Ramblings: Apartment hunting in NYC (often equivalent to hitting your head repeatedly against a wall)




I’ve lived here nearly 9 years now and the am convinced that the single most stressful part of NYC living is finding an apartment to live in. Finding a place to live, a place to call home. When I first moved here I lived in a small one bedroom apartment on the Lower East Side (corner of Rivington and Clinton to be more exact) for a month, courtesy of the company I worked for, so that I had time to find my own place. Yes, I thought that was small at the time. I loved the neighbourhood the moment I set foot in it, and spent the first few weeks walking around at all times of the day and night, grabbing a drink at random bars, observing people, buying Pringles at 24 hour delis at 4am, watching the people walk by from the apartment’s fire escape and writing poems up there. From the moment I started looking for a place to live I knew that the neighbourhood was completely out of my price range, especially after I had decided that for the first time in my life I wanted to live alone, without roommates… 

I was clueless. I had no credit (what on earth was this credit that everyone was speaking of), no real money to my name, no furniture and no idea how I was going to find a place. I had also never been to NYC before, let alone lived there, didn’t know anyone, and also had no idea on where it was safe or cheaper to live. Luckily, after trawling through Craigslist for a few days I found a 1 bedroom furnished sublet in Spanish Harlem, on First Ave between 119th and 120th streets. A tiny one bedroom for $900 (heat and hot water included, electricity separate) on the ground floor, with a little back yard (meaning a concrete area outside the bedroom door). It seemed pricy, but still affordable if I were careful, and it was finally my own place. Some people warned me that the neighbourhood was dangerous, but in 10 months I lived there I never had a problem. The guys who were always hanging out on my stoop were always courteous and opened the door for me, the man who ran the deli next door held on to my packages for me, and the only unwanted visitor I had was a rat, who appeared during my first week there, and after that never reappeared again (yes, you quickly learn how to plug up holes that may be found under the sink with wire…). Oh and a clogged toilet on July 4th weekend just after I had moved in because the previous tenant thought that that was where you disposed of your cigarette butts. Lesson learned – always have a plunger at hand!

Ten months later I was able to secure a bank loan thanks to my wonderful mother (she probably wouldn’t jump at doing that again though, but that’s a whole other story), and started looking for a place that would be mine, a studio on the LES, where I was all the time anyway. With the help of a friend who also happened to be a broker I ended up finding a little rent stabilized studio in the West Village, on Sixth Ave between Houston and Bleecker, right above the restaurant called Bar Pitti. $1350 a month for a place to call my home. I spent over $7 grand on first month’s rent and security deposit and broker’s fees and furniture, and never thought about the fact that $1350 was going to be too much to spend if I didn’t curb my lifestyle in a little… And even though everything was super legit, I still felt like it was all kinds of shady, signing your life away to a management company or landlord that issues you with a lease with so much small print that your brain starts to hurt after the first sentence. Advice to all: always read the small print, especially if you have a vindictive landlord who will try to extort money out of you after your lease ends. I signed a 2 year lease on this place and although I don’t regret living there, and the experience of living in the West Village, the convenience to everything and the fact that I could literally walk everywhere I needed to go to, if I had to do it again I would have been a lot more financially savvy, and would have spent less money on rent and electricity and take-out and all the rest. But I still have fond memories of that little place, where the two windows looked out onto another building and where it got so hot in the summer there was no way you could live without AC. The convenience of the location was amazing – I walked everywhere. If I didn’t feel like getting out of bed I could call the deli down the street and they would deliver within 20 minutes. So convenient that I ended up spending most of my time outside of the apartment, and in the end it just became a place to sleep rather than a home. A very expensive place to sleep.


