Ramblings: Just a Walk in the Park...

Memorial Day weekend always reminds me of moving to NYC – the heat, the humidity, the laziness of the first holiday of the year since New Year’s Day in the middle of the bustle and noise of everyday life. Subsequent years bore beach days and hungover days; brunch times and walks in the city;  Long Island days and barbeques in Bushwick. Every year I longed for Memorial Day weekend to arrive so that I could celebrate the beginning of summer, my real favourite season in NYC. This year it crept up on me, my first Memorial Day as a family: a day where no one needed to work, a day to spend together as we see fit, no plans, just mother, father and baby time.

Nowadays it’s really just the simple things that matter: a walk in the park, watching the turtles watching you with their little heads sticking out of the water, looking at the squirrel scampering away with the acorn in its mouth, relaxing on a blanket under a tree and closing your eyes. Choosing a pretty spring outfit for yourself and your daughter, knowing full well that she doesn’t care if you are in a dress or pyjamas, or if she is in a onesie or a dress, but doing it anyway because it is fun and because you can. Walking along the sidewalk as a unit, mother, father, daughter, altogether as one, making jokes and gazing at the pretty houses and gardens, imagining together what our next home and garden will look like. Tickling your child under the chin with a blade of grass and listening to her laugh and hoping that you will hear that beautiful sound every day, forever.

Flushing ended up being a good choice for us, because despite the commute into Manhattan, it really is beautiful here. There are parks and gardens and trees and flowers everywhere and a happy alternative to the race of the city and all that it entails. As I was walking around the neighbourhood yesterday I realised just how much every single priority had changed for the better. A walk in the park is just so much more enjoyable now, as are all of those little things that we take for granted most of the time, the turtles and the squirrels and the naps in the grass, the smell of concrete after a rain shower, and the lilac bushes in bloom on the street corners. I guess this is what my real happiness is…

Ramblings: The beach in September

I love the beach in September. Just after Labour Day the beaches are much quieter, and there is more room to spread out and enjoy the sound of the waves breaking on the shore (as opposed to people shouting and blasting music from every side). September has always been my favourite month in NYC (even though it signifies the end of summer and the beginning of autumn which is always followed on by cold, cold winters…): the air is cleaner and les muggy, the sun is still shining and warm and the nights are cooler. There really is nothing like walking barefoot in the warm sand, relaxing right by the water and soaking up the sun, never knowing if this will be the last time you will make it to the beach before the cold sets in.

The Rockaways have always been my favourite part of NYC. I’ve written many times about my trips to the beach, to Rockaway Park or Fort Tilden (when you could still go there before Sandy). A 45 minute subway ride from my home in Bushwick finds you in the middle of a lovely beach community, with miles of beaches to choose from, a perfect place to get away from the oppressiveness of the city and the humidity that coats everything through-out the summer. There have been years when I have spent at least a day per week on the beach, and then other years when I have struggled to make it out there more than a couple of times a month. I have to say that I have done better this year than I did last year, and mainly because I felt the need to support the place that I love so much after all of the devastation that happened there during Sandy. The first time I walked down the street towards the beach the boarded up places (especially the Sand Bar, a regular stop-off place for my friends and I), made me sad, although the fact that so many businesses were back open and ready for customers surprised me and made me realize how hard people had worked to go on with life even after part of it was destroyed. The beaches themselves were completely different. Smaller, with only partial boardwalks, the rest swept away during the hurricane. Fort Tilden closed for the foreseeable future, but beaches that were still accessible, comfortable with all of the amenities that one would need. I’ve always preferred the Rockaways to Coney Island – it’s more laid-back and less noisy (and there is always Pickles and Pies deli where you can buy sandwiches and fruit, not just places where you can only get fried food like hot dogs and fries). Coney is fun, but the Rockaways are my real place to go to, to relax and swim and be in the sun. 

