25 March 2012

From Downtown to The Ironbound

Right, I feel like I'm talking far too much about New York City, considering I live in New Jersey it doesn't really translate that in these blogs, so here's a change for today. Newark, New Jersey has become my home and the more time I spend living here I realise what contrasts this city contains. I want to see if variety is really the spice of life, let's see if the Ironbound District and the nearby Downtown Newark District measure up with each other!? 

The Ironbound District has become my new home, this European infused neighbourhood shares a border with Newark's Penn Station which, shares a cross-line with another nearby Newark neighbourhood. Newark's Downtown District also has borders with Newark Penn Station. These two communities have countless differences, can you guess which place I prefer? From the barbecue restaurants of Ferry Street to the dilapidated corners of Downtown Newark, this side of New Jersey certainly provides one hell of a culture shock. I'm definitely a fan of a multi-cultural environment that has many quirks that make everyday life just that little bit more exciting. Newark's a city that's got a whole lot of attitude so I know its going to teach me a lesson or two! The Ironbound District is full of different flavours and two defined cultures. A strong Latin and Portuguese vibe, which speaks for itself as English isn't the primary language on the streets.

Taking from the Latin influences that The Ironbound possesses I honestly don't know where to begin? Downtown Newark has more of a African American feel, both Broad Street and Market Street have an abundance of interesting eateries which range from Fried Chicken to Ghanaian delicacies. Both of these areas are constantly on my radar as I pass through the Downtown Newark District on my way to work as the 62 NJ Transit bus takes me to Newark Liberty International Airport. America is certainly one of those countries that takes you by surprise, I suppose the factor of living here puts a different spin on things. Newark, New Jersey hasn't been my home for a long time but I can already see a stark contrast between the boundaries that I should be wary from crossing. One think I know is that I'll be back again Brick City! Don't take this seriously!

Newark Penn Station is the transport gateway to New Jersey's rail network and its also Newark's connection to the rest of the USA's North-east coast and beyond. Downtown Newark and the Ironbound are both on the doorstep of the tracks of Newark's Penn Station. You could say that Newark Penn Station meets these two neighbourhoods in the middle. I'm a regular passengers to Newark Penn Station as that's where the 62 bus leaves for Newark Liberty International Airport. This transport interchange has many different personalities, people even call it their home! I don't quite know how to put my views about Newark Penn Station into words, but here goes! There's a saying from the people I have met here recently; "Be careful! Do not go across the tracks if you don't need to! Especially at night!" Now, I'm the adventurous type when it comes to exploring places but I have never willingly wanted to explore Newark's Downtown, so looking I choose to take the Downtown vibe by looking out from the bus's windows.

It's a stark contrast to the side that welcomes the residences to Newark Penn Station from the Ironbound, its more like Portugal and Brazil mixed together! I will never be so judgmental about the different racial demographics that make up a city, for Newark is showing me something completely remarkable! I'm a dramatic at heart because I'm never really satisfied, well I am in this instance but I must admit I really need to get a grip! I look back for a second to think about my clean cut Disney life for those apartment complex's on the Intern properties were located in sterile areas close to Lake Buena Vista, plus we had twenty-four hour security on hand so things have been very real this time around. I simply jumped on a bus during my EPCOT working days but now I walk to another bus, which is located about one mile away from my shared apartment in The Ironbound. I would say my erratic working hours mean I walk to the bus at 3 am on a daily basis and this area isn't exactly like my Disney gated housing but I'm a survivor!

Choosing a neighbourhood that would be my favourite place won't work in this situation. Say for instance, I'm waiting for the Go28 bus on Market Street in the dead of night observing people as they go by minding their own business, mind you some of their business isn't that kosher I might add. I sort of feel in danger whilst I'm waiting for the bus on Market Street at Eleven at night, its just not safe! To shine some positivity about the Downtown area of Newark I do find the atmosphere interesting if a little daunting. Whereas Ferry Street, its the life-blood of the Ironbound. This long and winding street offers so much more than just shops, restaurants and bakeries. This European part of town has a sense of warmth that can be felt even on the coldest day. 