When the rent just got too much and my lease was finally about to expire my friend Beth and I decided to look for a place together in Brooklyn, as she was in the same situation as me, and both of us needed something cheaper.  I also just wanted more space and light in my life. We had no idea where we should go in Brooklyn, visited a few places in Williamsburg, and branched out a little to Bushwick, even though most people we knew warned us not to. This was 6 years ago when no one wanted to live in Bushwick. We saw a 2 bedroom going for $1900 in a brand new building just off the Myrtle-Broadway stop on the J and decided to visit it. The place was amazing. Huge space with stainless steel appliances (a dishwasher!!), laundry IN the apartment (yes IN THE UNIT), and huge windows. The street itself looked pretty calm and there wasn’t much around in terms of restaurants or bars, but it was $1900… Meaning that we would both be saving around $400 a month EACH. Yes, we jumped on it. I still can’t believe that I thought that the commute would be a little long after living in the West Village for ages… Then we were told we had to present first and last month’s rent, as well as one month’s security deposit before we could sign the lease. And ASAP, in case someone else wanted the unit and got in there before us. That’s a total of $5700. Luckily we managed to get them to agree to first month and security deposit and got the money together within the week. We passed our credit checks and other checks, signed the lease and had the keys within a few days. The first people to move into a brand new, empty building. We felt like queens!! We discovered the neighbourhood and watched Bushwick change rapidly over the years. We negotiated our rent down to $1,700 and it hardly went up over the years… Until last year. Last year saw a huge influx in new buildings in Bushwick, and also a huge hike in rent. Ours went up from $1750 to $2000 (and even after a meeting with our landlords they assured us that they wanted to go up to $2200 but didn’t want to lose us so agreed to $2000). People were really paying these types of rents in Bushwick?? Apparently so. 

(The story of life on Troutman St will be relayed in another, separate account. It deserves its own post).


And so now it is time to move again. For multiple reasons, most importantly because I am having a baby in April, because I want to move in with my boyfriend in OUR own home, and because I want to pay less rent. Over the years my credit has gone from being nil to passable to completely crap, and C. has no credit at all, not making it any easier to secure a place. On top of that our lease runs out on February 28th, and I don’t want to have to move when I am ready to give birth. The stress of finding an apartment in this city makes me want to cry on a good day – imagine being 7 months pregnant and traipsing the streets looking for a place that will take you without credit and that is actually affordable… We had already decided that Queens was where we were heading this time, with rents that are still affordable and places that were still of a decent size. I walked out of the first agency in tears because the woman told me she couldn’t help us as we didn’t have good credit. Didn’t even try. So we started grabbing numbers from leaflets on lamp posts on Roosevelt Avenue, and ended up meeting some type of broker guys in the back room of an Internet café (yes sketchy it was). They took us to a few places, one being a large one bedroom apartment in Flushing. Yes, large. And quiet. And on the ground floor. And airy. And light. And large. Did I already mention large? Oh, and with a rent of $1275 a month. 

Yes, it’s in Flushing. A few blocks away from the last stop on the 7 line (but still, no buses! It’s still off the subway!!). Does this bother me? Surprisingly, no. To be honest it’s a perfect compromise. I’m tired of being in the noisy parts of the city. I want to be able to take my baby to the supermarket and to the park without feeling that I am walking a stroller through a maze of unexpected obstacles. I want to be able to relax at home without hearing sirens and car horns and people blaring their music from their car stereo. So, Flushing it is… I hope! This time it’s even more shifty as we don’t want to have to go through a credit check just to get rejected, but the lovely gentlemen who showed us the apartment are helping us through it and we will be signing the lease tomorrow… Fingers crossed as I don’t want to jinx it, but with a little help from some friends, long hours at work and the art of living off pasta for a week we managed to cobble together the funds that we need to get the keys. It appears to all be legit too as the landlord/owner of the building called our workplace to check that we weren’t lying about our jobs… Honestly, looking for and finding an apartment in NYC always feel completely sketchy, as if you are doing something slightly illegal. Even when you have amazing credit and a decent salary and enough money to pay for 3 months rent up front.

I can’t wait to take this next step, setting up our child’s first home, living in a new borough of the city (for me) and just discovering a new neighbourhood. I’m excited to decorate a new place with our drawings and photos and belongings, making it ours. And I’m so happy that I don’t have to worry about this any longer, as once the lease is signed we can focus on moving and setting up the apartment for the baby… So long Brooklyn, Queens here we come!


