Tag Archives: Williamsburg

My top ten New York moments of 2010

19 Jan

I haven’t actually posted for quite a while and I was thinking, have I outgrown my blog?

I set this up to write about all the weird and wonderful experiences I’ve had being a newcomer to New York – and to American life as a whole. But maybe, could it be that I’ve been here for long enough (I’ve now been a Green Card resident for 14 whole months) that I’m simply not finding things weird anymore? Could it be that I’ve acclimatised to this brave new world?

Anyway in the spirit of end-of-year Top 10 compilations, I’m going to try and put together a list of my top ten New York highlights (funny or unforgettable or just plain strange) from 2010, my first full calendar year of residing in the USA:

In no particular order:

1) Enormously overweight young Bronxite woman with a MASSIVE attitude who very nearly beat me up for daring to attempt to sit comfortably in MY seat on the bus – her massive thunder thigh/posterior was overhanging into my seat and I committed the cardinal sin of inching back in my seat and inadvertently leaning against said thigh, whereafter all hell broke loose.

2) Snow blizzards! New York snow is serious snow – no pussy-footing, lame attempt at the white stuff à la London. Ended up in Brooklyn during the most recent, awe-inspiring, snow blizzard of Boxing Day 2010, where for some reason, the snow ploughs (NOT plows) had not quite reached, and there was literally thigh-high snow heaped up in the streets. It was a surreal winter wonderland.

3) Teaching English on the 63rd floor of the Empire State Building. Apart from the views, there was something wonderfully old-fashioned, in a quintessentially New York way, about the mighty skyscraper; the majestic Art Deco lobby, the pristinely-uniformed doormen greeting you with a “Welcome to the Empire State Building”, the grandiose lifts swooping you up to the 63rd floor…

And reading Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, in which the Empire State Building plays a central part, at the same time as working there felt quite incredibly cool.

Here are a couple of pics of the view from my classroom:

4) Visiting the two sides of Williamsburg in one afternoon – the cool, skinny-jeaned-clad, hipster side full of trendy cafes and bars, and the atmospheric hasidic side, full of cute children (the boys with long, curly peyot – sidelocks, and the girls dressed in ultra-modest skirts and tightly plaited hair) playing on the sidewalk and calling out to each other in Yiddish, and ancient rabbis with long long grey beards walking meditatively along the streets on their way to or from shul or a shiur. (click here for related post, “Williamsburg Wanderings”).

5) The cringeworthy hug moment at work, when the big bad stentorian shiny plastic-coated American boss gripped me in a huge inescapable bear-hug to welcome me into his company. (click here for related post, “Please don’t say he’s going to hug me”).

6) Getting a shiny new bike and discovering that New York is unexpectedly quite a bike-friendly city, by cycling the length and breadth of the metropolisfrom the glorious Hudson River Greenway that we cycled from the very top of Manhattan Island all the way to its southern tip, to the totally unexpected and very pretty green cycle/pedestrian path that runs all the way west-to-east across the whole of the borough of The Bronx, entirely avoiding roads, over to Pelham Bay Park, City Island and a glimpse of the sea.

7) Ending up in Coney Island on an unbearably sticky hot summer’s day, and loving the kitsch retro arcades, the revamped Luna Park, the boardwalk and unexpectedly, a real beach with the real Atlantic Ocean to sit and gaze at for hours on end while eating a rapidly melting ice cream. Here are a few pics:

8 ) Sitting in Barnes & Noble bookshop cafes for hours on end reading, writing, sipping cappuccinos and generally ruminating on matters profound and non-profound. (Sadly my favourite B&N has just closed down, the one at 66th Street near the Lincoln Center – I fear I was partly to blame for its demise, being one of the many customers who didn’t buy many books but who sat for hours reading them in the cafe…)

9) It’s not really a top highlight of 2010 for two reasons: a) it’s not that earthshattering and b) it actually happened at the beginning of 2011, but just for the sake of having a no. 9, here’s a pic of a funny little moment on an otherwise dull subway ride when a feathered New Yorker hopped into my carriage for a free ride before hopping off again at a station a couple of stops down the line:

10) And again taking chronological licence…Although this pre-dated 2010, how can I forget that unforgettable herring incident at my local New York supermarket which started off this whole blogging adventure…click here for a recap of “The Herring Incident and how I am transformed into local supermarket hero”.

