Saturday, October 31, 2009

Still no job... Boston?

Well, still no job.

But I have started applying for anything and everything that might even be 'slightly' suitable, from Assistant Director positions at major planning firms to a kitchen designer to executive assistant roles. Now normally I wouldn't think these positions were suitable, as I would assume some kind of experience or interest in the position would be necessary first. However, the job agencies I have registered with are convinced that I should apply for these jobs, and I guess they would know best!

I'm planning to go to Boston next week. It's about a four hour bus ride from New York city, and I think it will be good to feel all explory again and experience a completely new city. This is what I know about Boston:

  • It's in Massachusetts
  • It's where David E. Kelly sets all his tv shows
  • There's a Liberty Bell
  • Famous tea party
  • Hotbed of American history
  • Famous for Chowder (Chow-dah)
  • The Kennedys
  • Great accent
  • Harvard
  • Beans and cream buns
Hmm... seems I know a bit about Boston after all! I'm looking forward to it, now all I need to do is book my trip.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Are you there God? It's me, Steven

Okay, so not much has happened.

I had hoped that by now I'd be able to update on my latest adventures, misdeeds, or cultural faux pas. But...


I've spent the majority of the past two weeks trying to steam through as much work as I can for my job back home, while still trying to make the most of my time here in NY. I've done okay with the first task, but have somewhat failed in the second.

I have applied so far for two jobs in NYC - both with the office of the Mayor. I was hoping to find some temp work in the city, but it seems that all my requests to meet with temp agencies have fallen on deaf ears. On top of that, all of the temp jobs available in the city appear to require at least a few years experience in office management, a bachelor's degree from 'a top US college', experience in the financial sector, bilinguability, or great attention to detail. I don't have any of these.

And so, I have given myself until Thanksgiving to find a job in New York City. I think that's a fair goal. I have also decided that this week I will start looking for an apartment in the city - if I can't work there maybe I can at least live there for a month! I think my only option at this point is to sublet from somebody - it appears that there are a few apartments going right now, so (assuming I get paid this week) I should be okay with that.

I'm still having a fun time, but I think that moving to the city is what I need to do to kick it up a gear or two.

And give me more things to write about.

Monday, October 19, 2009

How to make a sandwich

I call this my 'America Sandwich'.

First, start with two slices of bread:

Apply liberal amounts of peanut butter:

Next come the lucky charms (try to get as many of the charms as possible on there)

Then the m&m's:

Put the sandwich together.

Now enjoy...?

.. ..

Hmm... maybe not.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Yesterday I saw a Turkey Vulture (Buzzard)

I'm just glad I wasn't crawling through the desert.

Friday, October 16, 2009

All the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey.

Right now I feel like I am walking in two worlds, but not really living in either.

Usually when you go on a holiday, especially an extended holiday like this, it's a bit of a shock to go back home and to your day-to-day routine, such as housework and a job. I'm still on holiday, in that I'm not in New Zealand, but I'm also having to work again for my job back home (albeit remotely) as I have yet been unable to find a decent job here in the city. This has left me feeling somewhat in the middle of both going home and being away, and is a little strange.

I came to the US hoping to find a job in the city, but so far that has proved as difficult as I had expected. I've applied for a couple of jobs here - but the problem I'm having is that I don't just want any job; I will absolutely not work in a bar or diner just to hope for tips. I think if I were to do that I would totally feel like I was patronising those who had little choice but to work those jobs. Besides, I doubt anybody would hire me anyway given that I'm a short-term stay.

I'm also trying to balance looking for work with sightseeing and actually working for my job back home. I'm trying to work enough so that I can afford to live, see, and travel the States, but I'm finding it difficult to strike the right balance between working for my job back home, and going into the city or exploring. As a result of this (and also as a result of not being paid for the past month) my adventures have substantially diminished.

On top of all this, the weather has taken a sudden turn for the colder here - it's now Autumn (still refusing to say 'Fall'), and I find myself having to wear several tee shirts and my jacket while sitting in the house, having only packed summer clothing. I of course came prepared to buy a winter wardrobe while I was here, and I intend to do this as soon as I get paid.