All images  © Jade Anna Hughes

Photography: Liberty State Park


Because it's Autumn, my real favourite season (I sometimes pretend Summer is, but Autumn really wins every time), and because I love going on long walks in new places, taking lots of photos, I'm determined to do this as much as possible until I won't be able to do it as much anymore. Who knows where I will be next year (although I have a pretty good idea of what I will actually be doing!), so I may as well do as much of it as I can right now. That and other outings like going out to dinner and the movies, things that I may not have too much of a chance to do much next year...

 
This week Cesar and I went out to Jersey City to visit Checho, and walked all around Liberty State Park, picnicking in the park, right across from the Statue of Liberty, watching the crazy clouds cross the sky, aiming to disperse and then failing and falling back into grey doom again. My favourite kind of weather, ominous and windy, with a hint of hope. I will never fail to admire the Manhattan skyline, even after over 8 years of living in this city. From wherever you are it always looks amazing, a mix of old and new with constant additions. I always wonder how many more skyscrapers will fit on the small island... I've heard news that in the next few years very tall buildings will line 57th street, right below Central Park, buildings that will rival the height of One World Trade Center, the building which now makes the Empire State building look tiny in comparison. I suppose that as long as there are pockets of land available there will be room for building up. And up.


In any case, it was a wonderful day, amongst people I love, with beautiful views. This city still has so much to share with me, which makes it all the more such an amazing place to live in.
You can see the full set of photos HERE

Liberty State Park (39)Liberty State Park (26)Liberty State Park (27)Liberty State Park (14)Liberty State Park (34)Liberty State Park (19)
Liberty State Park (8)Liberty State Park (41)Liberty State Park (16)Liberty State Park (10)Liberty State Park (2)Liberty State Park (29)
Liberty State Park (33)Liberty State Park (6)Liberty State Park (44)Liberty State Park (38)Liberty State Park (22)Liberty State Park (15)
Liberty State Park (3)Liberty State Park (17)Liberty State Park (45)Liberty State Park (40)Liberty State Park (28)Liberty State Park (43)
Liberty State Park, a set on Flickr.

Short Story: 9/11 - The Day the World got Darker

I don't know why I have never posted this one, but it was written years ago one September, as I remembered what I was doing on 9/11/01. I will never forget that day, nor how it made me feel for a few years after that. It's important that we always remember this day, for the horrific acts that happened, for the people who perished, for the heroic people who ran into the buildings to save lives, and for the aftermath of the attacks, all over the world. I know that I will never forget.

9/11 - The Day the World got Darker

It was just another day really… No classes to attend, no teaching classes to give either, so I was just sitting at home pretending to put together some research points towards my MA thesis, but really scrolling through the web on my slow dial-up connection looking for something interesting to read, and watching Derrick on the TV. Nothing better than a daytime German detective show dubbed in French to pass the time.

Until the phone rang.

“Have you seen what’s happening?? Attentats!!”

“What on earth are you talking about? I’m watching Derrick and drinking coffee. Want to meet up and hang out?”

“Put the fucking TV on. Someone has bombed the World Trade Center in New York. LOOK!!”

I groaned and changed the channel and then just sat there in silent shock with the receiver stuck to my ear. All I could see were images of smoke billowing from one of the tallest buildings in the world. I couldn’t even register what the reporter was saying, I couldn’t even read the words that were flying by on the bottom of the screen, but it appeared that everyone was in the same type of shock and no one really knew what was happening.

“Can you please come over right now? This is scaring the shit out of me and I don’t want to be alone here.”

“I’m on my way, will be there in 10 minutes.”

I sat there with the receiver still in my ear and waited. No one knew what was happening; the journalists were trying to scramble together as much information as possible and everyone was obviously in a state of shock and fear. And then all hell broke loose, a silence, and then the reporter’s voice saying that it appeared that another plane had crashed into the second tower.

The moment that that happened the world knew that this wasn’t a freak accident. Two planes flew directly into the WTC towers and exploded inside. I sat glued to the TV, trying to make sense of it all. There was no way on this earth that two aeroplanes had flown directly into the Twin Towers by accident. It was too precise, too calculated. I let my friend in, he made some coffee, and we continued to watch the news together, in silence. There was a hush, a chain of images and then the reporter’s voice, trembling slightly, announcing that there were two more planes in the air somewhere, two planes that had turned off their radios and were most probably heading for the Pentagon and the White House.

