Sunday, August 27, 2006

22 Short Films About NYC - John's

Hi everyone who is following Pen’s blog. As you all probably know this is not really my thing, but a few people have asked that I do an entry so here are my three stories…

The other day I was walking around China Town (which here is more than one street) looking for a hospitality supply place to buy a good kitchen knife. As I was walking I was looking in the shop windows with my usual amazement at this city, when I saw something that I had to take a photo of.

I know the quality is not great, and the reflection is in just the wrong spot, so I’ll explain what it is.

The item was in the window of a regular Chinese shop, and appeared to be for sale. It is a porcelain figurine of two people, both Chinese. One of the people is a Chinese male in some sort of official uniform. He has a smile on his face, his left leg lifted in a kicking motion, and a gun in his hand that he is holding to the other person’s head. The second person is an elderly male, kneeling on one knee in front of the official. He appears to be held down by the official, and has a cane to help him walk.

Here’s where it get’s disturbing, other than the fact that this is displayed in the open and for sale. The elderly male with the gun to his head and about to be kicked up the arse, is looking to the side, like he is looking at you the viewer, waving and …. SMILING!

Yesterday Penny, Colby and I went for a run. We went up to Houston Street, across to the Hudson River, and then back along the base of Manhattan (past the Statue of Liberty) to our apartment. It was a nice run, about 7 miles or so (11 kilometers). When finished we saw some other dogs running in a little park, so we asked the owners if they would mind if Colby joined them. They said it was fine, so we let him off. As we were talking we saw that Colb’s was rolling in something so Pen went to investigate. It turns out that he had found a dead bird, and thought that it made him smell great. So we left and came home to give Colbs a bath. Once he was in the shower we realized that we didn’t have any dog shampoo, but the previous people had left some Pert Plus. So we used the Pert and hoped for the best. Ever since Colby has had the shiniest, silkiest coat ever, and it is quite odd patting a dog and feeling human-like hair.

A couple of days ago I was going uptown to pick up Pen after work and go to the Museum of Modern Art (it’s free on Fridays - fish). There are usually some interesting people on the subway, and I usually just look at the floor, or the lights rushing by outside. This day however I had the crazy train.

When I hopped on all seemed normal, and I was inspecting the floor a few feet in front of me. After a little while I thought I heard someone yell, so I (along with most other people) looked around in case someone was in danger. I could not see anything odd and so focused back on the floor. A short time later there was another yell, and again I could not see anything. This continued for a few stops, and curiosity was getting the better of me, and others, so we were openly looking around waiting for more yelling. When it happened again we saw that it was a very innocent looking Chinese woman. She was about 30, well kept, had good hygiene, and did not look like the average crazy. She then snapped, and started hissing and putting curses on everything and everyone, as well as what looked like casting spells that should make things blow up (with complete soundtrack). It was a little hard to grasp as she didn’t speak a lick of English. Then she stopped just as quickly as she had snapped, and by the next stop she’d resumed being `normal’. Then after the train started again she would start the whole thing over again. The funny thing was that we all knew she was crazy, but the people getting on didn’t, and would stand near her … for a little while anyway.

Beggars here sometimes get on the subway and give a little spiel about how they are not beggars, but something else and just need a little money, if you could possibly find it in your heart to spare any change you may have. While crazy Chinese lady was doing her thing we had one of these beggars get on and do his little spiel. The problem was that he was too crazy to talk properly, and none of what he said made sense. We were glad to see that when he walked up the train with his cup crazy Chinese lady was putting curses and spells all over him. He didn’t make much from our carriage.

At the next stop crazy beggar got off (after doing what I can only assume was abusing me for smirking at him getting cursed) and a new load of people got on.

One of these people I recognized, as I have had him before on my carriage. He is similar to the above beggar, but he is part of a band that does rap (not gangster and not bubble gum) and they are trying to make a start, so they sell their CD’s for $1. He is well dressed, and I suspect that he is telling the truth about trying to make a start. So he stands next to crazy Chinese lady (who is being normal at the moment) and waits for the train to move so you can’t escape his spiel.

