The past few days have been chock full of adventure. In my time in New York I have stayed in hostels on Manhattan and in Brooklyn, in the homes of friends, and with couch surfers** in various neighborhoods, and have therefore had a varied and extremely cheap time of it here. Brooklyn has its positive aspects - namely cheap musical venues, boutiques so cute and quirky you actually want to die, and a glorious neighborhood where every aspect of society is completely Polish as far as the eye can see - but overall, Manhattan still takes the cake for me. Compiled reflections on the local flavor are as follows:
United Nations Tour- So as it turns out, the U.N. Headquarters in New York, built between 1947 and 1952, is actually a total dump. It is filled with enormous priceless gifts and artworks from hundreds of different countries, but that only highlights the fact that it looks like a post-apocalyptic Epcot Center in a second rate horror film starring Steve Zahn and Denise Richards. I took a picture of the Secretariat, and found out that my nutritional mainstays, peanut butter, gruel, and hard tack, are virtually indistinguishable from emergency rations in a U.N. refugee camp.
The Museum of Modern Art- A really beautiful art museum, though I do not enjoy having to confront my complete lack of understanding of classifications of art. Monet and van Gogh just do not seem modern to me. They had some of my all time favorite artists on display, and a fabulous exhibition of paintings and photos by women from the past 150 years, but nothing with trains as the subject matter, as far as I could tell.
The Queens County Farm Museum- The longest continuously run farm in New York City, and the biggest piece of farmland still existing therein, the park consists of farmland, greenhouses, a historic farmhouse from 1772, pasture, and more adorable hairy ponies than you could shake a stick at.*** The eccentric old man that gives tours of the house emphatically describes every single aspect of human existence in Queens in the 18th century. And it costs nothing!
El Museo del Barrio- A beautiful museum focusing on the Spanish heritage and Latino presence in the greater New York area. It is free to all humans on Super Sabados, and it gives a very interesting alternate perspective on how the region was fought over by different colonial powers and how it developed over the years in relation to the rest of the Western Hemisphere. They also had an wunderkind children's orchestra playing a concert at the time.
What else have I been eating, drinking, hearing, seeing, etc?
Somehow I got into the good graces of the entire staff of Khao Sarn Thai Restaurant in Williamsburg. This resulted in countless complimentary items, including a shot that the bartender invented just for our group, sent to our table over the course of the evening. If you go there, ask for Paul. In true über hip Brooklyn form, my friends and I attended a free mimosa and Belgian waffle party in a local artists's studio. Other attractions of the party were live DJs, very weird clothing and jewelry from local designers, and a dashing young Frenchman giving $10 haircuts. I went crazy in an expansive and almost suspiciously cheap Polish grocery store called Dollar Up in Greenpoint. I listened to difficult experimental jazz at the Cornelia Street Cafe, an institution here.
All of this was very exciting, but in New York it is quite cold, and everyone walks very fast and frightens me. And the people here all wear black so no one notices my somber Johnny Cash wardrobe. I needed a place with a bit of warmth, color, and a slower local dialect and pedestrian speed limit. I needed to go to New Orleans.
*Perhaps a write-in candidate?
** If you have not heard of Couch Surfing I highly recommend checking it out if you really like a bit of adventure.
***And who would ever want to shake a stick at a pony anyway?