(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 Philly Cheese Steak Lovers on tour)
It is actually the first time we all travel together, my and my friends, as we planned to go to Boston for Saint Patrick’s Day but in the end we just stayed in NY and had fun anyway. I like this trips, I hope we’ll have more occasions to travel more and visit some other cities around NY, like Boston for example which apparently will be my home for like two months. In the beginning we were not sure that our final destination was Philadelphia itself, as the schedule and the program of the visit was really unclear just days before the departure.
At first we decided to go to Pennsylvania in order to help a friend of our who was going to be busy in some kind of political task, and we offered our mental support to his cause by taking the free bus he was offering to us in order to reach Philadelphia and then leave him. A few days later we found out that the bus was free, but we agreed in an implicit way to campaign for Obama for like five or six hours on Saturday. Almost all of us didn’t want to campaign for Obama, and not because it was Obama, mainly because it was pointless to go to Pennsylvania, work all day and then don’t have the chance to see the town (other than campaigning for someone who is running as president in another country, and I just don’t care).
A couple of days before leaving we all met in order to take a decision about the trip, and we all agreed that it should be up to every single person to decide if campaigning or not, but all of us was going to take the Megabus instead of the Obamabus, paying like 24 dollars round trip to Philly. It is convenient, the bus is nice and there is (according to them as I didn’t have the chance to really connect) free wifi and the seats are comfortable. We are planning to take it again to go to Boston, and some of us is going to DC this weekend.
So we are on the bus, a quarter to ten on the clock, and in two hours we reach the rainy and windy Philly (I hate to see cities for the first time with rain as I always have a bad impression on them even if they are nice).We all meet in the biggest food court I have ever seen and I don’t remember its name and we eat something light (me and theidealintern had some kind of middle eastern food cooked by a guy that looked like greek, but it was good in the end) as we are planning to eat a tremendous size cheese steak for dinner. I think that we started travelling to eat; it’s definitely the end for us if it’s so.
After lunch we decided to go around Philly, even if the bad weather was really challenging. We went from the food court to the Museum of Art (for the non Phillies the Museum that has the statue of Rocky nearby) and took awesome pictures of us posing like a raging bull (not same movie, but related and awesome). Then we climbed the stairs to the top and went on the back of the museum to take the bus that would have taken us to the Independence Mall, right next to the river that crosses Philly.
Two dollars, affordable and convenient, we took twenty minutes to the Liberty Bell and we also took pictures with it. It’s free and fast so it’s worth seeing even if you shouldn’t expect so much entertainment by it. After the cultural day (which lasted no more than half an hour) we decided it was time to go to Mc Gillin’s Pub, the fifth oldest bar in the US; we visited in New York Mc Sorleys Bar that is the third, if I’ll ever go to New Orleans I will definitely go to the oldest ever in the US.
The pub is really big and nice; we found spots in a second and started enjoying our time with a six beers choice for nine bucks, in order to try local beers (then we took PBR, to enjoy the drunkness). We took also the cheese steak there (instead of going to the most famous Geno’s that is world famous for the cheese steak) because we were tired and we were enjoying our time there. At the end of the evening we were noisy, we sang the songs in the jukebox and came back to the bus a little bit overexcited. Nice day, I appreciated.
We came back home around midnight but we slept on the way home so we didn’t feel like going around more, we were already tired enough. Anyway let’s sum up the article today: take buses, are the easiest way to travel and the cheapest, like Megabus or Boltbus, avoid the Chinatown buses as they may even be cheaper but you are risking overbooked trips and no space to breath. Then visit as much as you can, the US are awesome and probably I will go again around, I hope to visit my new home in Boston too.
(Mother of steak…)
(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 Americans)
Aaah, tell me you were waiting for this post; the post where I would have described the wonderful people of the United States. I really don’t like the “American” term they use to describe themselves, I think it’s too much abused and refers to a much bigger population than just US; anyway as we all know American usually refer to themselves also as the best country of the world, the most proud population and etc etc… so the term I think reflects their ego.
You can immediately tell the different about people for New York and people from all over the world, but not from the habits or the colour of the skin, from the way they approach to the town. You see some of the people you meet let’s say they “ride” the town, living it in all its scope of moods and feelings, and appreciating it or not; New Yorkers are part of the rope, let’s say they are a string inside of the big common spirit that is the soul of the town. They behave differently, they don’t refer to the city as something mystical or a separate entity, they just don’t use the city as a comparison, they are the city.
You won’t hear them say that they hate or love the place because they are the place. Once I asked my landlord if he likes to live in New York and he told me that he was born and raised here, that sometimes this city is too big for him, that it’s loud, noisy and he didn’t like the rush that was everywhere in the town. I asked him why he didn’t leave and he told me, showing me a big happy smile with a dip of sadness: “I couldn’t leave; I will miss New York too much. I can’t imagine myself living somewhere else. This town is a patchwork of cultures and feeling, every cross is a town. Once you have been here for as long as I have been you don’t need to see anything else”.
He wasn’t under the effect of mushrooms, I can assure you. But maybe he is right. I have always been fascinated by the American culture, although most of the Italians have some kind of resentment to the US, hating the people and the capitalistic way of life, probably because of the anachronistic political parties that still influence our culture. I worked for the Americans too, now I moved here seeking a new life here. I don’t know what to expect, and I will always keep an eye on my emergency exit; even if I like the country, love the people and people (apparently) love me I just can’t take a look sometimes to my country, to my city and to my family, my friends, and my dog Valentino.
I mean all my life is there, and I will never lose the contact with my roots. I am not planning to stay here forever, I just want to take a shower into American life and come back, bringing some of their culture in Italy. I do believe in patriotism, and maybe this is one of the things I envy most of the US. I think everyone should be proud of what he is and of what he believes in. Any way this is getting to philosophical, let’s just come back to the stupid blog arguments, they are more suitable of this site and this writer.
Friday I got drunk and woke up in Queens sleeping with other 7 people, had a chicken with onions on rice for dinner and a double cheeseburger for breakfast. Interesting.
(Rockefeller Center guys)
(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)