29 December 2012

Meet Me In The Ironbound...

Where is the Ironbound? I saw a huge sign promoting Newark's Ironbound district on my way back from another early morning shift at Newark Liberty International Airport. I live within the heart of this Portuguese and Brazilian infused neighbourhood, it's the epitome of what makes me love the USA! NJ's Ironbound scene serves some of the best American food I have tasted! 

Newark's Ironbound is a short hop on the train from the Big Apple, here lies my current hometown glory. I have lived in the colourful Ironbound district for almost one year, during that time I have completely fell in love with the wide array of Brazilian and Portuguese foods and the many other treats that are on offer. The action mostly takes place on Ferry Street, at first it seemed like a foreign place when I arrived in February 2012 but once I got to know and love this NJ community it seemed authentically American to me! The Ironbound has a strong European and South American vibe, bringing me closer with the multicultural setting that I am used to. It's not for the faint hearted, I adore these Newark streets to much to care! 

Having that European present has helped throughout my time here in Newark, NJ because the bread sold is similar and I can get Portuguese chocolate in the smaller shops on Ferry Street that tastes just like the good stuff in England. Three languages are spoken on the streets within Newark's happening Ironbound district, Spanish of a South American tone can be heard on a daily basis but not as it's spoken back on the Mainland. Portuguese can be heard in a European chat from Portugal and a lighter Brazilian tone from those folk who hail from Brazil originally. Leaving English as the third language spoken within the Ironbound, I feel very at home because English isn't the only language spoken in England. I will be living here until January 2013, but I know that I will return one day for certain! 

My days off are usually spent in NYC but I have lots of love for my Newark Ironbound community, going hungry is simply impossible within this part of New Jersey. I took the plunge during my first few days to discover the joys of the Brazilian and Portuguese delight of barbecue chicken that was served with rice and black beans. I fell in love with that hearty dish so much so I would walk from my Lafayette Street apartment to the boundaries with Newark Penn Station to Ferry Street BBQ for my usual 'frango' meal. Things are kept down to the line within these sorts of eateries, I constantly listen out for those Portuguese conversations that I wouldn't be able to understand but they would set the scene perfectly. Funnily enough I have lost weight since moving to Newark's Ironbound for my job with Virgin Atlantic, I know that it's down to lots of walking and keeping my energy up with good food! Yes, the good stuff B!

Newark chose me, with an industrial placement to complete as part of my degree I was given the chance to work as a Passenger Services Agent for Virgin Atlantic at Newark's Liberty International Airport. Calling the Ironbound home made it pretty simple to get the bus from Newark Penn Station for my split shifts, I have never been to a place like Newark in all my times visiting the US but I wouldn't want to change this experience for the world. With good food and a selection of lively bars I needn't of bothered going into the city during my down time! Apart from Ferry Street I live for Wilson Ave, it's got a gritty sense about it and a great place to have a drink or two with the sports playing in the background, that would have to be Blitz Sports Bar on the corner of Wilson Ave and Kossuth Street. Compared to my Walt Disney internship I have experienced a whole new world for sure! Of course, Michel Tel√≥'s hit 'Ai Se Eu Te Pego' has to be playing now! Obter sua vida! 

I'm not religious, nevertheless I caught a glimpse of a church that was featured in Steven Spielberg's 2005 movie "War of the Worlds". It's honestly insane to think I'm living within such a normal but amazing Newark neighbourhood, yes it does get crazy when the sunsets but that's the way she rolls. I like to refer to Newark as New York City's litter sister, she's knows how to hold her own and makes up for any of NYC's overcrowding with tourists because Newark's Ironbound district serves something special indeed! I don't think I'll be going into this said church because I always get side-tracked by Andros Diner on Wilson Ave, his nonstop all-American diner serves the best breakfast in town! Yes, I have to be true for the Ironbound keeps me full up!

My industrial placement will be concluding in just over a week, so I look back to my time living in the Ironbound with a host of amazing memories and to believe that I would not want to change a single thing! I know that in my heart that I will return to the Ironbound in the future, for when that time will be I just do not know? From those boozy afternoons at Blitz and the occasionally jug of sangria I know that being legally allowed to drink alcohol in the US this time around resulted in some crazy times! I may have seriously slimmed down with my constant walking to and from Newark Penn Station and my manic schedule at the airport but the hearty Brazilian food keeps me going! Ferry Street keeps it real, down to the core I know that living in the Ironbound requires attitude! Sim!

