There’s only a first time for every new place you visit that makes it special. It’s been just over a month since I touched down in NYC so here’s a quick recap along with some thoughts being back in the US after ten years.
Hi JFK Airport, WTF?
After a long-ass 14 hour flight I landed around 10:00AM on a Thursday morning in JFK. As I get off the plane, border agents start barking orders to split into two lines for citizens and non citizens. At baggage claim there’s no wi-fi so you won’t be able to coordinate with anyone that’s there to pick you up or let them know in the unfortunate event that you’re getting cavity searched by Homeland Security. There’s also a $6.00 charge for baggage trolleys that are free at virtually every other airport in the world. Welcome to America. Yeah….
Getting Back On The Grid
The apartment I’d eventually move into is one block from Times Square (Thanks Anne, Theo, Yi), a place every New Yorker avoids like the plague. My friend has been here for the last seven years and while it’s loud, she likes the convenience of being at a major subway hub to get around the city easily. Adding to the fun is a nightclub across the street, a fire station around the corner, and two theaters next to the apartment where tourists line up every weekend to catch a show.
I make my way to T-Mobile and get a new SIM card for $50 USD getting 6GB of 4G LTE data. (Fuck lol) Being overseas for so long does spoil you when you’re used to paying $10 USD per month for the same amount of data. The good thing is that monthly plans with no contracts are the norm now and you just have to keep your balance topped up. Coverage in the city is pretty good until you’re in the subway or a few apartment complexes where they have thicker walls.
Here’s A Mediocre Deli Sandwich
The biggest sticker shock being here lies in the food. It’s a lot pricer for your average meal that usually isn’t even that great to begin with. At most places anything under $10 is considered really cheap, with $12-$15 USD being the average here for most lunches at a deli or take out. If you’re at a sit down restaurant for brunch or dinner with a drink you’re looking at a minimum of $25 USD and above including tip. Do this a few times every week and it starts to add up really fast. Your best bet is still a local farmer’s market that doesn’t have the overhead of hanging a building and massive staff.
Do You Even Yoga Bro?
During my first week here there was a yoga event at Times Square where around 3,000 yogis converge for classes throughout the day. They fence off a couple blocks from 42nd-47th / Broadway and people just lay their mats out there. I managed to get on the volunteer list last minute (Thanks Summer). With no idea what to do, I’m instructed to just tell people they are doing a “good job” and help the take photos. Easy enough. Inside I’m laughing that I used to have a motivational morning email series called “Namaste Cocksucka” (shoutout to Uncle Joey) and here I am at one of the biggest yoga gatherings in the world.
Happy Hunting, Mr. Wick
I’ve never been drawn to tourist attractions and because they’re for amateur travelers and it’s never an authentic experience. But I do enjoy seeing movie locations if I can get the chance and it’s not too far out of the way. Ever since the first John Wick came out I’ve had this strange obsession with it. Based in NYC, I decide to research a few locations to check out where they are. Here’s the fictional Continental Hotel that’s neutral ground where no “business”can be done there or you’ll get banned.
Turns out this location is down in the Financial District at an intersection of three roads. It looks similar to the Flatiron building, but it’s actually a restaurant and apartment complex building. Too bad there was some construction going on at the time. Another place I happened to stop by randomly was the Red Circle Nightclub in the first movie which is actually a government building near City Hall by the Brooklyn Bridge.
Brooklyn Bridge & Manhattan Skyline
After my second week, I crashed at my friends place in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (Thanks Ken) as he was taking a trip to Iceland with the family. I’ve heard stories about folks moving out here as there is generally more space, rent is cheaper (maybe), and it’s less hectic than Manhattan. But even out in Williamsburg there is still a lot of development going on with new apartments being built all over the place. That’s perhaps the biggest thing I didn’t expect in New York. There’s still a TON of growth and demand.
I got the chance to borrow my friend’s Citibike membership and ride around the area down to the Brooklyn Bridge and walk back to Manhattan. The view is way better going into the city as you can see the new World Trade Center and entire skyline of the different towers. Most tourists seem to go the other way around which is a pretty amateur move. This is by far my favorite experience so far in the city but I still gotta do it once at night too.
WeWork: World Class Co-Working
One of my friends has an office at WeWork and was gracious enough to add me on as an “employee” to get access in the common area (Thanks Peter, David). It truly is a world class co-working space with a dedicated team and staff in each location, free coffee, beer, a clean kitchen, and much more. Most of the administrative tasks you need are done through their web portal or iOS app to book meeting rooms, register guests, apply for new keycards, or meet other members in your building. There are housing and marketplace groups within the community app which is a great place to get good deals on office equipment or even apartments as there’s a quality filter by just being in the community.
Becoming A Tunnel Lurker
One thing that’s enjoyable about this city is the convenience of the subway (when it’s working properly) and using it outside of rush hours. There’s pretty much a train that can take you anywhere you need to within a few blocks, but you’ll need to spend time learning where the different lines go and how they cross around the city. It’s a bit daunting at first but if you’re any decent at navigation it’s not that hard to grasp.
Meetups & Events: Be Selective
There are a lot more tech & entrepreneurship meetups here than abroad where the audience pool is much smaller. Whether it’s in tech, finance, art, or sports – there’s always something you can find here in New York. The downside is most events have no quality filter and it’s easy to get lost in the noise. I’ve been to a few events at design/coder/product schools and they’re mostly filled with lawyers, bankers, or advertising folks looking to switch careers.
Questions like “Do I need an MBA?” (lol) or “What language should I learn to code in?” (lol) make me want to cringe. I’ve tested out a few events that are $10-$15 USD for entry and it’s usually a much better experience with the attendees. The most recent was a FinTech event with Transferwise co-founder Kristo Kaarmann where he talked about the nature of their business, growth plans, and competing with banks. More on that in another post.
That’s A Wrap
This week, I finally moved into a permanent room after couch-surfing with friends across NYC in the past month. Looking forward to finally settling down after one more IKEA trip this year setting up my life. There’s some other stuff on career/work that I’ll write about more next month interviewing with startup/tech companies, as those plans are still in progress and I’ll have more color in the next few weeks.
Also published on Medium.