Once we start moving he starts his spiel which is well rehearsed and presented well. However this time once he is a line or two into it crazy Chinese lady snaps and starts her whole cursing and spell routine right next to him. Not to be fazed by this ‘not bubble gum rap’ guy just talks louder, and tries not to look at crazy Chinese lady who is standing next to him. Crazy Chinese lady is offended that someone would try to out crazy her, and makes her spells louder. They both continued to get louder in a very funny but weird ‘crazy off’ until the next stop, at which time I had to get off.

So I have a dog that is so spoilt that only Pert Plus will do, a picture of a porcelain executioner, and I’ve survived the crazy train … what a city!

Friday, August 25, 2006


Yesterday signs went up in our street to say that people couldn't park during certain hours because I movie was being filmed. John checked it out all day, but nothing had happened before it was time for us to go to the museum.
When we got home, we found sections of our street blocked off and a film crew setting up. Because it was getting dark, they set up lights on our fire escape. We chatted with the guy out the window to find out what was going on. He told us that they were shooting a movie with the guy from "Harold and Kumar go to White Castle" (John Cho) They had people with fake blood and everything! We tried to watch a bit, but we didn't end up seeing much until much later in the night. (John saw when he walked Colby for his 'before bed pee'.) We were surprised to see there is actually a NYPD unit designated as the Movie TV unit! John wondered what they do and when we walked by, saw that they just sit in the car.
We actually went out to the cinema to watch a new movie called "Invincible" all about a guy who played football for the Philadelphia Eagles. We shared a large popcorn with lots of extra butter! It was a great atmosphere in the cinema. People seemed to forget where they were and were actually clapping and cheering the good football plays in the movie. If that's what they're like for their movies, I can't wait to go to a real football game.
On the walk home we decided to have a Philly Cheesesteak (originally from Philadelphia). It was great! And a fun end to the outing. It's shredded steak served with your choice of cheese and onions in a bread roll (a little like a hotdog bun).
Anyway, here are some photos from the movie shooting in our street.

The Moma

Today we went to the Museum of Modern Art. It's a great museum with great art and it's free on Friday's between 4 and 8pm. So, we joined the throngs of tourists waiting half an hour to get in, followed by about the same again to check my bag and later to pick it up again. That said, it was well worth it and we got half price vouchers to go again (which I will need to do as it was far too crowded to really enjoy anything). There are stacks of masterpieces there which I would like to spend some real time looking at and they have audio commentary available which I think would be invaluable. I want to develop a greater appreciation of art, and where better to do that? I took some photos to throw in here but of course, it's much better to see the real thing. I've also included some photos near windows to show the art against the beautifully artistic background of New York City. It's just amazing.

Monet (left)

Picasso (right)

Van Gogh (left)

Matisse (right)

Cezanne (left)

Classroom Update

My classroom is really starting to look like a classroom and I'm very excited about it. I'm going to get some cushions for my reading corner soon, and they even gave me a CD?cassette player. I'm almost ready to go - just need to work a little more on the curriculum I'll actually teach! Here are a few quick pictures.


Thank you everyone for your encouragement to keep writing. I realise I have been through a bit of a writing slump this week - what with starting work and all - but I now have a whole bunch of things I want to tell you, so here goes...
The subways here are a whole culture of their own. They are the most efficient method of travel in the city with trains serving most of Manhattan non-stop (except when maintennance is required). If you miss your train during most times throughout the day, you need only wait about 6 minutes for the next one. Because they are so efficient, they're very heavily used. And because so many people use them, the people of New York have developed a set of norms for subway behaviour.
People are usually quiet and keep to themselves (not much looking around). People generally listen to music on headphones, read a book, play an electronic game, read the paper or sleep. People tend NOT to smile or joke around. I took some photos under the pretense of listening to my music (my phone is very versatile).
Something else cool about the subway is the 'free' entertainment while you wait for your train. Something uncool is that people often beg for money while your ride - last week a woman was asking for money because her apartment burnt and she needed to feed her three kids etc. You don't really know who or what to believe here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Starting Work