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Williamsburg wanderings

12 Oct

Down to the darkly atmospheric shtetl of Williamsburg to visit sweet 90-year-old, hungarische great-uncle S. Journeyed all the way – a 17-mile trajectory – on two wheels.

Amazing bike ride taking us from chez-nous in the north of the Bronx due south along the Hudson River, practically down the entire length of the island of Manhattan along the green walkway.

Then zigzagging furiously through furiously trendy downtown to the east side, thereafter, a hop, skip and a jump and over Williamsburg Bridge into Brooklyn, and lo and behold: you have reached your destination.

On the way:

Whizzed over the majestic Henry Hudson Bridge.

Panoramic views, sparkling water, and a blue, blue sky.

Guy nonchalantly smoking a joint on the Henry Hudson Parkway gazing out over the river to the shores of New Jersey.

Manhattanite skaters, rollerbladers –

Manhattanite joggers running with their dogs on leash –

Manhattanite joggers pushing their babies along in trendy three-wheeled buggies/strollers –

Latino New Yorkers having barbecues and playing loud music –

People sporting about and people playing sports –

all the way down this oasis of calm snaking down the west side of their beloved, congested, noise-polluted island.

And then:

Sharp turn eastwards at W10th St.

Many a youthful trendoid (female-male-unisex) strolling through Greenwich Village, SoHo and the East Village dressed in obligatory uniform of skinny jeans, trilby hat, big black-rimmed goggles.

And then:

Up and over the bridge and back in time into Williamsburg.

Women in hyper-modest, drably coloured clothing and rigid hair coverings go about their business.

Men in full hasidic garb march off to shul (where else?)

An ancient rebbe bedecked with a flowing white beard smokes a cigarette outside his apartment building watching the yidden go by.

A shuffle into more modest layers of clothing over cycle gear in vain attempt to stick out less like a sore thumb in the heim.

Lovely time spent with hungarische great uncle S waxing lyrical about days of yore and looking at b&w snaps.

And then:

Pass by Gottlieb’s, a gloriously unpretentious, slightly faded heimishe deli, wafting hopelessly heimishe, hopelessly nostalgic odours of chicken soup, kneidlech and the like into the street.

Sub-zero chance of getting me to pass that by without a good old hearty pit-stop.

So in we dash for a hearty, greasy heimishe meal.

Overflowing bowls of mushroom barley soup and chicken egg-drop soup.

Magically-instantly refilled dish of pickles on table.

Goulash and rice (vegetarian days are gone for now).

Sounds of Yiddish and Yinglish spoken all around, barely distinguishable, intermingle.

Turns out the place has been in the hasidic proprietor’s family for the last three generations.

Loved it.

Then back onto our bikes and nip over the imaginary divide – back to the future – into trendy Williamsburg.

Immediately transported back into New-York-skinny-jeaned-trendoid zone.

Saunter down Bedford Avenue – trendy little bars, vegan cafes, muffin shops, book stalls on streets, bikes parked on every street corner.

Loved it – but not nearly as much as the real Williamsburg.

Final leg of journey:

A wobble back over Williamsburg Bridge, legs definitely tiring of pedalling by now.

Time for a quick beer before going home?

Yes!

Quick one for the road at a beer shop in Greenwich Village.

And then:

Bikes in tow, we jump on the A Train all the way home.

A marvellous day was had by all.

(and thanks goes out to the kind subway bosses who allow tired cyclists to take their clunky tired bikes home on the train. Phew.)

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