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

Ramblings: There is no I in Me anymore...

By the time you are reading this you probably already know (if you are very, very close to me), have an inkling something has changed, or really just don’t know and are going to be super surprised. In any case, it’s all been a little surreal for myself over the past nine weeks… Yup. There is no I in Me anymore, there is an Us. Me and It, It being a little munchkin that is eventually going to grow into a He or a She and eventually be born in late March/early April of next year.

Everything seems surreal and exciting and scary at the same time. There was that moment I had that dream where I took a home pregnancy test and the test appeared to be positive with a due date marked in the screen… Which lead me to run out to Walgreens as soon as I woke up in the morning to buy a real one, and then sat around staring at the packet for hours until I finally dared to do it. The two lines appeared almost automatically, and at that moment I decided there was no way I was going to be able to keep a child and I needed whatever it was inside of me removed as soon as possible. Needless to say, by the next morning , on my way to Planned Parenthood for a “proper” test, I had already changed my mind dramatically and was hoping that the home test wasn’t a fake positive… I mean I knew it wasn’t. I already knew I was pregnant, there are certain signs that you can’t ignore. And yes, it was positive.

That Friday I went around in a haze, lying on the grass in the middle of Washington Square Park, trying to fathom the idea of having a child, and then raising said child. I stopped smoking and drinking that very day, and surprisingly enough it was easy. I mean REALLY easy. No nicotine withdrawal, no crankiness, no nothing. Just the knowledge that there was a little me growing right inside of me. For the next 10 days it still didn’t feel real. I told a few people close to me, but that was it, my little munchkin was going to remain a secret until I was ready for the world to know about it. 

I don’t have health insurance. That was my main concern about actually having a child. Planned Parenthood lost all funding to provide prenatal care, so they just gave me a number for a low-cost women’s health clinic in Brooklyn, and I was able to get an appointment for 10 days after I found out I was pregnant. In the meantime I found out I was eligible for Medicaid, so I started working on all the paperwork I needed for that. In the end, the clinic filed for me (they are amazing – and there I was worried that I would have to pay for everything by myself!). I had blood work done, and exams, and went over all different kinds of things with the technician and the nurse and the midwife, and then finally got a referral appointment for an ultrasound at the Brooklyn Hospital for the following week. I am really happy with the people who are following my pregnancy – they made me feel comfortable and a lot less nervous than I was before I got there. 

Unless you have already been through this yourself, you can only imagine what it feels like to see your baby inside of you and then to hear the heartbeat… It’s mind-blowing. That little blob on the screen, the actual size of a bean which is beginning to form into a person is actually part of you and created by you. And that heart beating… Honestly it was only then that it fully became real to me – I now have two hearts beating in my body, and one of them needs to be protected and nurtured and loved at all costs. Every day I wake up and (after the immediate feelings of absolute hunger and thirst, followed by a wave of nausea) I feel blessed that this is happening to me. I remember my 17 year old self writing in my diary and telling my best friends that I wanted a child by the age of 19, and that I would call her Luna. Instead I got a cat and called her Luna, and as the years went by started to wonder if I would ever have a child. Growing up with an amazing mother but with a father figure who disappeared too early and another who wasn’t around for too much longer I always promised myself I wouldn’t have a child unless I was completely sure the child would have parents who would stay together forever. Well, unless you remain a complete and hopeless romantic with no shred of cynicism in your bones all of your adult life you will certainly realize that this was quite a tall order. And a straight shot to never having children. And I have to say that at the beginning of this year I was really starting to think that maybe I wouldn’t have kids, and that, in a way, that was allright (as long as my siblings were going to have them). I could just live in New York City for the rest of my life and live like I have enjoyed living for the past 8 years…