I started work this week. I don't really have any photos to show for it yet, but I thought I should mention how it is all going.
There are 7 new teachers at the school this year and most of us have come from somewhere other than New York. Amy is from Florida, Buck is from California, Jennifer is from Louisianna and Cole is from somewhere else that I can't remember.
The headmaster has nicknamed the school "People of the box" as we are living/working out of boxes and everything in our classrooms needs to be wheelable so that we can share the room with other groups in the church.
It's a challenge and an adventure, and I feel slightly better about it all after each day of orientation. So, at this rate, I will be confident enough by the end of next week!
John has been very busy in our apartment keeping it clean and preparing our meals. He's also been applying for jobs, registering the dog...etc.
Each evening, when I get home, we walk the dog to the park and then pick up the groceries we need for dinner. John does the shopping and I wait outside with Colby. Colby is making lots of human friends out the front of the shop and we're getting to know some of the regulars. It's a bit of fun!
We're still enjoying our time, but find ourselves exhausted at the end of each day. I think that's typical of New York living.

New furniture

Left side of bedroom (with new shelves).
Right side of bedroom (with new bed)

On the weekend we scored new furniture for the apartment. John was busy on Craig's List and found a butcher's block and a bed for sale. So we now have extra bench space in the kitchen and a spare bed for when all our friends and family come to stay. We also found a bookshelf left on the curb with someone's rubbish, so we found a new home for it - holding our clothes. At last we're not living out of suitcases! We've also got a few other things we needed like some sharp knives so John can cook properly and happily. We're really starting to feel at home.

Futon (for visitors) posing as a sofa.
New butcher's block.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Picking up Colby / Local Gardens

Many people thought we were crazy for wanting to bring our dog to New York, and let me tell you, picking him up from the airport was quite a trial in itself! We received conflicting messages about where to pick him up from, and then when we got there, his plane was running 1 hour 40 minutes late. When he did arrive, the people at cargo wasted time with paperwork and so forth and wanted $25 in exact cash (which we didn't have, nor could we get in exact change from an ATM). 2 hours after he arrived at cargo, we were finally able to leave, and as we had a taxi waiting the WHOLE time, it was quite costly. But in the end, we were just so glad to have him. He seems to be fitting in pretty well in New York. He enjoys walking around the city, but there are some things he avoids like grates on the road and metal doors that cover store cellars. People are generally afraid of him, which is odd considering the 'tough' face they usually display for everyone else! He is a big dog, but he's not scary!!!

Today I took some photos of the local parks. There is a park here called Tompkins Park where dogs can run off lead and play with other dogs. In other areas of the park there are basketball courts, a pool and a children's playground with a water fountain for children to play under. Buskers play music in the park and people sit on park benches reading the paper, watching people etc.

There are also community gardens that people volunteer in and they just keep them growing and make them fun to look at and be in. They take up the space an apartment block usually would and pop up here and there all over the neighbourhood. You don't really have to walk far to enjoy a garden, but you don't have to maintain it yourself!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Free Concerts

Both last night and this morning we went to free concerts in Bryant Park. Bryant Park is another brilliant place that is on our local subway route, so very easy to get to. Last night they had an orchestral performance of a variety of popular music including the James Bond themes and songs from Star Wars. We got Thai food from about 10 minutes walk away and sat at one of the tables in the park to eat. We then had ice-cream sitting on the grass in front of the stage. It was a really enjoyable night. I couldn't have asked for more.
I stuffed up my subway entry on the way home. There are two types of turnstile and one of them I usually have trouble with, and then can't use my ticket again for a while. I'm just a big unco! So, we had to walk to 34th Street station instead!
Today we got up early to go and see the Good Morning America Summer Concert with Christina Aguilera. We watched A LOT of rehearsing before the real show and the sound was pretty terrible, plus we had to stand the whole time. It was good to have done, but not nearly as enjoyable and relaxed as last night. It was pretty fake because they were doing it for TV.
We pick up the dog in a few hours and I'm so excited!!!!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Food, Laundry and Playing it 'hard'

