From one Urban Landscape to Another
During the summer of 2011 I was fortunate enough to visit the City of New York for the month of June. At the time I was living in Detroit working for a local bakery and was thrilled with the prospect of being a Detroit citizen in NYC and seeing this new and adventurous urban landscape and how it compared to what a Midwestern boy was used to experiencing.
What follows are brief blogs from that trip that I had kept on a previous blog elsewhere. Please enjoy.
Welcome In – May 18th, 2012
This is the new blog site where I will be putting together events and happenings from Detroit and my month in New York City. The dorm I’ll be posted in for the month of June is International House which you can check out here. I’m ecstatic to say the least and be on the lookout for more updates leading up to the eventual departure from Detroit’s Rosa Parks bus depot on June 1st at midnight. I will literally be gone from 12:00 June 1st-12:00 June 30th.
Staying Connected – May 25th, 2012
So as I get the last phases of things finished in Detroit I’ll be using my phone to update the blog as well as my computer. I downloaded the WordPress application for my iPhone and will be able to put up new posts from all over the country. My travels will start in precisely one week and the adventure will be all the worth.
Officially Off – June 1st, 2012
So after bussing through the night I’m enjoying a coffee in Pittsburgh. Great clean city and the three rivers look pretty amazing early in the dawn. Not too much time until my next bus to NYC so I’ll be short this post, more traveling details and stories to come.
Riding the Wicked streets of PA – June 1st, 2012
So thankfully to Megabus and their efficiency I not only have Wi-Fi aboard the bus, but should be able to get into NYC around 2pm today. Not to bad for catching a midnight bus from Detroit to New York and only having to spend $70. The wicked streets of PA are more rolling green roads and highway but the view is incredible as we wind our way down to sea level. As far as the eye can see are just hills upon hills with the jarring scar of the landscape cut for electric and telephone wires. This will be some fun hiking later in life.
Currently I’ve been listening to plenty of music and specifically new stuff from Onra & Quetzal along with some new artists to me including Phantogram, Sia, and some Adele that I had not heard. The trip is really starting to fly now and I’ll be in NYC in a short few hours. Can’t wait.
Last few days, In a New York Minute – June 4th, 2012
So I’ve been in the city for the last four days now and needless to say the city lifestyle is already melding into my own. I’ve caught myself already cursing the tourists, especially at the Statue of Liberty yesterday but otherwise I’ve found only great things so far in the city. As I said we did the Ellis Island/Statue tours yesterday which have now been boiled into airport tight security where you can’t even have a water bottle up the statue – mmm fearing terror in a place of enlightenment and prosperity, touche bin Laden. The registry for finding relative from Ellis Island costs $5 now but just being in that place where so many millions of immigrants had to pass through onto their dreams was just awe inspiring. Afterwards a quick run back up to International House, dinner and then we hit up Webster Hall in Greenwich Village for the ‘Portugal. The Man show.’
Though I don’t put myself in the indie rock genre very much anymore it was a great change of pace from the touristy activities that had been consuming our past couple of days and get out with some New Yorkers and rock with one of the best live shows I’ve seen in a while. The chemistry between the bandmates was palpable and made each person in the sold out audience feel like this was a private show for them and their closest friends. Truly awestruck by the enormity of the event Portugal. The Man played a fantastic encore when not a single person turned as the lights originally dimmed. A new album coming out in July I look forward to seeing their inevitable meteoric rise to Strokes, Hives, and Mumford and Sons popularity in a New York Minute.
Back to the tourist activities we will be venturing out to Times Square today on an assignment to find a picture and a word to describe the scene there. Thankfully afterwards we are free to become New Yorkers once again until class on Monday, do I smell a Brooklyn adventure? Possibly but very well could be my socks from trekking all through New York for the past four days.
Sunday, Fun Day – June 6th, 2012
So as things have increasingly become more amazing in the City, we get a free day to do as we please yesterday. So I decided after the group went to the Chelsea flea market that it was one of those days to test myself and go completely solo out to the East Village and Union Square for record shops and to try to find DJ Scratch Academy. So after a quick coffee I was off around noon.
Thankfully I had gotten the addresses and cross streets of my first destination Scratch Academy. They are the premier turntablist and DJ school in the city with an immense focus on the vinyl culture and digital ease of use. I walked myself up two flights of stairs to pop out into a huge room with no less than 20 separate DJ setups with their own speakers in an open C shape with a master teacher cutting on the main stage at the open end of the C. Obviously being awestruck I was then introduced to DJ Bamboo who welcomed a quick interview and we sat down for coffee right off to the side while other novice and expert DJs practiced their clips, baby scratches, mixes, and most importantly the sounds of classic hip hop echoed down. After speaking with Bamboo for a while we were joined by DJ Noms who started to ask me questions about the program and Detroit – needless to say we were all chatting it up and eventually I came away with a fantastic interview and two new acquaintances in the Hip Hop community.
