Tag Archives: I Love New York
(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…”
“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!”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“The only thing that mattered was Hip Hop.”
* All photos by me, except the first *
A little while ago my mind was blown.
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.
* 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.”
* 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).
* 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.
* 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!
* 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!
* 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)..
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!
* 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…