Leaving London earlier this year, I was excited by the prospect of going back to a semi-regular schedule of four season. You know, cold in the winter, warm in the summer, some in-between situation in the fall and spring, preferably featuring colored leaves and pink flowers, respectively.
I’m generally a happy person, and for me blogging has always been the place to be funny, witty, and possibly a bit offensive. I’ve avoided talking about breakups, fights, and other gloomy times because airing dirty laundry on the internet is kind of weird. And, to be more precise, I’ve gone through much of life being blissfully unaware of the realness of the depression that creeps up alongside winter days and pulls you down into a hole of takeaway Indian food, chocolate, and Modern Family episodes. But as it turns out, it’s a real, and it’s draining.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the past few weeks grappling with homesickness. Like my spectacular New Years Day hangover, it comes in waves, and I’m never sure when it’s going to hit. I’m fine much of the time, but Sunday evenings in East London leave me longing to be on the couch my parent’s house (don’t tell them I admitted that) eating Thai food while Rita tries to get my attention, and walking through London in January makes me crave the beautiful architecture of the Upper West Side and the sunset over the Hudson reflecting off of the admittedly ugly Trump Towers. I miss my friends and my parents, and it’s somehow harder now that I’m not a student anymore, that I can’t just hop home for three weeks to catch up with everyone and to spend lazy afternoons in Sheep’s Meadow.
There’s something to be said for having grown up in Manhattan. And the South Bronx, parts of Brooklyn, and a tiny bit of Queens (I think). People from the West Village are exempt from this. I’m not being snobby, it’s nothing about tourists flocking to the Greatest Place on Earth, and no comments about Bridge & Tunnel people. There’s no denying that NYC is a great place to grow up: endless things to do, new restaurants all over the place, Central Park, enough museums to last a lifetime, and even zoning officials who are kind enough to keep us from getting sunburnt. The food is good, the drinks are good, the sunset is spectacular, and I’m sure the sunrise is nice too but that’s on the East Side, so who knows. Anyways, NYC is great. But growing up there provides one huge disservice that, in some ways, lasts a lifetime.
Finding your way around Manhattan is like doing second grade arithmetic.
Seriously, Manhattan must be the easiest city to navigate in the world. The entire island is built out of blocks. Literally out of perfectly sized, proportionate, numbered blocks.* Sure, learning the names of the avenues (apart from all the way east) takes some time, but at least they’re almost entirely parallel (I realize that Broadway is an exception to this, but still). But generally, navigating Manhattan requires approximately as much effort as getting a cat to run into a wall using a laser pointer.
And so, having spend the past five years bouncing between five cities in lovely, classical, old Europe, I’ve discovered that spending seventeen years wandering around Manhattan left me severely ill-prepared for navigating cities that were built around things like cathedrals and rivers large plazas and every other characteristic of European cities (unlike Manhattan, which is built around … something, I’m sure, but no one knows what). Because as it turns out, cities with a historic center point don’t have straight roads.
It’s not that they’re designed specifically to confuse tourists, though I often can’t help but wonder if that’s the case. It’s more that the streets appear to be going straight for the most part, but they actually curve a bit. Not a lot, but enough that, well, you’re not going straight. Intersections don’t happen at ninety degree angles, and making a left because you’re headed north and you need to go west can just as easily take you backwards.
That’s the other part of the problem: reasoning your way somewhere will get you to where you need to go eventually, but it certainly won’t be quick. In Manhattan, unless you can walk through buildings, the quickest route is based almost entirely upon which light is green when you arrive at the corner. Here, the quickest route requires a trip to Google Maps to check which roads actually make up the shortest distance. At home, in theory, the straightest line can be the quickest way (again, provided that the traffic lights are on your side). Across the pond, the straightest line is usually the slowest way – the quickest way requires turns left, right, up, down, and I think I’m going to invest in a hoverboard. And of course, some of those roads will be one-way, which is challenging to those of us on a bike (because Europe and hipsters and baguettes and stuff).
Moral of the story: I apologize to all friends who’ve had to wait for me at cafes or bars because I got lost on the way. I know I’ve been living on this side of the pond for years, but this is the last thing that I just can’t seem to get used to.