Meet Me In The Ironbound...

Joseph Harrison

25 December 2012

Season's Greetings!

The holiday season this year has been quite something that I've never experienced before! I've been introduced to Thanksgiving and I also went out for a lovely meal with my loves from the airport. I dreaded this part of year back when I started work at the airport but I don't know why I was so stressed about being away from home this holiday season?! O' Xmas!

The holidays are a time for family and friends, due to me being on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean friends have become family in a really lovely way. My Honey Bee's have played a beautiful part during this holiday season. In November, Leah welcomed me to her Thanksgiving celebrations. The British don't celebrate this holiday so it showed me something totally different. I loved my first Filipino Thanksgiving. I remember the amount of food that was laid out on the table and the customs that made me take a plate of food home, a custom I didn't argue with! OK! Things have changed so much this year I just don't know where all the time has gone?! I'm ready for whatever comes my way because life is a challenge that we just have to keep fighting! Newark has got under my skin, I want to leave but in the same breath I don't so I will enjoy this time of year. I'll leave the staff party out! I was wasted B! 

The night was set for myself, Fiorella, Valerie and Leah to meet for a Peruvian meal in the heart of New York City! I made my way over from Newark to meet Valerie and Leah at Journal Square PATH station, where we caught the train to 33rd St to meet Fiorella outside a random Starbucks close to New York Penn Station. As we all stood in front of Madison Square Garden we could feel the electric love from the Christmas lights that shone bright in the city. At Starbucks I became 'Jonny' because I must speak with such a crazy sounding accent?! Pio Pio was so busy but we got lucky with our cosy compartment, we loved our food and the time spent together chatting endlessly was priceless! I have been officially Peruvianised? The food was absolutely amazing! On our way back to the trains and buses we took some time in Times Square, we saw Britney up in lights and shared a timeless and precious moment together. Don't worry my loves for we shall be reunited soon! I love you all so!

I felt it was key to encapsulate what a NYC Christmas should really be, so I ventured to 'The Rockefeller Center' to see the Christmas tree. It did feel like I was starring in the 'Home Alone 2'! The atmosphere was perfect, so much so little flakes of snow started floating through the nights sky. I knew that my current American adventure would be coming to a close soon so I wanted to make sure I saw everything I could in the time remaining. Enjoying a Christmas away from home felt good to know that I could do this again in the future. I kept to my route and kept the time in mind, that Hurricane Sandy has made getting the PATH train quite difficult indeed! NYC has been an amazing place to live close to and to also experience the festive season!

What would you define as the traditional Christmas meal? Turkey and all the trimmings springs to mind, yes with Brussels Sprouts. I decided to break from tradition and go for some Vietnamese food, I went back to Pho88 Vietnamese Restaurant for my usual meal, it was a great break from my usual Christmas meal. Pushing my homesickness to one side I went for a cold Bubble Tea, setting my first Christmas Eve away from home to be the best yet! Happy times they have been so far and I will refuse to let that change on the 25th of December! Whatever happens next year I can assure you that I won't be taking the NYC Subway from Canal Street to make the last PATH train back to Newark! I don't know why I was worried being away?! Christmas Eve 2012 was so amazing! 

Christmas Day will see me greeting the VS17 flight from London Heathrow Airport. I volunteered to work as a couple of months ago the thought of Christmas wasn't something I was looking forward to. My placement year has changed me slowly but surely and I actually looked forward the Christmas period because I knew that when this time of year appeared I only had a few weeks to go before I would be boarding my Virgin Atlantic flight. But fast forward to present-day, I don't see working on Christmas Day as a bad thing at all. Who do you know that had the opportunity to say 'Happy Christmas' to one of Virgin Atlantic Airways A340 aircraft's? Even though I won't be at work until 9pm in the evening I'll be good till then. I shall look back at this year and smile, I have had such an amazing time this year, so I'm going to enjoy this Christmas whatever the big day brings! Welcome to Newark Airport! It's Christmas!

