23 January 2020

NYC: Rollin' On The River!

Feeling very rough from the night before, only five mimosas brought me back to life! After pulling myself together I got back onto the NYC Subway towards Hudson Yards, I had something familiar to see through new eyes and with a certain show I needed to see those special piers. Finding room for two beers, making moves towards the legendary Stonewall Inn was right!

December was the month when I first discovered the High Line, an elevated walkway that used to be a freight rail line through the Meatpacking District. It felt like a lifetime since I first visited the High Line in 2012, nostalgia was all around me in that moment. Getting off the NYC Subway at 34St-Hudson Yards I was fronted by a sea of skyscrapers and construction. It was then I saw the Megabus, I used that chance sighting as fate because I was going to get the train to Philadelphia the next day. Following the Apple Maps on my phone I found myself a brand new entrance to the High Line. Walking onto the elevated train tracks gave me breathtaking views of the Hudson River, this new section of the High Line gave me maximum life! I was feeling all of those feelings that I had felt before during that first visit, some years later the sleek elevated walkway/park gave me so much more! The High Line had me speechless!

The fashioned wood benches and abstract garden space had me feeling every second of that New York City state of mind. Nothing could interrupt my thoughts or feeling in that moment, the wind blasted one freezing chill but New York's High Line gave me everything! When had the extension been built? I had missed so much during my absence from NYC and NJ! Getting one more chance to be with the High Line felt so good, being back within that riverside location felt correct! Taking every sight in like it was the very last time, I loved it! Walking so far I didn't see it as necessary to walk to the part of the High Line that I had seen before, I had many things to accomplish that afternoon, the sunset was mad early! As I walked away from the High Line back on street level I couldn't help but notice the office types gather together around televisions in some posh lunchtime hangout, it was the trial for impeachment for the current President of the United States of America! Perfección B!

Paris was not burning during that bitterly cold afternoon in December 2019, but the memories made during that period could be felt in the air. Located near Christopher Street and the Stonewall Inn stood Pier 45 & Pier 46 along the Hudson riverside. I strolled down Christopher Street Pier past the Marsha P. Johnson Memorial Fountain, one legendary freedom fighters for civil rights for the Transgender and Gay movement. The rainbows told me that Christopher Street Pier held the same as the street because of its LGBT reference and commemorations. If truth be told I lived for Pier 46 along the Hudson riverside. Taking my chosen photo was something of a task because I wanted to catch the piers in the sunset, so much had happened along those piers. I tried to figure out at the same time how the ballroom queens and working T-girls would walk and dance along the piers. The piers were serving Hudson River realness!

Now, it's January 2020 and I have just finished watching the first two seasons of 'Pose'. That legendary show took me by the hand, showing me the piers in the most artistic and raw fashion. The ballroom culture features around late 90s NYC on the brink of the HIV-AIDS epidemic. Intrinsically linked with the Trans advocate Marsha P. Johnson, the immediate area held significant to that community within New York City's rainbow population. Hopping back to that cold December 2019 afternoon, the fact those piers stood quiet gave an eery feeling, I had visited this area for that reason to understand more about a time that would have been my fight, looking back on their time its becoming parent this generation might have to fight all over again! Now I can visualise Blanca looking new house children along the piers and Pray Tell strutting along the same pier in his flamboyant get up! The piers near Christopher Street schooled me and Pose helped me put my visit into perspective! Serve B!

There's on bar that I had to visit, the Stonewall Inn was something that I didn't think about when I actually lived across the Hudson River in Newark, New Jersey! Getting myself from the piers before the sun had set, I propped up the bar with a beer to soak in that heroic NYC LGBT boozer! Claimed as a National Monument and U.S. National Historic Landmark, during one hot summer night in 1969 the patrons at the Stonewall Inn that night fought back after the police made another raid. I have seen bits of information about the riots and to see the people from the LGBT community fight back with such ferocity, their heated rioting did just the ticket to get the police off their backs to leave them to their fabulous everyday business! Those movements made on that summers night forged the way for New York City first Gay Pride parade on June 28, 1970. Truly, Lower Manhattan's truth has helped me study my hersory!