To be quite honest I do love the Ironbound for its character and day to day crowd of normal people that make there way through life. From the young and the old each person I pass sure must have a story to tell. Going hungry in the Ironbound is an impossible task, I have learnt over the last month that the my local Portuguese barbecue restaurants serve a delicious helping of barbecue chicken, rice and beans. Finding a fresh loaf of bread and specially baked cakes is really easy! The independent bakeries start baking their products well before the birds start to sing in the morning, its that early I always see movement on the way to work in the mornings. Newark's Downtown has a long way to go, but I know that new developments are coming to this part of Newark, they will intern improve the safety and feeling of this crazy area for sure. I'm all for a change and something out of the ordinary but when I feel slightly on edge its not very comforting. Honestly, there's no place quite like the Ironbound .... Sorry Downtown! You're just not my kind of neighbourhood. 

Live Your Dream, No Matter Where You Are From!

Joseph Harrison

23 March 2012

Greenwich Village ... I Love You!

Greenwich Village! Oh what a place! Nestled between West Village and SoHo is a New York City district that made me feel so at home, so much so that I wanted to relocate from Newark instantly. To be honest the weather wasn't at it's best compared to my other days off but time is precious and I always want to stroll off the tourist map to somewhere different. 

It's currently two months into my Virgin Atlantic Airways placement and I had the bug to see somewhere I hadn't seen before. After talking to one of my co-workers I decided to jump on the PATH train to Christopher Street. I had heard great things about this trendy and historic area of New York. I absolutely had no clue where I was going but I simply trusted the streets of Greenwich Village to take me somewhere interesting. As mentioned before the weather was not really the best that day, but we have to make the best of what we have! I was instantly impressed by the kitsch boutiques that this area had to offer, something that was a step up from the electrical stores of Ferry Street, Newark. 

I'm pleased to say that tourists were not making Greenwich Village and Christopher St. look bad! There is a god! This side of New York City seemed like a world away from the noise and action of Times Square, I suppose 'variety is the spice of life?' Let's explore this area, well more like let's investigate some thing because I absolutely loved what I saw! Now, now Joseph ... keep yourself together please! Ok self I shall try to do just that!

Jam-packed with a vast range of vintage fashion boutiques, Greenwich Village possesses a charm that certainly caught my eye. A neighbourhood that reminded me of Camden, London with a touch of sophistication added for good measure. Just a heartbeat away from the tenement charm of Lower Manhattan lies this sleepy but lively district exists. Greenwich Village is home to some of the most fashion forward young gentlemen I have ever seen, which made this area simply impossible not to adore! I've been in America for about two months now and wanted see somewhere that hadn't jumped out of the tourist guide! So Greenwich Village, open your heart to me because I want to see a part of this town that's true and beautiful! What am I like?! You got to admit that seeing a little eye candy is definitely good for the soul!

Now, I'm not one for going shopping and leaving empty handed, so one charming clothes shop caught my eye. Rag & Bone, is an understated but nevertheless stylish store that tempted my debit card to part with more than a sensible amount of money than I usually would allow. Let's just say that the charm of the shop and its rustic exterior wasn't the only reason I had to purchase something from this gorgeous designer boutique. Oh yes! The type of gentlemen that I mentioned before were definitely present in this store, a shopping experience to remember for a while. Calling all fashion retailers! You need to have a field trip to this part of town because I'm afraid you could learn something from these fashion houses! Let's just say that I can't be attracted to anymore shops that have gorgeous store assistants because I can't afford another luxurious purchase like I made at Rag & Bone! 

Christopher Street, home to the only rainbow flag I have seen so far in New York City, surely I'm only starting to visit the correct parts of this magical and mesmerising city? Perfectly lined with many different bars specialising in the obvious theme, shops of all kinds and a theatre advertising a interesting show, I was loving what stood before me! Did I mention the atmosphere? Oh yes I did, I have a feeling this district might become a hot spot for a night out in the city soon?!

Somewhere close to my heart I know that visiting Greenwich Village was a wise decision. See you soon Greenwich Village! You've become my new favourite part of the Big Apple! I might meet the sun shining upon my next visit to Greenwich Village, that would really impress me much! Greenwich Village will forever be a place that I would return both during and after my placement here in America, well I've got a long while to go still! If Greenwich Village was a person I would say he would be young, gorgeous, fashion forward and always looking a good time! If the stresses of Times Square ever gets too much, then I recommend having a stroll through the charming streets of Greenwich Village!