I'm looking forward to the big day really, before we attend our shift me and Valerie will spend Christmas Day afternoon together! She graciously invited me along to her friends house to be a part of their Christmas gathering. Americans tend to open their presents in the evening so we won't encroach on their family time. I'll be calling my family to wish them a 'Happy Christmas' so that will be emotional but I'll just be quick to make sure there's no tears before bedtime. I'm sort of looking for to a different Christmas Day, it will be a novelty to have a lie in as traditionally me and my brother would be up at the crack of dawn, that was a few years ago though. From our Peruvian meal to that Thanksgiving evening I've had some amazing holiday times with my beautiful friends. Ditching Bilston for the Rockefeller Center and Bubble Tea in Chinatown was an amazing experience that I'll forever cherish! Literally, I ate Vietnamese food in NYC on Christmas Eve that's bloody fantastic!

It's Christmas! Why Did You Take So Long?!

Joseph Harrison

15 December 2012

Good Morning Baltimore!

Stepping off my Amtrak train I said "Good Morning Baltimore!" Would the charms of Hairspray translate through to modern life Baltimore? I wanted to see what Baltimore had cooking up, I was ready to see something gritty! Trusting another landmark city along the U.S.A's North East Coast, I wanted to get to down to the 'Inner Harbor!' Maryland wasn't ready for me!

Another day, another city! Well that's a motto that I have been living by for the last year. My last trip took me to Baltimore, Maryland. My main motivation was to see if this city was anything like it was depicted in the film "Hairspray." I was quite impressed at what I saw! What you going to show me first? Baltimore! The Inner Harbour was my first stop, after getting off at the wrong light rail stop which proved to be rather Interesting. The December sun was lovely, the sun shone nicely onto the waters before me. I loved Baltimore because it was real and for me that counts for something! Harborplace, the surrounding area around the water looked modern, working nicely with the local feel of the area. In the distance was the Baltimore National Aquarium, this site definitely made the 'Inner Harbour' look a part of the modern age. This addition to the 'Inner Harbour' was something I was not expecting to see. Let's go B!

Baltimore didn't hold anything back, I kid you not! I have lost count of how many new places I have visited during 2012 for that I have been truly blessed! Baltimore, Maryland only stands a few stops away by train from Newark, New Jersey so I splashed out on the Amtrak to say 'Good Morning! Baltimore!' with some kind of class! Class? I don't know the meaning of the word! I wanted to see something that would challenge my senses and put me out of my comfort zone, lets be real I call Newark, NJ home right about now! Looking back at the 'Harborplace' I literally never knew that Baltimore had something to serve like that pocket sized harbour! Americans, why do you spell 'harbour' without an U? Let's leave the English differences behind and get down to business because I had a feeling that Baltimore wasn't going to wait for my adventure hungry self! Baltimore is located in-between District of Columbia and Delaware, so I got my freak on in Baltimore! Yes B, I love America!

Dominating the 'Inner Harbour' was the U.S.S Constellation, a vessel that is currently placed in front view for all to see at 'Harborplace'. The U.S.S Constellation was constructed in 1854, sometime before the Tracey Turnblad. This ship served during the Civil War and in 1999 was brought to sit in the waters of the 'Inner Habour' essentially becoming a point of interest and attraction with the Baltimore local folk and tourists alike. I believe that the U.S.S Constellation sat beautifully with the sun reflecting off its ebony exterior. Baltimore felt similar to Newark, NJ in some respects, these respects I shall not divulge to their full entirety. My year in America has enabled me to see several places that aren't featured in the tourist brochure, for that reason I see this as an experience as I've always got to be on my guard. Baltimore holds its own, serving a upfront personality that I identified with wholeheartedly!

Unlike NYC and Washington, D.C. Baltimore serves an individual flare that's actually quite endearing in some ways. Writing its own rules in a city that whispered to me that judging a book by its cover is just very rude and wrong to do! The sun shone bright during my Maryland outing but that December coldness made its presence known for sure! Time waits for no one, not even me so I didn't hop aboard the U.S.S Constellation for I didn't have plans to be in Baltimore when the stars would be in the sky. Baltimore didn't have anything to hide for the drabbest places always serve some first class shades of glam! Why I did I choose Baltimore? I passed through on my way to Washington, D.C. during August 2012 and I just wanted to see some of the ratchet scenes like I did before from my Bolt Bus window! Baltimore called me back some months later and I can wholeheartedly say that I was shown a day that I would not want to forget for a while! Go on with your glam self, Baltimore!

