New York – Week Four

Yet again, I am completely shocked that another week has gone by. I have been here one month today! The past week was quick and stressful, and the weekend passed slowly and with minimal good weather. I have tried to get out as much as possible over the last seven days to continue my explorations of Manhattan and the other boroughs, but the clouds have been rolling in and out the city, leaving scattered showers and occasional lightening in their wake. I had planned on going to a second New York Philharmonic ‘Concert in the Park’ in the Bronx on Tuesday, but a particularly nasty thunderstorm was predicted for that evening, so it was canceled. In addition, I had “bought” a free ticket to participate in an interactive theater experience called Broken City: Harlem on Saturday, but it also was canceled because it was supposed to take place on the streets and in various neighborhoods around Morningside Heights.

On Wednesday morning I went to a union rally on the steps of City Hall for 32BJ, a janitor’s union which advocates for equal wages for all janitors. It was very interesting, and I learned a lot about the challenges janitors face when they are contracted by private companies to work in public schools, instead of working directly for the school administrators. I also went to the beginning of a high school graduation located adjacent to Columbia University in order to save the city council member a seat as a speaker and to deliver certificates of accomplishment for the students that our office provides.

On that note, I spent most of last week at the office working on securing the city council member’s speaking schedule at various school graduations across our district. Needless to say, most school offices and administrators are very busy close to the end of the school year, and it was challenging to get in contact with many of them. Although I am persistent and I don’t mind repeatedly talking to people, I found it rather tedious that I was goaded into continuously bothering these school administrators until they were willing to speak to me. Two of our senior staffers with a more “bracing” bedside manner decided that they wanted to designate a junior staffer to monitor my progress regarding scheduling graduation appearances, who took it as her responsibility to passive aggressively inform me that I was not putting enough effort into being an intern. She and I no longer enjoy working together as much as we did during her first week in the office (note: her first week was after my first week). Now that all the school graduations have ended, I am hoping that I won’t have to work with her much anymore, because I simply cannot stand unexperienced, self-righteous people.

To entirely advertently point out my supreme nerdiness, I am informing my readers that one of the highlights of my week was getting a New York Public Library Card. Turns out they will even issue them to people who are in the city just for the summer. I found out last week that I have almost 10 books which are “highly suggested” to read before the Morocco study abroad program, and so it is very helpful to have a library through which I can read most of them for free. A few of them are reference books, and therefore they cannot leave the library, but I don’t mind strolling over to the Schwarzman branch of the NYPL on 42nd St. and 5th Ave. The library is absolutely beautiful, and I feel very scholarly sitting in the grand old reading rooms with murals and frescos on the ceiling. I am going back to the library tonight on the way home from work in order to do a few more hours of reading and finish the first of many books I need to complete. The one thing about visiting the library is that the main branch is also a tourist attraction, meaning it sells souvenirs and other various literary related gifts. Anyone who knows me well is aware that I have a tendency to splurge on notebooks and journals, so I have to physically hold myself back when I am near the gift shop.

On Thursday nothing exciting happened at work. I listened to music on my iPod while I did data entry and other related mindless tasks on our office software all day. It was pretty casual, which I appreciate some days. However, there were two highlights of the day. One was a fairly interesting discussion with a friend of mine at the office named Mo, short for Mohamed. He and I work together on a lot of projects and he has great sense of humor. He is Puerto Rican and gave me the nickname “white girl”, saying that he is from the “hood” (aka, Cypress Hills) in Brooklyn and that he hasn’t ever met anyone quite like me.

Another highlight is that I stopped by a small, hole-in-the-wall shop a few blocks from my office along Amsterdam Avenue in Hamilton Heights on my way home from work and bought a beautiful new black dress! It’s simultaneously very grown-up and the fantasy of every one of my dreams when I was a young girl. It was only twenty dollars, as the store was having a going out of business sale. I wore it to the ballet I went to on Friday (more about that soon), and felt incredibly pretty.