Then a plane crashed into the Pentagon. The images on the TV screen hovered between the Twin Towers with the smoke billowing out of them and the Pentagon where there were also clouds of smoke appearing from what looked like the center, and the reporter who was obviously as shaken as we were, civilians all over the world watching in horror as the biggest terrorist act ever carried out was taking place, live, before our eyes. Three planes crashed into important American landmarks, a fourth plane still in the air, possibly heading for the White House. All of those people dead and dying, all of those people trapped above the flames and the smoke, waving for help out of the windows so high up in the sky. I saw something black fall from a window, and then another, and realized that people were jumping to their deaths rather than waiting to burn or die of asphyxiation. There were no real words to describe all of the feelings that were going through my body at once, pain, sadness, confusion, disgust, anger and also the feeling that this couldn’t be real.
Then there was a rumble and all voices stopped talking, and as if in silence, one of the towers just collapsed into a huge cloud of dust and debris. It didn’t fall down sideways, but floor by floor, as if a huge hand had come out of the sky and shoved it down from above. I say in silence, but only because I heard silence in my head, the world had stopped and the impossible had taken place. 

“All of those people!! Oh my God, all of those people!! How could they survive with THAT falling on them??”

And then the same rumble, and the collapse of the second tower. I just hoped that those who were trying to escape the second tower had made it out, because all that was left was clouds and clouds of smoke and dust. The TV went silent for a second, while the commentators tried to gather their composure and explain what had happened right there, in Manhattan. Visible on screens worldwide, the entire world population had been able to see a terrorist act gone completely right, probably even better than had been expected in their wildest dreams. More images on the screen, and then the reporter giving us news of a plane that had gone down in Pennsylvania, probably the last hijacked flight that had fortunately not met its intended destination.
I continued to watch the scenes, listen to the words, hoping that it was all a huge farce, a prank to see how gullible we were. I was speechless. My friend refilled my coffee cup a few times and went out to buy cigarettes, as I couldn’t move. Couldn’t eat, couldn’t really formulate any sentences. I realized I was in shock and then felt terrible, as I was lucky to be thousands of miles away, in the comfort of my little apartment in France. But then again, how safe was I? How safe were any of us anymore? Planes had been hijacked before, not one, but four in one go, right under the eyes of the American officials. Before this plane hijackings were used as a way to extort some kind of deal, money or other (apart from the Lockerbie bombing). When had hijacked planes been used as deliberate weapons to kill? The name Osama Bin Laden was said over and over again, as many times as the images of the attacks spiraled over the screen. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t even think straight. I finally got through to my mother in California, and she had only heard the news when she got to work, had been spared the horror of seeing it all happen on live TV. I saw those people die when they jumped from the top of the towers. Flying through the air, all hope lost.

I continued to watch through-out the night, fell asleep to the same images that I woke up to. All regular TV shows had been suspended and the news reports kept coming in the rest of the next day. Death tolls and interviews and pictures of women running for their lives, covered in dust and debris. Statements from different terrorist groups, images of people weeping and people cheering, a collective feeling of horror in most places, chants of joy in certain countries. Death is death. It kills you just the same. I couldn’t wrap my head round the enormity of the acts, the change that they brought to the entire world. The day those planes crashed into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and into a field in Pennsylvania, was the day the world changed. No country was safe anymore, and no country would ever be safe again. Ever. During the Cold War we feared nuclear attacks, but we also knew that they would never really happen, neither the US nor the USSR wanted to commit that much damage and death. Not really. But on September 11th 2001, a new evil emerged from the darkness and bared its teeth to the world. There would be no warning, no amnesty and no guilt. You were going to die, wherever the fuck you may find yourself in the world. 

I lost the little hope and optimism I had left that day. For weeks afterwards I was obsessed with watching the footage, over and over again. I followed the war in Afghanistan with baited breath, with some anger that it had taken such a terrible act to actually care about what was going on in Afghanistan. I think that I couldn’t help feeling like it was too little and too late. I started to stay in as much as possible, just in case something else happened. The TV was on day and night, with me waiting  for the next attack, the next images of death and destruction and hatred and sorrow. A plane disintegrated above Queens and all of the national TV channels went on high alert until it was determined that it was just a “regular” crash, based on some kind of technical fault. Engine failure.

