairs, she yelled out that we could come in but “FOR FIVE MINUTES ONLY.” We did one lap and got the fuck out of there.

 

 

The next places were in Williamsburg/East Williamsburg/Bushwick and nothing special. The visions I had of myself moving to South Williamsburg with equal distance between the JMZ, G, and L trains were quickly ruined when I realized just how tiny the apartments in our price range were, and how dodgy parts of some of these neighborhoods were.

One place looked like a ski lodge from the 1970s, not in a good way, while another had a tiny bathroom with no cupboards to store anything. The agent who showed us those places ranted about cyclists, Amazon, and Whole Foods while she showed us around the apartments and referred to herself as the “Ranting Real Estate Agent.” I loved her and I feel bad we didn’t want to live in those places. But it would be kind of weird for me to suggest we hang out for a drink sometime… right?

Applying for the Apartment
Once we’d agreed we weren’t going to live in a tiny Williamsburg apartment, or an old and ugly Clinton Hill apartment, we started the application process for the perfect one. We explained we are Australian and do not have a long credit history here. It didn’t help our case – despite the fact we would both afford the rent on our own if we wanted – and we faced problems which were made worse by the lack of communication from our agent, who I now like to call Fuckface McFuckface.

During this process, my friend said he knew someone who knew someone who owns places in Manhattan. We went to see two disgusting, cramped, ugly apartments in FiDi. Right next to a building shaking from drilling, and right above Fulton Street, where we could watch tourists trying to find Ground Zero and heading to that awful white, sterile mall.

The second bedroom wasn’t even a bedroom, just an empty space where they were planning to attach a door, which meant there was no living room. I don’t know anyone dumb enough to pay between $2900 and $3300 to live in a depressing, rattling shoebox in the middle of tourist central, but I’m sure those idiots exist somewhere.

After a lot of emailing, calling, chasing our agent, and a lot of money changing hands, the application was approved.

Moving into the Apartment
This was a comedy of errors I’m sure even Basil Fawlty himself would appreciate.

We asked, over and over, if we could get the keys the day before we officially moved in. They eventually said yes and I went to Williamsburg to find the super and get the keys. Apparently, they have a “very strict policy” to not give keys to anyone without a key release form, something that could have been brought to my attention yesterday.

I had to go to the agent’s office to get the form, then go back to the building to get the keys. I spent $25 on Lyft rides and was two hours late for work. That night, when we decided to move some stuff in, we realized the keys to the building didn’t work, therefore defeating the purpose of having the keys a day early.

I’d organized for a cleaner to come in at 7:30am, so we could leave as soon as she arrived to pick up the UHaul. This plan was ruined when she turned up at 7am as I was walking home from my boxing class and before my friend had even woken up. She stood around awkwardly, waiting for me to make my coffee and for my roommate to finish in the bathroom, reminding me of the importance of never getting a cleaner to come into the house when you’re still there.

Now, if we had the keys, it would have been easy. I could have gone to pick up the van, brought it back to the house, and started loading. But this wasn’t the case. I had to go and meet the super who took pity on me and brought the right keys to the apartment before I set off to get our van.

Now, let me say, I am a confident and mostly good driver, but I am not a confident parker. People tell jokes and stories about my talent to completely fuck up any park I attempt. I have real trouble with my spatial awareness. I’ve hit things on the passenger side of the car more times than I can count, and I often misjudge distances when I turn corners. While walking.


Actual footage of me. 

I walked to the van through a group of men standing around hassling anyone who walked in by asking “YOU NEED HELP? YOU NEED HELP MOVING?!” and completely contradicted my prissy “NO, go AWAY!” by not knowing how to change gears from Park to Drive. I asked an employee to help me and she laughed as she showed me the gear stick next to the steering wheel. I then almost hit the group of men I’d yelled at as I pulled out, and I’m fairly certain I hit a few traffic cones on the right side of the van… though I’ll never know, since I couldn’t see out of that mirror or work out how to adjust it.

When I got to my street, I could see lights flashing out the front of my apartment and a line of cars waiting. I panicked and kept going straight ahead instead of turning, probably hitting more things on the right as I drove. I got up to the top of the street and messaged my friend to come and help – exact words, “I’m going to have a fucking panic attack trying to park this thing,” – and he came and parked it for me.

A funny thing happens when you have to move. You think you have a lot less than you actually do, and that you’re some kind of superhero who can perform really hard tasks like moving beds and furniture down and up three flights of stairs really fast.
It took twice as long to move than we had planned, even taking into account the long lunch break we took after we’d finished moving the second van-load of stuff.

 

Post Move
We’d done it. All the furniture – except for our poor broken futon we left for dead, and my bookcase that was stolen from the hallway – was inside, and we’d unpacked everything in the kitchen and living room. Even though I had mentioned it multiple times, and our agent Fuckface McFuckface had said it would be fixed before we moved in, I still have a crack in my window and my closet door still does not open properly.

National Grid called me on Sunday to set up our gas connection and I missed one call. I’d been told they would call back a couple of times, but they didn’t. By the time I spoke to someone after the long weekend, the only time they had available to send someone else out is a week from now.