On Friday, I took a day off of work to go on a tour of the United Nations, as it is only open to visitors on weekdays. Everyone at my office was very encouraging, which was nice. It was nice to have the morning to sleep in, go to the gym, and have a leisurely lunch in my room without my roommate. After I had lunch, I wandered over toward the UN. I was there very early, which meant I had to sit on a bench in UN Plaza for about 45 minutes before the guards would let me in, but I was able to be first in line to go through security. This gave my plenty of time to take pictures outside and go to the gift shop, as I wanted to buy postcards. Did you know that you can buy UN stamps and send mail from within the United Nations? I sent postcards to two of my friends who are also International Relations majors back at UPS. I also bought a UN hat with the logo on it. It’s just a baseball cap, so it can get dirty and I will be able to wear it to shield my face from the sun in Morocco.

The tour of the UN was slightly underwhelming. Although I was very excited to be there, most of the rooms were just stadium-sized conference rooms. Lots of tables, chairs, and binders. The most interesting parts of the actual building (tours are only allowed to go in one) were the murals on the walls and the intercoms attached to each chair which allows everything to be translated live. I still took a selfie in the Security Council Chambers though- that was a pretty surreal moment.

Once my tour of the UN finished, I walked back to my building, had a quick dinner, and got ready to go to the ballet. I saw Swan Lake by the American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera House in Lincoln Center. I got cheap tickets, which translates to cheap seats. The view wasn’t fantastic, as the dancers looked like ants from the 5th balcony, but the positive is that there are FANTASTIC acoustics from the top of the performance hall. Overall, despite the tiny little dancers waayyy below me, it was absolutely worth going, and I would do it again! The ballet is so gorgeous, and it’s a night of amazing fantasy that I relish getting the opportunity to experience.

On Saturday I got up, and of course it was overcast. I thought because the weather had been terrible all week, I might get lucky and be able to still go sightseeing and avoid getting rained on. This theory held for a while- long enough for me to go to Murray’s Bagels for breakfast. This shop is very small, but incredibly well known. When I got there (around 11) there was a line of more than 30 people wrapping around the shop. Thankfully, there were upwards of ten employees preparing bagels and breakfast sandwiches behind the counter, so it took less than twenty minutes to get food. I sat outside on a bench in front of the store and enjoyed my sausage-egg-cheese on pumpernickel, and as I was finishing, it began to sprinkle. I rushed to Trader Joe’s and did my grocery shopping for the week, before hurrying home to unpack my food and go to the library. I was just able to get to the library before the downpour started. I spent the next two hours reading in one of the history rooms, and then spent the rest of the cold and wet evening at home in bed, watching tv and staying warm.

The weather was extremely volatile on Sunday, but I wasn’t about to give up another day in New York just because of a few raindrops. I threw on a sweatshirt and hustled to the subway, getting on a train to Brooklyn. I spent the afternoon wandering around the New York Transit Museum, which teaches its visitors about the history of the subway and how it was built. I can’t believe how much manpower went into it! I feel so astounded by the men who, due to their status as uneducated immigrants, were willing to take jobs shoveling dirt and sludge under the rivers. They risked drowning in flooded tunnels, getting the bends from being in pressurized environments (in the late 1800s and early 1900s, pressurized air was blasted into the tunnels to keep them from collapsing), and lung disease from the dirty, polluted air. The transit museum used to be a working subway station, so they also had old subway cars from throughout the 1900s sitting on the unused tracks for museum goers to explore. I took a bunch of cheesy pictures (I couldn’t help myself, I was having way too much fun).

After the NYTM, I walked down Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn toward the waterfront. I passed a few Middle Eastern shops and bakeries, and stopped to look around. One of them looked like it had particularly tasty food, but none of them took credit cards and I didn’t have any cash, so it’s on my list of places to return to. I arrived at the waterfront, and even though a blanket of dark clouds were looming, the Manhattan skyline was beautiful and I took hundreds of pictures. I passed by a lively street fair called “Schmorgasburg”, composed of about fifty stalls lined up along the waterfront park, peddling exotic and organic fares. As the rain was finally starting to fall, and I was getting rather hungry, I hustled over to the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge and walked across (shuffling through crowds of tourists, bikers, and joggers), and got on the closest subway back to Penn Station.