*The West Village is entirely exempt from this post.
It’s once again time to leave the best island in the world to go back to a paradise of free healthcare, guaranteed vacation days, and warm, flat beer. It’s been amazing, and like always, I’m having a hard time knowing that I’m not sure when I’ll be back next. It mostly depends on where I find a job, I guess.
Someone please hire me?
It’s a bit exhausting sometimes, the constant back and forth. Maybe living abroad is a phase in my life. I’ve always thought I would end up back in NYC permanently. But the astronomical living costs, the comparative working conditions in the US, and the atmosphere of northern Europe has always pulled me back. Sometimes it feels like I’m waiting for something decisive to happen, something that will drag me back to the States, where I’ll live with my husband, 1.6 children, dog, cat, and white picket fence.
Except I won’t, because suburbia has no place in my future.
The point is, I don’t have a plan. And I’m really fine with that, at least most of the time. No twenty-three year-old has a plan, or at least not a good one. I’m still at the point in my life where I go straight from work to happy hour and then forget to eat dinner, so I’m really in no position to make any major decisions right now. But every time I leave home, I’m aware of what I’m leaving behind: my family, my friends, the cutest (and neediest) puppy in the world, the city I always thought I’d live in. And every time I come back home, I’m fully convinced that I’ll be back in Europe soon enough, it’s never the last time. So maybe I am waiting for something, something to pull me one way or the other, to force me to make a decision. I have no idea what that will be – a dream job, a relationship, the knowledge that that there’s no Zabar’s overseas. It could be anything.
I suppose I’ll find out soon enough.
In the meantime, it’s time to go again. It’s been three and a half weeks of eating out too much, talking to some very eloquent thirteen-year-olds, some not-so-eloquent seventeen-year-olds, being touristy, puppy snuggles, UConn winning at everything except academics, running my first 13.1, the tail-end of the Polar Vortex, and the first two days of the second-most-unpleasant holiday on the Jewish calendar, at least in the culinary sense (because I suppose that eating cardboard is preferable to not eating at all). As always, it flew by far too quickly, and here I am, in a car headed towards the airport to go for a week of coffee, relaxing, and painting puppies in the romantic capital of the German-speaking world before heading back to The Bubble. Thanks to everyone who made it as amazing as it was, and particular thanks to some eighth graders for inspiring me and for reminding me of how much of a dumbass I was ten years ago.
Until next time, NYC.
I am a pretty vehement hater of tourists in NYC, especially in the summer. Everything is crowded, it’s muggy, and there is truly no good reason to stop and stare at every single building in the city. I’m admittedly more than a little jaded about the whole thing, but still.
The good news is that now it’s barely spring, which means that it’s raining and gross and cold in the city. There are still tourists, but they’re all busy taking pictures of blank canvasses at the MoMA or eating dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets at the Museum of Natural History. Central Park is still some weird brownish-grey color, Williamsburg still shows its hipster colors, and well, I’ll still never go to Times Square.
The Austrian was visiting this past week, and while I still fully refuse to go through the doors of any museum known for chicken wire sculptures and textured blank canvasses, I did get to hit up a few places that I actually haven’t been to before, including Top of the Rock and the Brooklyn Flea Market in Williamsburg.
I also got dragged out to a Mets game, because what’s a week in NYC without some sadism? We took a walk on the High Line, got trapped in a guitar store with a bomb threat on 14th street, The Austrian discovered that he might not have a future with the banjo, and we probably drank enough coffee to fuel a plane. Someone may have gone a little overboard with the American food (two hot dogs, two slices of pizza, Amaretto french toast, and a burger in the span of 48 hours), but I think the road to recovery was a short one.