I realised this week, listening to the Psychedelic Furs and contemplating the future while lying in the sun on Beach 106, that this is probably my last summer in NYC and that my future visits to the Rockaways may just be that – visits. There are oceans and beaches all over the world but this one will always have a very, very special place in my heart. Today some of the beaches are “closed” (although if you listen to the construction workers they will just tell you to walk over the dune and hang out on the beach – that no one is going to stop you from going there), but only because there is still so much work to be done to clean up after Sandy. I just worry that we will get hit by another super storm again this year… Or next year. Hopefully the work done will help avoid the extent of the damage that we all suffered last year. Right now a huge man-made dune has appeared all the way down the beaches, exposing a large pipeline (carrying water?), and the beach is even smaller, especially at high tide. But the same feeling is still there, it will always be the same place, no matter what the natural and man-made changes are… And it will always be a place that represents freedom, happiness and beauty in my heart. Hopefully I will still make it out there a few more times until the end of the month as I still want to finish a photography project I started using film earlier on during the summer. Fingers crossed that the weather will hold out until October. 

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.

Ramblings: Bring Me the Summer Rain

It has been pouring down with rain all day, one of those summer days when it rains and rains and the sounds of thunder can be heard from time to time, somewhere off in the distance, far up in the sky. Clouds ramming into each other and creating noise and fresh rain that land on the ground and produces an aura of hazy fog and intense humidity. It’s not cold outside at all, just refreshing. It’s one of those nights when you just want to stand outside and feel the rain on your face, jump in puddles and not care about walking home soaking wet, because in the end it’s only water and having wet clothes is not the end of the world.

It reminds me of those summer days years ago, back in France, when the sky would literally open up after a few very hot days in August, and the rain would break up the humidity and let you breathe again. It reminds me of the days when I would take off my boots on a whim and jump into a fountain in the city centre, laughing hard and pulling others in with me, and then walking home barefoot, shoes in hand, soaking wet, still laughing. There was one fountain by the train station that would shoot up at different intervals and different heights, and it was so much fun to jump through it, not caring about having to spend the rest of the night in wet clothes and with no shoes on.

I still feel as carefree as I did back then. It’s the kind of life I chose to have. I don’t feel any regrets about those choices, I don’t wonder what would have happened if I had chosen another path very often (although sometimes I do daydream and imagine myself in other locations and living another life). I feel happily surrounded and content most of the time, letting the fluctuating weather calm or amplify my moods, emotions and feelings and breathing in the fresh air conceived by the drops of summer rain. And when the rain stops I will smoke a cigarette, barefoot on the wet ground, watching the humidity rise from the ground as the heat dries the puddles up until the next downpour.

As much as I love the sun and the heat of summer, being by the beach and swimming in the ocean, feeling relaxed and full of energy, the summer rain always brings a rush of adrenaline, and a rush of power, a feeling that you can overcome everything you need to. It breaks up bad moods and lets you feel reckless and careless, a little loss of control, the ability to let go for a while. However old you are there is absolutely nothing wrong with jumping with both feet in the middle of a huge puddle with a big splash. I don’t think I will ever stop doing that, and if that is childish then so be it, I shall remain a childish adult.

I'm singing in the rain, Just singing in the rain, What a glorious feelin', I'm happy again, I'm laughing at clouds, So dark up above, The sun's in my heart, And I'm ready for love, Let the stormy clouds chase, Everyone from the place, Come on with the rain, I've a smile on my face, I walk down the lane, With a happy refrain, Just singin', Singin' in the rain - Gene Kelly

Photography: Summer 2013 sets - Coney Island

I have always loved Memorial Day weekend, just because it basically means the start of summer, of beaches, of sunshine, of wearing shorts and dresses and no sweaters. Lying on the sand in the Rockaways or Fort Tilden, going on mini road trips towards adventures in the sun, late nights and early mornings, thunderstorms and humidity, and most importantly again, the beach. It doesn't really matter which beach (although I will miss Fort Tilden this year, as it won't be open due to the damage caused by Sandy), any beach will do as long as there is sunshine, sand and water.
The weather on Saturday was later winteresque - cold and windy and rainy. The weather on Sunday was a little better, apart from the rain, but it didn't bode too well for a summer kick-off... And then Monday dawned with sunshine and warmth, and there wasn't a better way to kick start summer with a visit to Coney Island with my Brazilian newly-wed friends Bela and Jerome. Of course I made them go on the Cyclone (and watched from afar - once in a lifetime was enough for me!).
Hopefully I will be able to document many more adventures this summer...
(Link below for the full set of photos).

