Tag Archives: I Love New York

“The Greatest Of All Time…”

“In 2004, while living in NYC, my friend Gerald Bunsen called me up one weekend and asked if I was available to work security for a photoshoot (I had moved to NYC to pursue acting, but because of my size and character I often found secondary work as a bouncer and private guard). He wasn’t available to make it and needed someone he could depend on to replace him. ‘Of course,’ I said, ‘for who?’…’Muhammad Ali‘, he replied.”
“The photoshoot was for an adidas ad campaign. The team I was on had one job: to escort Mr. Ali from his hotel room down to the street where he would shoot in a car with a few children, then back up to his hotel room. During a meeting that was held before all of this happened, we were given details on how things would progress. Mr. Ali never spoke aloud to us, there was a gentleman with him (whose name I didn’t catch) who spoke with him directly, listened to his replies as they were whispered to him and then relayed the information to us. The photographer asked how long he’d have to shoot, Mr. Right-Hand-Man told him he’d probably have 5 minutes at the MOST to squeeze off a few shots. The photographer wanted more, Mr. Right-Hand-Man said that’d be impossible. When we walked outside I immediately saw why.”
“The second (and I mean literally the SECOND) we opened the front door and set foot on the sidewalk, Mr. Ali was recognized and surrounded. People smiled, laughed, cried, reached out to him, touched him, chanted his name, held out things to be autographed, held their children out to him to be kissed. The security team and I spent the next few minutes (Mr. Right-Hand-Man was right, we had less than 5) holding people back, keeping people calm and witnessing the madness. Although I had met a lot of celebrities while living in NYC, I had never met one as traffic-stopping as him. His presence alone captured the awe and attention of those around him. His smile was addicting…his silence was deafening.”
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(photographer: Unknown)

“When we arrived back at the hotel room, everyone shook hands and began their goodbye’s. Mr. Ali was seated at a giant desk, signing autographs and photos for some of the assistants, staff and security team. As I was still a fairly timid newcomer to the whole ‘NYC scene’ and my job was done, I thought it best to simply leave. As I made for the door, my eyes caught Mr. Right-Hand-Man’s eyes. ‘Would you like an autograph before you go?’, he asked. I was never one to ask for autographs, I always felt that having someone’s name on a piece of paper or memorabilia could never fully describe the experience of meeting that person. And although I had a cell phone on me, technology had not yet caught up to where we are today, with our selfie skills and multi-megapixel phone cameras…so taking a photo would’ve required entirely too much time to set up. I couldn’t just let this moment slip by however, it was Muhammad Ali. ‘No thank you,’ I answered, ‘but is it possible for me to just meet him?'”
“Thirty seconds later I was sitting in a chair next to the Greatest Of All Time, introducing myself, shaking his hand and smiling like a 10 yr old. I never once heard his voice, I didn’t need to. Sometimes you don’t need to hear someone tell you about the years they’ve lived, the accomplishments they’ve achieved, the struggles they’ve overcome and the world they’ve changed…sometimes you can just tell.”
“Rest in peace Mr. Ali.”
– F
PS. This is a photo from that weekend…I found it online after some pretty heavy Google searching.
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Filed under A-List / B-List / No-List, New York City

“Hip Hop…Hooray.”

(Note: Webster defines Hip Hop as ‘rap music; also : the culture associated with rap music’.)

“When I first arrived to the U.S., Hip Hop quickly became my favorite genre of music. I had grown up in Germany and Italy and was therefore naive to most of it, American music was hard to come by overseas. I had also just entered my teenage years and could relate to most of the lyrics in most of the songs. Although I hadn’t grown up in the lifestyle that was often rapped about (drugs, violence, drug-use and life in an urban city), I could associate with the culture of it…fun, freedom, non-conformity and the expression of oneself through music and other forms of art. For many years recently, however, I’ve felt as if Hip Hop has changed into something that I no longer understand. It seems to be flooded with money, exorbitant living, disrespect to opposite sexes and races, and a bevy of one-time, one-hit, one-good-song artists. Not only has the music scene changed completely, but the culture associated with that music has also become unrecognizable.”