Moving away from the waters of the 'Inner Harbour' I discovered another historical point of interest. Preserved from the shipping days that have given Baltimore its prowess as a shipping city. 'Fells Point' gives visitors a perfect view at Baltimore in the past. It's linked well with the 'Inner Harbour' as there was good signage and also the waterfront was in constant view. The cobbled streets and picture postcard shops that stood in front of me were fantastic but something just didn't look how I envisaged things to be. I used to work at Disney so I know what an engineered attraction looks like! I really believe that the investment in this area will safe-guard the heritage and history of Baltimore, obviously not excusing for the current decaying properties in the nearby Ghettos. Overall, 'Fells Point' and the rest of its historical delights have been lovingly restored to a very high standard but I wanted to the crazy side!

Baltimore has a lovely corner of calm and restored history that honestly looked just smashing but I wanted to live life on the risky side, loving the drama gets me in trouble without fail! Throughout my day in Baltimore I saw the 'Inner Harbor' and war time ship and now a preserved corner of Maryland history. Why had it not occurred to me that I should of visited Baltimore a lot sooner!? Baltimore had shown me so much, stepping off my Amtrak MD bound train I was loving the variety of sights.  I'm going to be as honest as I want, its clear that my writing style is quite punchy and somewhat unapologetic at times but I don't need your confirmation or blessing because I'm going to fashion this blog and this publication from my own perspective. Oh! I got a bit lost then but I made my way out of 'Fells Point' in constant pursuit of Hairpsray's Tracey T! I love that film! 'Fells Point' had something special, it felt like I transported back to another time. Oh yes, Baltimore gave me life! 

Taking a walk away from the tourist appropriate streets of 'Fells Point' I made my way onto 'Eastern Ave.' Each step I took the feeling of the street changed, not entirely in a good way but it had the feeling of being in a bad council estate like back in England. Baltimore is a city that has grit, which I respect so all is not lost! If the truth be told, these new streets before me were more like the ones I had seen in the 'Hairspray' films. 'Eastern Ave' got a little bit too much at one point, I had made the decision to turn around to walk back closer to the Downtown area of Baltimore. So, breaking away from the predictable streets of 'Fells Point' to the slightly sketchy row-houses of 'Eastern Ave' showed me a small slice of the Baltimore that I set out to see. In this instance I seriously think that my Britney persona was completely to blame for that choice! Eastern Ave kept it real, OK?! 'Eastern Ave' was serving truth!

From the waters of the 'Inner Harbour' to the sketchy streets of 'Eastern Avenue' I believe that I saw the perfect blend of Baltimore. Will I get another chance to see more cities across the North East Coast? I don't think so, but my travels continue in two weeks. I love you Baltimore! I even took the liberty of wishing you a 'Good Morning!'. Let's just say that the next adventure will be a lot closer to base. So, yes I remember now! Eastern Ave put me in my place for sure and I always like to take things outside of my comfort zone for we need to grow and experience things that challenge us! Ratchet or not I don't care what anybody thinks because Baltimore showed me a day that was raw, edgy and very captivating for your information! Love the tourists traps but remember just down train line or the highway there's a new and undiscovered city that is waiting to show anyone what it has got to give! Maryland's provincial city showed me so much more, I was sad to leave that evening!

Good Morning Baltimore!

Joseph Harrison

7 December 2012

FWN EPCOT: Disney Love

Future World North, EPCOT within the Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando holds many happy memories from my program. Even now over one year on I'm still feeling the Disney Love and know in my heart that the friendships that I made will stay with me forever! My current stay in the USA has allowed me to reconnect with some of my dear Walt Disney Internship friends!

Being a New York City Boy I made it my first challenge to see my darling friend Ritika Kumar. Being that Ritika lives in Upstate New York and I currently reside in Newark, New Jersey we met in the middle Yes, NYC Baby! There's truly no other place like it for a Disney Love reunion. Our first encounter saw us take on the 'Empire State Building', I will not lie I was quite worried about the height but things were fine! We got slightly lost around Manhattan but eventually found our way, things got hectic towards the middle of our afternoon so we made it our mission to find an Applebee's to have some food. We decided to call Zach Airstarr because our Disney catch-up made us miss our Future World North favourites just that bit more! The drinks started to flow and before we knew it, we started downing some tequila shots! Things got pretty crazy but had a great first meeting but NYC was ready for us! No, not at all B!

