(Aka The reunion)
Sorry if it has been such a long time since the last time I wrote on this blog, but many, really many things happened these days. The problem is that many things will still happens in the next ones so I pretty don’t know when I could start again writing periodically and with a certain stability. But I mean, I am not the New York Times so I don’t see who would get mad for this. As I was telling you before I have no idea of what I will be doing next and beside the Harvard stuff I told you these days tons of possibilities came out. Not all of them will bring me to a shiny offer but who knows.
Anyway coming back to my absence these days, I spent my time basically working slightly harder than usual and most important thing my parents and some friends came. My family and the family of a friend of my family came last week and I had the chance to see them after a period of three months I spent here. Seems yesterday that I came, but I can’t remember not even what I ate yesterday for dinner. (Actually I had sausages).
I am a planner, I am extremely rational and I am one of those like to have control on things. Even on object on tables, I panic if I don’t see that they are straight parallel to the edge of the table or the food I buy is not aligned when it comes close to supermarkets cash registers. That kind of paranoid. And I made a plan, a detailed useful plan I used to take my family around New York and make them see and taste every single attraction and interesting place the city has to offer, obviously with my New Yorkers eyes (I beg you pardon New Yorkers, but my family has never been in the States nor they speak English, so I look like the Queen of England to them) (not that I speak English so good as you can see).
My family came here on the fifth of April and stayed for six days, I had to prepare a plan that could split the city into different areas that could be visited by walking or at least by cab, as my family doesn’t like particularly to walk around, and New York is extremely windy these days, making outdoor excursion less enjoyable. I tried to put everything could be interesting inside, but as I told you and as I repeat you, it’s almost impossible even think to see the whole city in six days. I did my best, they enjoyed my efforts and left the city with that little bit of sadness that hits everyone that has to leave a friend you make during summer, or a bar with a two dollars happy hours.
I am posting my precious program to this post, hoping that someone of you reading this post could use my program to greet your family when they come to visit you, when they offer you the last money you need to survive or propose to buy you groceries at Trader Joe’s. The friend of my father coming to NY is tall and big, and loves to eat even more than I do so I had to focus my attention on places that could attract him and make him try the American and foreign cuisine that stole my heart when I came here. I am aware that maybe the best way to try everything and taste the best food in NY is street food and food trucks, but my parents wanted to sit in a comfortable place at least to eat.
We went from east to west, fromHarlemto South Ferry and I tried to show them everything, from Gospel to the superclassic Statue of Liberty. Check it below and if you like it or you want a pdf copy of it let me know so I can send it to you. I started to write again finally, I promise I will keep up a regular job from next week!
(The first evening, how could you not like it?)
(Aka Sunday brunch and Bloody Mary)
Around the city of New York, or at least in Manhattan as far as I know, there are billboards everywhere. They advertise events, clothes, alcohol and most of all asses. Yes, asses, asses everywhere. Not that I mind particularly about it, but these are not the only one you see. Some of them are smart and even brilliant sometimes, and except the ones in Times Square (which a real New Yorker doesn’t visit too often) you can even smile looking at them. For example, some days ago I saw some of them advertising the Knicks and the Madison Square Garden.
I already spoke about it but I like NBA so I just paid attention to them while I was in the subway; this is the catch phrase: “The MSG is the house of the Knicks like…” and typical New York stereotypes, some of them really funny. Like “New York is the house of the two hundred square meters apartments” or “The High Line is the house of New Yorkers with friends in town”. I can see myself in most of those, both because I live in a shoebox and I have friends that I plan to take to the High Line when they’ll come.
Among the other catch phrases today I want to discuss one in particular: “MSG is the house of the Knicks as Chelsea is the house of the brunch”. The brunch, a typical New York institution, that American look with envy and European cannot understand properly. The correct definition of brunch is: “a meal halfway between breakfast and lunch” (I lied, I didn’t check for the definition anywhere, this is the only definition I know and I am too lazy to go on Wikipedia).