I’m happy at the new apartment. I’m happy my room is twice as big as my old room, I’m happy it’s not overlooking a road where people lose their shit when they have to pause for two seconds, and I’m happy it’s not directly facing the sun, which made my old room feel like a sauna in hell. I’m also really happy I won’t have to go through the stress and inconvenience of moving again for another whole year.

New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down

This was a hard one to write. I’ve loved and wanted to live in New York for years. I still love it. I still want to live here. But what makes living here possible is what I don’t like about living here.

This may be a result of my two week vacation ending today. Holiday downers are real – after a particularly bad one when I got back to Sydney from New York, I spent the afternoon eating Reese’s peanut butter cups, and only stopped to nap when the jet lag kicked in, and sob about the fact I wasn’t in New York any more – so it’s possible my mind will change as things go back to normal.

Only, I don’t think it will. For as long as I work in New York I’ll deal with the same ‘live to work’ attitude, limited vacation time, and be surrounded by people who take their jobs incredibly seriously.

Let me be clear here, there is nothing wrong with being passionate. If you love what you do, and you want to express that every day, that’s great. I’m happy for anyone who’s found what they love and gets to do it all the time. If, however, you believe your involvement in any consumer-driven industry that does not really make the world a better place is on par with saving people’s lives, then I feel kind of bad for you. And other people who need to work with you.

After spending some time in London, and then in France, I loved comparing people’s attitudes to their jobs with those of New Yorkers. There doesn’t seem to be a belief that work defines them, or that what they do in the office each day is a true representation of who they are as a person. People try, people care about doing a good job, and they make an effort to work hard. But they are realistic about their jobs and what they can achieve, and don’t seem to reach the point of burnout that many do in New York.

It’s possible the same can be said of other places in America, but given I have only lived in New York and observed New Yorkers, I can only comment on the attitudes of people in this city.
The expectations placed on you are high. You have to be super enthusiastic to be taken seriously. And using the adjective “super” often helps. You have to know everything about your field, even if you don’t want or need to focus on certain things, to be taken seriously. You have to push and hustle for space everywhere in New York already – tickets to see a band, a meal at a new restaurant, or even a drink at a bar – and the office is no different.
At first, I loved how direct it was. I liked the lack of subtlety. But now I see it as an unsustainable way of being. Nothing can be left unsaid. Nothing can wait until tomorrow. The expectation is to work as hard as you can, without complaint, for as long as you can before you leave to repeat the same pattern somewhere else that will no doubt be exactly the same.

Even when I consider all the amazing things I’ve experienced, people I’ve met, and places I’ve seen while I’ve been here, I find myself dreaming about an easier life. I’m ashamed to admit the city I love may not be my home for as long as it could be, and that all of my declarations of love and wonder for it may appear shallow. It’s embarrassing to feel like turning my back on something I tried and worked so hard for.

My love for New York will never die. But I’m scared my spirit will. Maybe I don’t want to work so hard, sell myself every day, and force myself to care about things I can’t find meaning in. It’s easy when everyone around you has a similar attitude, but keeping up with the – at times manic – energy people display in New York may not be possible for me.

I’m tired of being told off for being quiet, instead of interrupting people in meetings just to make them hear my voice. Tired of arguing about things that don’t matter today, and definitely won’t matter in a year from now. So tired of faking passion to be on the same level as people who approach work the same way a doctor might when he’s researching a cure for cancer.
What’s next? I’ll keep the balancing act up for as long as I can, before taking that next leap.
But for now I’ll be in my bed, eating English Cadbury Chocolate (it’s better than that shit they make at the Hershey’s Factory), napping off my jet lag, and crying that I’m back in New York about to go back to work instead of on vacation in France.

New York on Paper – Our First Anniversary 

It’s been exactly one year since I arrived in New York, and I was excited to start work and have new adventures. I’d been thinking of moving here since my first visit in November 2014, but had been actively trying since my second visit in June 2015.

After many emails, follow up emails, more follow up emails, job applications, tantrums, and an anti-climatic visa appointment it was happening.

I sold and gave away a lot of my things, tried to sell my car (which got written off in the end – KA CHING) and had a lot of final nights out, drinks, dinners, and moments. I can’t believe it’s been a year. In some ways it feels like I’ve been here forever, in others it feels like I’ve just arrived.

When I left, a lot of people told me I’d eventually miss living in Australia and want to come back after a while. This is not the case, and I don’t know if that will ever happen. New York is my home now, and I feel more at home here than I ever did in Grafton (the small town I lived in before Sydney.) I felt at home in Sydney for most of the time I lived there… until I visited New York and realized that’s where I was meant to be.

Apart from the obvious things (friends and family), there’s not that much I miss about Sydney. I’ll start with what I don’t miss:

1. Sydney Swamp Weather 

Australia has a reputation for having sunny, warm weather year ’round. It might not get too cold in the major cities (apart from Hobart and Melbourne) but Sydney weather is not something to wish upon anyone. It rains more often in the warm months than it does in the cold (I took a tally of rainy days in spring and summer and compared it to winter, so if anyone wants to fight me on this, bring it) and this means humidity or as I like to call it, swamp weather.