I started suffering from brain failure. My slow decline into depression that had started months before took a nosedive, right down into the pits of the dark world that surrounded me. There was no hope left inside. Food tasted bland, and I couldn’t concentrate on anything apart from the news, terrible chick lit novels and my thesis. Sylvia Plath? Why not, I mean I was more than willing to crawl right under the bell jar with her, snapping it tightly shut. We could breath the same foul air together, but at least we were protected from the outside world. Three CDs on eternal rotation on my CD player: Tim Buckley’s Greatest Hits, Tom Wait’s Used Songs and Bob Dylan’s Desire. A Tim Buckley cassette compilation I had made was in the shower, nothing else. The Cure’s Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me on my record player in the living room. I couldn’t drink alcohol anymore, it just made me want to vomit. My dreams just turned to nightmares, so it was better off I didn’t really try to sleep, just toss and turn and think of death and how much warmer it felt than life.

How can something so much bigger than you, something that effects the world as a whole, something that triggered events that would never end, wars that had no meaning, more death, more hatred, more despair, affect one person in such a way? Why did  not let it change me for the better, why did I crawl away into a hole and hope that I could hide away in death, because life had no more happiness to offer? I felt like I was wasting away, I withdrew myself from my friends and stayed in my apartment, cuddling my cat and watching the news. There was no more hope. What happened to the girl who was an idealist? Who lobbied for the rights of the Tibetan people in front of cinemas and bars? What happened to the girl who tried to talk to everyone about the fate of the Afghan women under the Taliban? What happened to the girl who cared, who wanted to make a change, who wanted to make things better?

She lost hope. The day those planes crashed into those buildings was the day I finally lost the will to survive.

“Want to go out for a drink? I’m out with the boys at the usual bar, everyone is asking about you and is wondering why they haven’t seen you for a while.”

“Ah… I’m in my pyjamas. It’s too late, I have class tomorrow.”

“No you don’t! You have one class a week this semester, and don’t use the thesis excuse, I saw how far along you are. Take a night off, come out and have fun. Please. I miss you. We all miss you.”

“Don’t just say that to make me feel better love, I know you will all have fun without me. I… Just… I just can’t right now. I don’t feel well, I feel like I may puke and just want to stay in bed. I love you.”

“I love you too… I’m worried. I’ll bring you coffee in the morning.”

Click. 

What did I say? Lost all hope.


Photography: Roosevelt Island




I love summer in New York. Especially those days when it's in the 80's and there is a slight breeze in the air. I also love taking photos in the city, and today I decided to go to Roosevelt Island and walk around, especially after I found out that there is a pretty cool ruin of an old smallpox hospital in the park (while randomly searching for abandoned mental asylums on the web the other day). I've only been to Roosevelt Island once in the 8+ years that I have lived in this city, and that was a couple of years ago when I ran a 5k charity run to raise money for women in the Congo. Needless to say, I didn't do any running today, but I did walk around a lot of the island.


Located in the East River, between Manhattan and Queens, the views are pretty amazing, especially of Manhattan. I could totally imagine myself living there - it's easily accessible via the F train or the cable car/tram thing, and it's so quiet! Not many cars around, a few buses, and mainly apartment buildings and hospitals. And a beautiful park - although for some reason the new FDR Four Freedoms Park is closed on Tuesdays. Luckily I could still access the area of the park where the Renwick Smallpox Hospital ruin is located though. I wish you could actually walk around the ruins, but apparently the building is unsafe (or they are just safeguarding it from graffiti and vandalism, who knows).  Everywhere is so clean on the island - I even found myself holding my cigarette butts until I found a trash can, as I didn't want to just leave them on the ground... Makes a change from the streets of Bushwick or the LES...


It always makes me happy to still discover places that I haven't really been to, or captured with my camera. Full set of photos HERE.