“I used to wonder why my parents (and the generation they belong to) still listened to music from fifty years ago when so much more has been released since then…I understand now. To continue enjoying the culture that I found so dear to me, I find myself holding onto the music, clothing styles and social scenes that I was a fan of years and years ago. As a New Yorker, that was easy to do…I simply had to look up the music or crowd I wanted to mingle with and then go to that location. Now that I live in Italy…it’s not so simple. Most of the city (and the country, for that matter) doesn’t listen to Hip Hop. It’s true that there is a very large selection of American music around, in locales as well as on the radio, but for the most part it’s music that I don’t listen to. In the rare instances that I do find a place where they’re playing the music that I enjoy, the culture of that music is missing. The crowd remains completely, well, Italian. The Italy of today is exactly like the Italy I grew up in 30 years ago; Hip Hop-less. Or so I thought…”

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(photo: Samuele Storari)

“Two weeks ago I stumbled upon an event here in town. It was billed as ‘the newest Hip Hop night to hit Verona’ and cleverly titled ‘Hipology’. I was asked to be the night’s photographer, and I was looking forward to it because I was told ahead of time that my favorite local DJ (my good friend Carletto) would be there. So even though I could trust the music would be solid, I wasn’t truly aware of what the scene would be until I got there. Some of the nights out I had experienced during my first year here in Verona were filled with my kind of music, but as I mentioned before, the environments had been different. I wasn’t entirely prepared for what was in store for me, but I can safely say that I wasn’t disappointed in the least!”

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“It was as if walking through the doors of the establishment was the same as jumping in a DeLorean and going back to 1995. Not only was the music exactly what I knew it would be, but he ambiance fit the bill as well. The attire was a recipe of 90’s dress code and NYC/LA outfits, with a pinch of the stuff ‘kids wear today’ thrown on top. Hairstyles, accessories and shoes were picked to match…with the occasional gold tooth and nighttime sunglass-wearer thrown into the mix.”

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“Everything about the place screamed Hip Hop! The dance floor was packed, and counting the number of dance battles took two hands instead of one. Three separate DJ’s spun a never-ending supply of ‘that’s my jam!’ songs, interrupted only by a mid-party pause featuring a handpicked selection of some of the local b-boys and fly girls. The line outside was long, the bouncers were big and the VIP tables were perfectly typical: at first too empty, then before you could say ‘I’m on the list’, too few.”

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“Finding Hipology not only proved that there is in fact a Hip Hop scene in Verona, but it gave me a taste of an Italy I had never seen. Black, white and mixed people were everywhere…there were no groupings of different creeds, colors or races. And even though Italian and English were the main languages spoken, many others had come out to play…giving it that NYC, melting pot feeling. I was happy to see a room full of multiracial friends, as well as multiracial couples, enjoying the night carefree…it made my job as a photographer not only easier, but more enjoyable personally. I’m certain it’s a bias, preferring to shoot environments filled with mixed race individuals, but I can’t help it…I am one myself.”

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“Like the party flier said, the entire event mirrored the Hip Hop culture that I had adopted and made my own while in New York for fifteen years. No one was afraid to flaunt their own style, and those that were afraid flaunted it anyway…even as far as the race of friends you hung with or the person they called their own. Their people were their people, and their music was their music…period.”

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“The only thing that mattered was Hip Hop.”

– F

* All photos by me, except the first *

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Filed under La Bella Italia, New York City, Nightlife

“Just Like That…Your Wallet’s In The Mail.”

A little while ago my mind was blown.

I found myself enjoying the regular, run of the mill, average, old, everyday grind…when out of nowhere, my wallet arrived in the mail. Now it wasn’t the fact that my wallet was actually in the mail and not on my physical person that surprised the hell out of me.