And if it happens to be sunny and warm without rain approaching, it’s windy. I’ve lost count of the number of times I inadvertently flashed my underwear at passers by on Cleveland Street when I was surprised by a gust of wind, and of the number of umbrellas I’ve thrown on the street when the wind turned them inside out on my way to the train station during a downpour. When I worked at Bondi Beach I would bring my towel and swimmers to go to the beach after work but every day, like clockwork, around 3pm clouds would roll in and it would start raining. Watching the mass exodus of people from the beach was funny until you realized you’d be doing the same trek up Gould Street at the end of your shift.

I’m aware New York summer isn’t much better, but at least that hell only lasts a few months and not 3/4 of the year.

2. Sydney’s (Lack of) Nightlife and Culture
Sydney used to have great nightlife. I used to go out on Oxford Street at least one night every weekend and see bands all the time. The lockouts that came in at the start of 2014 stopped that, and the lack of people supporting live music resulted in many venues shutting down.

Security was tougher, there were more rules to adhere to, and you weren’t trusted to do anything. Sometimes I have flashbacks to that here and assume I’m going to be told no while doing something: taking alcohol into a park to watch the 4th of July fireworks, ordering multiple drinks after a certain time of night, smoking in an outdoor area.

And let’s talk about music festivals. I’ve been to one here that was chilled out and fun, they served a range of drinks instead of just weak beer and premixed sugar water. They weren’t militant about where you could go and what you could do while there. You were trusted to do the right thing because you’re an adult.
The number of music festivals that have been canceled in the last few years is embarrassing. I’m sure it’s a larger Australian problem than one Sydney has caused but still, the ongoing attitude against people having fun would have had an effect somewhere along the line.

What you see when you go out around Oxford Street

3. How Fucking Expensive Everything Is
Food, transport, alcohol, and events are insanely expensive in Sydney. I know New York is considered one of the places with the highest cost of living in the world but even with higher rent, I have more money for fun here than I did in Sydney.

The extra tax and tipping for meals out can add up, but at least you get good service, you can split the bill with others using their cards, and you get about 50% more food than you would for the same meal in Sydney.

What I Do Miss About Sydney: 

1. Australian Music.
I fucking miss Australian music. Australian bands have come to play since I’ve lived here – DZ Deathrays, Violent Soho, The Jezabels, Midnight Oil, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – but when I see events like this advertised I know there’s no chance I’ll get to see something like that here.

But I also really miss going out and hearing those huge Australian anthems, played by a live band or just a DJ or jukebox, and feeling connected to everyone around you.

One night I was on a date and walked into a bar in The Village and ‘The Horses’ was playing. The person I was with had no idea what was going on, but I started singing and while I was waiting for a drink someone saw me and said “YOU’RE AUSTRALIAN!”

Another night – on another date – I started talking to a group of people, one of whom was from Melbourne. I checked the jukebox, played ‘The Horses’ and we had a moment.


Even Dillon Francis knows it’s good!

I took a video of myself singing and the guy I was dating then saw it on instagram the next morning. I played him the real version and then played him ‘You’re the Voice’, and he didn’t understand the brilliance of either. He even mocked the lyrics to ‘You’re the Voice’ by saying not everyone can be someone’s daughter or someone’s son if they’re an orphan. Don’t think those lyrics were meant to be taken literally champ, but thanks for your lame opinion anyway.

What John thinks of your opinion

I miss having people around me who understand the significance of those unofficial Australian anthems. I know I can always listen to them on Spotify or whatever, but there’s something to be said about the way it feels having everyone around you know and sing along to songs you love when when you unexpectedly hear them out somewhere.

2. Coffee
My God I miss consistently good coffee. There are some great cafes around, but they often make my coffee way too hot. I miss not needing one of those cover things to take my coffee with me, and I miss being able to get a large cappuccino (I know a latte is basically the same thing but this is not the point.)

Also, it’s really expensive here! I’m ashamed at the amount of money I’ve spent to have the luxury of a latte.

3. Palms 
I know I had a huge whinge about Sydney’s lack of nightlife above, but that rant excludes Palms. Palms is a gay bar on Oxford Street, that plays old music almost exclusively. You won’t hear Top 40 there (often), the songs that get the biggest reactions are usually from the ’80s and ’90s.

We all made friends with the DJ, my friend made friends with the bouncer and we used to pay him $5 to let us skip the line. We used to walk down those stairs like we were walking onto a yacht and used to run to “our corner” on the right side of the dance floor and make up moves all night.

I do have some great dance moves to Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ and Whitney Houston’s ‘Million Dollar Bill.’ And ‘Cry For You.’ All of these include literal interpretations of the lyrics (we put our arms up when Rick Astley sings “Never gonna give you up!” and crouch to the ground when he sings “Never gonna let you down,” and so on) and we look amazing while we do them.

Palms is the only place I’ll suggest going to on Oxford Street, unless the line is too long when we get there and we go to the top level of Stonewall and look out the window to see if the line starts moving quicker. The number of times my friends and I almost got hit by cars rushing across at the Flinders Street lights is actually ridiculous and we should probably be dead by now.

I like Palms so much, that my straight female friend and I went there even when my gay friends weren’t going. We just wanted to dance to Whitney!

Sydney has its shortcomings, like every other city in the world, but I’ll never stop missing Australian music, coffee or Palms. I’m just not in a hurry to go back anytime soon.