AmusementTwisting and turningWatching the oceanThrillsRuby'sRemain seated
HappinessIntricate towerCarouselUnityBela and Jerome on the TwisterGoing up
ScaryCaricatures on the boardwalkCreepyBela and meMoving carriagesUpside down
Cyclone plungeFrom belowNewly wedsBrace yourselfSea buildingIntricate design
Summer 2013 - Coney Island, a set on Flickr.

Ramblings: Every day is like Sunday

I used to hate Sundays. Friday nights were amazing because I had (sometimes) two full work-free days and three nights ahead of me, where I could let go and do all of the hundreds of things I never had time to do during the week days. But as soon as I would wake up on Sunday mornings I would start worrying about Monday morning. As each hour passed by I would think about how I had one less hour of freedom to enjoy. In the winter I would try to think of activities to do to take my mind off the impending doom that was going to bed, in the summer I would escape to the beach and secretly hope that the world would end before Sunday night approached. But it always inevitably happened… The night would close in and I would go to bed early, knowing full well that I would be plagued with stressful nightmares about missed deadlines and insanely long conference calls that never lead to anything concrete. Project plans would fly through the air and damage control emails would scroll through my mind, amidst dreams of machete-wielding men in suits chasing me through forests and deserts. Escape would only come when I awoke, and pulled myself out of bed to face the Monday morning commute and emails that would have come in during the weekend and the early morning hours.

Nowadays I love Sundays. I work most Sundays during the day at the bookstore and sometimes Sunday nights at the bar. Sunday evenings are for relaxing with friends, hanging out on the Lower East Side, staying out late and not worrying about having to get up early on Monday morning. Summer Sundays are for sitting outside and smoking cigarettes while chatting with friends, walking over the bridge during a storm, drinking ice cold drinks inside bars and eating ice cream at 4 in the morning. Winter Sundays are for going to late movie showings and eating too much popcorn and walking back home in the cold wind for a long, uninterrupted sleep, no nightmares or stress-related dreams on the horizon. The only work-related dreams I have nowadays are the occasional my-bed-is-in-the-bar and I need to jump out half naked to serve people pints of beer. These people have been members of Portishead and the cast of Buffy, as well as the usual regulars I serve on a daily basis. Sunday night nightmares have turned into Sunday night peaceful dreams.

I used to listen to Morrissey’s Everyday is Like Sunday on repeat on Monday mornings, and it always struck a chord: Sundays always felt so grey and dismal because Monday was coming up right behind her, always there in the shadows. Now I just listen to it and it makes me feel happy, walking barefoot in the sand on the beach, listening to the waves and feeling free. Nowadays every day is like Sunday, work or not, every day is different and the same all at once. Some things are never constant, but one thing is, I usually wake up with a smile. 

Ramblings: Summer in the city

It's summer, my favourite season of the year (closely followed by early autumn, spring and then, last of all, winter). We didn't really have a winter this year, and spring was a strange one too, but this summer has already been a scorcher, and we are only half way through July. I've already had my holiday this year, so I will be spending the rest of the summer in NYC, working and hoping to make it to the beach as often as possible. I love the heat. Granted, I prefer dry heat, desert heat, but I would much rather be sitting around the humid heat in the city than having to climb over piles of snow that a blizzard left behind in the winter. I'm not working as much as I was before I went to California, so I am planning on making the most of my time off and going outside.

