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1 Notes

Guest Post: A review of the Nomad in Hell’s Kitchen

A great testimonial from a few weeks back about my week in Hell’s Kitchen at “Studio 57”

I had the pleasure of already knowing Ed from the year that we both attended college at Tufts in the suburbs of Boston. He was a freshman my senior year and we probably went over 5 years without seeing each other before reconnecting at a mutual friend’s wedding this past Summer. Midway through the obligatory wedding dance routine (it was either the Electric Slide or the Hustle), we engaged in the usual cliche “catching up” conversation (where do you live, what do you do, and how have you been).

The progression of our exchange careened into a mountain of a road block when Ed explained that he’s still in NYC but has been “couch surfing” for the past 5 months. Typically, I would have listened and waited for my turn to share my story before “hugging it out” and returning to the bar for a refill. However, the genesis and the evolution of the NYC Nomad was something so foreign and enticing to someone like myself who relies on the stability and formulaic structure of the typical Wall St. work week that I immediately wanted to get involved.

Six weeks later, Ed is scheduled for his week with me (which also happened to be the first week of my meager attempt at complete sobriety). Ed showed up at my apartment on a Sunday carrying less belongings than I used to pack for Winter Break from college. This was excellent as I live in a studio so it was a relief that he didn’t have suitcases opened in all four corners of the living room (which happens to also moonlight as the dining area and bedroom). That evening we caught up some more in between stealing glances at the NFL game du jour. I doubt that Ed was prepared for my “school night” routine but he adapted wonderfully. As I prepared for my 10pm self- imposed curfew, Ed managed to inflate an AeroBed and make himself comfortable. Two “goodnights” later I was well into my snoring symphony and Ed was a complete trooper and never once complained or expressed that the noises I made while asleep sounded like “a dying animal” as others had.

In the morning I turned off my 6am alarm ASAP to allow Ed to fall back asleep as I prepared to begin my work week. 12 hours passed before we would again meet at the apartment. Ed was beginning to feel a bit under the weather so we shared stories about our day and he bought dinner for Monday Night Football… awesome.

I had forewarned Ed that I spend several hours per week at the gym after work and by Tuesday Ed was feeling a bit better and joined me for a workout. I failed the provide too many details of my workout but Ed surprised me and kept up throughout the 2 hour  bench, squat, dip, curl, and shrug-a-thon. With the endorphins flowing, Ed again treated me to dinner and we dined at yet another new burger place on 9th avenue. 

As the week went on, Ed proved to the perfect house guest (something that I only heard of but never encountered due to my borderline OCD- tendencies). He treated me to dinner every night and not once pressured me to stumble off the wagon. Our nights on the couch during the week consisted primarily of us swapping stories (mostly about women and old college friends), watching my favorite TV shows (he didn’t even complain when I turned on America’s Next Top Model), and counting down until sleeping late on the weekend. We got along so well it was almost like he became my roommate. 

When the weekend finally arrived we biked around town and I showed him a local’s view of Harlem (the area where I grew up and my parents still reside). After a serious day of biking around the city, we were itching for a night on the town and Ed joined me at an old friend’s birthday party on the LES. I managed to maintain my sobriety by sipping a few non- alcoholic beverages at the bar and Ed worked the room like he had known my high school friends as long as I had. 

Sunday soon arrived and Ed was up and packing up what little stuff he had brought with him. Overall, he was a phenomenal house guest mainly because not once did my usual routine have to be amended to accommodate for his brief visit. Did I already mentioned that he also treated me to dinner every night in return? Bravo Mr. Casabian! 

4 Notes

The NYC Nomad at Studio 57 (in Hell’s Kitchen)

Stayed

With Joaquin, a former teammate and definitely a person that falls into the category of someone I knew, but not that well, before the week.  It was fascinating to get a glimpse into growing up in Harlem.  I also probably spent the most time with Joaq of any of my hosts. 

Ate

A lot of takeout, as I posted here.  Like many New Yorkers (myself now included), I don’t think Joaquin’s cooked in a long time.

My favorite place was b-bap.

Lifted

Like I was in college, for the first time since I was in college.  Joaquin’s workout is about the same as it was at Tufts.  I was sore for about a week.  Mid City Fitness is the oldest gym in New York City and Arnold Schwarzenagger lifted there.  It’s a no frills place, and it actually felt good to lift free weights again.  I have a longer post in my head about this experience if I get around to it.

Went

To one of Joaquin’s friend’s birthday party.  She wrote and directed the film “Adelaide" which is screening this Friday at The Quad Cinema on 13th Street.  I was a fan of the laid back Joe’s bar where she had the party.

Ran

The West Side Highway in the Vibram’s.  I’m up to 3 - 4 miles on these and it feels great.  I also ran in the park on John Lennon’s birthday.  You can check out a “soundscape” I did here - that’s a fancy way of saying I recorded audio on my iPhone.

Email me if you’d like to host!