Well here in New York it’s kind of different, as most of my friends believe the brunch is a meal that can be carried on from two pm to five, which have the role of turning you into sober after the weekend. Which is not wrong at all but here there is a different conception. Here they use this moment of the day to drink as many Bloody Marys and Mimosas (orange juice and sparkling wine) as they can, which technically bring you back to hangover mode.
I went to a place last week, it’s called Veselka Bowery (it’s famous among “brunchers”, it’s at 9 East 1st street). Very nice place, clean, big windows so the sun can come in and take you out from the solitude and the inner darkness that the rum and coke brought into you. And funny and nice waiters, which is one thing that basically make me choose if to come back or not in a place, sometimes more than food. Which was great by the way. I had corned beef on top of a certain kind of whole wheat bread and with poached egg on top, toasted bread aside and a separate dish with bacon. To drink I didn’t feel brave enough to the alcohol so I just took orange juice and coffee. All of this at three pm.
Which could even be considered as a brunch, but basically collide with the idea and the definition usually provided. I regret nothing by the way, I really loved the place and I think I will come back again. I like these places where the atmosphere is relaxed and you don’t have to scream to bartenders to obtain some sort of drink with more ice then ethanol in it. Sometimes I go in places where the waiter doesn’t even look you in the eyes and throw things at you with no love. They are not New Yorkers I guess, all the New Yorkers I met are nice people, starting from my landlord who was born in the Bronx, and he is a cool guy. Maybe a hippy and I hope he is not reading this otherwise he would raise the rent.
Coming back to the brunch stuff I would recommend Veselka for today, it’s my favourite Sunday pick so far and I hope to see you there not this Sunday (my family is visiting the US for the first time, yayyyyy) and I will be too busy carrying them around the High Line, over and over again all day.
(Sometimes you just wanna eat and sleep. And repeat)
(Aka trip to Caribbean New York)
It’s really important to understand that New York is a patchwork of cultures, all melted together and affecting each other with the influences of their cultural background and creating a sort of continuum among them. That’s you can find many boroughs or districts or barrios close to each other and very different but still some kind of similar. The cuisine is worldwide recognized as one of the first evidence to state the place you come from, and you can trust me because, as an Italian, I can assure you that this is the truth.
See not all the stereotypes are bad and aim to make a culture appear weak abroad, and some of them are real and healthy as never. For example this week we have an Italian night in my shoebox, which I will describe later on, and we had “pasta alla carbonara”, a particular kind of pasta with pancetta, eggs and pecorino, all genuine Italian ingrediants. Pasta is just one of the stereotypes that reflect Italian culture, and I don’t mind when people say that we just eat pasta all year long because basically it’s true.
It’s even true that we talk waving hands and that we are late at appointments, and I don’t see why or how this could offend an Italian. It’s part of a culture, and I am proud of it as everyone should be proud of their culture. I mean I don’t play mandolino and I am not a mobster but I guess it’s clear that this is just some kind of movies leftover. Anyway as I was telling you the cuisine is one of the first things that comes into your mind when you think about a country and yesterday we went to a couple of traditional looking Caribbean places in New York.
Just next to the East Village and close to University place you can find a colourful community of Caribbean countries people that turned this particular couple of blocks in a vibrant community, just in the heart of Nolita (North of Little Italy). With the beginning of spring air became warmer and the flavour and tastes of this barrio enriched my experience there. Sunday for me it’s the traditional soccer day, and I planned to play until 3 pm and then reach my friends that went to visit Coney Island; the match ended at a quarter past four, and I also took a shower so it was too late to reach them there. Too bad because I saw the pictures and the place was really awesome, I want to come back there and also in Brighton Beach.
Anyway we met later at a quarter to eight in this place called Oficina Latina, in Prince Street next to Mulberry, a Cuban place specialized in traditional Cuban dishes (obviously) and most of all in drinks. The menu offered Capirinhas, Pina Coladas and Mojito among the others, and I have to say that they really tasted delicious. The traditional white tiles on the bar and the wooden details, together with the wide choice of wines gave the place a fancy look. The drinks were a little bit expensive but I think that may be a good place to bring a girl.