From there it was onto the world-famous TurnTable Lab in the East Village for some new records.
After a quick mile and half hike (the L line was down for the weekend) I got to the east side and Turntable Lab with a couple hours before they closed. I chatted up the two guys working after perusing the selections with the eye of the Detroit Tiger. Picking up not only the LAST copy of Elzhi’s Deep/Color Remix vinyl pressing from Detroit Funk Night Pressings but also one of 1,000 from DJ Dez. I mean Detroit shops don’t have as much Detroit music as this place did. Again, got to talk to two more hiphop heads and got their emails and possibly a DJ session later this week. Ended up closing the shop with them and began making the walk back to the 1 line north.
Just when I think the day couldn’t get much better I turn a corner, and what do I find in the formerly abandoned lot/bus depot/crack hotspot? A skatepark with a mini halfpipe and a dozen skaters doing business. I mean really couldn’t have been more icing on the cake for the day. So I hung around, talked with a few guys, but really just enjoyed the click clack of skateboards when they mesh with rails, ledges, excitement and defeat at landing that one trick. Got up to leave and what do I find? Another record shop, except this one has used records exclusively so I’m in heaven at this point. Get a couple ones, walk down the street to find a thrift store, ka-ching. All the high fashion from yesteryear for $5-10. New Polo Jacket, with two new button down shirts, $30 even out the door. (Take that 5th Avenue with your doormen and $85 t-shirts) Eventually the sun started to drop below the building line and I was starting to feel the laden backpack on in my shoulders but still made the walk back and subway up to International House with a smile on my face and a few fresh shirts from a thrift store in my backpack.
Late Night Catch Up – June 11th, 2012
So I’ve been meaning to catch up and that is what I’ll aim to do in this here very post. Short and sweet folks, shenanigans checked at the door.
Tue. June 7th:
Breakfast at the famous Algonquin hotel. Easily the most bourgeois restaurant I’ve been a patron in, I was underwhelmed at the service, and the food. A basic omelette with potatoes and toast, a $27 brunch – thankfully picked up by the program – the place has lost its way since the days of the Vicious Circle and Mrs. Parker’s escapades. Thankfully a bottle of New York wine and a shady spot in Central Park eased the day. Great people watching and fantastic conversation I eventually made it up to the Element shop, only to balk at the idea of dropping $140 on a new skateboard. Thankfully I was put onto a number of local shops that may be able to accommodate a tighter budget in Brooklyn. Which is exactly where I ended up for the Skyzoo release party at Assembly to meet up with an old friend from high school. Williamsburg is a great little spot, slightly gentrified to say the least, but nonetheless a fun and vibrant neighborhood.
Wed. June 8th,
The beginning of an extreme emphasis on art begins here, no complaints its just class work has finally crept into my oasis of City living. We did get a wonderful tour of the Whitney Museum of American Art. A curator, Paula, gave a great tour of the Whitney’s initial collection – Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, George Bellows, and more. I had nearly forgotten how much art was stored only on the island of Manhattan, unbelievable.
Finally we ended the day with a trip off Broadway to see Avenue Q at the New World’s Theater. Hilarious, gut wrenching laughter might be an understatement. The things that are in that play would make a pimp blush, and thats only the first act. In any instance we ended up around Columbia for food and a solid day.
Thurs. June 9th,
Our art/class day. We get ourselves lazily down to Grand Central Station, in the blazing heat for inspiration for an art project. Happen to run into a bomb stick man filming for “How To Make it in America” from HBO, he was nice enough seeing as they were walking through the terminal getting a shot. From there we hit a dollar store for supplies, $10/10 minutes style, for an out of a reality show experience. I inevitably decide on the the dualism of future and present and use a shattered clock for my art piece. The class had a great time sitting in the air conditioned room, basically doing craft time about Grand Central Station – a welcome change from the actual hussel and bussel of the subways/sidewalks/ferries/buses/taxis/bikers/tourists/you-get-the-picture. A quick art showing after dinner and a quiet class day completed.
Whew, that was a catch up. This weekend is the DMC turntable competition along with a free day, so its going to be a Brooklyn/Hip Hop themed sort of weekend. Hope everyone enjoys their weekend.
Two Weeks In, Two Weeks Left to go – June 14th, 2012
Thats correct, 1/2 of the way finished with the time in NYC. A weekend full of events, let’s put this together in order shall we.
Friday, one of the hottest we’ve had, it was a day for Governor’s Island. A former housing island it was host the Figment NYC2011 an art and culture weekend long collaboration. Installments throughout the southern tip of the island I was impressed with a fun, free, and family friend event with every type of local artist coming out to support. Though it was overrun with munchkins I had no issue playing a kid again. We even got to play in a life sized blowup gumball machine with ballons, so no complaints on my end. Quick lunch in little Italy – nothing impressive, actually disappointing would be more appropriate. Well a night in the East Village and St. Mark’s bookstore for some literature therapy helped. Three new books and a people watching night, pretty solid.
