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New York City: Some Observations

New York is an incredible city. The people, the colour, the noise (and there is a lot of noise) – it’s like living in a giant performance piece about pressurised city life. But it’s not all music and glamour. The thing with high density city living is…well…high density city living. To whit, here are some of my observations about the city I now call home.

1. New York City is dirty and dusty. The vast number of vehicles, the high rise buildings, the number of smokers…everything is covered in a layer of dirt. Not even a fine layer of dirt. A great honking thick layer.
1a. This means that when it rains, everything turns to gravy. Best not wear your favourite satin ballet flats today, sweetheart.
1b. This also means your nose will be full of dust and dirt. Remember that one time you went to a bush doof with your hippie friends and you blew big dirty boogers for 2 days afterwards? New York City…all the time.

2. There are dogs everywhere. Considering everyone lives in apartments – tiny apartments – I am continually blown away when I see people walking huge great danes or german shepherds down the street. Surely the dogs go crazy in your little one bedroom walk up?! Anyway, one wonderful side effect of dogs everywhere is dog waste everywhere. I’m not kidding when I say you need to keep your eyes down at all times, lest your foot connects with a steaming pile of last nights doggy chow. Also, that puddle you just stepped in isn’t water. This is one reason I don’t wear thongs in the city.

3. Another reason I don’t wear thongs is the toxic gutter slime. The gutters are always full of a delightful mishmash of garbage juice, water runoff, dog pee, city gravy, and whatever else is around. In winter these freeze over and become mini ice skating ponds. In the warmer months they turn fluorescent green. No word of a lie.

4. You walk everywhere. If somewhere is less than 2 subway stops, it’s a quick walk, even if that means 16 blocks. You will trade in all your ballet flats for converse and kicks because you can’t run errands all over town when your feet hurt (read: me). Not only that, but your lovely flats will get shredded and destroyed. This is no place to be precious about shoes. If you’re wearing fancy heels – take a cab.

5. The first few times you catch the subway, you will wonder if you need anti-nausea tablets for the violent rocking, or if you need to see a physio for the whiplash. The first time I took a B train and it flew from West 4th to 34th, I thought we were going to derail. Ditto the L train as it lurches under the East River. Now I barely notice it.

6. You need balls of steel for the roads here. Big balls if you want to drive. Huge balls if you want to ride a bike. The bulk of people on the roads here are cabbies or private drivers with big black SUVs – they smell fear and will eat you alive (or just honk you to death).

7. Women travel in packs of four. Perhaps this is a throwback to the Sex and the City days, or perhaps Sex and the City was actually an accurate representation, but women are usually in bars, at restaurants, and brunching in cafes at tables for four. I find it fascinating.

Have you been to New York? What other observations can you add?

Belvedere Castle in Central Park. Home of Belvedere Vodka (no it's not...that's just silly)

Belvedere Castle in Central Park. Home of Belvedere Vodka (no it’s not…that’s just silly)

International Pillow Fight Day in Washington Square Park - always something happening in the hood

International Pillow Fight Day in Washington Square Park – always something happening in the hood

Yep, this is where I live. Which two days?!?!?!

But which two days?!?!?!

For more New York awesomeness, you can follow me on Instagram

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A New York Moment

I’m sitting in a cafe that is blasting Radiohead. Definitely not my soundtrack of choice, but they have good tea and it’s close to home.

Sitting across from me is a model reading Sylvia Plath – The Bell Jar. She’s not an international supermodel, but I definitely recognise her from magazines and billboards. Next to her is a young woman reading a book called Incarnational Ministry, occasionally pausing to mark things on the page with her poised pen. In the corner an older lady and a young guy who have just met are discussing potential movie projects together, while the dude next to me is glued to his laptop, intermittently checking his iphone. To my left is an old guy holding court. He is one of those old school mafia guys, wearing wrap around tinted glasses and a leather jacket, a thicket of silver hair across his head, four HUGE gold rings – two on each hand, and a beautiful (and I suspect expensive) silk scarf draped around his neck. He is discussing the neighbourhood, his mother (god rest her soul), his friend’s love life, the lesbians next door. He has a deep and disarming chuckle. One of his companions has a high pitched Staten Island accent. Straight out of a movie.