You see, because last week (I believe it was thursday) I stupidly left my wallet inside of a taxi cab after paying for my ride (and tipping nicely if I do say so myself). Leaving one’s wallet inside of a taxi cab in this big bad apple we all call New York City is nothing new. I mean hell, I must have lost 3 wallets, $100’s of dollars, 4 cellphones, and a miniature Doberman inside of various taxicabs in the six years that I’ve been living here.

But THIS time was different…

THIS time I had just received my spankin new NY license.

THIS time the wallet was 2 days old, a small Perry Ellis perk left over in a VIP giftbag after one of the insanely expensive events hosted at my job.

THIS time I was having a bad day, week, month…whatever period of time you wanna say it was, I was pretty pissed off.

So I cursed New York City.

That’s right my friends.

I friggin cursed this friggin piece of s**t city that keeps friggin kicking the friggin s**t out of me every friggin day when all I friggin wanna friggin do is just friggin LIVE my damn life in peace and friggin loneliness without getting the friggin piss stomped out of me every time I friggin turn the friggin corner…

…but I digress.

The point is I was mad at New York, and I couldn’t understand why after six years of ups and downs, after six years of trying and trying and trying and trying, after six years of standing up for her…she was letting me down again.

I thought to myself “No one is going to return my Perry Ellis wallet. No one is going to give a damn that it contained my money, cards, contacts, and brand spanking new NY id. No one.”

So I got over it.

I accepted it.

I took it all with a grain of salt.

I chalked it up to experience.

Whatever the hell you call it, I gave up.

And then it happened.

I checked the mail. I opened the letter that someone had ACTUALLY paid $1.06 at the post office to mail to me. I carefully checked the contents inside the wallet. I noticed that EVERY SINGLE THING was there. I smiled. I almost cried. I giggled like a little red headed schoolgirl on her first day at 1st grade in her first new red dress…

The good news is they used the current address on my new NY id to mail it to, the bad news is they put no return address…so I’ll never be able to write them back and thank them. I just have to thank them internally and keep on keepin on.

I love you beautiful stranger.

I love the fact that you went that extra mile when no one else would.

I love that you’re faceless, nameless, gender-less, race-less, but in all those seperate ways more human than most.

Thank you my friend.

And thank YOU New York.

– F

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Filed under New York City, The Good In Mankind, Throwback Blogs

“No 9/11 Mosque? Tough Crowd…”

I love NY, and I love the fact that it made me the New Yorker I am today.
I also love my fellow New Yorkers, and not just because they all happen to live in New York, arguably the most well known, talked about, and sought after city in the world. New Yorkers are so much more than that. They’re all from other places, which makes them the closest thing to being European/American. This, as you guys know, is exactly what I am…so I hold a personal, biased love for them.
Um, I mean us.
Us New Yorkers also have the ability to be able to tell you exactly what we’re thinking, any time of day, all day, every day, twice, in very few words…which usually start with the letter “F”. It is this brass, forward, confident, self-empowering style that caused me to immediately fall for this big, bad, Apple.
* Note: I’d like to express a personal apology to all my friends in Kansas, but just because I went to college there doesn’t mean I’ll ever claim being a Kansan. I love you guys, and it was a nice place to live during some of my formative years, but I’m only Italian, or New Yorker…no Kansan. I’ve got a NY license and everything now, get off my back!! *
…but I digress.
It is perhaps due to the intimate relationship I have with the City (NY gets the big “C”) that never sleeps that I’m exactly torn down the middle of this “mosque being built near the 9/11 site” issue. Well, that and the fact that I’m half American, and probably bleed red, white, and blue…Italian white though.