With the riots taking place in 1969, the escape of the ballrooms in the 80s and 90s must have felt like a holiday? Through the rioting and pride marches, the community worldwide stands together with venues such as NYC's Stonewall Inn. As I sat the bar I got talking to a lovely lady, she was part of the LGBT community and what we spoke about wasn't important it was just nice to meet a kind human being. That half day in Lower Manhattan zoomed past, from the new riverside views along the High Line's extended route to the 'Pose' worthy piers near Christopher Street, the day ended with a beer or two at the Stonewall Inn without any hiccups. Learning my herstory and recapturing Christopher Streets kitsch nature, it was like NYC Pride all over again, those years past had made things look more vivid. Taking the NYC Subway back to my Long Island City station had to be the one, the mimosas and beers had worn off, I needed to sleep properly before going to Philly. NYC kept on giving me more!

I Know My Herstory!

Joseph Harrison

3 January 2020

Jackson Heights, Queens: After Hours!

After waking up from one beautiful 'disco' nap, my explorations around Brooklyn had me feeling sleepy! I had faith in my pre-trip research, not drinking much since arriving into New York City I had only had a few ciders in Bushwick the previous day. Starting off in the hostel bar with a few Long Island's had to be done! My Korean roommate made great pre-drinks company!

Dressing in my best, I found myself a seat at the bar within my Long Island City hostel. I wasn't about to leave the city without having a few Long Island Ice Teas in that neighbourhood that was aptly named. Along with my Korean roommate from my dorm, we shared a few drinks before I headed out to Jackson Heights. The conversation was great, we spoke about languages and the Korean Peninsula as I had been to both sides of the DMZ. He was very interested about my time spent in Pyongyang because it's not cool for South Koreans to cross the DMZ borderline. It hadn't been long since my weekend of craziness in Seoul, that also made for good conversation. The drinks were going down nicely and I hadn't even made it to the Subway at that point. Turning things blue, I opted for one Blue Long Island Ice Tea! The night was still young at that point, my disco nap and pre-drinks had me ready! I was ready for Jackson Heights! 

Heading out of my hostel I headed for Court Square's 7 Train platform, taking the Subway towards Flushing to Roosevelt Av-Jackson Height Subway Station. I had made tracks the previous day to that area, half piecing together my route from my research and the previous day made things work somehow. Walking under the tracks gave me the sense for that colourful neighbourhood as the train crossed the tracks that were above me. I already knew where my drunk food would be coming from, that Colombian eatery had been found online after I had randomly googled photos of Downtown Newark. The Spanish writing on the shop front reminded me of my first ever Jackson Heights visit during October 2012, I had no idea about what kind of venues that could be found along Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, NY. Feeling thirsty I had my provisional driving license ready, I never need to carry I.D in China! Did I feel safe? Yes, I felt in-control and if truth be told the streets treated me well.

Finding 'Friend's Tavern' was easier than I had previously thought it would have been! Getting my I.D approved I made my way for the bar, ordering Corona's to begin with seemed like something sensible to do. Getting into the beats, everything was mad Latino and that was fine with me! Embracing the Spanish music and drinks had me on the dance-floor, living my best life of course! The clientele were mostly speaking in Spanish, the guys I was speaking to spoke English just fine. Going for my first margarita had to be done, I took my first taste to be greeted with a huge tequila kick! Loving the music some more I enjoyed that Jackson Heights nightspot to the fullest! The drinks kept flowing and if truth be told I was living for my own company, I enjoyed my night and that was the only priority! The latin beats and drinks at 'Friend's Tavern was all that I needed within that Queens spot. Another margarita, that tequila though!

Stepping out for a little bit, I made my way to 'Hombre's Lounge' to check out another Jackson Heights Latin Gay venue. Being a weeknight things were quiet but no quieter than 'Friend's Tavern' was. There was Spanish karaoke going on, getting my Corona seen off I made my way back to 'Friend's Tavern' for a few more beverages and a good dance on down! How my previous visit to Jackson Heights in 2012 had been during the daytime with no alcoholic drinks consumed, the Indian food enjoyed during that previous visit was equally as spicy like the talent during my boozed up 2019 visit. If I had visited at the weekend, those Latin go-go dancers would have impressed me much! Yes, for me to find such a venue that brought some different looks and sounds compared with my usual China nighttime venues. I enjoyed my last drinks before making my timely exit from 'Friend's Tavern', I had consumed enough drink and had danced for my life! Jackson Heights served fuego! ¿Comida?

