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Friday, April 12, 2013

The Many Benefits of Visitors

Hold tight this is going to be a long post!

So one great thing I’ve found living in New York, is there is always someone you know visiting the city on any given weekend, If not visiting YOU. Which means … doing fun touristy things you might not have made time to do normally!  Here’s a list of some of my favorite things I’ve done in the city with my visitors.

Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

Although it’s much more cost effective and a great view to see the Statue of Liberty by taking the Staten Island Ferry, it’s still a very cool experience to actually take the Statue of Liberty tour and listen to the history of the ol’ lady! My sister and I decided to go the tour route, and we learned all kind of facts – like the Statue of Liberty’s nose is 10 feet tall, she is hallow inside and as thin as a penny, and she is made of copper and was originally brown. We also heard a story told by a woman who remembers coming to America when she was a little girl. She said they spent days on a crowded boat, suffering on their journey in order to reach freedom, and when they finally arrived – her dad picked her up and said “Look at the pretty lady”. The site of the Statue of Liberty made her feel at home.

Then at Ellis Island, we took another headphone tour when took us through the journey of newcomers to America. There were so many steps you had to take in order to be deemed “suitable” to enter the country. If you were too old, too unhealthy, or mentally disabled – they could send you right on back to where you came from, separating you from your family possibly forever.

Cindy listen to these interesting facts
It was such an interesting experience stepping back into time. But I also found much entertainment stepping back to modern days and realizing this was a part of the movie where they filmed Hitch. Oh silly Will Smith and your quirky ways.


A place I visited with both my mother and my sister, on behalf of one of our favorite movies, Serendipity! Usually an hour long wait (with the exception of how lucky my mother is) we were so happy to get an iced cold frozen hot chocolate, and relax our exhausted legs from all the tourist walking.

9/11 Memorial

I believe I have visited this location more than any other tourist spot in the city. And every time it fills me with such an odd feeling of gravity. I think this is due to the fact we all actually lived through this tragedy, so suddenly the memorial brings personal emotion back on the table. Before we would even enter the memorial, I’d look up and see how close the new Freedom Tower felt to us on the streets of New York, and think what it must have been like to look up and see the twin towers engulfed in black smoke. 

The actual memorial consists of 2 large fountains cascading down into what looks like a bottomless hole, standing right where they two towers stood. I don’t know if this is suppose to represent the falling of the towers, or the emptiness felt by the country after the event – but whatever it represents, it’s impactful. The fountains are bordered with the names of the people who didn’t survive.

Being in New York for the Sept 11th anniversary suddenly brought me first hand right into the emotions the people felt in the city. I watched a showing of a documentary about that day, after the documentary was over – the director took questions. There in that audience were various people who had lost husbands, children, sisters, and parents in the towers. Seeing them cry instantly brought tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat. But most of them just wanted to thank the director for helping them feel a little more at peace with her documentary.

Brooklyn Bridge

The iconic, the majestic, the wonderful Brook… “BIKE ON YOUR RIGHT! MOVE, MOVE!!!!” Walking across Brooklyn Bridge is all those things, while also constantly watch your back for the insane cyclists that must be training for the Olympics for how seriously they take their daily rides.

Walking across the bridge at sunset is the absolute best time to enjoy the view, and it also means you’ll step over to the Brooklyn side right when it gets dark and the city lights come on. Which means seeing one of my favorite views of the city, the buildings of Manhattan and the Bridge lit up and reflecting in the East River.

From either the pier side or the DUMBO side – it’s an incredible sight. Plus if it’s not too cold you can get some of the best ice cream in the city at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory!

China Town

I will say this, I am not much of a brand name shopper so I never fully experienced the adventure of shopping for fake purses, sunglasses and watches in this part of the city. But I DID walk through this area with my sister, and we honestly felt like we had stepped into a different country. Especially when we went to a post office to mail a package, and they had to find a translator for Cindy and I because no one spoke English! Haha a true other country in a city.