Saturday started off rough with a rainy tour through the merchant house museum. Informative of how merchants lived, – sure – but I was more excited for the afternoon, with the DMC championship held at Santos Party house, but that’ll be another post. We had a drawn out tour of 17 cramped into the tiny houses of the 1860 merchant class. I’m glad I can say I’ve been there, but I probably won’t need to make a return visit. The good news was that the museum was only half a mile from Santos and I hustled my way over there from SoHo for a banging competition. Full details tomorrow.
Sunday we had to ourselves, so what else would a bunch of college students do? Might as well venture over to the Museum of Sex eh? Needless to say the tension in the rooms was more than awkward, but at the same time liberating in its own sense. The curators definitely wanted to test the visitors’ comfort level with some of the video and installations and for some people everything got to them. While others had some curiosities answered and got to see a fair amount of porn I’d say. For fairly obvious reasons pictures are frowned upon so take my word when I say I saw more different nude humans, and surprisingly animals, in one day than ever before. I felt like I needed a cigarette afterwards but thankfully there’s a bar, Oral Fixation, (quant right?) in the basement. An aphrodisiac drink inspired bar it was something unique to the city that I feel many people do miss out on.
So in following with the foodie theme, we had to have a fancy Sunday dinner out. I got a great recommendation from a longtime friend, Dan, and we went to Recipe in the Upper West Side for one of the best meals I’ve paid for in my life. Gave myself my three year deserved present of having meat – and please know it was sustainable duck from the Hudson Valley, delivered fresh and might I add, delicious. Some of the best service I’ve ever had, especially in New York yeesh, and locally sourced vegetables, specials and gelato to boot. Need to make a return visit, or if anyone is in New York, corner of 82nd and Amsterdam and make a reservation, its a small plates place with seating for 26, and really 22.
So overall fantastic weekend and more to come this week. Half way done but only half way started.
Making the last weeks count – June 18th, 2012
Its been a second but lets make a quick recap of the highlights over the past few days.
First of all we had a great night on Broadway last night when we got to see mister Daniel Radcliffe in How To Succeed in Business… Without Really Trying. Now I know Radcliffe has the stigma of being Harry Potter to the majority of humans on this planet at this point but for a few hours in the theater he definitely did a fantastic job of being J. Pierrepont Finch, the protagonist along with his costar John John Larroquette as J.B. Biggley. The choreography was intricate as well as modern and the costumes were glamourous while still being practical. I was immediately impressed with both Radcliffe’s ability to sing and dance – two things I had been previously skeptical of. The story itself is narrated by one Mr. Anderson Cooper as the voice of the book Finch follows as he climbs the corporate ladder from a window washer, to mailroom, to junior executive, to supervisor, to vice president, to eventual chairman of the board. Albeit a slightly sexist story I felt that the director did a fine job of showing the power and seductiveness of women while at the same time poking a good deal of fun at the still macho nature of corporate 1950’s America. Overall I was very impressed and the thousands of ladies gave Mr. Radcliffe a standing ovation at the end of the show – one that he very well deserved.
Along with the arts, we also finally made it up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or the MET for anyone who may not know. There was an incredible exhibit for the late, great, Alexander McQueen however, I would not flounder two hours in a museum in line so I buzzed my way around the Asian Art and modern art wings for the better part of the afternoon. Fantastic Warhols, Pollocks, and more were packed into the modern wing where I spent a while writing poetry. There is so much in the MET that I do plan on revisiting and even doing my last project on the organization. My writing of the things I saw here won’t really do it justice so I’ll just leave you with the fact that I have never felt more involved in art except the first time I entered the DIA’s Diego Rivera mural.
Lastly, we happened to hit up the Apollo theater on Wednesday for the famous Amateur Night at the Apollo. We got a great tour earlier in the day from “Mr. Apollo” himself (a pseudo stage name for the events/tour/foundation coordinator) and I even got to do a quick Michael Jackson tribute on the stage where little 9 year old Michael and his brothers broke into the mainstream consciousness, mystical and magical don’t even describe the feeling. The actual show for amateur night was a whole type of production and made me excited for the young undiscovered talent. We didn’t get to boot anyone off stage but some performers tried to kill the vibe in the building. I was most displeased with the woman who sang Lauryn Hill’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” and didn’t even know the last few lines – I mean everyone in the audience knew it! Ah well not everyone is meant to get past that stage but if you do, as a performer you know you’re doing something right.
We’ve got 10 days left and I plan on making them count with trip to the famous Chelsea skatepark, Dubspot for an interview, and the Empire State Building. Here we go…
And with that my blog quit out on me but I hope you’ve gleaned some interesting pieces from my travels. It is definitely nostalgic to go through this now almost a year and a half later and remember all the crazy times I had while in NYC.