I was hungry like nobody's business, tracking down 'La Abundancia' during my walk from the Subway Station gave me those Colombian cravings instantly! Greeted with straight up Colombian realness, apparently they didn't have any menu so I asked the lady to put whatever she thought tasted good onto a plate. Grabbing a can of 'Postobon Manzana (apple pop), how badly I needed something to balance the alcohol that I had just downed between 'Friend's Tavern' and 'Hombre's Lounge'. Finding a table within the empty Colombian bakery and cafe allowed me to dig into my packed plate. I was getting all kinds of flavours, the beans in gravy blended so well with the meat that was on my plate. Getting my rice fix was more than appreciated, along with the plantain that had been cooked to perfection, I was living my food fantasy in that moment of drunkenness in the centre of Jackson Heights, Queens! La mejor comida!

La Abundancia translates into 'plenty' in Spanish, I enjoyed my abundant Colombian plate of deliciousness! The music that was playing reminded me of Puerto Rican Reggaeton music, in that moment I loved the Latin American and South American vibe of that corner of New York City! After finishing my Colombian feast I made my way back to the same Subway Station that I arrived at a couple of hours before, getting the train back to Court Sq was surprisingly easy because I knew during early morning hour that my Colombian meal would keep me on the right track. The night definitely was a success, I didn't put myself in any stupid situations and best of all I didn't lose anything! Finding my hostel without any issues I had one of the best sleeps of the holiday, after that night my jet-lag disappeared! Jackson Heights gave me my NYC night out with a Latino spice! Let's just say the next day I needed five mimosas to bring me back to life! ¡La ciudad de Nueva York lo sirvió todo! ¡Gracias Q!

¡Bebidas, música y comida Colombiana!

Joseph Harrison 

2 January 2020

NYC: Brooklyn's Calling...

Brooklyn had been part of my New York City days out during my 2012 year whilst I lived in New Jersey, but if truth be told I had so much more to discover within that borough of the city. Taking things slow, I knew that such a task needed two days to tackle the four segments that I wanted to achieve during my jammed schedule. From DUMBO to Bushwick, I was mad for it B! 

Going back to Brooklyn was something that I had wanted to do, during those pre-trip planning days I made sure that four parts of the borough would be explored and then some. Taking the train from my hostel a little later during that morning compared to the previous day, I headed for DUMBO. My GPS went crazy with my path but the views over the waters facing Manhattan were amazing, not being bitter but I had limited time so I wanted to get on with things! Going down the hill that crossed with Doughty Street had me facing the Brooklyn Bridge from a very different angle, the first time around I only walked across the bridge back in December 2012. Wanting to spend some time under the bridge, I mooched around the swish area that oozed something special with its restored vibe. I wasn't allowed to walk up-to the water because one of the sidings were being used for filming. Sure, the views were just ace B!

DUMBO looked so swish as I mentioned above, with the Brooklyn Bridge sweeping down in one direction and the class New York City style buildings sitting on ground level, it was such a darling NYC sight to see. DUMBO wasn't one of the places that I had originally planned to visit during that first part of the day but the Brooklyn Bridge Park had me using my time to reach, it was to be that DUMBO found me first. The morning was a chilly one indeed, finding a cute Italian looking restaurant along the parade of shops and restaurants below the bridge had to be done! The atmosphere of the place oozed Christmas in NYC, they had specials on winter spiced drinks so I enjoyed two mulled wines for good measure. Being only my second full day on the East Coast of America, the feeling to have seen so much already felt like such a blessing. I got talking to some ladies who were from England but their vibe wasn't what I wanted to be around. Finishing my wine, I moved onto to find Bushwick! Cider!

Taking what felt like three different trains I reached the artsy neighbourhood of Bushwick, known as the 'Bushwick Collective' for the warehouses and spray paint and graffiti street art that has caused quite a stir with people looking for a slice of an alternative New York City within Brooklyn. After remembered seeing Kiesza's music video to her song 'Hideaway', I had to see the colourful graffiti street within Brooklyn's Bushwick Collective. Getting off the L Train at Jefferson Street had me fronted by a hazy splash of colours, I loved it! Needing the toilet I found the Cobra Club and not being rude I stayed for two pints of craft cider. The alternative vibe of Bushwick made me feel as if I had transported myself to another world! Yes, it was trendy and I saw those preppy 'hot yoga' studios, getting it together I knew that I was just in Bushwick for the street art because it looked off the scale! Yes, Bushwick was superb!