Love The Village People Please!

Joseph Harrison

15 March 2012

Battery Park Blues

Parks, Parks and er more Parks, they can be places for having lazy days with friends or being inconspicuous whilst waiting for a mystery encounter? Parks like Battery Park possess a deeper significant compared to any other park that I have previously been to as this one over-looks the Hudson River in New York City! Battery Park is a place that's somewhat ordinary but also has a flare of understated style and elegance. For me this place brings back some of the focal scenes from the motion picture featuring Madonna, 'Desperately Seeking Susan' now that puts Battery Park on the map for me!

With the sun shining at around 4 pm the silhouette of our Lady of Liberty shone in the distance from the banks of the Hudson River over-looking this park in-question. To be honest I did half expect the Queen of Pop (Susan) to strut down the promenade past the stone benches in her famous 80's regalia. Even though Madonna herself didn't turn back time 23 years it would have a moment to cherish. As I looked into the distance the every day 'NY Waterway' ferries sailed past along with the 'Statue Cruises' boat taking excited tourists to Ellis Island and Liberty Island. A site that's proving difficult to put into words, my current thought process wasn't very rational at that time! Even though I desperately wanted to seek Susan it didn't put a dampener on my day it sort of made it more interesting. I needed to use my imagination to believe what the actual film site could have looked like back in the 80's. 

New York City is a place that I'm learning to love and I believe that my feelings for this city will only grow stronger as time goes by. Well, I've been to Hyde Park in London and Cannon Hill Park in Birmingham too, but nothing compares to the likes of Battery Park. I will admit that the wintry state of the park meant that there wasn't much living foliage due to the cruel cold degrees of the winter weather but that didn't matter to me. Battery Park you reign supreme to me! I must remember to keep my feet on the ground for this last month has been a whirlwind, being in one of the world's most iconic city's has been amazing, but somehow I don't think things will be getting any less surreal for a while!

Battery Park City happens to be located within the Financial District, close to New York City's Downtown. I found this part of NYC quite edgy and business orientated, something that I really liked about this part of town. My aim for this year is to throw away the guidebook I was given at the start of my placement and follow the NYC Subway map to get lost so I find new places that aren't strictly meant for the tourist's view! Battery Park City showed me a new insight to New York City for I had only seen the Times Squares area that's always rammed with tourists who do nothing but clutter up the place. The nearby Chinatown is completely different for other reasons, let's just say Battery Park's ambiance put me at ease!

As shown in the photo captured to the right the weather was crisp and quite cold, with the bright sky shining on the skyscrapers they looked perfect! I need to get a grip for this I must sound like a bumbling mess when talking about this park and the crazy emotions it made me feel but I kid you not I loved every second spent at Battery Park. The visit to this part of town was completely spontaneous, something that isn't really my thing as I like to have most things planned to military precision but it never did me any harm. Looking back to my recent trip to Battery Park, I hope that I make a return visit to this area of NYC because it definitely made my day! A happy camper I certainly was! 

With the affluent sprawl of Manhattan making the surrounding vistas of Battery Park look so amazing, It dawned on me that I'm here in America, well New York for the best part of a year. Cliche as this may sound but 'I'm Living the Dream!' The atmosphere made the moment feel more real as the heavy volume of tourists trundled past with their Kodak's and backpacks. One can be very grateful that I'm living here rather than just visiting for a weekend unlike the masses. Enough of that baloney please! I don't know whether it was the time of year but I imagine things to have looked more alive but from the things that I did see, I loved every moment of being back in they city again.

Battery Park is amazing! My visit to this New York City urban park was outstanding, so I guess I must do my best to return soon but I have a whole city to discover yet so I'll give it my best shot! One more thing I loved about Battery Park was that it has a chilled out vibe for New Yorkers live life in the fast lane so it was nice to see something that didn't feel stressful to be around, plus tourists litter places like rubbish does so I loved that feeling of freedom. There's one thing that I'm finding about myself is that I'm not a tourist, so I shall now refer to myself as a traveller who aims to desperately seek adventure! Don't get it twisted! 


Battery Park You Are The Best ! ! !

Joseph Harrison

10 March 2012

My Month in New Jersey

My first month of working and living in Newark, NJ has past by ever so quickly. I am loving every single second of this experience, since arriving into Newark Liberty International Airport the pace of this journey has not slowed down. From my first day in New York City discovering Times Square to then watching Madonna's Super-bowl halftime show, it's been immense!