Since it was around nine thirty and I still hadn’t eaten anything from the morning I was a little bit hungry and convinced the group to move somewhere to eat. Nothing fancy or big because I still had a pastrami sandwich I ate the day before in my stomach. We chose a taco place next to the bar, its name is Fonda Nolita, in Elizabeth Street, and as soon as you walk in you realize why this place will steal your heart. The guy that prepares the tacos is inside of a Volkswagen van converted into a kitchen with the open rooftop. It’s wonderful, I want one of those inside of my living room.
You can order your tacos or tortas in Spanish at the cash and receive your order directly from the van chef. I had a short rib barbacoa taco with rice and beans aside, a pineapple drink and I felt really satisfied by my choice. I saw also pictures of this place on Street View and it shows four guys playing cards with eating a taco and the van guy cooking with all the big repair shop windows opened, check it as it’s very funny.
I will definitely come back here, maybe more in the taco place than in the Cuban drinks place, but in the meantime I will try everything else this city has to offer in terms of food, drinks and else. Someday I will also go to an Italian place, I am planning to visit Le Cirque on Easter, as yes I am hungry and I love to eat in many different places, but I am still an unpaid intern so I will wait my parents to come to pay for trying that.
(I fell in love with a Volkswagen van. Again)
(Aka You just got Rickroll’d)
The main variable here that influences a wide range of subjects such as the technological gadget world, the groceries and the work is basically the integration of the human being with the World Wide Web. As I explained before in my posts you can technically do everything on the internet, and I am one of those that except meeting girls and play soccer loves to use internet for anything. Sometimes people do even those two things on the internet, but let’s say it’s not my style.
See in Italy there is no chance to use such a wide range of services, basically because in some areas of Italy we still have the dial up connection, and in other areas we don’t have even that one. And that’s just one of the problems. Most of all we are not mentally used to think about the the internet when we need something, we don’t have big stores and big chains of shops that offer products delivery. Shipping is expensive, you can only buy things on eBay, that is the biggest source of products for the average Italian, that is really, really scared about the idea to insert his credit card number on the internet.
Like in case they clone the card you will be immediately poor and alone, instantly after inserting the verification code. People in Italy buy just one, simple prepaid card from the same selle, the Poste (which is basically the US Postal Service here) because the voice of a simple, free and easy credit card spread among all Italy. Think about a country all with the same card. Why? Because they are afraid of everything, you always wait for the scam in Italy and the internet is an evil machine made to such your money and your social life. In fact it takes your social life, but if you are wise you can keep the money.
Here the things are different, and I will suggest you some internet sites you should visit that may seem basic for an American, but may result in something interesting for a future intern in New York, if you are reading this to obtain some information (or maybe they’ll make a book out of this, or a movie. In that case I would like Timothy Olyphant to play my role, he’s funny and looks alike me in some situations).
First of all the masterpiece, King Amazon: you can find everything, and I really mean everything, from food to clothing to gardening to sex toys. Everything. It is a search engine on recommended website that affiliates to Amazon in order to let it take the orders for them and manage them taking a commission on the order money. I recommend it for clothing, gadgets and technology stuff, be sure that all the items you buy are included in the Super Saving shipment because otherwise it would be something like five dollars for seller (you buy three objects from three shops you will have to pay three shipping fees). And this is the worst part, they send you tons of shipments even if you want them to reduce them to as few as possible.
Another internet site that will ease you things is FreshDirect. There are advertisements everywhere in Manhattan trains, I tried it and it works, they are fast, friendly and they deliver exactly in a two hours spot you choose. The delivery boy was so kind not to complain for the four floors of stairs to my apartment and was so kind I gave him 5 bucks. They told me to try Peapot too for food, but I think that this is the best site I used and I will continue like this.
Then I suggest you to subscribe to Netflix if you have a good internet connection and a strong Wifi. The site will permit you to stream contents from the internet right on your pc, Playstation, Xbox and similar, the quality is very good and the programs are decent. A service like this for example for me is necessary after the fall of the God Megavideo, which by the way I paid 30 Euros to in order to subscribe to the site on January.
