Notes from NYC: Part Seven

Back from her African adventures, our resident NYC girl Claire is back on the ground in the city and gives us the 101 on all things Brooklyn.

It’s become a sort of game. Waking up in the morning, checking the current temperature, which at 7.30am sits at twenty-seven degrees, then watching as it climbs throughout the day. It’s more fun observing in Fahrenheit. Checking in on the dubious iPhone weather app as the temperature rises through the 80s into the high 90s, hoping it’ll hit that 100-degree mark for that screenshot-to-Instagram opportunity. Welcome to a New York heat wave. As the city sweats and steam rises up from the underground, the tourists endure, ducking into air conditioning at every opportunity while locals either cower indoors under their own AC or take themselves off to the Hamptons for some much-needed sea breeze. Come weekends, the city is the quietest I’ve seen it (which still resembles Auckland’s viaduct during the Rugby World Cup).

For those of us who aren’t so fortunate to toddle off to the Hamptons at will, there are other marginally less indulgent remedies

  1. Unless you’re one of the poor bastards who work on Wall Street and have to wear a suit, wear as little as possible. Summer is the perfect opportunity for fashion-forward New Yorkers to get creative; there’s no excuse to hide behind that black coat. New York is the city where anything goes, and other than those first few seconds when you board the train for you’re morning commute, noone is going to notice the lengths you have gone to, to keep cool
  2. Chobani’s: not your average yoghurt joint, the menu of optional toppings includes cucumber, mint, and olive oil served with salted pita chips; or pineapple with toasted coconut and hazelnuts. Delicious and refreshing – because for once you can’t fathom the idea of hot greasy pizza – I’d say it’s only a matter of time before this latest health fad hits NZ shores.
  3. Don’t run. Considering this jungle is made of concrete and very little else, New Yorkers are big time into running. Maybe their marathon training doesn’t allow for heat wave rest periods, but seriously, its 95 degrees (35 Celcius) and 100% humidity. Brisk walking I’ll allow, old habits die hard, but what you’re doing to your body is cruel, not to mention cruel to those whose shoulders you brush and stain with sweat as you pass.

But the recent rain has brought relief, brought the temperature down to a more bearable level, down to a degree that allows me to enjoy the concrete courtyard of my Bushwick apartment. This notably industrial area of Brooklyn has been my home since returning from Africa. For the past six weeks I have been making the gradual transformation into an official “Brooklynite”.  The brick walls of my neighbourhood are covered in impressive street art, I have discovered my local thrift store (op-shop) and organic food markets. It’s not altogether a different world: I now sit in my local Laundromat that looks remarkably like the one I frequented on the Upper West side on Manhattan. But Brooklyn does a certain cultural appeal to it…

Brooklyn’s element of surprise…

If you lived in Manhattan, it would be a rare event to hear music playing over your fence and walk round the corner on an average Saturday night, to be lead through on open door, up two flights of stairs to emerge in the midst of a (free) rooftop party complete with bar, dj and typical rave imagery projected onto the walls. If you lived in Manhattan, this would never happen. How did the other 200 people there know about this party? Word of mouth. Promotional material apparently only goes so far as an underground Facebook group or the contacts you made at the last event; it certainly pays to be in the know.

The more events I seem to stumble upon, the less in the know I feel. Are all Brooklyn’s festivities entirely or at least partially accidental? As I was venturing home from work on a Sunday evening, going to meet my roommate for dinner, tucked behind the main drag of East Williamsburg was a street fair that hosted food-stalls, the usual carnival games and margarita stands – free refill included!

Perhaps it is because the people of Brooklyn are more laid back than in the city, perhaps the smaller density population allows for a greater range of activities, but from the past month’s experiences, much of Brooklyn is more than meets the eye. Where else do you open a box on the side of the road to find that it’s a miniature library?

Best of both worlds…

By no means have I entirely shed my Manhattanite shell. Working in Soho means I am still surrounded by the treats and treasures that make this chaotic island a go to destination for billions of people each year. Two weeks house-sitting in the luxury of Grammercy also meant I wasn’t entirely swallowed up by Brooklyn scene. I certainly couldn’t stay away from the people watching in the city for too long.

My desire to escape the engulfing heat and humidity and to feel I am being cultural on my days off, sent me to the Punk: Chaos to Couture exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum and the Rain Room at MoMA, two seriously impressive displays of modern art (even if the irony of waiting for the Rain Room in the rain did have me questioning the five-hour queue).

And until the world of retail allows me to take a full weekend off to escape the city, I shall continue to cower in the comfort of my AC, to dash from one chilled subway cart to the next and to enjoy the local marvels that are surprising enough to distract me from my tragic game of tracking the temperature gage on my phone.

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