I assumed I would stay in for the rest of the evening, but around 10:30 my roommate pointed out that the Empire State Building was lit up in rainbow colors to commemorate Pride. I absolutely had to go outside and take a quality picture of the towering skyscraper in all its glory, and ended up feeling inclined to wander over to Times Square to see if anything else was glowing in iridescent colors. It was a really pleasant stroll, as it was a very warm night, and despite the fact that it was past eleven on a Sunday night, hoards of people were still out socializing and walking around waving their rainbow flags. All in all, a pretty great end to my week.

Possible events and activities this week… an Iftar at Riverside Church, free admission to Neue Galerie for First Friday, return to the Bronx for a zoo visit, touring The Cloisters, and exploring Brooklyn.

 

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Beautiful Bryant Park.

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Diplomat in training. Me inside the United Nations Security Council Chambers.

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The Chrysler Building.

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An old subway car from the 1900s.

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The UN flag!

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The intricate chandelier hanging over the grand staircase in Lincoln Center.

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I was sooo tempted to buy this shirt.

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I was also soooooo incredibly tempted to buy this, and more than a few other MTA themed bags. I tried to act like a mature adult, and I restrained myself.

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The Grand Staircase at Lincoln Center the night of Swan Lake.

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Me in Murray Hill, standing on a dead end street overlooking UN Plaza. Literally everyone is too hip for this neighborhood.

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Posing on an old subway car. The black and white filter makes the photo look significantly more melancholy than the actual scene.

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I was thrilled to actually find this bag. I was pretty close to buying it as well.

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Overlooking the East River in Murray Hill.

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The Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Skyline.

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Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.

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Wandering through Columbia University in Morningside Heights.

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Outside Lincoln Center before the ballet.

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The New York Transit Museum is, cleverly, underground.

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Outside of the United Nations before my tour.

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This was a rather breezy, overcast day. I don’t think I would have volunteered to do this.

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My love. The most magnificent skyline in the world.

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The end to a stormy, but gorgeous evening.

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Nuts ana various bulk items at a Middle Eastern shop along Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.

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At the New York Transit Museum.

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Flags at the United Nations.

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I got a library card! This was very literally a joyful moment for me, because I am such a nerd.

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The General Assembly chambers at the United Nations.

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Brace yourselves: this is the view from my bedroom window.

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The United Nations Security Council Chambers. This moments was terrifically unreal.

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Madison Square Garden lit up for Pride!

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At the Brooklyn Waterfront Park, looking out over the end of the East River into the Hudson and the Statue of Liberty.

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The story of how the Dodgers got their name. For anyone who knows the New York well, can you say “gentrification”?

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Love locks on the Brooklyn Bridge.

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You know something is good when the line is this long. At Murray’s Bagels in Chelsea.

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The Empire State Building celebrating Pride.

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Hookah in the window of a Middle Eastern shop along Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.

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The end of a beautiful day.

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The grand staircase at Lincoln Center.

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The United Nations- cooler on the outside than the inside.

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Hanging out on an old subway car at the New York Transit Museum.

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The Manhattan skyline from the Brooklyn Waterfront Park.

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New York at night.

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This shop was overflowing with goods. I resisted buying in bulk.

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An old subway car on the tracks of a disused station at the Transit Museum.

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Bows at the end of Swan Lake at the Lincoln Center.

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Reveling in history.

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Yet another old subway car.

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Times Square close to midnight on the evening of Pride.

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Handing around in an old subway car.

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An old turnstile at the New York Transit Museum.

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Can you see the stage all the way down there?

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A surprisingly decent photo of the flags outside the United Nations.

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More of the Manhattan skyline. I’m not the least little bit in love.

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Old subway selfless continue.

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Murray’s Bagels makes the most fantastic breakfast sandwich. Yum!

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Sunset over midtown Manhattan, seen from my room.

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