And when have I ever done anything conventionally anyway?! Every time I try to I fail, so I gave up on trying a few years ago and started living life in the way I wanted to. I have never been happier, or more comfortable in my own skin, and everything is just another adventure to embark on… This one probably being the most amazing adventure I will ever jump into head first. And don’t get me wrong, little munchkin’s father is more than present, and won’t be going anywhere (unless I decide to move, because then he will be moving with me, and munchkin). Which brings up the idea of moving… For some silly reason being pregnant kind of changes your perspective on everything. I mean everything. Obviously the idea of moving away from NYC has come to me over the past eight and a half years, but I’ve never actually really acted upon it. But now I just want to move to California, be nearer my family over there and actually be able to live in a house with a back yard where I can grow my own food, not feel like I am constantly hustling to make ends meet like I do here. I will always love New York, but I don’t know if I really want to bring up a child here. I’m most certainly going to have the baby here, but after that, who knows? Within the next 18 months I am pretty sure that I will be making a move over to California. It’s always been my dream to live in Santa Cruz, but I think I will probably have to start in Sacramento and then see where life leads me. 

But all of that is not for a while yet… In the meantime I am going to enjoy the amazingness that being pregnant is (especially now that the uncomfortable first trimester is over), and be happy.

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.

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Roosevelt Island, a set on Flickr.

The Adventures of Luna


I always thought that she would outlive us all. Stupidly maybe, seeing as she really was only a cat, and the average lifespan of a domestic indoor cat ranges from 12 to 15 years. But Luna was more than your average cat, and always seemed timeless, living through more than some human beings live through in their lives. She was born in some place that only she knew about, abandoned by her mother and left, obviously the runt of the litter, to die alone. She was found by a friend of mine’s mother, and placed in an incubator. Thirteen years ago I received a phone call from my friend saying he had found a tiny black cat with green eyes, and would I like to meet her… Three hours later I brought my little Luna home to the apartment I shared with my best friend Maud in Grenoble. I had to feed her kitty milk from a little bottle and teach her how to eat. I had to teach her how to find and use her litter tray and during the first few days I had to try to coax her out of the most impossible hiding places (under the stove being one example). On the third night I had nearly given up hope that she would ever come out, and I switched my bedroom light off and went to bed. Four minutes later she crept into my room, snuggled on my arm and from that moment in time it really was unconditional love.

She never really learnt how to meow, but purred louder than most cats, and would even purr in her sleep, as long as she was next to me. As she grew she would become more and more adventurous (walking along the railing of my fifth floor balcony or finding a way on to the roof to chase birds for example).  When I took her to the vet to get all of her vaccinations she decided he was in good need of a scratch and that the hiding spot behind his computer was a better place than his examination table (and she was right, he was an asshole anyway). Whenever I was sad or depressed she would curl up on my lap and stare at me until I smiled. We would dance around my apartment to the Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus, and she would sit with me and my friends while we got drunk listening to Cure records in my living room. 

Then I decided that I was quite over living in France for a while. My MA had been completed, all of my family was either in California or England, and I needed time away from everything. So I shipped all of my belongings over to my mum’s place in California, got Luna a good travel case and set off for the US. I bawled my eyes out at Charles de Gaulle airport when I had to hand her over at check-in, and didn’t sleep a wink during the 11 hour flight, thinking that she had died in the bottom of the plane. I made a vow that if she ever flew again she would be with me in the cabin. Of course she made it over alive, a little shaken up and a little annoyed at me for abandoning her, but she settled in very well in the house in California. She finally had the chance to explore the great outside, fighting with cats twice her size, at one time challenging a huge black and white snake that appeared in our back yard (at that moment I forgot my own fear of snakes and rushed out to grab her away from what could have been her death). She met up with her old friend and foe, Fury, my sister’s dog, and let herself be chased around the house until they both got bored of it and decided to live together peacefully by mainly ignoring each other. Although there were many times that I found her hiding on the stairs, waiting to catch Fury out with a hiss and a playful paw punch on her way down them.