Central Park Biking

Central park is always such a wonderful place to enjoy nature while still seeing a pretty cool skyline of the city buildings. We wanted to see as much of the park as we could, so the best way we thought how – would be to bike! Well, now looking back and realizing how huge Central Park is, and considering my lack of cycling athleticism, this turned out to be quite the work out. Who knew New York had so many HILLS in the park?!

But it was cool to see how many things fit inside that enormous area. A zoo, a swimming pool, a few baseball diamonds, soccer fields, lakes with kayaks floating by, fountains, and mountains of rocks around every bend with fearless children running all over them.

The craziest bike ride I ever had occurred when my friend Chelsea came to visit. We rented bikes from a very cheap place, which we quickly realized was so cheap because we had to pick up the bikes in Time Square … and ride them all the way to Central Park. Dogging taxis in the middle of Time Square on bicycles is an unforgettably surreal experience I never want to have again.

Criff Dogs

My cousin and I stumbled upon this hidden gem, where the world’s best hot dog lives. You may think I am exaggerating, but I would serve this hot dog at my future wedding. A hot dog, wrapped in bacon, and slices of avocado placed snug inside the bun … ah it was a the best heart attack food I ever tasted. Not to mention our tables were Pac Man arcade games!

The other cool part about this restaurant was it doubled as a Speak Easy. If you entered the phone booth in the corner, picked up the telephone, and dialed – a secret door would open and you would find yourself in a little fancy, hidden bar! The speak easy was really awesome, but really expensive – so we enjoyed our cheap, delicious, amazing hot dogs instead.

Grand Central

It takes only a few minutes to take it all in, but it’s still a sight to see! To walk around in the main concourse and realize how many flash mobs have taken place there, and how movies have been filmed there, it’s pretty incredible.

Plus there is a hidden gem of an area right beside the main concourse, called the Whispering Room. If one person stands at one end of the room, another person stands at the very opposite end – and if you whisper into the wall … the other person can hear you as clear as day!


One of the oldest and most famous pizza places in the city. The best one is right over the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s a converted old bank and oddly looks like Gringot’s from Harry Potter (direct quote from my friend Katie). Getting any kind of this brick oven pizza accompanied with an old fashion cherry soda – such a satisfying meal.

Yankees and Mets

The very first baseball game I went to in the city was a Mets game, because it was the cheapest. When the Cubs (my FAVORITE team) absolutely demolished the Mets, I realized why the tickets were so cheap. But there is still something to say about eating a pretzel and enjoying a baseball game with friends.

The first Yankees game I went to on the other hand, wow. You could feel the energy of the stadium as soon as you stepped out of the subway! Everyone in the crowd was cheering, everyone was singing to old fashion baseball songs, the benches would rattle whenever a Yankee hit a homerun, and we saw them beat the Red Sox in one of the best baseball games I’ve ever seen! I felt like I had been apart of such a great New York tradition!


Art museums in New York are a plenty. There are tons, such as the Met, the Guggenheim, and MoMA.

MoMa, or the Museum of Modern Art, is both incredible … and confusing. For those of us that don’t really understand modern art unless it is blatantly spelled out for us, some exhibits may seem a bit odd.

But it was amazing to get to see famous pieces of art such as Starry Night up close and personal!

My absolute favorite museum however, is the Museum of Natural History. We walked through dinosaur bones, travels about different cultures, warped through galaxies, and saw a bunch of rocks (yea the geology section was one of the less exciting ones).

The exhibit I both loved and hated the most was the aquatic section. The only reason I hated this part, was because a giant life size blue whale hung above the heads of all of the visitors.

I have always had an odd terror of whales, and seeing just how big it is – I got the chills. But seeing all the fish and creatures that life in the ocean, THAT was really incredible. There was even one exhibit of a giant squid fighting a whale! I didn’t know which one to root for?

Those were just some of the fun touristy things I got to do when visitors came to town! My experience here wouldn’t have been complete without them!

The Old, the Odd, and the Overlooked

Some of my favorite experiences I’ve had while living here might not have started out as the first choice of activities for... well most people. While Coney Island, GMA’s Backstreet Boy’s Concert, and Roosevelt Island could be described by all three words for which this blog is entitled … I found some incredible treasures in each of these three experiences.