Only that date keeps getting pushed back a little each week... my goal is to not freeze to death before that happens, and so I've taken a series of novel steps to keep warm. Many cups of tea, resting my hands on my laptop battery, and even doing dishes - all of which only to keep my hands warm! I wouldn't be surprised to see snow in the coming weeks. I just hope I have something other than a softshell from Kathmandu to keep me warm while I'm making Steve-Angels in the snow.

So I find myself sitting in front of my laptop, living outside New York City, and working for New Zealand. I'm not disliking my trip, but the mood and method has changed - I now need to figure out what that is.

I think something's not quite right here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Wonderful Wicked of Oz

I saw Wicked last night.

And it was.

Friday, October 9, 2009

DC - what a Marvel!

Washington DC reminds me a little bit of Canberra.

Canberra is very well planned, very pretty and nicely laid out. Canberra is also rather dull. Now some might see that as an insult, and perhaps rightly so. I will admit to thinking of DC as overly organised and dull, at least at first.

Yes, it's very awe-inspiring standing on top of the steps of the ever-impressive Capitol Building and staring down the Mall at the Washington Monument, and yes the area around the various war memorials (and the Lincoln Memorial) are all very moving and inspiring, and yes I'm probably just jaded from having seen many impressive parliamentary buildings and various war memorials from across Europe.

I know, I know. The photos above paint a rather awesome picture of the place. But I couldn't help but feel just a little bit underwhelmed by it all. I will admit to feeling a little cranky at the time due to it being a rather hot day (and being completely over dressed), and that that could have influenced my opinion of the place.

But then last night I went out to DuPont Circle (close to Georgetown), and my opinion changed completely. Here was a part of the city that had a little soul, a little character, a little attitude.

Suddenly everything seemed totally different; now today when I walked around The Mall and Capitol Buildings, things seemed to have another dimension to them - they now appeared to be more than just classic monuments and lumps of stone and clay; now they were architectural marvels, which seemed to capture the spirit of the city that I had now seen. Washington DC has enough to it to convince me that it's a nice place to be.

So yeah - I like it here.

Megabus - a Mega Bus.

I took a bus from NYC to DC for eight dollars. I can't even get a taxi to town back in Wellington for eight dollars.

I booked my trip online using the Megabus website, all very easy. It's amazing how far they will take you for so little; you could get a ticket to Boston for as little as $1 if you booked early enough. The Megabus is a big double decker, with free wifi and a power outlet for those of us who can't stand travelling on the bus. I watched Juno.

I arrived in DC early Wednesday evening after a four hour bus ride which took me through New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware (I've now been to one tenth of the US on this trip...!) before getting off the bus and walking towards the capitol buildings and my hotel. Well, I got all the way to The Mall (the long stretch of grass and parkland that lies between the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument) before realising I had left behind the air mattress I was supposed to bring to sleep on.

So I walked back to where the bus had dropped my off, stressed out and swearing at my own stupidity only to find the bus loading up and about to leave. I ran up to the bus flailing my arms up and down with my backpack bouncing all over the place as I tried to flag the driver to pull over. He stopped, opened the door, and looked at me.
"You're either late or you forgot an air bed"
"Air bed"

At which point he stood up, reached above his head, and tossed my air bed at me. I swear I heard a chorus of angels as he sat back down and drove away.

Thank you, Megabus.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I want to be a part of it...

It’s Autumn here at the moment (I will never call it ‘Fall’), and it’s like something out of a movie. It’s quite a new thing for me to actually experience a change in the seasons other than a sudden shift in the temperature from tee-shirt to jersey. But New York is something else – far from being the concrete jungle I expected, I find that New York City is all but lined with trees, which makes the change to Autumn so pretty (and the autumnal colours that follow).

I’m currently staying in the suburb of Irvington, which is about an hour out of Grand Central Station by train. I’m staying with Ashley (my ex girlfriend now very good friend), and her family until I can get myself sorted out with a job and a place to live.

So with that in mind, I’ve decided to set myself some goals for my time here in NYC:

Find the perfect pizza. This can be broken down into two categories… Thin crust: pepperoni. Deep Dish: Pepperoni. I like pepperoni.

Be a tourist. Sure, I’ve been to Central Park and Times Square, but I have yet to see the Statue of Libery, climb the Empire State Building, or try to explain to a crazy person that they don’t have bugs crawling all over them,

Get a job. I don’t mean just working at a bar or a café or diner; I mean finding something that will get me into a social network of some kind, and maybe make some new friends.