In June of 2003 I had to leave the US for at least a year or risk being deported and not allowed back into the country. Not knowing where to go I decided to take up my aunt in Israel’s offer, and visit her for at least 3 months, and help her with her kids. I ended up staying there for over a year, and left Luna with my mum, knowing full well that she would be well looked after (although it broke my heart to leave her). She ended up becoming more aloof, going out into the wild for a few days on end, only coming back when she was hungry and in need of a good rest before her next adventure. Once I was back in California she hardly left the house again. By this time she had acquired a new enemy in the house, in the form of another cat called Muffin, an abandoned cat my mum and brother had adopted. While Luna had always held her own against other cats, Muffin proved to be another story. They hated each other from day one, and even when we tried all the tricks to get them to accept each other they didn’t. While Luna had been fine with Ludwig, her old friend in France (apart from the time that she hit him on the head with her paw, after that they were always together, cuddled up on my bed or chasing birds and flies), she never became friends with Muffin. In any case, Fury realised that she now had a more evil enemy in Muffin, and bonded with Luna. 

And then I had to leave once again. With no visa and no ability to work in the US I had to go back to Europe, this time to England, the one country where at the time all pets needed to be quarantined for 6 months on entry. There was no way I was subjecting her to that, so I left her in California once again. In the ten months I was in England I came back to visit once, for two weeks. The day before I arrived she came home for some food, but then disappeared. After two days I put posters up around the neighbourhood and on day three got a call saying that Luna was running around a backyard. I ran out, still in my pyjamas and flip flops and saw the little monster running through the green belt. She stopped when I called her name, and then ran off. I went home, saddened, until my sister called out to me to say that Luna was waiting patiently by the back door. For the rest of my stay she did not leave my side, only to go back to her adventures of neighbourhood cat queen when I left.

A few months later, Luna went away on another adventure, and stayed away so long that she had my mum worried. She finally crawled back home, dragging one of her back legs behind her. The vet ran tests and x-rays and the poor thing had severely torn ligaments in her back leg, with three options: amputation, surgery or a cast for a few months to see if she would heal naturally. While the vet kept pushing for amputation, after consulting with me my mum decided to go with the cast option. A few months later her leg was healed and she was able to jump up and down on things. At that point I finally had a visa to work in the States (albeit New York and not California) and I flew her back with me after spending Christmas with my family. She came to live with me in my tiny one bedroom apartment in Spanish Harlem, killed the mouse that had been living in the couch (the one I couldn’t kill because I hate mouse traps and refused to use poison because I knew Luna was going to be living there). From that moment onwards she never left me again. We moved to an even smaller apartment in the West Village, where she was more than happy to give up her outdoor adventures and stay inside, sleeping on my bed and waiting for me to get home from work or from my own adventures on the Lower East Side. 


A few years later we moved to a much bigger apartment in Bushwick, where she would wait for me to get home from work from her perfect spot on the couch from where she could watch the front door at all times. Her cat friend Ophelia would sometimes come to visit, and many friends would come over to cuddle her and listen to her purr. She loved people more than other animals, although I was always her first choice when it came to cuddling. My roommate once commented that it was as if she wanted to become part of me, never leaving my side and following me wherever I went, even waiting outside of the bathroom door while I showered. She never failed to jump on my bed and sleep next to me every night, even when she was annoyed at me for not coming home or for staying out too late. Her fur went from black to brown with age, but her eyes remained pure green, unless she was in a playful mood and they would turn yellow. She was always tiny, and put a little bit of weight on with age, but never had a weight problem that older, less active cats often experience. She never overate, always eating whenever she was hungry, and spent many a day sitting on the windowsill, watching the world go buy. We would always still dance to music together, and she would sit on my desk while I was writing, watching me put all of the thoughts and images that travelled through my head into words on paper. When my roommate adopted a dog (the lovely pitbull Doyle) they became fast (but secret) friends. I’m sure Luna was the only one to know Doyle’s past, his life before he came to live with us, and she knew that all he wanted was peace, as did she. I sometimes found them nearly curled up together on the couch, and they would touch noses in front of us on occasion. I’m glad she had a friend like Doyle in the last year of her life.