If you need business cards (they are basically useful to spread them around to girls) you can buy the at Vistaprint, they are fast, cheap and they have a wonderful customer support: the post offices couldn’t find my shipment after two days and the customer support offered me for free a new shipment and if the post offices could find my business cards I could have kept them.
Now I can’t remember any other internet site, if I will in a future I will rickroll you again and suggest something else to visit. And by the way I always end up into Youtube videos that rickrolls you and hope that you rage. Too bad I love that song.
(Check out Brian Griffin on Family Guy version of the song, it’s awesome)
(Aka Technically it’s Cambridge)
Ok today I will let you know some updates about the decisions I took for my future. You know that all interns are looking for something to do after this experience and although they know this life won’t last forever they will always try to continue having fun without really working (and forever interning). Anyway like most of them I was in the condition of looking forward for this summer and find something to do, in order not to “waste” (according to my parents) time lying on a beach in Italy.
Do you remember the post about the university I refused about one month ago (Should I Stay or Should I Go)? Well after that decision I didn’t come back again with another decision until a couple of days ago, while I was discussing with some friends here and with the big boss at home: see I still haven’t decided yet if I will be attending NYU master here in New York, and every day tons of new possibilities rise up from the work opportunities sea. Among all those, I decided to choose something that could satisfy me and my parents at the same time: a summer school.
I though this could have been a transition experience to definitely prepare me for the world of US universities, which is not too bad and I bet I will be fine, as in every place I have been in my life (I am even a funny and friendly person, ask anyone). I chose Harvard University. I know what you are thinking; this guy is a douchebag, another rich intern pretending to be poor, a “son of dad” and communist kind of stuff like that. Well I can ensure you that this was a decision I took thinking hard to it, not doing it just to spend a couple of months. I know the tuition is really expensive, even for one month, but I think that this is an investment that in a long term scope could bring you back awesome results. I mean, it’s just a summer school, obviously, I don’t pretend it would be considered such as a Phd or a Master, but in Italy I think it would have a pretty nice appearance on my desk, and would be considered by the people that would choose if hire me or not.
Because sometimes I forget but my ultimate goal is to be hired. And I am still undecided too if this would happen here in the US or in Italy, my loved land. You see I see New York as a little land of opportunities, not the whole United States because I am not naïf not to know that it’s not beautiful everywhere here such as everywhere in the world; I can see how you could be rewarded if you put efforts in what you do, I can see how this city and the people could give you a chance if you deserve one. I trust this city, and maybe I will regret all my trust but I still believe in this world.
I know that someday I will be back in Italy, but not know; there no chances to do something you love and slightly more chances to be employed in a dead end job you hate. I will come back in Italy to see my family and my friends when I’ll be a new man, shaped by this experiences my parents are permitting me to do (and I thank them). Coming back to the Harvard Summer School, I found it very organized, available and reliable (yes you pay even for that and the name most of all) and yes, it’s always Harvard. You have to know that it’s very, very difficult to attend these schools and participate to these programs in the US because of the GMAT, the GRE, the TOEFL, the essays and all the requirements they have. Not because you are not good enough, because in Italy we still are idiots that don’t think that teaching to kids in English would be a massive asset for them in a future. I had to learn English on my own; do you think it was easy? Do you think I have the same chances of somebody that studied his whole life in English to pass a GMAT or a GRE? I don’t think so.
Harvard Summer School would be a start, and then I’ll see what I will do next. I even applied for an internship (even if I would like to start working) at CERN in Geneva, who knows that they may need a scientist?
(Aka The world outside my house)
Manhattan is without any doubt the most popular borough in New York, so famous that most of the people I know in Italy think it actually is New York. Basically few people know that New York has officially five boroughs, and I can tell you that each one of them is a different city with its characteristics and peculiarities. Sometimes they even have cities in the cities. Citiesception.
I live in one of the best borough of Manhattan, not because I am rich, and I am not, but because I found through friends of friends of friends a nice studio that I pay a reasonable price and I like. I’ll tell you later on how my apartment looks alike, but I can give you a spoiler about it telling you that is one of the cutest shoebox in New York. My borough is calm, relaxed and full of old people that carry around dogs and dogs which carry around old people. I love it, and it’s close to one of my favourite rooftops so even better.