Get an apartment. I like where I’m staying. Where I’m staying is amazing. It’s where Bajilionaires live. I have my own room, I’m close to the woods, 20 minutes away from the Sleep Hollow. But it’s not NY. I guess I want to really experience life in NYC; living in a shitty apartment eating out of 3 day old Chinese takeaway boxes and slamming on the wall at 3am telling the neighbours to shut the hell up.

It’s a nice dream.

Angels of New Dork

I still love this city.

Before I arrived in New York I expected it to be all concrete and grey and busy and smoggy and full of street vendors and taxi drivers and crying babies and fat Americans and homeless people and muggers and Broadway dancers. I haven’t seen any homeless people (though I have still only stayed in either the city or the suburbs), and the poor people I have seen have all been industriously emptying rubbish bins for cans and bottles to recycle (which is why I no longer recycle them myself. It’s good for the planet and helps out those less fortunate than I!).

I took a walk to Central Park yesterday and was completely surprised by how big it was. I was expecting it to be no bigger than a small public park, not unlike Frank Kitts back in Wellington. Instead it takes up a large portion of my map of the city, and is filled with trees, wild (rabid?) animals, lakes, reservoirs, fountains, buskers, kids waggins school, and pretty pretty pretty trees.

I entered the park through the South Gate, and passed a whole slew of horse drawn carriages ready to take people on a tour of the greenery for around $35 for half an hour. I thought about it, I did. But in the end I decided to explore on my own for a bit, and maybe save the horse drawn cart for another time. I imagine it would be quite a lovely thing to do at night, but I am very naïve.

Wandering the park for a while, I found the angel fountain (from the TV series “Angels of New York”), where I sat down and listened to some buskers for a while, and also did some work on my laptop. It was all very lovely, until a bunch of teenage boys (who I lovingly referred to as ‘the Jewness Brothers”) came and started showing off to a bunch of equally pubescent young ladies what fine young menches they were. It was as hilarious as it was awkward, and I was doing well not to burst into laughter until one of them chose his method of impressment as his ‘awesome ability to tie a Windsor knot’.

The girls left, laughing.

So did I.

how that Star Spangled Banner does wave.

Everywhere you look, there’s an American flag.

There are flags on buildings, flags on houses, flags on cars, flags on TV, even flags on pets. Americans are flag-crazy. But it works, in a strange kind of way. New York City seems a little nicer for it – that so many people are so proud of where they live (whether they know any different or not) adds a lot of charm and character to the place.

You would be hard pressed to find a flag flying in NZ on anything other than a government building. If you did see a flag flying, it would certainly be out of place and we’d be just as likely to regard the flag flyer as eccentric as we would patriotic.

Sure, you see flags flying at sport games back home – and mainly international ones, and this is where my flag theory comes in. Much of the main sport in NZ is really to do with international contests: rugby test matches, cricket ODIs, even the Super 14. Sure, there are domestic tournaments, but these are not very heavily attended at the best of times. NZers prefer it when we’re playing on the world stage, and we like it best when we’re playing against Australia.

Americans though, don’t focus on any international sport. For them it’s all domestic – NFL, AFL, NBA, NHL, MBL, Dancing with the Stars… the people they compete with already share the same flag as they do; so they need to find another outlet for their flag waving… thus dressing up their buildings (and pets).

Okay, so this theory is still in its infancy. But so was the child I saw wearing an American flag diaper.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

…and sometimes you get ambushed by Scientologists

My friend and I were approached in Times Square by a woman offering a free 15 minute movie. That should have been our first clue that something was up. Our second clue should have been the Dianetics fliers she was peddling. Now I shouldn’t plead ignorance about the implications here. I knew full well that Dianetics flyers and images of erupting volcanoes can only lead to scientologists and couch-jumping, but for some reason I just didn’t seem to care.

I was in such a good mood from all the neon and such, and I really didn’t know very much about the elusive cult, and so I figured that it could be a fantastic opportunity to learn a thing or two. Besides, the lady escorting us had spent a couple of years studying Paua in Wellington, so I figured she couldn’t be all bad.