She never seemed to be unhappy, and I don’t think she suffered any illness or pain. One day I woke up and found that she had become an old lady practically overnight, the next day came home from work and she was gone, peacefully in her sleep. However heartbroken I still am, and still will be for a while, for the past 13 years I have had the sweetest, cutest, funniest and smartest little creature in my life, and I also know that I gave her a life that she probably wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t have adopted her. And nothing can take all of those memories away. I know that for a while I will still automatically check to see if her food and water bowls are full before I leave the house (and therefore leave the house with tears in my eyes), and also expect her to be at home waiting for me when I get in. Every morning I reach out for her when I wake up and then realize that she won’t be there or coming back. One day I will search for another cat to live with me, but for the time being I am going to learn to live without the little being who came everywhere with me.
However heartbreaking it is to lose a pet, the amount of love and joy they bring into a household makes it worth it all. 

The adventures of Luna… Two countries, two states, three apartments in NYC, two hurricanes, one near death experience (that I know of), many people friends, cat friends and dog friends. The little French cat who was raised in French, and to whom I spoke French to until she passed away. The little monster who peed on my roommates bed when she was pissed off (yes she wasn’t perfect) or who would leave me lovely fur balls as presents. The baby cat who continued to think I was her mother until her last day. I imagine that she is running around somewhere with Bella and all of the other pets that I have lost in my life, waiting for me to join her at some point in time.


Photography - Bushwick Street Art 2013




A few years ago I started walking around Bushwick with my camera, capturing some of the pretty amazing street art that is around the area. There are spots that are covered in murals and paintings and words, entire blocks and walls that are vibrant in colour and meaning, and then spots where you will find a small piece of artwork, hidden amongst the brick walls of a house or a warehouse. I love living in Bushwick (which is probably why I haven't moved anywhere else over the past 5 years), but I haven't spent much time walking around the neighbourhood recently, and didn't even go to any of the events that were taking place during the Bushwick Collective 1 year anniversary party this past weekend. My room mate has been much better at becoming part of the community here than I have and knows everything that is going on, where the cool bars are and what restaurants are better than others. When we moved here over 5 years ago there wasn't much around except for a few bodegas, the gas station and KFC. Now there is a great selection of restaurants on Seamlessweb alone and a bunch of cool places to hang out in.

In any case, yesterday I took a visitor from Europe for a walk around the neighbourhood and was amazed by all of the new murals and artwork that exists on my street and the streets surrounding it. I noticed a lot of new pieces, but also old pieces that have been covered up by new ones. HERE is the link to the full collection of photos I took yesterday, mainly along Troutman St and Starr St. Below you will find links to different street art sets that I put together in 2011 and 2012.

For more information on The Bushwick Collective, check out their Facebook page HERE.

Bushwick (73)Bushwick (1)Bushwick (2)Bushwick (3)Bushwick (4)Bushwick (5)
Bushwick (6)Bushwick (7)Bushwick (8)Bushwick (9)Bushwick (10)Bushwick (11)
Bushwick (12)Bushwick (13)Bushwick (14)Bushwick (15)Bushwick (16)Bushwick (17)
Bushwick (18)Bushwick (19)Bushwick (20)Bushwick (21)Bushwick (22)Bushwick (23)

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.

Ramblings: Of Changes and Survival Modes



I can't believe how this year is flying by, it's already the middle of May, Spring is finally here and I'm going to be flying to California for two weeks in exactly a month. Which also means I need to save and save and save every penny I make over the next month, because nowadays holiday means unpaid time off, and rent and bills still need to be paid, wherever I happen to be in the world. I'm not complaining though, this time last year I would sleep about 3 hours a night, go into work with a pit in my stomach that would grow and grow throughout the day, and go home and collapse, still stressed out and thinking about all the projects I was undoubtedly going to mess up at work. Now I am working three different jobs, 7 days a week with a day off thrown in here and there, but I have time to see my friends, hang out at home and write, draw and dream. I even have time to read and write at one of my jobs, which happens to be in the middle of a theatre, which is probably one of the coolest things ever. But the best part of all this is that I go to work and then don't have to think about it until I have to go back again. No one calls me with questions about different projects, I don't have to spend 12 hours working on a coverage chart when I take a day off, and guess what? I actually have fun at work. Who would have thought?!