5 Notes

The NYC Nomad gets an Insider’s Tour of Harlem

I like to tell people I that I help my hosts see their neighborhood with a new set of eyes.  I think I did a little of that in Hell’s Kitchen - We ate Bibimbap and I told Joaquin about a couple of my favorite spots in the neighborhood from my very first stay as the nomad.  That seems like a lifetime ago and it is amazing to think about how little I understood about my idea when I first showed up in Hell’s Kitchen.

But this post isn’t about Hell’s Kitchen, it’s about Harlem, and the opportunity to see parts of my old neighborhood with a new set of eyes.

We woke up on Saturday morning and rode bikes up to where Joaquin grew up on 115th street and 7th avenue (what is now called Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard). He told me that when he was growing up about 70% of the places on his block were vacant.  We walked down 114th street which might have about that percentage of places boarded up right now.  It’s said that Columbia has purchased these places as part of its major expansion and gentrification is in full swing on the surrounding blocks.  To say the neighborhood has changed / is changing is an understatement, but Joaquin painted a pretty vivid picture of how it used to be walking around the neighborhood.

Perhaps most fascinating to me was seeing the house where Joaquin grew up.  It’s always fun to see where friends grew up, but even more interesting to see an NYC apartment where a friend grew up.  It’s got plenty of 70’s to it, and I saw a Fox police lock for the first time.  These locks prevented people from being able to kick in a door and were standard issued for a time in Harlem and other parts of New York City.


My camera battery died, but this is an image I found on google. The long pole serves the purpose of reinforcing the door.

Joaq told me about how he used to tell people he lived at the “L” because the buzzer to his apartment building didn’t work and his apartment was on level with the L of a vertical Liquor store sign.  He also said they used to dump water out the window to get the alcoholics to leave the block in the middle of the night.

After dropping our bikes, we went over to the school where Joaquin talked to some current students from a program he had participated in called Wadleigh.  It’s an amazing program, which gives students the opportunity to go to boarding schools around the country and one that has been around for 47 years!  I met the man who started it, Mr. Plummer, who is inspiring.  He told me, “what’s all this about Waiting for Superman?”  I’ve been Superman for 47 years.”   He’s absolutely right, and there were a number of people there volunteering their time and helping the next generation as a direct result of Mr. Plummer’s vision to allow inner city youth the opportunity to go to some of the best preparatory schools in the country.

After Joaquin fielded lots of questions from students currently participating in the program, we walked to a 125th street to a church I had walked by 100 times before, but never realized there was a cafeteria style restaurant up the stairs.  Some of the best soul food awaits you at what Joaq calls Daddy Grace chruch.  I had my first ever turkey wing, some of the best mac and cheese, collard greens, candied yam (which the woman gave me “to make sure I came back”), and cornbread.  We were there on Saturday, but I’m told it’s a true event on Sunday while church is going on for the better part of the day.

Getting the motivation to hop on a bike after a meal like that is tough, but once we got going the adrenaline kicked in.  Joaq is not a fan of bike lanes (after all, they weren’t there when he was growing up) so we were bobbing and weaving most of the way home.  That was also a new way of seeing the city, albeit one I’m not likely to repeat anytime soon.

A Saturday trip to Harlem was one of the more unique experiences of my first six months bouncing around New York.  Anytime I truly feel like a tourist in my own city, I know I’m doing this right.

3 Notes

Takeout in Hells Kitchen

So I’ve been sick for most of the week.  A sick nomad is not a good thing so I’m taking this Friday night to make sure I’m better.  And since I haven’t been out at all this week, pretty much every meal has been takeout.  Below is a list of spots, in order of preference, but everything was pretty good.  There is such an incredible number of restaurants on 9th avenue.

#1 B-bap

I love Bee Bim Bap and my host Joaquin had never had it.  You can build your own, but I went for the classic and got Joaq the spicy chicken.  The chili sauce is pretty awesome.

#2 Hanci Turkish Cuisuine

Coban Salatasi (cucumber and tomato salad) and tavuk corbasi (chicken soup) were the start to my recovery.  The guy running the show was very appreciative of my greeting him in Turkish.  Just say “merhaba” and you’ll probably get a free piece of baklava.

#3 Blue 9 Burger 

Burger was just okay, but I really enjoyed my mint chocolate chip shakes and I liked the slightly soggy fries.

#4 Carnegie Deli

This one was actually delivery, but the quart of Matzoh ball noodle soup is perfect for being sick.  I also ordered the pastrami sandwich which was so big it lasted me three days.  Overpriced, but I knew that going in.

#5 Greek Kitchen

Nice Avegolemon soup, but overpriced “middle east salad.”  Not sure I would go back for takeout.

#6 Fresco

One of Joaquin’s go to spots.  They had a pretty good Cobb Salad with a ton of chicken.

#7 Burrito Box

Tiny hole in the wall.  Standard mexican fair but they do have vegan options if you are into that.