Impressed by the nature of Bushwick as I walked within its collective state of art, I lived for the harsh contrast that the warehouses gave the immediate area. I sure thought that my Chinese artist friends would love to visit this part of the city for the photo taking and gallery visits. Art isn't my cup of tea but I appreciated the views and enjoyed witnessing the difference. Feeling thirsty once again, I found 'The Rookery' for another pint or two of delicious craft cider, it was holiday time and nobody was going to judge me for those choices! Taking my seat at the bar, the clientele weren't on my level for many reasons but I wasn't there to make friends. I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich with a side serving of tomato soup, no word of a lie it was the best decision made of the day! The Bushwick Collective part of my day was filled with colours and off the wall graffiti and delicious food and drinks. On the way to a friends for the night, Brooklyn would be continued the next day! Done!

So, call me crazy but I didn't know why I found myself awake at 3am in the morning, but nonetheless I got myself back onto the streets to continue my Brooklyn odyssey. Leaving my friends apartment in Jackson Heights I went for the biggest American breakfast at a nearby Denny's. With it still being like nighttime I finished my breakfast, got back out onto the street with the nearest NYC Subway station in mind that would take me directly to Coney Island. I already knew that the boardwalk at Coney Island wouldn't be lively, I was fine with that because I had never seen it during my time in 2012, it was somewhere that I just needed to step foot in, that was all! Arriving into Coney Island signified to me that the weather would be horrendous for the whole day, that wasn't going to stop me because I wanted to see everything! Grabbing a much needed boost, I went into Dunkin Donuts to refuel for the morning ahead of me.

Braving the crosswalk construction site as I walked across the road, I was fronted with a place that instantly reminded me of Point Pleasant Beach with a hint of Blackpool for good measure. During the rain I could imagine how this Brooklyn Pleasure Beach hideaway would be a getaway for the city people to have some fun on the rides and eat some seriously delicious yet unhealthy snacks. I walked slowly towards the promenade with an air of caution, I loathe seagulls and Coney Island's were the same size as dogs! The rain and wind did nothing to impress me during that promenade moment but it was the weather I was meant to experience in that moment. Even though the whole of the promenade was shut it did nothing to dampen my spirits even if I was getting soaked by the incoming showers, how had the weather been so settled the day before? I had sealed the deal with my third Brooklyn sight and with time on my side I wanted to revisit the Hasidic Jewish enclave along Lee Av next.

My timings were on-point that morning that I still had two hours before Gottilieb's Restaurant would be opening. Fearing not I took a walk down memory lane once again, finding Lee Avenue so easily it was such a treat to see the children take the Hebrew marked school buses as I walked towards my chosen avenue. The Kosher delicatessen's and bakers looked just the same, some had certain renovations that made them look more modern. Being Hanukkah lots of shops and establishments within that closely guarded neighbourhood stood closed. I caught glimpses of the children's clothes shops, how cute those Kosher clothes looked! Stumbling past 'Tiv Tov' reminded me of my August 2012 day of exploration, that was the first time I had ever walked into an ultra Jewish neighbourhood. Stopping for a hot chocolate and some marble cake, I wondered about the time that I still had until Gottilieb's would be opening! Oh, the rain!

I had a moment of madness, leaving Brooklyn for Hudson Yards 34st because I thought that the rain would subside, then I would be able to save some time by seeing the High Line. Coming to my senses I jumped back on the train to Marcy Av, thankfully by some miracle my Kosher feast could begin! I ordered a bowl of chicken soup that contained Matzoh balls and noodles. Going for a slice of the potato kugel had to be done, the pastrami looked divine so I had to have some within a rye bread sandwich. Needing a drink I chose carefully, wanting to keep it all Kosher I chose a can of Coke because that soft drink has always been known for being certified Kosher. I took my time, I honestly enjoyed every single bite of my sandwich and slurp of my Jewish penicillin. I had never tried potato kugel before that day, I had only just seen it on documentaries about Jewish life. The kugel tasted mad good! Thankfully I made the journey back to my hostel, to fall into a lovely disco nap! Yes!

Blinding Brooklyn!

Joseph Harrison 

18 December 2019

NYC: WTC, Battery Park & Chinatown!

After leaving the craziness of Newark's Downtown and the familiarities from the Ironbound District, it was time for me to take the PATH back to the city. I had missed the completion date of the new One World Trade Center, sure I needed to pay attention! To walk down memory lane along the iconic Battery Park one more time! Pho from Chinatown needed to happen B! 