I can't say that it has been easy to pull off, this whole change thing, there were days when I didn't know how I was going to actually afford my next meal, let alone pay rent and other important bills, and I still have a lot of credit card debt I am going to have to start paying off in the very near future (because letting all those 1-800 and 1-866 numbers ring to voicemail every day is really not dealing with the problem very effectively), but, you know, I feel like smiling every morning/afternoon when I wake up. There are days when I still feel so mad I want to stomp my feet and kick people, and there are still days when I don't want to get out of bed to face the world, but they aren't as frequent anymore. I just feel like this is what I always should have been doing when I moved here. What I want. I still don't know if I actually pulled anything off really, everything could fall apart tomorrow, but at the same time I know it will always be OK.

I was walking to the subway this morning, thinking about a million things as usual, and it dawned on me that I live most of my life in some kind of survival mode. Not real "I am being hunted by evil murderers" survival mode (although that is a recurring nightmare of mine), more like a "shit happens so I just have to bear with it" kind of outlook on life every day. Tired because I got home at 7am, had to take the dog out and have to be back at work at 4pm? Oh well, I'll sleep better tonight. Annoyed because friend never comes to say hello because her job is too tiring? No problem, there are at least ten other better friends who always come to visit me. Nose broken because stupid ice machine lid fell on it? No problem, it will heal again, just like the time before, and the time before that. Annoying people being dickheads at work? I just complain and then forget about them (even those annoying student idiots who thought that adding a tip to $2 beers didn't apply to them).  It's all about getting to a place where you want to be in life, a place where you don't have to worry so much about everything... I feel like I am nearly there now. Don't get me wrong, I still worry about everything, but just less than I used to.

I'm so in love with this city, still today. It's been 7 years now, and I can't really imagine myself being anywhere else. I was writing a short story based on a parting of ways that occurred in my life in 2004 last night, and was looking for the journal I wrote during that time. While searching for it I came across a couple of journals I had started in 2005 and 2006, and spent an hour reminiscing about those days... It was all a lot of innocent fun, words about people I had just met who now happen to be my closest friends; words about people who have now disappeared into different lives and places; places that no longer exist and other places that are still there, and are still frequented by us all. Then there was one entry, written during my last trip to France in 2006 that was so insightful at what was to become of me over the next few years that I wish I had listened to myself a bit more when I wrote it. Or maybe not, because in the end it was all for the best. Someone once told me a couple of years ago that I just needed to hit rock bottom in order to find my way again, and I think he was right. I probably always knew what I was doing, even when I thought I didn't anymore.

So yes, New York. I often say that I miss Europe or that I want to move to a desert island and live by the ocean for the rest of my life... This isn't a lie, and I do miss France terribly every once in a while. I just need to make my way back there for a bit, see my friends, go to the old haunts and see how Grenoble has changed over the years (or not, whatever the more accurate statement may be). But New York will always be the city I come back to, I know that all too well now. I've never felt so completely at home as I do here. My apartment, my friends, my jobs, my favourite places to drink and eat, my memories and the new memories I create every day. Sounds silly maybe, but I spent so long looking for a place I could call my home, and it makes me happy to know that I found it.

I wrote a piece called Paradise the other day, based on the same theme for an online magazine. If it doesn't get accepted I will post it here seeing as I was quite proud of it when I wrote it. Something a lot of people can relate to I think, and it also goes along the vein of living in survival mode, continuing to move even when you think you can't anymore. I used to write mainly based on images in my imagination, nowadays I feel like most of my writing comes from something that happened to me, or that could have happened to me. I don't know if that is good or not, but I know that I need to get it all written down before I forget it.


The sun is shining outside, I'm writing this at work listening to Ride and I'm looking forward to seeing what this summer has to offer... And I just got inspired to write a few more short stories. Not a bad start to the day, I think!