Just close to my borough there is Midtown, the part of the city I know better, the one with Times Square and full of skyscraper to give you an idea. I mean, there are skyscrapers almost everywhere but this part is the business area, together with financial district, that you imagine when you think about New York. I know this area because even I work here and some of my favourite places are here, from bars to restaurants, and is the easiest one to walk in and visit because of the many subways and bus lines.
I will have to visit more Manhattan, I am still a noob of the city as I guess you could spend a life here and still haven’t seen all the places this borough has to offer. Like for example I still have to find my favourite bar, which I consider very important. Actually Jimmy’s Corner in Midtown is a cheap, friendly bar next to Times Square, I recommend it if you don’t want to see tourists asking for tea and you want to breathe New York air. If you like 50’s atmosphere I instead recommend Bill’s Gay Nineties, there is an old man that looks totally like Tony Bennet singing new and old songs with 50s style and it’s wonderful.
For what concern the south part of the Manhattan peninsula I have been in tons of places but I could name a few of them as most of the time we just enter in random bars and have a couple of beer without caring too much about the name or the place. It’s clear that around Washington Square there is a huge amount of bars and places where young students go to forget the pain of a deep study and to celebrate the fact that there are almost no hipsters in this area. They focus on Williamsburg, in Brooklyn, which I will describe later.
East Village, Greenwich Village and West Village are all nice areas, alive, vibrant and full of people. This makes them noisy and even stressing during the week but represent a good alternative at night, especially during weekends where you could have luck with girls in some bars and small drinking holes with small doors. A restaurant are awesome too, one in particular is fascinating and reminds me of my little town in Italy, not Rome but Civita, and is run by a funny and qualified Italian, Mr. Giovanni Bartocci in Via della Pace Restaurant. Sadly I had few occasions to come back there but I will as soon as possible, I will continue my quest around the city in order to complete my borough travel guide and in the mean time I will come back to Mr. Bartocci, who is facing like me a bad moment with his soccer team but doesn’t stop supporting it.
If you go even lower in the city you will get to Soho, Canal Street and all Downtown, which I will describe in another occasion as I am running out of space in this post. And I have to talk about Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, Staten Island and the small islands around New York. Or in order to speed things up I can just post the torrent file of my Lonely Planet if you prefer.
(Via della Pace, true faliscan restaurant)
(Aka No More Carnival)
Today the mood in this post seems to be different from the others, and I guess this is the result of recent calls and chat I had with my friends back in Italy. Well I am not saying I am sad, but it’s normal to feel something similar to nostalgia away from home, especially when you know that it’s going to be a very long time. Mainly I am writing this for two things that happened yesterday: first of all, I had throat ache, and this is not a reason for my mood but the beginning of the first story.
I had throat ache and I decided to leave work before because I didn’t really feel well and I decided to go to visit my future university in New York (actually I don’t know if I will be accepted, but it’s always better to plan a visit to the school and to the structures). I had to take a train from Manhattan to Brooklyn to arrive in Metro Tech where the university is and as soon as I stepped outside of the metro I saw a completely different scenario: Brooklyn is a totally different place, maybe it’s not New York anymore, because the people and their behaviour are typical of a different city. I felt like a soul that this place transmitted me, and at the same time some kind of fear for the new place.
I have this feeling every time, the first day, maybe even the first week when I move to a new place I feel like the period I am going to spend there would be endless and I am almost sure that I am going to suffer and feel uncomfortable for months. And those things never happen in real life. I always set up perfectly in every place, I like all the places I have been and I had no problems in Italy, Netherlands and US. But the feeling for the first days remains, and I learnt how to live with it. Brooklyn is a vibrant community, full of characteristic and picturesque scenes that I will learn to appreciate in a future. Even the university at the end was not bad.