Coney Island

What could sound better than an ancient amusement park with each individual ride owned by a family of carneys that may or may not be able to guarantee the safety of their rides? … Everything! But I spent my 23rd Birthday in the delightful creepiness that is Coney Island – and it was amazing!

It didn’t help the eerie atmosphere that it was a slightly rainy day that day, which cast a dark gloom on the devilish smile of the amusement park logo. But Coney Island is a fairly cheap way to enjoy a bunch of fun and slightly dangerous rides! The first ride we went on, a dad was freaking out because his child’s safety bar was wide open and the ride was about to start. But no worries, the Coney Island folk got to it seconds before we took off! Where’s the fun in predictable safety codes?

Then there was another ride that was supposed to be a roller coaster resembling a horse race. We straddled the horse like any professional jockey would, but when the safety bar pressed against our lower backs and locked in – all of a sudden we were sitting in the most awkward position imaginable, as if the ride was originally made for a velociraptor.    

We ended our incredibly unique amusement park experience with a few carnival games, a candy apple, and a hot dog from the infamous “Nathan’s”, which hosts the world hot dog eating competition.

GMA Backstreet Boy Concert

Every summer, Good Morning America hosts a number of free concerts in Central Park for their morning shows. Well it just so happened I had moved to New York right in time for the Backstreet Boys special. Only catch? You had to get to the park around 4 AM. Not very many of my friends were willing to do this on a weekday/workday, but one thing I’ve learned is don’t let the fact that no one can go with you – stop you! You can make friends when you get there!

So as I sleepily stumbled into the park, I got to enjoy sunrise with hundreds of people, in a line twisting all the way back through half of the park. I shared stories with the fellow line waiters about our backstreet boy fandom way back when. One mom brought her 5-year-old son, who was disappointed this wasn’t a One Direction concert and that the Backstreet Boys were … Old.

After a few hours the line got moving and (another perk of doing things solo) I somehow managed to squeeze into the 4th or 5th row! The Backstreet Boys came out and gave us all bagels before the show started, and I spent the following hour singing every single word to every single song with hundreds of strangers. Best. Day. EVER!

Roosevelt Island

The last odd and overlooked treasure I found in New York was a little slice of an island called Roosevelt. It stands like a little strip of bacon between Manhattan and Brooklyn, and isn’t really known for much. But I LOVED this place!

We would play our weekly work kick ball games on this island, and on the warm days, it became a relaxing outdoor escape from the city. Playing kickball in green grass with the bridge and the city skyline as your view, what more could you ask for!

Oh I can think of one more thing… Bill Murray! We totally missed him, but apparently Bill Murray came wandering over to Roosevelt Island, asked for directions, played a few innings of kickball with one of the teams, and peaced out! How completely random! Just like this island!

The best part is taking the Roosevelt Island cable car back to Manhattan, where you can get a birds eye view of the East River in all it’s glory.  

Just because it's old or odd - just means it's probably just overlooked!

Juggling Jobs

So luckily, the internship at Welcome Change Productions had turned into a part time job. I had finally moved out of deep Brooklyn and moved into the high class lifestyle of the upper West Side … for a week. That’s all I could afford! At around $1,500 a month I would have been in debt fast. Not to mention that the old lady I was renting from was an insane character (ask me for stories, I’ll tell you plenty). Luckily, right when I was thinking I might have to move back home – the women’s residence I had applied to said there was an open room for me! I was moving to a nunnery! (More to come, that experience deserves it’s own blog!)

So now that I had cheap rent, a steady part time job, and lots of free days – it was time to start searching for more work! But how was I going to break into the production world with zero connections and zero experience? The only way I knew how to start the process, was to go door to door of every production company I could find with a resume in my hand. After a full day walking all over Manhattan, I ended up exhausted and with not a single response back…. except for one. A post-production company named Goldcrest Post called me back about interning with them. It wasn’t a paid position, it wasn’t exactly the career path I wanted to take, but it was an OPPORTUNITY. So I took it!