We were escorted away from Times Square through a couple of parking lots, and down a couple of darkened alleyways until we finally arrived: the anything-but-humble Church of Scientology. We were escorted into a room with a projector (we were the only two in the room), and told that we would watch a brief 15 minute video, followed by a short survey to see what we thought.

I’ve never been one to spoil the ending of a movie for anybody (no matter how poorly acted), but basically the premise suggests that all of our negative experiences, health issues, bad attitudes or negative feelings are caused by past experiences recorded by the ‘reactive mind’ during periods of trauma, intoxication, or unconsciousness. In other words – the reason I wear glasses is most likely due to some instance of unconsciousness in my childhood (e.g. anesthesia for having my tonsils removed), and some association with an event that happened during that (e.g. the doctor saying “I’m having trouble seeing”). These negative experiences are called ‘engrams’, which dominate and ruin your life, causing you to abuse your partner and yourself, as well as commit various crimes.


Once the film had finished, Rohan and I just sat there, not entirely sure what to do. But we dutifully completed the survey forms (under false names), and waited for someone to tell us what to do next. The back of the survey had a flier for a free two hour seminar, in which you could learn more about engrams, for only $100. Our hostess soon returned with a copy of L Ron Hubbard’s ‘Dianetics’ book – a gigantic tome outlining the problem with engrams, their impact on our lives and what we can do about them.

‘Read these books’

‘What, now?’

‘No, take them away and read them. Cover to cover. It’ll blow your mind’

(Rohan- flicking through the book): ‘How much research has been published on this?’

‘It’s all in the book’

‘…independent research’

‘Read the book. It’ll blow your mind’.

(Me): ‘what’s with the volcano?’


She picked up the books, our survey forms, and we took this as our cue.

As we left, we saw a woman and her family sitting beside us who had clearly also just been ambushed, only she was writing several cheques to the ‘Church’ for hundreds of dollars. I guess she bought the books.

Melts in your mouth, but also your wallet.

My days in New York have been a little bi-polar of late.

Now that I’m no longer on leave from my job back home, I’m finding that the urge to eat and do washing (let alone do any sightseeing) is compelling me to work again. I’m fortunate enough to be able to work remotely for my job back in NZ, which (in theory) allows me to earn at least a little money to get by until I can sort something out that’s a little more local. So my days are spent on my laptop, and my evenings are spent either seeing the city sights, or catching up and going out with friends. Thursday night was one such night.

My friend Rohan and I arrived in Times Square around 9.30pm after negotiating the subway system to do so (the subway system here is a little more confusing than the London tube – so much so that I can’t actually describe it here as I haven’t yet figured it out!), and walked into a field of neon that reminded me of every bad 80’s buddy movie that helped form me into the man I am today. Everything was there that you’d expect: the giant coke sign, LCD screens showing hi-def previews or ads to anyone that can’t avoid their hypnotic attraction, even a military recruitment office bedecked in brilliant neon bars (appropriately red, white and blue).

Okay, I’ll admit that it was all very garish and commercial; Times Square at night just screams consumerism and capitalism and everything that everyone always says is wrong with America. But it was all so very cool. The bright lights, the flashy tv screens, the people walking around the various installations, all made it somehow magical and I couldn’t help but get caught up in the excitement of it all.

Wondering around Times Square will teach you a lot about people; how cool advertising can make you want to watch the ‘latest hit comedy on ABC’, or how bright lights and pretty colours might encourage you to join the military. Then I saw it. The tourist mecca of Times Square.

M&M World.

A world of M&Ms.

We were standing underneath a giant electronic billboard in hi-def, showing ads for those wonderful chocolate drops that make me feel both wonderful (taste so good) and sick (too many!) at the same time. We entered the building to find three stories of M&M and related products. Wall to wall tubes of single coloured candy which you could mix and match to your heart’s content, M&M dispensers shaped like the characters from the ads, clothing, tea pots, leather jackets, pet clothing, cutlery, and even an electric guitar.

All branded by M&M, and all stupidly expensive (one pound of M&Ms cost $12.99!).

Rohan and I spent at least an hour in the store, walking around in absolute wonder how so many things could be branded and designed in one image; and yet seeing myself owning quite a number of things (especially the electric guitar).

I surprised myself by leaving without buying anything, but knowing that it wouldn’t be long before I became the proud owner of an M&M racing jacket and cherry stoner.