What to Expect When Australians Visit New York

I’m Australian, so obviously I have Australian friends and family. I’ve been in New York just under a year and in that time have seen 12 friends and family members here. Some had already planned to come before I moved, and others decided to come partly to see New York and partly to see me.

It took me time to get used to things here, and I know some things are different to home. I also know some things here seem really exciting and cool when you don’t live here or haven’t been before. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what it was like the first time you came here but other times, you have zero patience for things you’ve already done that your friends want to do.

Here’s what to expect when an Australian comes to visit you in New York:

“Why Don’t They Just Add Tax to the Price?”
This conversation will happen everywhere, over and over and over and over, even though the answer was explained in the first conversation.

Here’s the thing, no one really knows why the sales tax isn’t included in the price you see on the shelf, on the menu, or on the board. No one knows exactly how much it’ll be when it comes time to pay. And whingeing about it every time you underestimate the cost of something will not change the fact you have to fucking pay it.

This conversation is the worst when the check comes at the end of a meal. Generally, we split the bill equally here unless someone went crazy on drinks. Restaurants, bars, and cafes don’t have an issue with taking multiple cards like they do in Australia. Try asking someone in a cafe in Sydney to split the bill equally between four people, all on different cards, and see how that goes.

But watch a group of Australians get a check here.

Australian one: “Wait, how much was that?”
Australian two: “Mine was only fiftee – oh, why is it that much?”
Person who lives here: “Yeah guys they added sales tax.”
Australians: “What? Ugh why can’t they just include the tax? In Australia you know how much things are when you order them!”
Person who lives here: “Shut up.”

“10% is an OK Tip, Right?”
No you tightarse, it’s not. I don’t care that we don’t tip in Australia and I don’t care that you think the service doesn’t warrant anything over 10%. That isn’t the point.

The person serving you doesn’t set the prices, and they don’t set their own wages. Yes, it’s indicative of a bigger problem but the fact is, waiters and bartenders get paid nothing. Help them out when you can.

Are They Meant to Pour That Much Alcohol in My Drink?
In Australia, alcohol is very expensive and very regulated. A vodka soda there will cost you around $9, and it will only contain one shot of alcohol. Here, it might cost the same and you might have had to tip someone $1 for it but my God it’s worth it.

Australians will whinge about the cost until they watch the bartender pour that drink without measuring it. They’ll then look at you like “Did they make a mistake?” then proceed to get hammered off three drinks. It’s not a mistake. It’s the best damn thing ever, and god help me when I go back to Australia.
freepour

“Let’s Go to (Insert Tourist Attraction Here)”
I’m sure people who live here have the same conversation with people places other than Australia, but this is something I have gone through multiple times.

I tend to not enjoy being in crowded places – and I do see the irony in that statement considering my current location – but there are many places in New York, Brooklyn especially, that are lively and interesting without being full of tourists. Your usual New York attractions are a completely different story:

  • Times Square is the worst fucking place on earth
  • The Empire State Building takes forever to get to the top of, and it’s also boring
  • Rockefeller Center is full of chain restaurants
  • Top of the Rock attracts every annoying tourist with a DSLR in the world
  • Central Park is OK if you don’t have allergies (which I do, so)
  • Midtown streets are boring and ugly, especially around Macy’s and Madison Square Garden
  • The Staten Island Ferry takes a long time and you can’t see the Statue of Liberty that well anyway

And so on.

The worst though is when you have a friend coming for New Year’s Eve. I’m lucky to have had great New Year’s Eve experiences. I’ve been to multiple Falls Festivals, thrown house parties – the clean up was worth it to not have to deal with public transport – and I’ve been to the event they have at Opera Bar looking out at the Sydney Harbor fireworks for free.

It’s summer in January so the weather is generally pleasant and warm. Being outside isn’t a problem, and there’s always a lot of room to move around if you’re at an event.

It’s not like that here in January.

My friend made plans to visit me for Christmas and New Year and in our first conversation about it, he tried to make me agree to go to Times Square on New Year’s Eve. This continued for the five months between him booking his flights and arriving in New York.

times square

Every single person I know here made a face and said “no” when I mentioned the possibility of Times Square on NYE. Finally, on New Year’s Eve when no one wanted to pay $600 for a ticket to a crowded bar full of tourists, we went to my friend’s party.
We got to see the trainwreck that was Mariah Carey, the crowds of people wearing diapers, and the ball drop (still don’t even know what that is) on TV from the comfort of a warm bar.

Australian friends and family, keep coming to visit me. I love seeing you and I love showing you around. Just don’t ask me to go with you to Times Square. Please.

The Five Worst Dates I’ve Had in New York

Dating is hard. I don’t think it matters what city you’re in, what year it is, if you’re a male or female, or if you’re using dating apps or not. It’s just really fucking hard. Dating, or just basic romantic interaction, is the inspiration for blogs, TV shows, movies, songs. Businesses. This is because everyone finds it hard and wants to talk about how hard it is.

Some dates are great, and lead to love. Some are OK, and lead to nothing. Some are bad, and lead to funny stories.

When I first arrived in New York I dated a LOT. It was summer, I didn’t really know anyone, and I didn’t have a lot going on at work. It didn’t matter if I turned up on four hours of sleep, or hungover… or hungover and on four hours of sleep. These conditions are perfect for dating, and I organized dates all over Manhattan and Brooklyn in my first few months here.

