Adios New York!

Another free summer event worth lining up for on our last night – el salsa superstar Ruben Blades, in an outdoors concert at the Lincoln Centre full of New York Latinos. The music was so salsa and Ruben was charming the audience with his empathetic and poetic words, also offering songs for the disadvantaged, for the hard working, for carers of the ill, for the mothers. He had lived in Harlem when he was younger and was discovered by a record company while he was working there.The crowd cheered and danced continuously. They loved him! Some even brought their own instruments, maracas, to play along. We met a very nice couple, Carrollan and Jaimie, who live on Staten Island. He’s originally from Puerto Rico and she’s Caribbean. Quotes from Carollan: on subways – “I know underground better than above.”; on child rearing in New York -“It’s like trying to grow a tree in an apartment.”; on hearing I’m multi-lingual – “You’re a New Yorker then.” The city that never sleeps sent us to bed tired but happy with our last warehouse window view of the Empire State Building lit up in blue and pink to farewell our summer crossing here. Adios New York!

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How to breathe in New York

It's easy to spend a lot of time underground in NY.

It’s easy to spend a lot of time underground in NY.

1960's time warp at the Peter Pan Donut Cafe in Green Point, New York. Coffee and a donut will set you back a whole $2

1960’s time warp at the Peter Pan Donut Cafe in Green Point, New York.
Coffee and a donut will set you back a whole $2

New York Times, Nostrand Ave. Crown Heights, Brooklyn

New York Times, Nostrand Ave. Crown Heights, Brooklyn

Mad moment: Taking the subway, only to find out that it’s an express train so you have to back track at the next stop to get to to your final destination while listening to the announcement “Be alert. Have a safe trip.” Or the train has been cancelled due to repairs and you have to run up or down to another connection hoping that the crowd you’re following will get you there.
Breathe: Get off at the next stop and have a coffee and study the subway paper map or NYC subway app. Take note of the colour of the line, the street, the letters A,B, C etc and the difference between a Local and Express marked train! At the station check if you need to go upstairs or downstairs too. Plus check the morning news in case of problems that day.

Mad moment: Wondering whether and who to ask someone for directions and or risk it on your own.
Breathe: Take out your map and ponder upon it until someone takes pity on you or have another coffee.

Mad moment: Sick of subways.
Breathe: Take a ferry to Staten Island or take a ferry to and from the Brooklyn piers at Brooklyn Heights, Williamsburg or Greenpoint. There’s even a ferry to Hoboken, New Jersey from which you can see Manhattan lit up in the evening.

Mad moment: Long queues put you off visiting museums. New York is full of queues.
Breathe: It is true that a New York pass saves you from waiting in queues but make a booking for events that you truly want to see before you come. Many free summer events mean that you have to wait in queue but some of them are really worth it if you can manage it.

Mad moment: Coming across the NYPD arresting angry people or cordoning off a crime murder scene or walking the beat or watching from their watch tower at the corner of an intersection.
Breathe: Continue walking. Some New Yorkers take photos of these events but I wouldn’t. Seems that’s the only time New Yorkers like photos. Most of them are so camera fatigued.

Mad moment: Too hot. Too wet. Bad weather moment.
Breathe: Visit a museum or library. Apparently New Yorkers like to say the weather is unusually hot or unusually cool. It’s unusual. Carrying a small spray water bottle infused with lavender helped us many times.

Mad moment: Doing a walking tour in the afternoon sun trying not to crowd the sidewalk for other passersbys and navigating around other tour groups.
Breathe: Research and create your own walking tour at the hour of your choosing. We found freetoursbyfoot to be a fantastic one when we did a historical walking tour of Greenwich Village though. In the past, if you wanted to be famous you lived in Greenwich but now only the famous can afford to live there

Mad moment: Haven’t found a good pizza slice and don’t want to wait in queue for an eatery recommended for tourists.
Breathe: Have a real pizza and notice the difference in a restaurant the locals go to such as at Kestas pizzeria restaurant. Susan who volunteers for a great meet and greet service, Big Apple Greeter, took us there after a tour. You can book to meet a New Yorker with them three weeks in advance. Such a good idea! We shared a delicious meal in interesting company. It’s these surprising moments that make the day and keep you going.

Mad moment: Maneovering around shoppers in Macy’s or Bloomingdales up and down the building.
Breather: More pleasant to shop around Nolita and Soho boutiques and stop at cafes, galleries and bookshops inbetween. Housing Works bookshop had a couple of Australian authors on a bottom shelf categorised under Oceania. Not much knowledge about us here at all.

Mad moment: Want a totally different shopping experience.
Breather: Go to the B & H store and feel like you’ve stepped into another time that is half futuristic with conveyer belts of goods running to the counters run by Hasidic Jewish men speaking in Hebrew with each other.

Mad moment: Feeling dejected by the sullen customer service even after you say your please and thank you’s with a smile. Expect “Whaddauwant?” Expect surly people when asking for information at train stations. They just sell tickets. Information booths are not always open.
Breather: Get friendly service at the Anthropologie shops instead.They even write your name on the fitting room door. Or go to the Brooklyn markets for a leisurely, friendly chat with stall holders. Visitor Centre’s are friendly and very helpful too. Most of all they are friendly at theatres, museums and concerts when New Yorkers are at their happiest!

Mad moment: Sugar levels are low after walking around a lot.
Breathe: Scrumptious food can be found if you look around for a patisserie and bakery. We found delicious sweet treats at the Harlem Cafe, Roccos in Greenwich, Marquet Patisserie in Cobble Hill, Peter Pan’s Doughnut and Pastry Shop at Greenpoint.

Mad moment: Hungry and don’t know where to eat.
Breathe: Look for an A blue letter sign posted on the window of a deli, diner or restaurant. These have passed inspections. The food trucks are a good bet too. We liked the Middle Eastern ones for all the food groups in a jumbo combo to share.

Mad moment: Don’t want to do any touring but don’t want to be inside all day either.
Breathe: Find a spot in the park to read, have a bite or people watch. Mike made a new friend, Gunter, also a bicycle enthusiast at Hoboken. I watched Hasidic Jews with their family in Prospect Park and wondered how come all the women have such perfect, glossy, cloned looking hair. Then it dawned on me that they were all wearing wigs! I’m fascinated by them and found this article and this article, both fascinating to read.

NY Subway

These columns hold up the street!

These columns hold up the street!

 

All Calm, NY subway.

All Calm, NY subway.

Up from the teaming bowels of the city.

Up from the teaming bowels of the city.
Off duty, stars and stripes.

Off duty, stars and stripes.

Subway Busker, New York

Subway Busker, New York

We're all in this together, China Town subway platform.

We’re all in this together, China Town subway platform.

The group head scratch.

The group head scratch.

There is also beauty under ground.

There is also beauty under ground.

Subway ticket office.

Subway ticket office.