Roosevelt Island 27Roosevelt Island 1Roosevelt Island 2Roosevelt Island 3Roosevelt Island 4Roosevelt Island 5
Roosevelt Island 7Roosevelt Island 9Roosevelt Island 10Roosevelt Island 11Roosevelt Island 14Roosevelt Island 16
Roosevelt Island 19Roosevelt Island 20Roosevelt Island 23Roosevelt Island 24Roosevelt Island 25Roosevelt Island 26
Roosevelt Island 30Roosevelt Island 32Roosevelt Island 36Roosevelt Island 38Roosevelt Island 39Roosevelt Island 40
Roosevelt Island, a set on Flickr.

Photography: Orchard Street


For the past two years I have spent most of my days (nights) on Orchard St, working, hanging out, chatting, eating, making friends, drinking, dancing, writing, working, pouring drinks, serving food, working and smiling. There is something very special about this one block on Orchard St that has been the main part of my life for a while now. I've been wanting to do some kind of photography project to document every day life on the block for the past few months, so over the past week I have had my camera on me at all times and have been taking random pictures of the street, the shops, the restaurants and bars, but also of friends and locals and business employees. It's not finished yet, there are a few people that either weren't around when I had my camera out that need to be part of this collection, so I am sure there will be updates over the next few weeks and months.

RosariosJamesTaqueriaCarlHanging coatsMoustache
Million dollar deliLuggageTony's tattoosMatt and TraciLate nightLate night 200
BereketStoop drinkingHiding behind a treeAriSilLe French Diner
LarryAri and JessyTonyJoe and JamieBiker boyAlejandro
Orchard St, a set on Flickr.

For the time being just click on the link above to see the entire set.

Photography: Random film prints


I love finding a random roll of film that I forgot to get developed in the bottom of my bag, not remembering when I finished the roll and what on earth is actually on it. I finally got round to getting this roll developed today, all photos taken with my Holga over the past year, most of which I had totally forgotten that I had taken. I love the striking colours the Holga tends to produce in bright sunlight, as well as the softness, or slight blur, that appears in most prints. My favourites are definitely the ones taken by the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco last year, mainly because the blues are so dense and pretty, and also because it is one of my favourite places to be in the world. I must make it one of my goals to use my Holga and Canon AE-1 more often this year - and then wait a while to develop the films so that I get more nice surprises.
Link to the full set below.


San Francisco BayWalking the Golden Gate BridgeView from my sideTime n PlaceSunset in JamaicaSnowed in
San Francisco skylineRosie at the beachOleanderGuinness IciclesGolden Gate BridgeFort Tilden
Clearing Orchard StCaribbean SeaCalifornia flowerBridge in the distanceBoats on the water200 Reflections
Film 2013, a set on Flickr.

Photography: Randomly in Spring



I finally have that FujiFilm XE-1 camera that I have wanted for so long... Bit the bullet and spent the money on it and I can't say that I am disappointed at all! It really is like using an old manual SLR (a lot like the Canon AE-1 film SLR that I have been using over the past few years), with all of the additional DSLR settings that you could wish for, including a "film simulation" setting, which produces photos that look like they have been taken with a film SLR. It's kind of like the best of both worlds for me, who still prefers to shoot film rather than digital, but don't have the time to develop rolls of film anymore. Or even the space really to store all of the prints I have.

The only issue I found was that I randomly got a "lens control error" the other day and couldn't take any photos anymore. I let the camera sit for a day, removed the lens and put it back on, flipped all the switches and dials, turned it into the fully manual mode, and the error message disappeared. It appears that this is a regular issue with this model, which is a little disappointing, but if you can't fix it yourself Fuji will service it pretty fast for you. I am just glad I took out an extra warranty on the camera, especially as it's not as sturdy as the Canon Rebel.

Anyway... Here are some of the first pictures I have taken on my new camera (see set below). I need to take it out more and play around with it, and find the perfect settings, but for now I am pretty happy with what it can do. I am still wondering if I should bring it with me on my trip this weekend, or just take the Canon. I am worried that I will get another lens error and be stuck taking photos on my iPhone all weekend. I may just go with the trusty older camera and leave the new one for other adventures.

PepeLaurenHenna through the windowLooking inside 200HennaDoyle
LightManhattan skylineBrooklyn churchWood pileWompOrchard Street building
Orchard StreetStatueEast Village wallBroadwayHouston StreetWall mural
KarliTadhg and friendsSeanKarli & MattLuisReading material
Randomly in Spring, a set on Flickr.