These are the worst experiences I’ve had:

1. The “You’re Just Not Crazy Enough” Date
I met this guy in a cafe somewhere around Flatiron/Gramercy after work, off a 6 subway stop. Between telling me that I speak too quietly (fair point, probably, but maybe you should just… listen better?) and that he prefers Muay Thai to kickboxing, not that I asked, I found out he is divorced and has a stepson.

He quite clearly made up that he “forgot” about a comedy show “somewhere in Brooklyn” he’d planned to go to. I was relieved it was ending, but didn’t want to end up on the same subway.

This is how things went in my head:
Fuck. I’m going to Brooklyn too… I don’t want to be on the same subway. Find out where he’s going and pretend you’re not getting the same subway! Yes good plan Justine. OK.
Me: “So where in Brooklyn?”
Him: “Ummm Williamsburg I think.”
Damn it I’M going to Williamsburg. Ugh. OK.
Me: “Oh cool… which subway are you taking?”
Him: “Yeah, I just need to say that I don’t think this will work. You seem really smart and sweet but I need someone a bit more out there because I’m basically insane. So yeah I think we should just leave it there.”
Me: “Um OK. Bye.”

I need to give background. I had only just arrived in NY. I didn’t have close friends to talk to. Obviously, I had ways of talking to my friends in other places, but the fact I didn’t have anyone to go to immediately just made me really lonely.

I was also dealing with the end of something long term, so I wasn’t really in a place to handle public rejection. Everyone nearby heard what he had said, saw him shake his head to himself while he said it, and had to watch me walk out alone. Humiliating.
I did get a chance to tell him how I felt though:

 

2. The “I Forgot We’ve Already Met” Date
As I said, I went on a lot of dates in summer. I’m sure others did too. But, I hope I would remember if someone I had already met turned up again. I met this guy at a bar in Williamsburg.
He was really cool, a total unashamed, self-described lumberjack/hipster. He created his own little community in Williamsburg by drinking alone at bars and befriending the staff, even inviting them over for dinner. If that guy had liked me, I would have kept dating him. We had a good time, we did text a few times after to set something up but New York life kind of got in the way. I started using a different dating site and received a message from him. Same photos, same general bio, and same points in the first conversation.

“Oh, you’re Australian? That’s so cool, I love Australian music…” and so on.
We chatted back and forth and I mentioned a couple of bands who had recently played in New York, the same bands I’d mentioned on our first date, wondering if that would help his memory. It didn’t. He then asked for my phone number, and I had to say I’d known all along we’d already met and was playing to see how long it would take him to remember.

He seemed embarrassed, and we did go out twice after that, texted a little but then that was the end. The actual dates themselves were fun. I made friends with one of his friends at the bar we were at, and sang George Michael songs with her, and we went to two awesome shows. But it’s pretty embarrassing that someone didn’t remember me.

3. The “I’m Too Wasted to Stand Up So You Need to Send Me Home” Date
Ah, now this one was different. We’d already met, already been dating for a couple of weeks. He’d been watching football all day, I had been shopping around Park Slope and working on this blog. I started getting texts after the game had finished, a game I had thought would finish much later because fucking American football takes for FUCKING ever because this so-called “chess game” stops play every two seconds and people apparently aren’t capable of running more than a few meters at a time and they’re too fucking pussy to even be tackled properly and, I’m sorry… side issue. I miss Rugby League sometimes, OK?

Anyway. I said I wasn’t ready to meet yet, and still had to finish things and get ready to go out. I said not to come and meet me at the bar up the street from my house until I said so, because I didn’t want him to wait alone. He then texted 20 minutes later saying he was at the bar. I kept doing what I was doing, but skipped a couple of steps getting ready.

When I got to the bar he had befriended a couple. The woman was great, the man was not, and upon finding out I was Australian said he could name all the states (he couldn’t) and made a big deal about how we all eat Vegemite and own kangaroos or some shit. Meanwhile, the guy I was meeting was so drunk he couldn’t focus his eyes properly, couldn’t stand, (to be fair he’d injured his hip so it might have been partly that) and kept forgetting things I had said a minute before.

We left to go next door to another bar that had food, and he said I could go ahead while he finished his cigarette… even though the door was literally next to where he was standing and I’d said it was OK for me to wait outside with him. We got inside, he told me he was a “broken person” as an excuse for drinking too much while watching a football game, and I sent him home in an Uber we had to walk two blocks to get to because he’d put in the wrong location.

He sent me a text saying I’d “completely fucked him over… thanks” even though I hadn’t actually done anything. Did I end that dating experience then and there? No. It took him not giving me anything for Christmas (he wasn’t even Jewish) and then getting way too wasted and embarrassing me on NYE to end that one… I’m a slow learner.

4. The “I’m Sarcastic, Not a Dick. You Just Don’t Get Me” Date
I met a guy in the East Village, who proceeded to tell me how much better the Upper East Side is than anywhere else. Any time I would say anything about Williamsburg or even Brooklyn in general, he would make a snarky remark.
He challenged everything I said, continued to bring up Australian cliches like kangaroos (seriously Americans, you need to get over the kangaroo thing) and said there were no mosquitoes on the upper east side like there are in Williamsburg. Needless to say, there was no second date.

