Saturday, 24 August 2013

Holy Shit, I Love New York City

OK, I've written four different posts about New York City and none I have been happy with. I just can't seem to capture the spirit here without using super lame words like 'magic' and 'buzz'. So instead I'm just going to tell you about tonight. 

It's currently 5.30am in the morning. I'm writing a blogpost because I'm still hyped up from the two whole ciders and shot of whiskey that I had earlier tonight. And as you may or may not know, that is WAY over my usual limit. It was Sophie's (our roommate) birthday yesterday and we all had a bit of a house get together at the Spritzelhaus. We're in Williamsburg, Brooklyn so it being super trendy but in a nonchalant way is a given.

It doesn't sound that exciting on paper, drinks at a local german beer house. But it has been one of the best nights of my life. All of our roommates have been so crazy awesome in our airbnb place and have made us feel so much at home. Sophie is this amazing photographer/creative but looks like sexy fairy (and yes, I did mention this to her multiple times over the course of my drunken evening). It's a compliment so it's fine and not at all creepy in my books. Isaac, who sings and laughs all day and smokes weed (very happy to share with us btw) all night out in the courtyard is also, super nice. And Maria and Greg who have the most romantic story and again, so nice. But you know, not nice as in boring, white bread nice. Like LOL, WTF, OMFG crazy nice. 

And then there's their friends who are now our friends too like Coop, Camp, Schlomeet and Mosche. Holy shit, we have made a lot of friends here in New York now and we've been here 3 weeks. It's beautiful and wonderful and I can't tell you how much I love this group of people like they were old buddies that go way back. We all went on a road trip to beach together, we went to Congee Village, we have had constant periods of just 'hanging out' in various places around the house. On the stoop, in the courtyard, at the local meatball shop. The options were limitless.

Hanging out at the beach.
Hanging out on the stoop.
I've been watching a lot of HBO 'Girls' since I got my new laptop and my body clock won't let me sleep til at least 4am (which is terrible since there is construction next door and we are woken up by incredibly loud jack hammering everyday at 8am).  Anyways, Girls is set in Brooklyn about young people just hanging out and getting into weird but kind of cool situations, I'm kind of feeling like we're all in our own version of 'Girls'. 

Anyways, we just drink and smoke weed and have awesome conversations all night until the angry Polish neighbour yells at us and tells us we have 10 minutes before she calls the cops with the exception of Sophie who has the angelic voice of all the Disney princesses meshed together so she would be the only one who is allowed to continue talking. Then we just go inside to Isaac's room and continue our rambling because this house has no living room. 

I can't verbalise why this night was so special for me. It was better than getting in free at MoMa (famous NY art museum), or riding the Staten Island ferry and seeing the statue of liberty, or even doing some amazing shopping. It was just a night I could be me, people liked me for it, and I felt like I belonged here in this house with these people. This has been the grand finale. Because it doesn't really matter where we go and what sights we see. And the end of the day, it's the people we meet and the experiences we have with them that has made this amazing journey what it is and why I love the shit out of New York City. Mad love for you guys. 

p.s. I'm sorry if this post is not quite the usual coherent collection of words I come up with, but again, I am drunk and it's now 6am. 
p.p.s It is now 8am and I just went for a jog across the Williamsburg Bridge because I was still feeling hyped up and now I'm very sleepy.
p.p.s I've been told that the angry Polish neighbour was actually saying that she could hear Sophie's voice the most (probably because it's so distinct) but not in a good like I had thought. 

Monday, 19 August 2013

The Quarter Life Crisis

Somewhere between 25 and 30 years of age, one begins to do a lot of thinking. Is this job what I really want to do for my whole life? Is this person I am with the person I want to be with forever? Am I truly happy? Those deep life questions that rarely have an immediate answer. You stop the aimless wandering of youth and want to stride more purposefully, even though you're yet to know which direction you're heading. 

It does seem that we're spoilt as a generation. We have more gender equality, more disposable income, the capacity to find new careers, the opportunity to travel to virtually anywhere in the world. The older generation would certainly find our haphazard way of living selfish but I'm sure they would have liked to be given these choices as well. And that's just it, there are just so MANY choices for us. It's intimidating.  

In the past few years, many of the Gen Y people I know have made radical life decisions. They said 'fuck it' and took on new careers, carried through creative ideas, started businesses, had a family and a lot have taken on the idea to travel. We are all now officially adults. And just as we're realising that we're adults we're panicking that at this very point in time we may not be the person we were hoping we'd be.