Photography: Store Fronts

The New JasonTaj GrocerySteeplechaseSoul II SoulRubysQueens of Sheba
PrimorPopeyesPawn ShopNathan'sNathansMexican Restaurant
Live PoultryLions DenLiberty Department StoresLegacy VideoJewelryJesus saves Brooklyn
Jackson HewittHigh TimesHappy DaysGaudy GrillFreedom DeliFish-Meat
Store Fronts, a set on Flickr.
I started this project earlier this year when I realised that I kept taking photos of random storefronts in Brooklyn and Manhattan. I started putting all the photos together and realised it could be quite a cool collection... I've been on a bit of a photography lag lately, not really feeling inspired, or too tired to go and find something to spike my interest. I woke up way too early this morning and just decided to go out for a walk, and found some interesting places.
This is just a small collection - I'm sure I'll be adding a lot more to it over the next few months.

Book Review: The Red Leather Diary by Lily Koppel

 The Red Leather Diary - Reclaiming a Life Through the Pages of a Lost Journal, by Lily Koppel

I still have all of my diaries that I have kept over the years, the first one being from when I was 10 years old if I am not mistaken. Over the years I see changes in handwriting, developing ideas, crushes and heartbreak, drawings, sadness, happiness. Some of the journals are full, others conclude halfway through with a sentence along the lines of "this is the end of this part of my life and therefore a new journal is to be commenced". I still keep a journal, at 34, but today it is more of a scrapbook than just writing, snippets of sentences created by emotions and visions, photos, drawings, concert tickets, notes from friends, lists and so on. I love rereading entries from years ago, but I doubt they really would be of any interest to anyone else. Except of course if I become a world famous author, because then, after my death, scholars will devour my teenage thoughts to try to figure out who I was, just like I did when I was writing my thesis on Sylvia Plath.(Yes, yes, one can dream).

I love reading the journals of famous artists. Not because I want to actually determine who so and so actually is, but because they always contain a deeper view into feelings and thoughts and emotions, and also because they often contain some of the best writing. One writes a journal with the knowledge that it is not going to be read by anyone else, so therefore one allows oneself to be more free and open. That's the way I see it anyway. For example, Sylvia Plath's unabridged journals may contain some of the darkest prose that she had ever written, in my opinion it also contained some of the best.

What would you do if you were a budding journalist and one day came across a five year journal, started by a 14 year old living in Manhattan in the 1920's? You would probably read it, and then see if you could get it published in some way or form. Lily Koppel went a few steps further than that: she read it, went on a search for the author, and once she found her, rewrote those five years in her own words, interspersing the prose with snippets from the journal itself. Early in her career with the New York Times, Koppel was leaving her apartment building one morning when she came across a dumpster containing trunks dating back to the previous century. The building management had decided to get rid of content that previous residents had left in the basement and never come back to collect. Can you imagine getting a chance to go through such treasures? Old photos and clothes and books and letters and ornaments and hats and cards and maps! I would have had a field day! The red leather journal was found in one of those trunks and belonged to a young lady called Florence Wolfson.

Florence was a smart, fashionable, precocious teenager, with many interests, mainly in the usual pursuits of the young, love, sex, friendship, as well as the world of Art that the city of New York had to offer at the time. She wrote of books, plays, actors and actresses, poems, paintings, and focused a lot of her own time on writing and drawing, as well as going to performances and other activities such as tennis, fashion and parties. Her journal portrays a woman of her time, as well as a glowing Manhattan of the late 20's and early 30's (including mentions of the more darker times after the Wall Street Crash of 1929). I was first drawn to the book after reading the cover because I wanted to delve into the life of a teenager in the city during the 20's, but once I started to read the book it was Koppel's wonderful writing that really drew me in. Koppel has the ability to recreate a life lived so long ago into a story of such tenderness and beauty that I was brought to tears in several different parts. For a time I felt like I was actually living right by Florence, and imagined my own teenage life side by side with hers. The beauty of this book is that Koppel added a part of herself into Florence's life, giving us readers the chance to do the same.

Inspiring, to say the least.

More information on the book and the author HERE