Anyways, my point is, I more or less took a week off from work to be a tourist in my hometown. And it was pretty cool. The last time I saw the city from so high up was then the Twin Towers were still standing, and it’s always hard to force myself out of my routine to go try something new when I know it requires twenty minutes on the subway. But having someone visiting in town forces me to do that. I still hate people who walk too slowly, because tourism should include learning about culture and NYC’s culture is walking fast. But I guess the truth is that I live in a pretty cool city, and I should be more appreciative of it. This place drives me insane – it’s too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter, too wet in-between, with too many people and cars, too much traffic, and everything is too damn expensive. But it’s also where I grew up. My favorite wine bar, cocktail bar, and beer house are all on the same island, as is my favorite restaurant and the best sunset view in the world. Sure, we have the ugliest public transport in the western world, but it runs all night – I’m pretty sure Berlin is the only other city that can say that (and that’s more out of necessity for the hipsters partying in Soviet-era warehouses basically outside of the city limits). So what I’m getting at here is that it was a good week. I accomplished virtually nothing, and I’m fine with that. I got to rediscover a city I love, to escape the Cambridge bubble, and to drink cold and carbonated beer.
But seriously, no more Mets games.
I have a few friends who always ask me if I’m okay after a storm. I appreciate the concern, but it always makes me smile a little. My home FLOATS, guys. Remember?
My dad has infamously told every one of my friends who asked about the perks of living on a boat that it’s one of the best pick-up lines on the face of the earth. More specifically, and I paraphrase here, “you could get anyone to sleep with you. At least sleep next to you, if nothing else.” My father is nothing if not honest.
I’ve realized that when I tell people where I grew up, I get the same questions from everyone. Which is reasonable. I mean, most of them are. Some are strange. But anyways, I figured I’d write out some of the more common (and less common) answers to questions people have about living on a boat.
1. Is it a boat? Like, a floating boat? A houseboat?
Well, okay. It’s a boat. It floats, at least I hope it does, because I need somewhere to shower after work today and that would be an unfortunate end to an otherwise lovely day. I guess that makes it a floating boat. We can call it a houseboat if you want, but houseboats are usually things that literally look like a house floating on water.
2. Do you have a shower? Do you have a bed? Do you have TV?
Take a whiff. I have a shower. I use my shower. Thank you for suggesting otherwise, I appreciate it. Also, I’d be a lot crankier if I didn’t have a bed. I happen to have a rather awesome bed, in fact. It’s high off the ground (make your short jokes, I’ve heard them all), and it has a weird shape, and I have a hatch over my head. We also have TV. And internet, while we’re at it. Don’t worry, my cluelessness about contemporary culture is self-designed. And there is a mailroom, and the take out guy usually doesn’t get too lost.
3. Do you ever go fishing?
I live on the Hudson. That should be all you need to know.
4. Can we go for a ride?
Sure. Talk that one out with The Hippie. We’ll toss you overboard if you get seasick though.
5. Do you go to school by boat?
6. Isn’t it expensive to live on a boat in Manhattan? How do you get into the city?
I’m actually fairly certain it’s the cheapest way to live in Manhattan. And definitely the quietest and the prettiest. I might be a bit biased though. And the docks are attached to the western edge of Manhattan at 79th street. Right below the cafe.
7. Can we have a party on the boat?
Only if I like you enough in real life to invite you to my house. Then we can talk. Also, see #4.
8. What happens when it rains?
9. Do you get seasick? Can you feel the boat rock?
Okay, this one is kind of legit. I get absolutely no motion sickness – in Sweden, I ate a hotdog and then went on the same roller coaster twice in the span of 20 minutes. I got a bit dizzy, but that was it. I can sort of feel the boat rock, but it’s more external factors than the actual feeling. I can feel when the boat is bouncing because of waves caused by another boat. What I can’t feel is the normal, gentle rocking of the boat. But I know it’s happening, largely because I can hear it – the docks move also, and they make a bit of noise. Otherwise I could be sitting in a normal apartment building, and I’d be none the wiser.
10. So … rocking the boat?
You are TOTALLY THE FIRST PERSON TO EVER MAKE THAT JOKE EVER. Aside from being a fantastic pick up line (thanks for the tip, Old Man), I don’t think it makes a huge difference. But that’s just me.
Also, sorry Mom and Dad.
11. I’m on a boat, I’m on a boat.
Please don’t do that.
So in the past decade or so, NYC has acquired an annual heat wave. Don’t get me wrong, summer in the city has always been fairly miserable. But it’s gotten a lot worst in the past few years, at least as far as I can remember. Think at least a week straight of 90s+, high humidity, car exhaust, and everyone’s A/Cs blowing hot air right back out into the streets.