Half of me is proud of the fact that Mayor Bloomberg and “the gang” want the mosque to go up based simply on the fact that we’re America (hell yeah), and anyone can be American (except illegal aliens, terrorists, and a few select folks in Arizona), and everyone has the right to worship who they want to worship (unless the person you want to worship is David Koresh) here in America.
We’re fair, that’s our story, and we’re sticking to it. We have to be stand by what we said, and we have to lead by example, and be right…even when that means doing something that may seem wrong. That’s the way that we, as Americans, are going to do things around here because we have rules…AMERICAN rules, and those will never die. Born in the U.S.A. Talk to me Goose. Some folks were made to wave the flag, ooooh, that red white and blue.
The flip-side of that coin however, is me thinking “You wanna build a mosque WHERE..?” Not because the people building it are Muslim, or Arab, or believe in a different God than I do…or whatever else it is everyone who’s against them is complaining about. I just think it’s a little sketchy because it was folks from that way of life (allegedly), representing that nation (supposedly), and claiming to be followers of that religion (probably) that most of us here in America don’t follow.

Call me crazy, but folks who have all that in common with the terrorists that caused one of the most tragically memorable moments in America’s history would have to have some major balls to just want to build their place of praise…well…right there. Wasn’t there some other block in this gigantic City that they could’ve chosen..?? That’s kind of like the relatives of the person who killed your kids asking you and your spouse if they can move in across the hall from you.
This is officially the first time I’ve ever ended one of my blog entries with a question, but as I have no official position (because I’m having trouble choosing one), and I really don’t know what else to say, it seems like just this once, it may be the correct thing to do.
…what do you think?
-F

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Filed under Controversy...Ya Gotta Love It, New York City, Religion

“Welcome To New York City Kiddo…”


(Photo by: Fidel Amos)

* Note – For my first entry into this spontaneously-created “blog-O-mine”, I thought it best to stick to the subject in the tag line…which is New York City. This is the only time I promise to do this. Yes, most of my stories, thoughts, meanderings, complaints and joys will be written about New York City…but not ALL of them. I want to make this very clear to you now, here, at the beginning of it all. That way on some random Tuesday when I’m spouting off about why I believe American Idol is the worst show on television, you don’t start complaining that although yes, it IS the worst show on television, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Big Apple. You’ll just sit back quietly, and let me finish barking.

Now with all of THAT out of the way…I present to you: “The Big Bad Apple…In A Nutshell.”

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* Go to TIMES SQUARE.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. For a New Yorker, it’s the plague. But for tourists, it’s Val Halla. Stare away kiddies. They’ve got everything from the M&M store to Broadway shows. However, standing outside 8 hours in the freezing cold on New Years night just to see a ball drop for 10 seconds is just plain ludacrous (tourist or not).

(Photo by: Fidel Amos)
(Photo by: Fidel Amos)

 

* Get a Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich from AMERICANA DELI on 101st & Broadway.

They’re huge, they’re greasy, they’re everything you’d expect a Philly Cheesesteak to be. They make them faster than anyone YOU’VE ever met, and it won’t cost you even a $10-spot…regardless of whether or not you add a 20 ounce soda. The only kicker is the guys working there hardly speak English, so thank God it’s an easy thing to translate.

“P H I L L Y, C H E E S E S T E A K, S A N D W I C H . . . “

* Visit CENTRAL PARK.

It’s just downright amazing. It’s a park as big as a small town. And unless you were born and raised in the Outback, or that area full of fields in between Kansas and Colorado, you’ll really be blown away by seemingly never ending expanse of good, green, earth. BONUS: Stand in the middle of Sheep’s Meadow. Having your feet on Mother Nature and being surrounded by a concrete jungle at the same time…remarkable.

(Photo by: Fidel Amos)

* Ride in a cab at least once.

Don’t do it TOO often, or you’ll lose all your spending money before you even get to the place you’re supposed to spend it! BONUS: Roller coasters have NOTHING on a pissed off foreigner speaking a language you’ve never heard of dodging traffic at 50 miles an hour as if the NYPD was on his tail!

photo by: Fidel Amos

* Try the corn (amongst other things) at CAFE HABANA.