Did I miss any of your favorite takeout spots in Hells Kitchen?  

Tomorrow is the real food excitement.  We are headed up to Harlem where Joaquin grew up for some soul food at a local church!

11 Notes

The NYC Nomad on 35th and 10th

The tagline of this project is to live in as many different neighborhoods as possible so I wouldn’t blame someone for wondering why I moved from 34th between 9th and 10th to 35th between 9th and 10th.  And yes, while that isn’t quite how I envision my different neighborhoods, there is a shift in perspective with a move just one block north and different people make for different experiences.  It was actually very nice to have such an easy move at such an early stage in the project.  And to be honest, I had not really committed to this idea until my experience staying with John and Paul last week.  It was the first true “couchsurfing” experience as I had stayed with friends the previous two weeks.  I needed to see what it would be like to stay with people I didn’t know.  

John wasn’t a complete stranger.  I was connected to John through Sid, whom I met while couchsurfing in Hong Kong for a week during my travels a few years ago. Sid is a fascinating guy — he started Life Unlimited, for which I’ve been helping out with the selection of candidates for the past few years.  Sid told me John was a high powered ideas guy.  He is just that.  Check his web site out athttp://www.johndbritton.com.  Some of the things he is into are P2PU, an open source university for which he taught a class on web development.  He is very well connected with Couchsurfing hooked me up with some of the meetups that go on throughout the city.  He also gave me an awesome t shirt he designed and helped me get this blog in better shape.

I arrived a day earlier than John, but his roommate Paul was there to welcome me. Paul and I went to Lezzete which is one of the few restaurants in that neighborhood that seemed like it was worth going to.  One of the few words I learned while living in Turkey was lezzette (tasty) and I figured they were Turkish. They were, and had the quality pistachio baklava to prove it.  

John arrived back on Tuesday from San Francisco where he had a job interview for a unique startup called Twilio.  Twilio provides a platform to make voice applications — in fact, John built one that allows you to call a phone number, speak some text, and have the text translated into Dutch and sent in the form of a text message back to your phone.  Twilio also happens to be backed by the same investors as the company I am working for.  John got the job and we celebrated with some Chinese Hot Pot in Chinatown.  

I spent the weekend there before heading to Park Slope on Sunday.  We were able to check out the Affordable Art Fair (nothing over $10K so still not that affordable) and I liked http://www.claysinclair.com/.  We wondered down to the West Village on the kind of day when you fall into the wind and it holds you up.  In the West Village, we met up with a friend for Vietnamese sandwiches (which seem to be all the rage these days).  We also briefly checked out the Shepard Fairey exhibit.

We did a few other things, but I’m trying to keep these posts relatively short.  I did try unicycling for which I failed miserably, but learned there is a unicycling club (of course there is) that meets right near where I used to live.  If only I had known!

A few photos will be posted until the recap from Park Slope.

3 Notes

The NYC Nomad in Hell’s Kitchen (52nd and 10th)

So staying with my friend and former coworker Mike is a bit like bringing an aerobed to the Ritz.  This is a shot taken from his apartment which is an incredible view of Midtown Manhattan.  For me, I felt like I finally had a sense of the scale of this city.  We are on the 18th floor and I can see where I used to work.

We’ve had the chance to enjoy a few meals (which I’ll post on later), smoke cigars and drink wine from the rooftop, and I have been taking advantage of the gym that looks out onto the city in the early morning.

The twin aerobed sans pillow definitely isn’t perfect, but I think I’m getting used to it.

IMG_7304        IMG_7309

4 Notes

The NYC Nomad: an Introduction

I moved back to New York City (from St. Thomas) about 7 weeks ago in search of certain things that I loved.  While I found some of these things to still be here, others eluded me.  They may be hidden, misplaced, lost, stolen, buried, or locked away.  I really can not say, but what I can say is right now they are gone.

And from that comes this — an idea — most would say a crazy idea — of moving to and living in a different neighborhood every week — at least until I run out of willing friends and hopefully longer than that.  At the very least, I would like to hit all 5 boroughs.  I think some of the happiest times in my life have been moving from place to place.  Travelling.  Who is to say that I can’t travel in the city that I live while working a full time job?  And what better place to travel than New York City neighborhoods. 

I am not without a sense of the difficulty of this project.  I have a twin sized aerobed that I am sleeping on for the first time tonight.  I have no pillow for space reasons.  I have two backpacks and a wheeled garment bag.  I have a limited amount of clothes.  But I am excited and I think that is all that really matters.  

It is the type of project that needs momentum, so if you think it is an interesting idea, I urge you to check the calendar and email me about a week.  Please check out my facebook page and my LinkedIn, realize I’m not completely crazy, and invite me into your apartment.  Tell your friends :)  I’ll come prepared with my aerobed and clean sheets, an open mind, and plenty of Groupons & LivingSocial Deals so we can go out to eat once or twice and learn something from one another.

Thanks, and hope to see you in your neighborhood!

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