Flashback to that morning I stepped from my WTC bound E Train from Court Sq, the ivory white walls of One World Trade Center, I had always known it that transportation and shopping hub as a concrete shell. In that moment things stood completed, that 2019 morning had me remember all the times I had crossed the Hudson River on the PATH from Newark, New Jersey. The ark like roof shone with a neon blue light, I had unlocked the future, from that 2019 stance I couldn't believe how much things had changed. Going down to the PATH platforms allowed me to see things look so much more inviting and passenger friendly compared with those 2012 days. The PATH operative allowed me to pass through the barrier because the method to add the additional fare had me confused, explaining I was going back to Jersey after eights away that guy had made my holiday much better! I respected that random act of kindness! 

Fast forward to the lunch time hour, arriving back into WTC had me surrounded by hoards of tourists as I reached the shopping concourse. Finally, I accessed street level to find the towering One World Trade Center building looking down in my view. I had passed that special skyscraper many times during 2012 during its lengthy phase of construction. Another sense of completion could be felt in the air, I was feeling all kinds of nostalgia but in the next breathe I was being served something totally new! I wasn't down for any tours, dodging those individuals I took my time to appreciate the all new One World Trade Center with the 9/11 Memorial pools that came into my view, a sobering reminder during that moment that was filled with optimism. The whole morning had been mad, I felt very thankful in that moment and even now I'm looking back with fondness and appreciation. The WTC chapter could finally be closed with conviction, I had returned for the reasons mentioned above. 

Rewinding once again, I knew the way to Battery Park from WTC. No mistakes made, desperately seeking something like the time before I wasn't going to be feeling blue. Inspired by the 1985 film Desperately Seeking Susan that featured one of NYC's famous riverside parks, I had the title for my website and blog back during that initial 2012 visit. The first time around the boardwalk along Battery Park's riverfront was heaving with people, thankfully during that freezing yet sunny Sunday afternoon it was quite calm. I took my time and wasn't going to be rushed nor was I going to have my photos littered with tourists in the background. Things looked amazing, with the views of the Statue of Liberty in the distant with New Jersey in my sights, the whole experience around felt effortless and very correct indeed! No, I didn't see Susan during that Battery Park flashback experience, I was living nonetheless.

My visit to New York City's Battery Park was short but it was very sweet, it took me back to that first encounter when I was at the starting point of my placement year. To recapture those moments that inspired my first day out feature and the headline title of my blog had me feeling all kinds of feeling eight years on from that moment. The journey after working at Newark Airport had been on filled with my degree, employment uncertainties then my life in China, to return to that spot felt very correct in that moment because I had accomplished a lot because of my placement year after standing in that very park with visions of Madonna seeking those personals as Susan. Coming back down to reality, my phone was losing battery and I was still new to my hostel area, not wanting to get myself lost I returned to my hostel to recharge before recommencing the days exploration. From WTC to those Downtown flashbacks alongside the river at Battery Park, gave me everything and more! Yes!

Resurfacing from the hostel, I had my phone at full charge but my Ferry Street Barbecue no longer satisfied my hunger. Getting back onto the NYC Subway to Canal Street had to be done. After living in China for four years before returning to NYC's Chinatown had me feeling more feelings. I was on the hunt for some Vietnamese food because outside of China's Mainland or territories I don't eat Chinese food from restaurants unless its homemade fare. 'Pho 88' had closed down, choosing the next best thing had to be 'Nha Trang One'. Ordering my usual dishes I enjoyed every single bit, a part of me was quite disheartened that the original place wasn't present but I had what I wanted to eat. Stepping back out into the streets of Chinatown had me reading all kinds of signs, the first time around I couldn't read any Simplified Chinese characters. Four years living and working in China had changed all of that! Sure, it felt so crazy!

Passing through Chinatown on the previous night after arriving into Newark Liberty International Airport, my airport transfer took me along Canal Street to see that things looked very different compared to 2012. My Chinese American driver informed me that their had been quite a lot of drama between the local authority and the souvenir shops that operated along Canal Street. A lot of the street sellers had been removed from the street as it was believed the local authority from the city wanted to clean the area up, with the hope of attracting more tourists. Whatever the drama I saw some shops trading just fine the next day after passing from the airport. Back to those Chinese reading skills, I knew the Simplified characters to make up the brand 'McDonalds' in Chinese but in NYC's Chinatown those golden arches adorned three characters that I couldn't read! Yes, those three characters were Traditional style commonly used in Guangdong (Mainland), Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

Memory Lane! 

Joseph Harrison