Our second meeting took us to Central Park, where if I may add that the weather was sublime. This time around Ritika's older sister came along for the ride, we had a great time at Central Park for we just lazed in the sun and continued talking about our post Disney lives. Also during our second meeting we saw it necessary to visit the Disney Store in Times Square to be reminiscent of our time spent in Orlando, I bought a New York City Minnie Mouse plush and the cashier thought we were a couple, how odd?! Both of our meetings concluded with a visit to Applebee's, too many tequila shots and good times we have had at that epic American eatery. We're meeting for our third and final time this trip but I will making my way to Ritika's home in Upstate New York where we will no doubt find a Applebee's to terrorise! Ritika, I was genuinely blessed to have had this opportunity to see you again, until next time Ritika! If you made the cut, we're friends! No, life is not made of magic!

Life in Orlando as a Walt Disney World Cast Member was pretty damn fantastic, I worked in the happiest place in the world with a great bunch of people that opened my eyes to a whole new world. Lots of my colleagues were from Central, Latin and South America so the mix of Spanish spoken back stage, on the shop-floor and outside of work was amazing to hear. I met people from England to but it was amazing to forge new friendships with people from the USA, I had been to America many times as a tourist but I had never had that kind opportunity before, I was loving every moment! Accepting that job during my first semester at university, I made it to the USA! We can dream but only with hard work they can come true! Yes!

September 2012 saw me take to the skies to the 'Enchanted Island' of Puerto Rico, home to two of my fellow Cast Members who I worked with at EPCOT's Future World North. I had an amazing five days seeing the sights and enjoying the culture of that Spanish infused American Commenwealth nation but unfortunately I didn't get the chance to meet Valeria or Janice. I got on with my Puerto Rican holiday, spending most of my time within the timeless Old San Juan protected centre. Puerto Rico called my name because away from FWN EPCOT I made some extra special Rican friends who made my experience unforgettable! Let's just say I fell for the charms of Puerto Rico before I had even arrived on the island! Maybe one day we'll meet again, but we undeniably had fun in Orlando!

Breaking from the borders of the United States I made the journey to Toronto, Canada. I totally loved Toronto because Alexandra my Canadian lovely lives in this city! Getting to Toronto turned out to be a very stressful journey, missing my flight to then miss my coach connection that day to see Niagara Falls. I must admit that because of my unfortunate situation I was able to see Alexandra on my first day! After reaching Toronto I took up the challenge of exploring the city of Toronto. Later on that day I was reunited with Alexandra, we went out for a lovely dinner and got our drink on! Crossing the Canadian border was so easy, the immigration officers even wished me a nice stay, they predicted right because my weekend in Toronto was amazing! It's very crazy to think that my Toronto weekend inspired the title of this blog by Alexandra's caption for our photo together! I have a few secrets to tell!

As my current Industrial Placement in Newark, New Jersey is nearing its completion date I will soon be jetting off to see my Disney Diva, of course that has to be Zach Altstatt! He introduced himself as Zach Airstarr on the first night that I arrived at my Chatham Square accomodation, I was like 'has this fabulous guy named himself after a trainer?' I was very wrong but this lover of all things Lady GaGa became an amazing friend of mine, we even went out some shady nightclubs in some sketchy Orlando neighbourhoods with Alexis from Chicago but we slayed on the dancefloor nonetheless! I'm going to see Zach and his boyfriend, Dawin during the first week of January 2013 before I fly back to England. I honestly cannot wait to put the world to rights with Zach because we are quite the pair when we're in each others company! I know that I have thrown back my Walt Disney memories more than once but I wanted to give this post to celebrate my Disney friends who come from afar B!

Disney Love Lasts Forever!

Joseph Harrison

1 December 2012

The High Line, NYC: View From Up Above

October to now has been manic, I made it back to NYC to see something new. From Toronto to Montreal I needed to get back to the streets! This week I made It my mission to get back to NYC. There's something about this city that I'll never be able to shake away, would I want to forget New York City? Never! Jumping back on the PATH train to NYC to discover the High Line!