5. The “I’m Wearing a Fedora” Date
You know when you get an indication a date is going to be bad even before you go on it? Well, that’s what happened. We arranged to meet at IFC in the Village.
This guy worked for BAM and could get free tickets to movies. I was grateful for that of course. And by the end of the date I was grateful we’d been in a theater where you don’t have to talk for most of the night. I said I would meet him at the front of IFC and described what I was wearing.

I got this response:

fedora

We met, we watched the movie, we got on the F to Delancey to go to a bar called The Backroom. You might have heard about it.

On the subway, he asked if I went to art shows, and when I explained I have a very short attention span and often get bored at art galleries and exhibitions, he said that it’s important to really study paintings and art works to understand what the artist wanted to convey. This is probably true, but not something I’m terribly interested in tbh. The conversation wasn’t really going anywhere, he would ask questions, I would answer, and he would relate them back to himself.

The real kicker was when he said he’d read some of my reviews (I’d sent him links to my blog) and they were good, but when he writes reviews he likes to be ‘more academic, yet still accessible.’ I left soon after, we did not go home together and we did not see each other again.

I’ve been on good dates too, of course, but it’s fun to write about the bad ones. Even if a date is bad, you’ll get a good story out of it. I haven’t been on a date since old mate fedora… but don’t feel sorry for me. I like being on my own, and don’t need to fill my time with sub-par dates.

Roommates in New York Suck

I’ve only shared two places since I arrived in New York. I shared the first place in Williamsburg with a great girl who ended up moving to Portland. I was in the other girl who lived there’s room while she traveled around Europe, and moved to the other room when she came back.

She was away for most of the time I was there, which was great. At the time, I found her a little intense but this was nothing compared to what I would go through with the next roommate. Oh, by the way Australians “roommate” = “housemate.” I was not sharing a room with anyone!

It started out fine in Park Slope. I was sharing with one other girl, who’s around the same age and has a similar job to mine. She liked to read a lot, and she liked the same TV shows I did, so while I knew we wouldn’t be besties – like I was with most of the people I lived with in Australia – I thought we would get along.

  • The Kitchenware Debacle
    I have shared houses for about ten years now. I understand the importance of bringing things into the house when you move in. The Park Slope girl… let’s call her ‘Loser’… told me I could use her kitchen things and didn’t need to buy new ones when I first met her.
    Seeing as I had arrived with basically nothing, I spent most of my time and money decorating my bedroom. I did intend to buy plates, cups, cutlery, etc eventually but this wasn’t a priority since you can’t sleep on a plate, I don’t cook often, and she’d said I could use hers.
    One night, she was watching ‘Nashville’ in the living room, and I sat down and joined her. She looked at me and said “You can use my plates and cups for now until you get your own,” in a very passive-aggressive way.
    I got up, finished my meal in my bedroom and ordered plates, cups, and cutlery online immediately. Something I was planning to do anyway and something she hadn’t said was a problem previously.
  • The Amazon Fire Stick Incident
    Loser had an Amazon Fire Stick (a device you plug into the TV that gives you access to Netflix and other fun things) set up in the living room. I used it maybe three times and she had said this was fine.
    One night, I felt like watching ‘Friends.’ I’d watched maybe ten minutes and she came out of her room, all cranky, telling me to watch something else because she was watching ‘Pretty Little Liars’ (ha, see, ‘Nashville’ and ‘Pretty Little Liars’? LOSER) but had paused it because she was on the phone. About three days later she told me her Fire Stick had broken, (*sneeze* BULLSHIT *sneeze*) so she’d moved the one from the living room to her bedroom. And if I wanted to use the TV, I could get my own.
  • The “Call the Super!” Night
    I got home late one Friday night – she was already home – and the toilet was running. Yes, this is annoying, and yes, it’s something you think you can fix yourself but you can’t. I went out again on Saturday, and most of Sunday, and on Sunday night she yelled at me for how I hadn’t called the Super about it, and suggested I had broken it again after she had “fixed” it.
    This is despite the fact maintenance people don’t usually take kindly to you asking them to do things for you on weekends, and she had already texted the Super (the guy who fixes things in the building, for my Australian friends playing at home) to come in the next day.
  • The Secret Vacation
    One morning, when I was getting ready to go to boxing at 5:50am (YES, this is what time I get up. YES, it’s insane. YES it’s also worth it) I could see light coming from her bedroom. Since she is a Loser, she gets up at the same time every day and anything outside of this routine is weird. When she wasn’t there that night, I assumed she’d gone home for the Holidays (Christmas, New Year) for a while. It was great to have the house to myself, but it’s also great to know how long you’ll have it for. And to, you know, communicate with the people you live with so they don’t worry. Not that I would – but she didn’t know that.
  • The Surprise Moving Day
    The day of the Oscars was great. I got to see ‘Moonlight’ take out Best Picture over ‘La La Land’ after they’d all thought they’d won – haha – and I found out Loser was leaving. I, being an organized Type A person, started looking for new furniture immediately. I contacted people about couches, ordered a coffee table, a new bed with storage so I could move my bookcase into the living room, a toaster, and a microwave. When I asked on the Tuesday if she knew when she was leaving, she told me she didn’t have an exact date yet, but she would keep me updated.
    Thursday night, I got home and saw piles of boxes in the living room. We had been texting and emailing about potential replacement roommates, so I asked her if she was moving on the weekend in one of those texts. No reply.Next day, I was supposed to have a bed delivered, so I organized to work from home. Loser had left at her usual time, so I assumed she was just getting really organized to move on the weekend, or early the next week, since I hadn’t heard otherwise.