My faith in New York food has been renewed. My memory of the food in New York from our last visit was much better than I have been discovering since we’ve been here…until last night. Before leaving Australia, I looked into local restaurants and tried to find some that would suit us. I found an Indian restaurant in the hopes of finding a restaurant here to substitute Ramas. We tried it on Monday but it just didn’t compare. John thought the Korma and Saag were okay, I didn’t particularly like any of it! However, the DID throw in lots of extras. We didn’t pay for the rice, dips, or papadums, and they throw in paper plates and cutlery, so you don’t even have to wash up. We’ve also tried pizza and lasagna from downstairs, but it was all very greasy. They gave us extra stuff too and are very friendly, but the food just isn’t something we enjoyed.
BUT last night was GREAT! When I got home from unpacking stuff at work, John popped down to Maccas to get some cheese sticks with Marinara sauce….mmmm! Then, we went to a restaurant that serves Maine lobsters on Wednesday for only $14. They come served with corn and your choice of potato. The corn was the best I’ve had since arriving here (I’m a big fan of corn), the baked potatoes were crunchy (just how I like them) and the lobster was scrum-diddly-icious!
We’ve also been experimenting with how to do our laundry. There are some people in our street who charge 80 cents a pound to wash and fold your laundry. We got them to do our last lot, and it came to about $10. There are also Laundromats where you do it all yourself. You can do quite a big load for $2.50, but you have to have the time to sit there and wait for it. So, we’ve decided that we’ll try to do it ourselves, but if we find we’re too busy, we’ll use the ladies up the street.
I was out on my own for the first time yesterday. I had a luncheon at the school, so I went there while John did some shopping, worked on applications and did the laundry. I’m finding it funny to try to balance the ‘I’m hard. Don’t come near me’ attitude with my normal, cheery, friendly self. I thought that you had to appear tough so people don’t cross you, but I find that people are cracking out of that all the time, and really, we’re all just cheery, friendly people! It’s all about this idea of ‘self-preservation’. But I find once I get to know an area I let my guard down a bit. Not too much, just enough to let people see a little of the real me. Gotta keep that alive.
Colby arrives tomorrow. We’ve booked a dog taxi so we can bring him home. Apparently some normal taxis will let you take a dog, but you have to sweet talk them, and we don’t think that will work at the airport during peak hour when there are so many other passengers without dogs. We had thought of hiring a car to pick him up, but we don’t feel confident enough about the roads etc yet. We’ve also started to plan how we can get Colby onto the subway should we need to. Central Park is quite a long way uptown and we’d really like to take him there sometime.
Just a bit of trivia to finish off: here, the word ‘visit’ refers to what you do when you are with someone ie. talk, listen etc. as opposed to Australia where it is the process of going somewhere. For example, yesterday at the luncheon I went to, we were told to visit with the people at our table.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Yesterday was pretty disappointing. We ran in the morning before breakfast which was pretty good except that it was already so hot. We ran through Chinatown and over the Manhattan Bridge. By the time we got back to our apartment we were hot, tired and hungry. We spent a lot of the day uptown wandering around looking for places we needed. We visited a Social Security Office, but they couldn't yet take my application for a Social Security number as they hadn't received my details from Immigration. They said to come back on Friday.
Throughout the day we took a lot of wrong turns, got confused about where to go etc...and by the end of the day I felt we had achieved very little. We went to a hospitality job fair, which we thought would be similar to a career market in Australia - where you see different jobs represented and ask questions about them. However, it was really just a mass interview session. As John is looking for work as a cook, we went in anyway. He (and about 30 other people completed application forms and then waited for someone to call them for an interview. There were about 10 people having interviews at any given point in time.
We decided to buy a printer so that we can print various documents we need in order for John to apply for work and just generally so we can print stuff. We didn't end up getting it yesterday for various reasons.
Last night I also discovered that I'd somehow managed to use up 150 minutes of talk time on my phone. I was very depressed to find that because I had neglected to lock the keypad, the phone had called Yellow Pages (which I had called earlier in the day) and because it was an automated voice recognition computer, I ended up being on the phone with them for over 2 hours. Stupid, annoying mistake! To make matters worse, the earlier phone call with Yellow Pages was unsuccessful because they couldn't recognise me saying "no" to one of the questions with an automated response call. All I wanted was a copy of the New York Yellow Pages! (By the way, if you want our 'cell phone' number, email us and we'll send it on to you.)
Anyway, after a good night's sleep, I decided to use our time more efficiently today, and we got a lot done. We ended up buying our printer, a small ironing board and a pair of walking shoes for me.
On a lighter note, we've found ourselves getting to know our new neighbourhood better and find that people are actually stopping US to ask for directions! Which even more surprisingly, we are able to respond to!
Tomorrow I go to a luncheon at my new school.