Thus I was thrown head first into a world of stocking the fridge, getting coffee, going on runs, practicing my Spanish with the lovely Carmen, answering phones, but most importantly – learning about the business. Any free time I had I would try to sit in on editing sessions to try and absorb all I could.

Another benefit of that job was I got to see another cool part of the city, the Meatpacking district. It’s an industrial-sounding name, but they have made that once factory-ridden area so pretty. The roads I would walk on to get to work were cobble stone, trees aligned our block, and best of all – we worked right next door to the High Line. The high line was once an above ground railroad that was shut down and converted into an above ground park. I picnicked up there during lunch breaks, and took little walks that felt like I was walking right through the buildings.

I also loved doing tasks for a producer named Gretchen, who was more involved in the actual production aspect of the films, which was what I was really interested in. As I would file different permits and contracts, she would answer all of my rookie questions about the logistics of production. She even mentioned at one point that her husband worked for a television show filming in New York, Person of Interest. That peaked my interest, and I asked her if she ever heard of an opening with them – to let me know!

Low and behold a few weeks later, they called me to fill in as an office PA for a day. That brought on job number 3 at the time. I was so excited about this job because it was an actual Warner Brother production and I wanted to learn all I could! Little did I know at the time just how much I would absorb and all the amazing people I would meet from working with Person of Interest. But I’m getting ahead of myself!

A few weeks after being called in to POI, I got another job offer filming short promo videos for a tour company called On Location Tours. This company gave tours to parts of the city that were known for the movies filmed there. This job wasn’t exactly a way to make “contacts in the business” but it is by far one of the best things I did while living here. I got to wander around New York with fun people and learn a bunch of random facts about the city! Some of my favorite days were seeing the “Men In Black headquarters” in the city, learning about the bull statue and how it was sneakily and illegally plopped into where it stands today, oh and filming the host get “slushied” for a special Glee episode. It was a blast!

Here are all of the videos:

With the addition of one more job organizing the mailing lists for a documentary, that made 5 jobs I was trying to juggle at once. I was going crazy trying to plan out my weeks and when I would work where, but little did I know this is the lifestyle of a LOT of people who live in New York. I met a few girls in my residence that balance jobs DJ-ing, catering, acting, working in a hair salon, waitressing, EVERYTHING you can imagine. Some of these girls had moved from a different country, and were learning English on top of that. Suddenly after meeting them, my juggling act seemed like a lot lighter load. I was in awe of their determination while also having to learn a new culture! Because on top of working, it’s also very hard to learn how to do daily tasks in the city.

For example, normally a grocery store run would consist of me getting in my car, buying everything I need for the next few weeks, piling it in my trunk, and driving home. But suddenly now, I was walking to the store and had to lug everything I bought 10 blocks back home. I had to learn how to buy little stuff frequently. And with no WAl-Mart ANYWHERE in Manhattan (gasp) – I had to learn where I could buy what. This could make a few simple errands take ALL DAY. Not to mention very few public bathrooms in the city, some days I would find myself frustrated trying to accomplish mundane tasks and having to pee like a racehorse with still 5 stops left while riding the subway. Then finally getting home to my TINY little closet of an apartment blowing the fan directly on me to try to escape the summer heat in the city. It’s definitely not easy living here, but it’s a challenge with some very cool perks. I could be having the most frustrating day ever, and stumble upon something I’ve never seen before…

Like a group of people dressed up as animals doing some sort of modern dance… in the subway.

 Or finding a random glowing Spider-Man looking giant ball.

Or seeing an inspiring sign just right below your feet!

Or running into a random ball room dance lesson in Union Square.

Or stumbling into a freshman orientation and getting a free t-shirt from people who think you are a

Or finding Hercules' pharmacy.

Or walking into a coffee shop with the coolest coffee flavors baked right into the beans.

Or taking a break in the New York library

Or witnessing the gold medal winner of dog walking.

Or seeing a random dance off break out

Or my favorite… walking past a wonderful smelling market selling flowers, just after you got a wiff of a horrible aroma of pee on the sidewalk…

Or simply just looking up, and remember where you are at. 

It’s definitely not the easiest thing to do to live here. But despite the struggles, I am so happy I’ve seen the things I have this year!