Am I the person I want to be? Absolutely not. But I am more so than what I was last year and the year before that. In fact if I met the person I was five years ago, I'd probably be very annoyed with her. But that's a good thing. This continual shedding of one's shell. If at 28 I can look back and see progress, I'm looking forward to a similar reflection at 35, and 50. And hopefully when I die at a nice ripe old age of 90 I can look back without regrets. I think 62 more years is plenty of time to do everything I wanted to do. Surely.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Texans Take Their Ribs Seriously

What's the first thing you should do in Texas? Well eat some BBQ meat y'all. And Franklin BBQ in Austin is pretty much an institution. It's fame is so widespread that there are some very specific things you need to know about this place before you even think about coming here. Firstly they open at 11am until they run out of food (which is roughly around 1pm). Then that's it, see ya later. Come back tomorrow to try your luck again. And if you showed up at 11am thinking about having some ribs for lunch then that ain't happening because you're probably going to be at the back of a very long line, sweating it out in the Texan heat and worrying about missing out.

Going to Franklin's is like going camping. You need to be prepared. Firstly it's going to be hot. 40 degree kind of heat. So I froze some water bottles the night before to keep us hydrated and cool. I also brought sunscreen and borrowed an umbrella. Because standing around in the sun for 3 hours unprotected is a terrible idea. 
A lot of people brought those portable camping chairs. Excellent idea as sitting on the concrete  cuts off circulation to your legs and bum pretty quickly, as we found out. You can also hire chairs from a very entrepreneurial fella who sets up shop every day at 9am across the road. See what I mean when I say this shit is serious. 
$5 per chair, pretty good deal.
So I haven't set my alarm clock for awhile now. If I wake up at 10am then the day starts then. It's a holiday after all. But today, 7.30am I was up and ready to go. Luckily we were only 6 blocks away so we walked and even at 8am we were not the first there. But we were 4th which was pretty good and soon after the line pretty wrapped around the building and all the way across the parking lot which is about two blocks long. 
We had brought books and our ipods but luckily we had a very entertaining line mate, Ella, who had come into Austin for a drug prevention convention. She had spent 28 years in the NYPD as a detective and had a few awesome stories about her time there and some great life advice on being a short, black, woman in a predominately white, male workforce. The hours flew by, we had cool breezes, had some shade and before we knew it, people were quickly packing away their deck chairs and ready to head in. 

Chillin' like ice cream fillin'.
We ordered 2 pounds of pork ribs and a melt in your mouth pound of beef brisket which was probably one of their smaller orders they got that day but it still added up to a hefty $60 (including tax and tip). We sat down with Ella and the conversation continued. For some reason she mistook 'Toni' for 'Peggy' so I was Peggy for that day but I didn't mind. It's a nice name and I didn't have the heart to correct her. The meat was so tender and juicy yet full of a rich and sweet BBQ flavour. The ribs had so much meat on them that just fell off and you smear it one of the three BBQ sauces they had to offer and you're in BBQ heaven baby. 

It was super hot by the time we finished our meal and the walk back was uncomfortable compounded by the meat sweats we were having.  Needless to say I was in dire need of a quick shower and a long nap. Overall, going to Franklin BBQ wasn't just a meal, but a true Texan experience. Yeeeeehar!

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Southern Hospitality

'I have always depended on the kindness of strangers'.
Blanche DuBois, A Streetcar Named Desire.

If you're too young to remember the actual play written by Tennesee Williams you may recall the Simpsons adaption where Marge plays Blanche in a local production and Ned Flanders plays the primal Stanley. I was very interested to discover that the play is actually based in New Orleans.  In fact, they even have a competition once a year where actors battle re-enacting the inflamous "STELLLLA"!" shouting scene here. We even stayed near Elysian Field's Ave in Marigny which is where Stella lives.

Now the infamous line about the kindness of strangers at the end of the play is meant ironically as Blanche is actually getting committed to a mental institution by Stanley after he rapes her. But down here in the South, there's a ring of truth to it regardless of it's orginal context. People are just so damn nice here. 