This extremely tiny yet extremely cozy cafe-style mini-restaurant is near Little Italy on Prince & Elizabeth. I can’t really explain it to you, but you’ve never had anything like their corn on the cob, guaranteed. BONUS: You could eat 6 ears of it and it wouldn’t break your bank.

* ROCKEFELLER CENTER.

It’s cheesy, but there’s something about standing in line for an hour to skate for 5 minutes that warms your heart. Not to mention it’s near Radio City Music Hall and NBC and all that other hulabaloo that tourists love to check out. BONUS: That big-a** Christmas tree really IS friggin cool to look at during the holidays!

(photo by: Fidel Amos)

* Stay out til 4am!

It’s one of the few cities in America where the nightlife doesn’t even THINK about slowing down until 4 or 5am, and there are tons of things to get into even after THAT! Sure it’ll throw off your work schedule and probably cost you a hangover, but as we all know “Sometimes it feels SO good to be SO bad…”

* Take a picture with one or two of our NYPD or FDNY.

BONUS: They are a special breed of humans giving life and limb for mere pennies on the dollar, just so we can feel a little less screwed by the evil in our country. Taking a picture with them is (honestly) an awesome way to make em feel appreciated…trust me. DOWNER: Rub em the wrong way, and you’ll get shot 50 times (or if it’s the FDNY, you’ll get axed)..

(photo by: Fidel Amos)

Curse someone out.

Nothing makes you feel like a true New Yorker like picking some random person on some random street corner doing something random…and asking them what the f**k they’re looking at. They won’t know what the f**k you’re talking about, but they’ll kindly return the greeting with a “What the f**k did you just say??” or the ever popular “F**k you, you f**king f**k”. DOWNER: Be cautious, picking the wrong random person will get the NYPD called on you…and you’ll get shot 50 times.

* Head down to Battery Park to check out the STATUE OF LIBERTY.

Now, you don’t actually want to wait in line 3 hours for that stupid a** boat (which will probably make you vomit from being seasick) to take you to it (where you’ll discover it’s really NOT that big) where you’ll have to wait another 3 hours just to walk up it. You can see it just fine from the Manhattan side, and with the zoom on today’s digital cameras, you’ll even get a decent photo. Then lie and tell your friends it was fantastic, and they’ll grin and lie back about how they’ve already seen it. BONUS: In reality…THEY haven’t been inside of  it either.

* For no apparent reason whatsoever, scream out “I LOVE NEW YORK!”

Seriously. (Do it first now in the comfort of your own home to make sure you don’t sound like a total wuss when you scream). No one will care, no one will even look at you twice. BONUS: Someone might even reply “Why thank you. New York loves you too…”

* The EMPIRE STATE BUILDING.

Walk to 34th and 5th avenue. Stand under it, say something mundane like “Damn that’s a tall building!”, then walk away and do something else. They’ll charge you $35 to go to the top, and there’s nothing waiting for you there but a view you already knew you were gonna see anyway, and another line taking an hour just to get back down. Better idea, take the $35 (multiplied by the 5 members of your family, that’s $175) and go blow it on an IMAX film and an awesome NY dinner for you and the kids! BONUS: The best place to do this on a $175 budget is the Italian style restaurant, CARMINE’S (either the one in Times Square or the one uptown. The food’s fantastic, and served family style. This means every plate is big enough for 3-4 people…so dig in!

(photo by: Fidel Amos)

* Visit a random bar.

Pick one. On ANY street you come across in NY, walk in, sit at the bar, ask for a shot (for you and however many folks you’re with), pay for them (tip 20%!!), then thank the bartender, and walk out. This will give you the giggly energy (and temporary stamina) to handle walking another 20 NY blocks to go see the next sight…

(photo by: Fidel Amos)

– F

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Filed under Globetrotting, New York City