Yes, I literally love the Ironbound! The infusion of cultures, shops and restaurants all work together fabulously. Over the last four weeks I have taken it upon myself to try as many Portuguese barbecue restaurants within my side of Newark's City limits, I want to be a part of the Ironbound life. This task has been great and it will definitely carry on for the remainder of my placement. Well, the first time I ordered in one of these restaurants I literally did not understand my food order but ended up with some top quality food. I still need to try the Portuguese bakeries and to seek out the best pastries and cakes on Ferry Street to see what places to show the family when they visit. If they do? I guess all this trying new foods could be classed as a form of research? I have definitely got a feeling that travelling will be on my agenda throughout this coming year. Away from Disney World this place feels truly like America should!

My life has changed so much, I guess that I haven't had much time for everything to settle sink-in really? My friends from University College Birmingham are currently all over the world, some are working their industrial placement in other North American states such as; Connecticut, USA and South Carolina, USA. Others are completing their work placements in places like England, Shanghai, Dubai and Hong Kong! We'll all be sharing our journeys through the medium of Facebook and I shall try my best to send some postcards throughout the year. This year will bring us so much more than just work, I just have a hunch that life will never be the same again! The process to get to where I am hasn't been an easy one, I feel blessed! I see this year as the chance to live a dream that I have wanted since I was a little boy, to work in an airport has been a childhood dream! Meanwhile, Newark has shown me a few flashing lights that I don't want to get mixed in amongst! No! I need a fierce persona!

Even though its been a hot minute since I arrived back in the United States of America, I am reevaluating my view on sleep! The first AM shift seemed like a breeze waking up before the sun had risen, but as those 'on the job' training hours have finished I have slowly got into a routine and with a new-found confidence I know I'll be fine. I froze the moment a lady gave me her passport, it was such an overwhelming experience for me at first but as soon as the initial fear evaporated I grew a new skin, dusting myself off and moved on to the next check-in! This first month has shown me that I have changed my life in quite a dramatic way, working full-time hours for the first time and being on a split shift schedule, realigning my sleep and changing my diet to a lesser structure compared with my previous student life. I can look forward after getting my GUI software training passed and the initial first chapter done! Get it!

Do I miss home? At the moment there's been no time to think about home! I have to say that I am living a dream as mentioned previously, its been a long road to get to where I am now and the interviews both for the job and for the work visa were definitely character building events without a doubt! I feel a certain Clubhouse role being something that I would like to pursue, I aim to get the most of this placement because January 2013 will creep round sound enough! My colleagues are so funny, they make the shifts more fun and its going to be great working with such a diverse team of people who culturally hail from different backgrounds but are definitely all American in the same breath! Work wise I know its going to be challenging but I can safely say that this placement will be the right one for me in the long run. It's definitely early days, I know its going to be a learning curve but I am ready for the challenges that will come my way! Yes, I'll improve my skills to enjoy airport life!

Living less than forty minutes away from New York City has been something that I seriously thought would never have happened to me! I simply cannot get my head around that I live so close to the Big Apple! From Times Square, to Chinatown it has so far has been an eye-opening experience! New York City is as good as it's portrayed in the movies! It actually looks even better in real life! Actually, its the real deal! Everybody all say, New York City boy! As for the Chinese food it turned out to be Vietnamese and Paolo Fiorello, I'm sure that chicken we ordered barked once in its life! I am looking forward to the next day out! Get me on that PATH train already, BB! Seriously speaking, I am having the best time, just let me have more sleep! No joke!

BB, who? She's about to get me into a lot of trouble! Let's just say the streets that I am living in and the places that I am experiencing have unleashed a persona that doesn't need any introductions! The streets of New York Cty and of Newark are teaching me and my persona to be tough, to get on with what needs to be done and to be god damn fierce at the same time! I plan to visit the city more and more, when it comes down to it all I am having the time of my life. I don't need to elaborate because that could mean absolutely anything! Let's just say there's a few tricks being played and I know a few more will be played before I return before my university semester recommences! Yes, I know full well that I am going to get all of this living done now! Yes Brit! Brum, watch out now!

NJ's Calling...

Joseph Harrison