We flew into San Antonio in Texas, where the elderly owner of our airbnb place had offered to pick us  up from the airport despite it being quite late. He then preceded to show us around the neighbourhood and took us out for a drink (even though we were exhausted from traveling all day). In my suspicious mind this was quite alarming as we had just met him, we were in his car and we were driving down unknown, pitch black, narrow roads. Was he getting us drunk on purpose?! 

No (as we are not dead in a shallow grave in his backyard) he ended up been just an overly hospitable, harmless man who just couldn't stop talking about his first cousin, a famous jazz musician and kind of creepily flirting with young waitresses, pretending to know them. He was just lonely I think as he did take us out and paid for our riverboat cruise which ended up being dinner and a drink as well. Though I don't know if it was worth it as we then had to endure his endless monologue, omg, he was just so old.

These were ACTUAL conversations we had.
After a very long 24 hours we bid old George farewell and drove ourselves to Austin. We had such an awesome time in our week here thanks to the hospitality of our airbnb host Aleza, who was the opposite of George! She was our age, so friendly and funny PLUS she had two awesome dogs for me to cuddle all week (they probably got a bit sick of me). She even invited us out dancing one night which was really cool as Austin is the live music capital and she taught us a bit of Columbian salsa like dancing. There was an easygoing, casual feeling in the bar and it was just really easy and fun to talk to people and do a bit of dancing. I wish Sydney had more casual places like this. I even got in wearing thongs (flip flops)!

And now, we're in New Orleans. Just on a simple trip to the local grocery store for a poboy, we met a lovely elderly African American man and his wife waiting for their order who just struck up a conversation with us and shook our hands and wished us the best of luck (in a really genuine way) when they took their leave. Just after, we were chatting to the Vietnamese owner of the store who showed us his recent holiday picture in good ol' Cabramatta in Sydney. And THEN we saw a crazy lady walking towards us ranting and swearing for no reason but when she reached us, instead of verbally abusing us as we expected, she paused, smiled and greeted us with a friendly 'Hey y'all'. We are constantly smiling from the kindess of strangers in the South. It's infectious in the most beautiful way.

It'll probably be a rude shock once we hit New York. I can just picture the old stereotype now "Haye wortch it, I'm warking hare!". I'll just try to keep up my Southern manners for as long as possible.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Top 5 Things To Do in Yellowstone National Park

1. Check out Mammoth Hot Springs
These amazing geothermal waterfalls and rock formations make some stunning photographs with the bright oranges and sulpurous whites. I have yet to see anything like this.

2. Take Instagram photos of Grand Prismatic Spring
It's hot and smells like rotten eggs but the springs in Yellowstone again, make some beautiful photographs. The bright colours are due to thermophilic bacteria which form the rich reds, yellows, blues and greens in these pools.

3. Swim in the Boiling River
I went on my birthday and it felt like the fountain of youth. It's a natural river that is also fed by a hot spring river making it lovely spot to sit for hours if you can find a spot that has a good mix of both hot and cold waters. 

4. Swoon in the West Yellowstone Discovery Centre
I loved the bird talk where they brought out this tiny owl called Arcadia who was the size of a cup. Cutest thing ever! It was a good place to check out bears, wolves and bald eagles up close as they are pretty hard to spot in the wild.

5. Pretend You're David Attenborough in Hayden/Lamar Valley
Thousands of bison and their babies (we went mid July) is quite the sight. We were lucky enough to have them cross the river and get really close to us. We also spotted heaps of other animals like a grizzly bear, pronghorn deer, osprey and normal deer. Amazing when you can see these animals in their natural habitat.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Happy blogaversary!

It's been five months exactly since we left Sydney and I thought it'd be a good time to pause and reflect for a moment.

First up to every one who is reading my poorly proof read posts, I just want to say a big thank you! Your comments and kind words always fill me with a heartwarming joy and makes me feel closer to you despite the distance. To those readers from Russia, I wish I knew who you were and wonder often about you considering you are my third largest reader demographic. Please feel free to introduce yourself so if I am struck down by a New York taxi tomorrow I can die fulfilled.

Is this who you are Russian readers?
Life on the road can sometimes be a lonely one and just knowing that I can still share this part of my life with others has allowed me to appreciate this journey even more and document in a way that I can look back on years from now and experience it all over again. I only wished that my friends who are on their own exciting paths would share more in-depth stories of their lives online. Please think about it guys, I promise I will read all your blogs!

And finally I made y'all a present! It's a picture of Amelie as a unicorn.