A Letter to New York City

Times Square

Dear New York,

I come back to you like an addict, an on-again-off-again lover who feels in his heart that one day we will only be on.

I love the way the cool air of your subway trains almost makes up for the suffocating heat of your platforms, the satisfaction I feel when I snake past frustrating packs of stopped tourists on the sidewalk, the relief of finding a Starbucks without a bathroom line after an over-delayed train ride holding my bladder. 

Though I’ve never called you mine, I hesitate when a stranger asks if I’m a tourist or a local. I proudly recite directions when I know them and tiptoe reluctantly around the many questions I cannot answer about you. 

I leave you today not knowing when we will be back together, or for how long, but the tryst has been satisfying for the time.

Till we meet again.

Brennan 

The Highline

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Let’s Run Away

Today marks five days into my grand summer trip, already having taken two planes and four busses back and forth between three different cities. The short of it is that my two friends, Laura Ann and Jodi, flew three separate planes to New York on Friday before bussing to Atlantic City for the weekend, back to New York for a day and then to Baltimore and back on Monday/Tuesday early morning to see Beyoncé. But of course the short of it won’t suffice.

When I first got into New York City, I spent about five hours in Port Authority reading The Bean Trees and waiting for Laura Ann and Jodi to get in (Jodi’s flight was cancelled and she got in late). Of course American Airlines wasn’t satisfied enough with cancelling Jodi’s flight and lost her luggage, promised her twice it would be there Friday night or Saturday morning, then within two days and then finally guaranteed 100% that it would get here Sunday afternoon. Nope – came in at 2am on Tuesday morning, four days later.

Atlantic City nights

We stayed with my friend Jacob in Atlantic City, where I lost more than I’m willing to admit in the casinos (didn’t even realize that was the main appeal of AC) and enjoyed a long day at the beach playing Frisbee and jumping into the cool waters. Jersey was different and the same than expected, as most things are, with plenty of guidos (one of whom hocked a big one on a cop) but also people just wanting to soak in the ocean breeze and sun. The weather was perfect, and it was really good to see Jacob again.

Tossing the day away

It’s funny how Jacob has become friends with Laura Ann and Jodi through me, my friends from home befriending my friends from college. We explained it many times to his family and their friends, assuring them that we weren’t just taking advantage of their house but were all good friends enjoying a reunion.

The crew on Ventnor Beach

From Atlantic City, we headed back to NYC (but for real this time – not just a day at Port Authority) to meet up with our friend Christa, who we are currently staying with. Most of the day was spent shopping for Jodi since she was still wearing her clothes from Friday and American Airlines offered to buy the things she needed for the trip. They originally said up to $100, but that is certainly not enough for toiletries, clothes, underwear and beachwear. We grabbed the biggest pizza I’ve ever seen at one of my faves, Artichoke Pizza, and headed back for the night since we had an early morning.

Monday was our Baltimore day, and of course since things can’t be easy, Megabus sold our bus tickets in front of our faces five minutes before our scheduled departure. We barely managed to make it on standby on the next bus out, which broke down after 40 minutes. No worries though – I managed to snap this cute photo in the grass at the rando New Jersey gas station we got acquainted with! Yes, those pants have both leopard print and faces, and yes, I had to wear my Yoncé outfit all day, which constantly required me to check my pockets, which couldn’t hold my phone and wallet for shit.

Ready for Yoncé

We got to Baltimore just in time for a sit down dinner (phew) and headed straight to M&T Stadium for Bey and Jay. I would write about the show but there are few words that capture the joy I feel when I see Beyoncé live. The production was sick, Bey managed to step up every number from her last show and the interactions between Jay and Bey were beautiful. I won’t say I didn’t cry during a good half of the show, especially when a video of Beyoncé riding slow motion on a black stallion appeared on the jumbotrons for a solid minute.

We caught our Megabus (on time) at 1:10am and got back to Christa’s apartment at 5am, and today has been mostly chill, grabbing lunch with Laura Ann’s cousins and hitting up the HBO store for some Game of Thrones shot glasses. Laura Ann is headed out tonight, Jodi on Thursday and me on Sunday, though my journey is just beginning. I’m headed to Stockholm then to begin a two week tour of Scandinavia before heading to London.

My Weekend in the Concrete Jungle

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The group.

Although living in a hoarder house was one of the more memorable and unique parts of my recent trip to NYC, there were many more adventures had.

Highlights include:

  • Wa Jeal Sichuan Chili House, the best General Tso’s Chicken in NYC (well so said Yelp, and I’d be hard pressed to find any better).
  • Bagelsmith, my first delve into New York bagels, which are certainly the best around.
  • Smorgasburg, a food flea market in Williamsburg, Brooklyn featuring a fantastic view of Manhattan and some incredible food. My friends and I decided to split our food so we could try as much as possible. This included a delicious BBQ brisket sandwich, a lobster roll that was to die for, frozen s’mores, a frozen Arnold Palmer with mango and a Dulce de Leche donut.
BBQ sandwiches at Smorgasburg.