Anyways, it seems as though a few things are always constant during July in this glorious, beautiful city.
1. Barnes and Noble turns into a refrigerator.
Most people know the Fairway at 125th Street for its enormous walk-in freezer. It occupies about a quarter of the store, and holds literally everything that requires refrigeration. There’s a rack of coats at the entrance, which used to be puffy Fairway employee jackets, and have since switched to furry-hooded, Abercrombie style sweatshirt-jackets. Which are useless, and I find hilarious. Anyways, I digress. Barnes and Noble at 83rd and Broadway (and I assume all other branches in the city) could easily host Fairway’s cold collection. It couldn’t possibly be more than 60 degrees in there, also known as “holy hell I thought it was supposed to be summer out, and here I am siphoning WiFi and freezing my ass off?”
2. Guys, let’s build some stuff. With hot tar. And jackhammers.
Okay, New York is never a quiet city. It’s a fucking city. In any case, it seems like construction projects go on a complete pause during fall/spring/winter, and go full-on during the summer. Pavement at West End and 79th needs repairs? Let’s do it in mid-July. Manhattan-side of the Brooklyn Bridge needs renovations? Let’s just close a lane or two and create extra traffic all summer. Also, smelly construction workers. And hot tar. Did I mention the jackhammers?
3. The Financial guys are still wearing full suits.
Look, I appreciate “dressing to impress” as much as anyone else does, but that’s like asking a polar bear to live in the Sahara. I’ve already seen three guys today that looked to be on a straight road to heart failure.
4. Happy hour. Happy hour everywhere.
I don’t need to explain this, do I?
5. Iced coffee!
It’s so nice to be back in a country where I can get an iced coffee. Coffee. With ice in it. Easy concept, no? Who knows, ask the Germans. They blend it with ice cream for some reason.
6. Tourists seriously considering swimming in the Hudson.
Speaking of which, there was a warning on the gates to the Boat Basin two days ago to not swim in, or touch, the Hudson River. Apparently there was a spill of something in the river, which made it more toxic than usual (read: fish grow full hands and feet and can speak Piglatin). Anyone who needed to read that sign to know not to swim in the Hudson should expect some problems upon reproduction.
7. Is that water dripping from A/Cs … or?
Yep. You know what just fell on your head.
I’ll be off mourning the death of all three A/Cs on the boat. And sitting in the cold shower. With a beer.
Right, so I’m really behind. Also, I had a really funny thing written out before, and then my internet was an asshole and deleted it for me. So now my fingers are lazy and I will attempt to recap everything in one post. My goal is to spend the summer with a pitcher of tequila spiked lemonade and my laptop, so maybe I’ll become a real bloggy blogger for a few months. Or something.
Named for what it does to your feet. The beaches are rocky, to say the least, and the bottoms of my feet look like a latticed cherry pie. They slice you open. I left a pair of The German’s sandals in the form of a biohazard, and I’ve immortalized myself on a rock somewhere with a nice, rust colored footprint. Also, Croatia is cheap. Cheaper than we ever realized. I think our hostel owner was in a permanent state of that 30 minute period between drunk and hungover. We found Brits on Tour, and spent most of our time with them at the beach eating pizza and quoting Dane Cook. Most people got tan, I turned into frecklemania. And got tan. Cliff jumping happened. Life was good.
Mistake number one in life: going from Southeastern Europe to Sweden. HOLY EXPENSIVE. Life was good. Partied at the Patricia, this conversation ensued.
Peter: Darling, let’s go dancing.
Me: No, we can’t yet, it’s not dark out.
Oh, it was 12:30 AM. The sun hadn’t set yet. Or more accurately, the sun was setting and rising at the SAME TIME. HOW???
It turns out that Sweden was a good stepping point, because the sun in Iceland literally never set. Like, it was still bright and sunny out at 11:30 PM. Also, Icelandic sounds a bit like a cat purring, sunscreen is a must, and I highly do NOT recommend having dried fish when hungover.
In other news:
I am back home, finally! I have been showering three times daily, I get sweaty from sitting still, and I have been sustaining myself largely on salads and cold beers. Also, The German is in town and I am happy to report that he has been charging through red lights like a champion. He might not be allowed back in the country.