Tourists come in and out, grabbing sandwiches, coffee, and soup. NYU students grab cheap meals to eat while studying, and entrepreneurs are plugged in to the cafe’s power supply to run their empires and conduct business meetings. The couple next to me are getting to know each other, asking questions, and completely engrossed in what the other is saying. The sun is streaming in through the windows, and even though it is only 6 degrees, it is starting to look and feel like spring.

NoHo. Bowery. Home.

Working, working

Today’s desk

Think Coffee Bowery

Today’s office

Think Coffee Bowery

Hello, spring

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Cheap Beauty: Aveda Institute NYC

I love a cheap beauty buy – when a $10 mascara does a better job than the $30 version, or the $6 lipstick is just as rad as the $40 dupe. You get this kind of smug feeling, right? Like…I look a million bucks, but it only cost me $50. I also love when you can get a $90+ beauty treatment for $20, like the haircut I got last week at the Aveda Institute. To steal a phrase my friend Ms. Critique, this is totally Stealth Wealth.

The Aveda Institute is as you expect from the name – it’s the Aveda beauty school. The students are learning how to do haircuts, colour, waxing, and facials, and they need real live guinea pigs. Now there are some things I wouldn’t let beginners do, like a brow wax, but I’m happy for a noob to give me a trim. Go to town, girlfriend.

Of course, for a $20 haircut there are some caveats. If you want a regular salon experience, this is not for you. Whilst I was enjoying my relaxing scalp massage from my lovely student hairdresser, there were two other students standing literally two feet from me talking about their raging Saturday night and how drunk they got. Not totally zen. You also get to enjoy blow back from the blow dry that’s happening next to you, the stations are that close together. Essentially, this is a classroom.

On the plus side, the teaching method leaves you feeling pretty confident. You go through what you want with the student, then a teacher comes over to confirm what you said and give any necessary instruction. As you’re being chopped, teachers are looking on. Once you’re done, a teacher comes to inspect the handiwork and make any necessary touch ups (my student didn’t need any help, bless her). And then before you head off you speak to the teacher again and fill out a form to give the thumbs up. It’s a really slow process, so clear your schedule. Just beware, the students are also taught the art of upselling – you will be escorted to the product unit and a basket will be thrust into your hands and filled with goodies. Which means it’s a good time to practice your polite thanks but no thanks.

The nitty gritty: Aveda Institute – 233 Spring St NY, NY (near the C, E, and 1)
$20 for a hair cut from a first year, $30 from a second year
Prices for all services are on their website

happy snap

I figured a boring ‘here is my haircut’ photo was a bit dull, so I used a birthday happy snap instead. Don’t mind the laundry rack in the background. I like to keep it classy.

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Starting from scratch: the living room

Something about moving that has been both fun and intimidating is decorating an apartment. We barely brought anything with us, save for my favourite cushion cover and three prints that we ironically bought from a street vendor here in New York earlier last year, so we essentially started from scratch. That meant we could do what we wanted with colour schemes, furniture, layout, art – but the thing with moving countries and starting over is it is bloody expensive.

Yes, every piece of furniture in our apartment is from Ikea. But I’m totally okay with that because I love our apartment. Our teeny tiny apartment. Our apartment that is less than half the size of our apartment back home. Did I mention it’s small?

Because of the (lack of) size, I purposely picked furniture that was light in colour and low-lying to give the illusion of space and height. The low bed frame. The short and wide dresser, rather than the tall one. The couch, ottoman, and coffee table all at the same height. And speaking of the couch – holy hells bells did we buy the most comfortable couch ever. Back home we had this stupid cream leather couch that we spent way too much money on, the cushions never stayed on properly, and I swear it got dirty just from looking at it. It’s on the top 5 regrettable purchases list. Our new couch is a Karlstad and it’s so crazy comfy that I never want to get out of it – an occupational hazard as a freelancer. Plus, I love the grey-blue colour.

Ikea Karlstad couch and ottoman, Lack side table Ikea Karlstad couch and ottoman, Lack side table

Ikea Karlstad couch and ottoman, Lack side table

I was going for a textured thing in the lounge area with the couch, rug, throw, and cushions. It’s so cozy and inviting.

Couch and ottoman: Karlstad
Coffee table/side table on wheels: Lack
Rug: Alhede