This is our apartment building. We are on the third storey at the left as you look at it. The first two windows are ours.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The city that never sleeps

It's hard to believe that we've actually made it here. But it feels so good, and so right. We find ourselves loving it a bit more each day as we settle into our normal lifestyle and discover where to get all those things that make life enjoyable, affordable etc. Some of those things have included the beauty of Central Park, a Kmart store, a GROCERY store, a good Church, places to run, and subway routes.
Our apartment is really cool and we're loving it more than we expected to. It's a great size for what we need and is in an excellent location - close to EVERYTHING! The subway station is about 200m or so away and one subway takes us to most places in the city.
So far, I'd have to say that our street is busy and noisy but safe. People are out and about with friends until about 5ish in the morning, so we hear lots of people noise until then. The good thing is that it is HAPPY people noise - not loud abuse etc. People like to drive up our street with their radios blaring and last night someone thought it was cool to walk around the neighbourhood blowing continuously on a whistle! It's all part of the fun, though. Oh, and the horn honking...It's great. I actually do love it because it's so funny! We see cops around all the time, but again, in a good way. Yesterday some were talking to someone near our apartment, and I thought "Oh great. What's happened!' But they were just smiling and chatting and munching on some food from the takeaway. All good stuff.
During the day, people from our street (residents and shop owners) fill the 'sidewalks'. At first we were threatened by this (possibly because we were lugging all our worldy belonging with us) but we now love it as part of the culture of the street. It's very different to what you'll see at Times Square or Central Park, but very cool.
Now for some pictures of our apartment:

This is in our kitchen - I was amazed by how big it was for a New York kitchen where no one is supposed to cook. The oven is bigger than the one we had in Australia! This is another thing we are happy about - being able to cook our own fresh food!

This is our bathroom - pretty clean and does the job.

This is our living room with our bedroom through the doorway. We haven't got any bedroom photos at the moment because it's a bit of a mess (still unpacking). But the bedroom is a good size as far as I'm concerned - and has an air-conditioner.

This is a night view of our street from the fire-escape. We're not sure yet if you are allowed to sit out on the fire-escape, but it's fun not knowing!!!
More photos coming soon....

Sunday, August 13, 2006

In Sydney 10/08/06

We have now made it as far as Sydney. Earlier today we dropped off a sad Colby in Murrumbateman and loaded him up with bones to get him through the day. The drive was pretty good and we had time to catch up with friends when we arrived in Sydney. The traffic was pretty shocking and it took forever to get from our hotel to the city. I couldn’t figure out where I should find Circular Quay. How am I ever going to cope in New York?! We went out to Kingsley’s Steakhouse for dinner – tasty as always. We’re now trying to stay awake a bit longer so that we sleep well on the plane…or something!
There was a terrorist threat in the UK today – people trying to sneak explosives onto British planes bound for the US. I’m sure we’ll be safe and all, but it may hold us up a little more in customs. Oh joy!

Friday, August 04, 2006

And the cupboard was bare...

We now have less than a week before we fly out. I think we got sick of sorting, packing etc about a month ago, and we've only just reached the end now. We have one room that contains all our bags (and there's quite a lot) which are just about 30kg each. We decided to take an extra bag and pay the extra rather than send it with Australia post via sea mail - it will get there sooner and is cheaper too.
The other rooms are mostly cleared now. There are just a couple of things we are waiting to have picked up from people and a few measly belongings to get us through the week. We also have a surplus of alcohol to work our way through!!
We'll be staying with my parents on Wednesday night and picking up the car from there. We have so much stuff that we're just hoping we have enough space in the car! I may be travelling to Murrumbateman with a dog on my lap! Very soon now. I'll update again later.