I logged in to my computer, and Loser walked in the house. “Oh, hey, just so you know the movers are coming now,” she said in her stupid voice and walked into her room. I went and hid in my room, wrote a hilarious Facebook update, and waited.

hilarious-facebook-post
My hilarious Facebook post

When I couldn’t hear anyone any more, I went into the living room and it was empty. Completely. Empty. Of course, I don’t expect someone to leave their own things they need/want in the house when they move. But I do expect to be told when said things will not be in the house any more.

She came back to the house that afternoon, and the next day. And decided to lock her bedroom, so that when a girl I was showing the room to was on her way to see it, I had to tell her not to come because I couldn’t open the door.
When I asked Loser why she locked her room, she said it was because she’d left things “including a jar of money” in there. I got very mad, and sent her the below.
No reply, but by Monday night her room was completely empty.

“If you don’t need to be here when people are seeing the room, then you don’t really need to know when they’ll be here. I can do all of that to save you time, and direct them to you to work out the official stuff. By the way, I really doubt anyone would steal money out of your bedroom, and if you’re that concerned then maybe take it with you. I have my own money and I don’t think a person looking at the room with me there with them would try to steal anything.

I also didn’t really appreciate you not telling me when you were moving everything out when I asked about it a couple of times last week, and you leaving a huge garbage bag of your old food in the kitchen that started leaking everywhere. If you just wanted to get out ASAP, that’s fine. You don’t need to be petty about it though.
If you can make sure the door is unlocked so I can show those two people the room tomorrow at 8pm and Tuesday at 8:30pm, it’ll make this whole thing a lot quicker.”

The day she moved out, I went and bought some cushions to sit on.
I had this setup. Luckily, I only had one night of feeling like I was in ‘Trainspotting.’

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Life imitating art imitating life
trainspotting
Trainspotting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is there a moral to this story? Choose life… wait, not that story. My story.

I recommend being more discerning about people you’re going to live with, and never assume anything. That, and make enough money to get your own place so you don’t have to deal with other people’s personality problems.

 

 

 

Locked In – A Lesson in Irony

I’d lived in New York for three weeks. I’d stayed in and moved between two sublet apartments, started a new job, met countless new people, and just cut the only person I’d known in New York before I arrived out of my life. In short, I was fucking stressed and needed a release.

I’d gone to a few yoga studios in Park Slope before, but the one I chose in my stress-release mission had a Restorative class that made me feel like I had light coming out of my head. It was frequented by the kind of health-fad conscious women who bought the studio’s $10 gluten-free treats, and finished each class looking like they’d stepped out of a yoga commercial.

I, on the other hand, usually finished classes looking like a sweat-drowned rat and it was no different on this swampy July afternoon. The deep breathing we’d done at the end of the class had made me release all my stress into my scented eye pillow, something I thought I’d done discreetly. It wasn’t until I went to change out of my soggy clothes that I realized the stress was all over my face, letting everyone know I’d forgotten to take off my mascara.

I used wet toilet paper to de-goth my eyes which, in hindsight, took a lot longer than expected. I opened the door into the dark studio and got ready to give an awkward apology to whoever was there waiting. Only, when I got to the front desk, I realized there was no one there to apologize to.

My first thought was “OH thank God I don’t have to do the awkward apology!”
Then, when I realized a shutter locked from the outside was covering the door, my next thought was “How the FUCK do I get out of here?”

“Climb out the window? See if there’s a back exit? Try the other windows?”
The options my brain presented me were like a morbid Choose Your Own Adventure! story that would lead to my certain death. I tried calling the studio hoping it would divert to someone’s cell phone, but the click of the answering machine I heard next to me proved otherwise.

I called 911. I have never called an emergency line for an actual emergency before. That is, unless you count calling the police to ask them to remind the neighbors across the street that screaming “To the window, to the wall! To the sweat drop down my balls, to all you bitches crawl!” along with their stereo at 1am, is an emergency.

The fact the operator could decipher anything I was saying through my sobbing rant is nothing short of a miracle, and she told me the Fire Department were on their way. I sat and ate two $10 gluten-free muesli dirt bars while I waited, giving the studio owners a big mental “FUCK YOU” as I chewed. I could hear sirens getting closer, then I heard a deep voice through the door.

“Can you reach the window?”
“Are there any other windows you can reach?”
“OK, we’re going to start cutting!”

The shutter lifted. The light afternoon sun and a group of strangers exercising their right to intrude on someone else’s problem greeted me. The men from the Fire Department made sure I was OK and left quickly. I watched them leave wishing I could too, while I explained to the next-door neighbors how I’d been abandoned.

yoga-studio

After I assured them I was fine and gave them my details to pass on to the owner, I started walk-crying. This is a term all New Yorkers should be familiar with; it best describes the times you have no choice but to walk and cry simultaneously.