Taking a chance on the alternative route I chose the High Line. A once bustling network of track line that was dominated by rail wagons that carried cargo to New York City's 'Meatpacking District' and dock areas. How could a disused rail line on the banks of the 'Hudson River' be a bustling and cutting edge tourist attraction and local point of interest? The year is almost out so I wanted to seek something new because NYC is mega, so the odds of seeing a new places were on my side for sure! Looking for something completely different I exited the 33rd St bound PATH train from Newark Penn Station, getting off at 23rd St station to make my way to the High Line for I was ready to be surprised by this alternative NYC haunt, well it's more like a urban work of art! New York City has the perfect mix of city and sights, I love this place from the bottom of my heart! Yes NYC, your sleek High Line was worth the wait!

The once booming tracks of NYC's Westside are no more, a bright idea was accepted to transform the decaying elevated line. Before any intervention the High Line sort of created itself, due to nature and so on, plant life made its way onto the track bed. Along with a huge helping hand the High Line was thankfully restored into a beautiful and rustic elevated walkway. I absolutely loved the mix between the existing track line and the modern decking that looked perfect for relaxing in the summer sun, let that be for another time! I wonder if another city could recreate such a formula that the High Line has achieved? NYC is a city that has many faces and personalities that suit the changing pace of such a crazy cool place but the High Line has its own chilled out vibe, elevated on the former train tracks with its sculpted gardens and foliage, I want a UK version! I love the hustle of Times Square but the winding High Line is like the breeze compared to that crazy corner. Relax!

Stretching a little over sixteen blocks starting from Gransevoort Street in the heart of 'The Meatpacking District' right up to 30th Street. Bridging the gap between the industrial and tourist appropriate areas the High Line made me believe that its a cool and contemporary place to see New York City from a whole different view. Captured to the left is an example that shows Old and New can work well in NYC! What I loved about the High Line was that it made me feel that I was in a oasis of calm in the centre of complete mayhem, the mayhem being New York City. I loved walking along the pathway as the slow trickle of visitors didn't get in my way, for a mega-city I felt completely at ease as if I was not in NYC for the High Line's got chill. Let's go back!?

It's clear to see that 'The Meatpacking District' is undergoing a renaissance period, with the boom of several new apartments and developments being constructed all along the corners of the High Line. By this time of my placement year I had pretty much seen all the main tourist traps but had one more interesting place to discover, this being the High Line. Bearing in mind the season of winter is setting in, the frosty looking trees and under-nourished plant life looked perfect for the timing. Come on! I wasn't expecting to see the track bed full of colourful blooming flowers and healthy looking greenery, that would be simply stupid! Nonetheless, I was impressed with what I saw in the respect of plant life as they do say the autumn is one of the prettiest seasons, anyway that's what I think!

I'm definitely on the final assault of all things New York, my time living here is ticking, oh I know! the High Line is definitely a great and alternative way to see another side of NYC. If I might add the shopping just off the 14th Street exit looked exquisite, only my friend Leah could appreciate the couture on offer. If we had the money there would sure be a shopping trip on the cards! Lee let's save for Broadway! As I discovered the High Line I really got a feel for a side of New York City that I had never seen before. If you have an hour or two spare, then visit this cutting edge invention to see New York City from a whole other level. The weather was positively freezing during my time at the High Line, I wasn't alone, there was a mixture of tourists snapping photos and local New Yorkers taking a late morning jog, pushing through the December chill! New York City is magical! The High Line had me dazed.

It looks like the High Line will be steaming ahead due to a new construction program. A timeline was displayed on a notice board stating that during the 2012/2013 period, a new extension lengthening of the High Line will surpass it's current end point beyond 30th Street. I don't know when I'll be visiting the High Line again but I will make time for it upon my next visit to New York City! So, I have something to look forward to when I return to New York in the future. I've done it, I saw the High Line at long last even though it took me ten months to get myself over to this side of New York City I truly believe I saved the best for last! I feel really fortunate that I got the opportunity to see such a unique thing and that I will remember for a while longer. But I still loved what I saw and what has been created out of something old. It's all about the art of reinvention. My mornings stroll along that redeveloped former railway helped me forget about the freeze, I was feeling NYC!

I Love The High Line!

Joseph Harrison