I hear people complaining about being "stuck in the city" over the summer months. I don't know how you can be stuck here. If you want to get out of the heat the nearest beaches are only a subway ride away. There are Coney Island and Brighton Beach for those who don't mind tons of people and not-so-clean beaches, as well as a really cool boardwalk and amusement park (everyone needs to ride the Cyclone at least once in their lives, although once is probably enough). My preference has always been the Rockaways and in more recent years, Fort Tilden. If you need shops and bars and restaurants and public restrooms nearby you should probably stick to the Rockaways (Rockaway Park, the last stop on the A shuttle train being my favourite), but if you prefer wilder beaches where nobody is going to bother you (i.e. where you can drink, smoke, bring dogs, go topless etc), then Fort Tilden is just a short 10 minute bus ride from Rockaway Park. Just remember to bring food and water, because there is nowhere to buy it there. Fort Tilden starts just after Jacob Riis, and you can walk all the way down to Breezy Point if you want to. It seems to have become more and more popular over the past few years, but I tend to go during the week where it's more bearable than the weekends. I even slept on the beach overnight last year - not really allowed and to be honest, a little scary - and I probably wouldn't do it again, but it was definitely an experience worth its while - see my blog post about that night HERE. Outside of the city beaches there are many, many others that are only an hour or so away on the LIRR, my favourites being Smithpoint and Montauk.

I'd rather go to the beach than to a pool in the summer, seeing as there is nothing better than jumping in the waves and running in the sand, so I've never really checked out any of the public pools in the city. Now that the McCarren Park Pool is open again (and it's free), I suppose that would be a place to go if you want to swim (although it's probably going to be packed and full of screaming kids on summer holidays so I am going to give it a miss). I wish public pools were open at night - I love swimming in the dark, even if I tend to freak myself out with irrational thoughts of great white sharks hanging out in the pool, just waiting to bite my legs off. The shark thoughts are a recurring theme in my life - every time I am in water I think about sharks following me. I should probably avoid going to any location where sharks really tend to hang out... Although I still dream of going to Hawaii one day, and living in a garden full of hibiscus flowers by the beach...

Summer is always going to be the time when you can walk around in as little clothing you want without feeling self-conscious, dive into cool bars to get out of the heat, stay up until the sun rises and watch it from your rooftop, have BBQs on rooftops and in tiny back yards, sunbathe in the parks, jump through open fire hydrants with the neighbourhood kids (yes I do do that), make summer playlists and listen to them on the way to the beach, eat loads of fruit and vegetables because it's too hot to face any heavier foods, eat tons of ice cream and gelato and walk around the city during a summer storm, jumping in puddles and hoping that the rain will bring a slight relief from the oppressing humidity (it never really does). It really is my favourite time in the city which is why I will always continue to go on holiday before or after the season starts.

I'm going kayaking down the Delaware River later this week, and we will probably camp by the river too. I will hopefully not fall in and be unable to pull myself back into the kayak again, and will also hopefully not be eaten by a bear (although I would love to see one). I'm more likely to be eaten alive by mosquitoes though! I think I have already decided to leave my phone in the car on this trip - it will be quite nice to not be reached for a day... 

First day of Summer

"All those words you said to me still vibrating in the air"

Strange days... I don't know what to think or to say anymore. It's come to that time when it just has to be all or nothing, no longer that greyness in between. I want both feet to be stuck firmly in the sand, and not floating above the moving marshes. Indecision is only good when you don't know. Now I know.

Summer Playlist no 1

Summer Playlist no.1
(Yes.. first of many I assume)

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: There She Goes My Beautiful World
Noir Desir: Comme Elle Vient
Otis Redding: That's How Strong My Love Is
The Pixies: Motorway to Roswell
PJ Harvey: Good Fortune
Placebo: The Never-Ending Why
Pulp: Common People
RHCP: Dani California
Rolling Stones: Happy
The Ronettes: Be My Baby
Skunk Anansie: I Can Dream
Stevie Nicks: Just Like A Woman
Suede: Beautiful Ones
T.Rex: New York City
Talk Talk: Happiness is Easy
Tim Buckley: Happy Time
Tom Waits: Ice Cream Man
The White Stripes: Martyr For My Love For You
The Zombies: This Will Be Our Year
Blacklist: Pure Joy In My Heart
Bruce Springsteen: I'm On Fire
The Cure: High
David Bowie: Heroes
Elefant: Love
Etta James: I've Been Loving You Too Long
Fleetwood Mac: Go Your Own Way
Jenny Lewis: Happy
Juliette Lewis: Fantasy Bar
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Papa Won't Leave You, Henry