I walk-cried to the subway station and thought about the irony. I’d gone to the yoga studio to release the stress I’d been feeling and had ended up getting broken out of there crying.

What should I do to get over this? I likened the situation to being stuck in a traffic jam when you’re already late. Or perhaps, a “No Smoking” sign on your cigarette break.
All you can do is give it a quick “FUCK YOU” and try to find a new stress release.

Namaste.

I Heart Park Slope

I hadn’t been to Park Slope before I moved to New York. For those not in the know, it’s in South Brooklyn, not in Manhattan. I hadn’t spent a lot of time in Brooklyn in general, except for one or two trips to Williamsburg, and one night in Dumbo.

When I was spending my last weeks at work doing nothing but researching apartments and clothes, I found an ad for a short sublet in Park Slope. The owner needed someone to stay in his apartment for two weeks, starting from the day I was set to arrive in New York.

We had a quick Skype call, I signed an agreement and sent him some money, and we stayed in touch until I was on my way to New York from LA. Sadly, due to my lack of urgency getting to LAX from Hollywood, I missed my early flight and didn’t get to meet him to get the keys. I had tickets to see The Cure that night, so I chose to stay in a hotel in Chelsea (not THE Chelsea Hotel, though the thought of giving someone head in an unmade bed there like Janis Joplin did doesn’t disgust me) and go to the Park Slope house the next day instead.

I wasn’t prepared for the way the neighborhood was going to win me over. Brownstones towered over the streets that were covered in leaves from the trees that lined the edges. There were books left in boxes for strangers to enjoy, and families walked their dogs up and down the streets together.
I found myself just going for walks just to enjoy the summer sun – something I have never thought of as a good pastime – and just smiling at everything and everyone.

park-slope
Brownstones, trees, sun. Beautiful Park Slope.

The time came to leave the sublet house which was only a block away from Prospect Park, and move to another place in Williamsburg; still in Brooklyn, but in the trendier northern part. To say Williamsburg was a visual disappointment is an understatement.

In place of the brownstones Park Slope is known for, Williamsburg has a mixture of new unaffordable high-rises, old weatherboard houses, and converted warehouses. In place of the trees, garbage bags. In place of the books, nothing. In place of charming little families with dogs, rude hipsters with ironic hair.

But it wasn’t just the visuals that drew me back to Park Slope. People in Williamsburg kind of suck.* Any time I went out to get food, coffee, drinks, clothes – fucking anything – I was immediately turned off by people’s attitudes.

People walking slowly to get and give me my takeout order after standing around staring at their own tattoos for five minutes. A guy telling my friend and I not to move chairs in a café since we were ‘blocking the entrance’ (we weren’t). A guy at a bar yelling at me after I told him he’d poured me the wrong beer. Girls giving me the up and down stare and eye-roll in trendy Bedford Avenue shops. People staring at me because I wasn’t wearing a fucking hat at Toby’s Estate.

w-burg
The ugly streets of Williamsburg. Pretty sunset though.

Park Slope has much more of a community vibe, and people are actually nice to each other. I have some favorite places so far, but I’m sure I’ll add many more as I spend more time here.

1. Rise – 5th Avenue and 14th Street, Brooklyn
This is not a restaurant, bar, or café. This is my kickboxing studio. I first went to Rise on a ClassPass… pass? when I was staying at my first Park Slope apartment. The instructor, Carrie, was so friendly and lovely, and even though I couldn’t meet her enthusiasm and energy at 6am, I loved training with her right away.

The classes are so FUCKING HARD, but in the best possible way. I’ve done things with Rise – jump rope, burpees, gotten out of bed at 5:30am to get the subway to Park Slope from Williamsburg to go to class – that I’ve never managed to master before. I look forward to my classes, I look forward to being challenged, and I especially look forward to training with Carrie. She remembers everyone’s name even if you’ve only met her once, she laughs at my Snapchats about how much she made my body ache in class, and she tells us all she loves us all the time. I’m so grateful I’ve found a place that makes me feel so strong and happy every time I go to a class.

2. Roots Café – 5th Avenue and 18th Street, Brooklyn
The first time I went into Roots, the owner served me and told me the drink I chose – the salted caramel latte – was her favorite drink on the menu. She also asked me where I was from and said I have a very elegant voice. She thanks every customer for coming in, invites them to come back, and remembers the regulars’ orders. In short, she makes you feel wanted.

3. Woops! Bake Shop – 5th Avenue and 17th Street, Brooklyn
I’m not sure if the guy I see most mornings is the owner, but whoever he is, he always remembers my order and makes the mornings less terrible. He also plays great music; I’m often greeted by Beatles’ album songs like ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’ and ‘I Want to Tell You’, or some classic blues music when I walk in. They also have the best chocolate muffins I’ve ever eaten in my life.

I love living in Park Slope. Every time I leave the house I smile to myself because of how beautiful it is, even in the dark and rain. I urge anyone who visits New York to come to this neighborhood and enjoy its beauty, and pick up a free book from a stoop.

*Note: there was an exception! The people at Reunion on Union Avenue in Williamsburg are awesome.