BBQ sandwiches at Smorgasburg.

Sarah and me sharing a lobster roll.

Sarah and me sharing a lobster roll.

The view of Manhattan from Brooklyn.

The view of Manhattan from Brooklyn.

  • The great markets and thrift shops throughout NYC, including Artists & Fleas and Chelsea Market. I found a really awesome Hawaiian shirt at a thrift shop in Brooklyn (so hipster) and bought a few prints from an awesome an art booth called Leroy’s Place. The artist buys old (and sometimes lame) landscape paintings from flea markets and draws monsters on them with a paint pen. You should check out the online shop here. I also met a fellow Arkansan in Chelsea Market looking at an Arkansas pendant. He was from Batesville and knew someone I used to do theatre with!
One of the prints I bought.

One of the prints I bought.

  • A lot of fun dive bars (especially in Williamsburg).
  • The Brooklyn Brewery, where you can drink some great beers and take a free tour!
Us at the Brooklyn Brewery.

Us at the Brooklyn Brewery.

  • The High Line, a garden/park on top of an old elevated rail line. There’s some cool food booths, including the best iced coffee at Blue Bottle Coffee and a popsicle stand where I bought a mango chile popsicle that was actually spicy (and tasty!).
Polaroids on the High Line.

Polaroids on the High Line.

  • Calle Ocho, a fantastic Latin fusion restaurant with a brunch that includes eight different flavors of all-you-can-drink sangria with purchase of entree. We ate here right before catching the megabus back home.Needless to say, we went out with a bang.
Brunch at Calle Ocho.

Brunch at Calle Ocho.

I left New York with much unexplored and will be returning at the end of August after I finish interning!

The Hoarder House and a Promise Kept

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I took a weekend trip to New York City over the weekend with my friend Matt from abroad to visit a couple of Northwestern friends, Sarah and Kristin (who also studied abroad with me). Of course, many hilarious shenanigans ensued –

The entrance of the hoarder house.

The entrance of the hoarder house.

– like living in the hoarder house.

After a fun day of exploring the city (Upper East Side, Washington Square, Times Square and the Financial District), Matt and I headed to the apartment we would be staying in with Sarah. As we waited in the lobby, we commented on the swanky building and classy adult tenants.

The bedroom.

The bedroom.

Little did we know, we would be staying in a hoarder’s apartment.

When Sarah arrived and picked up the keys, we excitedly headed up the stairs to the room. When we opened the door, we were surprised with piles and piles of stuff (or as I like to call it, the horde). There was a two-foot-wide path parted for us, paving the way through old stuffed animals, furniture, jewelry, clothes, movies, DVDs, bags – you name it.

"Horde-ified"

“Horde-ified”

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Matt amongst the horde.

Okay so maybe it’s a little bit unfair for me to make fun of all this, but it was a pretty strange welcome into the greatest city in the country; only in New York, I couldn’t help but think.

It turns out that the apartment belonged to a woman who passed away a few years ago who made her sister promise that she would go through everything very carefully. I assume she had a problem with hoarding and was highly attached to her things. I can imagine that it would be a huge, emotional commitment for her sister to go through the horde, but it’s equally unbelievable that someone would ask her sister keep a promise like that.

Stack of expired tuna cans in the kitchen.

Stack of expired tuna cans in the kitchen.

Wooden hand covered in old costume jewelry.

Wooden hand covered in old costume jewelry.

I guess it’s not up to me to judge the intricacies and eccentricities of someone’s mind and attachments, but as sad as the situation was, it was also very weird and darkly comic as an outsider to the story.

Of course, we were curious to explore the place (as much as possible on the thin path we could walk on). There were paper-white eggs (secretly years and years old) in the fridge, wonderful costume jewelry laid out on counters and pill bottles still half full. The apartment seemed almost frozen in time – as if the woman still lived with all of that stuff. Maybe, in a way, she did.

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But the years of waiting untouched made obvious wear upon the things: the towel shed when I dried off after a shower, the liquid hand soap turned hard in its bottle and a strange dusty taste filled the air. The toilet seat fell off the toilet. A bottle of ketchup had turned brown.

I can’t help but wonder if the rest of the apartment’s tenants know what lies beyond the doors of the hoarder house. Did they know her when she was there? Do they know what still remains? It was a unique privilege to see and live inside of a mystery like that, and I will certainly never forget my night in the hoarder house.

That’s a promise I can keep.