But my throat ache was getting worse so it was time to come back home. As soon as I got home I received some FB messages from my friends in Italy, who have just been involved in my town Carnival, the best and most appreciate holiday in my region. Carnival in my town is a religion, I participated to Carnival since I was 14 and every year I tailor my own costume and dance and drink and sing in the streets, with thousands of people with me, drunk as me, happy as me. If you ever come to Civita Castellana (I doubt, but no one can say it for sure) check the schedules for the three Carnival parades, you will be “intoxicated” by the beauty of my city.
My friends were reporting me all the facts and telling me the nothing much happened in the city beside Carnival since I left. The same common answer that your friends usually tell you when you ask what’s going on. Nothing much. Even that sentence unexpectedly started in me a series of feelings that made me realize it was the first Carnival I was not participating to, and at the same time how much I was missing that routine that is typical of my town. At last I realized that more and more in a future I will skip vital points of the life of my city, in order to chase my dreams.
What if I am not going to participate Carnival anymore, like I did for Easter that I am skipping since 2009 and Middle August that I am skipping since 2006? My life will still go on I guess. And I am not sad either; I realize that even this is growing up. Soon big choices will come. Am I going to be mature enough to face them?
(These are the fritteloni, a delicious egg appetizer made in my town. I would kill for a couple of them)
(Aka Throw away your SIM card)
Calling home could be pretty much expensive from the US, especially with some Italian carriers who claims to be magic number. The problem is that if only I picked up my phone to answer a call, I had to pay one Euro instantly, and the 25 cent per minute of received call. The prank of this hilarious phone company is that I can’t see who is calling from the US, and this turns my phone in a music-video-phone-gps-app integrated Russian roulette. What if who calls tries to sell me an extraordinary offer on mattresses? I love to pick up my phone and insult them, but do I want to pay one Euro for that? Hell no. I only tried to answer my mom, but the stake was too high.
I asked a dear friend of mine, the sweet Miss F., to help on this situation. Miss F. is an Italian girl who was as fascinated as me about US and decided to come here before me, she works as a journalist and she is going through the hard life of the endless internships. Miss F. found love in the US and decided to move here to find the fame everyone is looking for and I do support her, and even his boyfriend who is a very nice architect. And he is only the only one that is not Italian and that is actually bringing cash home.
Miss. F. suggested me to go to T-Mobile and check for unlimited plans and the next day I had my SIM card, my unlimited phonedatamessagessmokesignalsflyingpigeons offer and the extra Italian plan, so I could call any land phone for free. Really convenient, 60 bucks and nothing to worry about. I do love unlimited plans because basically I am a planner, and I am really afraid of situations outside of my scheduled plans, that’s why I chose also MTA Metrocard, which is more precious than Willy Wonka golden ticket around here.
Beside the monthly plan and the offer what I want to discuss here is the amount of smartphones around: in Italy we obviously have smartphones and it’s not uncommon to see people of all ages owning a flaming new device, the different thing here is that smartphones are for everyone. It’s not just all a matter of price, it’s carriers behavior and real functions you can get out of it. Yesterday I saw a girl paying for a coffee pointing her phone in front of the bar code scanner, a couple of weeks ago a guy checked in at the airport with a QR code. It’s sci-fi in Italy.
I hate Italian carriers for the way they came into an agreement years ago expecting us to pay way more than every country of the world, and I hate people for getting angry in private. I see people shouting and walking in streets for a university reform that may affect a minor part of the population and not for this, or for gasoline, or for the unbelievable price of food. Sometimes I feel ashamed of speaking about how much I pay for things necessary for living, just because all companies sell them at this price because people are willing to pay this price.
I will discuss later of this, in the meantime what I wanted to say with this post is that in the US you have an almost unlimited source of things you can do with your portable device that justify a price that you are not paying if you decide to subscribe a contract. In Italy monthly plans doesn’t exist, there either two years plans or prepaid card. That’s it. And that’s why people are willing to pay seven hundred Euros for a phone without even using flat internet connection. And, most of all, I have never seen somebody paying for a seventy-nine cents app in Italy. What do you need the fruity phone if you don’t use all the features? Why are you willing to pay that price just to say “I have that phone”? Do you really need it, Italian “bella figura”?
(I’ve found the perfect image today)