10 Times Drake’s Hotline Bling Was About Life In New York

#1 When winter is coming and you have to learn how to walk in the snow all over again

#2 When your Dominican friends plan a Washington Heights night and you have 3 days to learn how to dance

#3 When Seamless texts that your food is on the way

#4 When you realize bed bugs are taking over your life

#5 When you are drunk on the train and fall asleep on the person next to you

#6 When Times Square rappers try to sell you a mixtape

#7 When you need a ride to another borough and find an Uber code

#8 When something drips on you while walking and you are praying it’s AC residue

#9 When you beg the cab driver to take your drunk friend in

#10 When that Shake Shack vibrator bling and that can only mean one thing

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Can A Frenchie Enjoy An Upstate New York Getaway?

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It’s that time of the year when summer comes and I feel like escaping to all these cool places that are technically close to New York but that I either A) Cannot afford, B) Don’t have enough vacation for or C) All of the above.  So this year looks like there won’t be any Charleston, New Orleans, or Savannah…#FirstWorldProblems

Here I am again, trying to find a last minute weekend get away near New York that is not the Hamptons or another hype destination that involves paying the same amount as a trip abroad to stay at a crowded beach and run into my coworkers. I had heard of the Catskill Mountains many times before and decided to give it a try.

After 3 years in New York City, I had never been on an upstate vacation until last weekend. As a Frenchie who grew up in Provence, I know that I am hard to please when it comes to exploring a new place. But not “American hard to please”…”French hard to please.” This means that I don’t care if the place I’m going to doesn’t have a King Size bed, air conditioning, or someone to cook and clean. I just want things to be authentic and have a history. Not cliche at all…right?

When I went to Cape Cod last year, even though the surroundings and nature were beautiful, I was annoyed to find most of the Bed & Breakfasts and restaurants by busy intersections. Unfortunately I have come to realize that this is most of the USA. Americans like to keep things convenient while Europeans find beauty in run down paths leading to absolutely nowhere. The house we rented in the Catskill Mountains did end up facing a road, which was once again hard to swallow for my French self. Why would anyone want that as a view when you have acres of forests and hills all around?

I knew I had to leave my “Euro woes” behind if I was going to enjoy my stay in the Catskill. After looking around, I realized that all the other houses were built the same way. I guess there’s something reassuring about being able to see what’s going on outside of your house for Americans, while Europeans value the privacy of their home above all. Our road was so quiet anyway, we could actually hear the peaceful sound of the stream running near by…so I got over myself.

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The Catskill Mountains definitely felt like a true getaway although it’s only a 2 hour drive from the City. I hiked for hours, jumped in a beautiful swimming hole, chased waterfalls, admired breathtaking views from a reservoir, made friends with deers, and spent a few hours doing absolutely nothing, which is so underrated in New York.

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Frenchies like me might be disappointed by the man-built sites while going to the Catskill Mountains or probably anywhere else upstate New York: don’t expect century-old churches in small mountain villages or restaurants hidden in the woods. But once you made your peace with it, the nature is worth the trip.

 

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3 Tips To Survive Food In New York & America

DON’T be spontaneous and go to a random restaurant…Yelp or Google it before

14 Restaurant Horror Stories That'll Make You Want To Order Takeout

I (unfortunately) speak from experience. There is nothing more amazing than discovering a cute little restaurant while out and about and leaving with a smile on your face and a new favorite place.  It recently happened to me in Lisbon, I was too hungry to make my way to the restaurant I had in mind, and didn’t have Wifi to check reviews. I ended up eating the best cod quiche in the world. While this would be a common story anywhere else, I would consider it a miracle in New York, and the USA in general. The only few times I trusted my instinct to pick a random spot turned out to be a disaster. Don’t be fooled by candle-lit restaurants or French/Italian sounding menus…some places in the City spend more time “fluffing up” than in the kitchen. If you need to eat and don’t have Internet access, do yourself a favor and avoid restaurants with photos of the food on their menus (eeew,) or even worse, fake food displays outside. These are kind of “universal tips” but they will keep you away from tourist traps. Another way to make sure you eat the best that New York has to offer is to know your neighborhoods. You have better chances to find a good restaurant where New Yorkers go out, like in the East Village, Lower East Side, Nolita, or Williamsburg than in touristy areas such as Times Square, Little Italy, or the Upper East Side.

DON’T be cheap with food…Buy quality products, your body and wallet will thank you later

If there is one thing that all New Yorkers and tourists can agree on, it’s that eating in New York ain’t cheap. Whether you are dining out or grocery shopping, it seems like feeding yourself is a luxury. When you are new to the City, it’s very tempting to adopt a low-cost mentality because prices get so overwhelming. As an exchange student, I used to either buy enough stuff to cook a basic pasta dish, order Chinese at home, or eat cheap Mexican food while out. But I was doing it all wrong! Even with those sad options, most of my money went towards eating, not to mention the 5 kilos (10 pounds) that I gained in 7 months. The bottom line is that food is expensive in New York, good or bad. So if you are going to eat – and frankly, you should – just spend it on good stuff! Yes, organic vegetables and antibiotic-free meat is overpriced, but think of it as an investment. Money you spend on healthy food is money you save on a gym membership, stupid diet products, and eventually…doctor’s appointments. Most importantly, things will actually HAVE a taste.

DON’T rush while grocery shopping…take time to read labels 

Now you understand that when it comes to eating right in the City, you need to know your New York restaurants and accept to buy quality products. But what does quality even mean in a country where food regulation is so loose? Shopping at Fairway, Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s doesn’t necessarily guarantee getting good stuff. You have to learn how to spot the “fake” shit. While a package that reads “All Natural” in France is likely to be so, you should assume that it’s the opposite here in America. Organic labels tell me a products is not as bad as the rest, but the best quality indicator is always the ingredient list. You can have something organic with high-fructose corn syrup or canola oil in it, which, by the way, are my two worst American enemies. They don’t make life easy because they are literally EVERYWHERE. Just to give you a quick example, Coke in Europe has real cane sugar, whereas it’s high fructose corn syrup here in the US. It’s one of the many things I grew up with and still have at home but not in America. I’m not a scientist, but I know that there is no reason why we should use artificial crap like corn syrup instead of sugar and canola instead of olive oil other than economic profit. If you can avoid these two things and make sure to buy at least some organic food (especially animal products like meat, eggs and dairy,) you can survive American food!

 

What have been your challenges with food in New York or the US?

 

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New York Trend Alerts – Spring 2015

Movie Theaters: OUT/ Museums: IN

Oscar season has passed, winter is officially over, and “HBO Now” is finally available, so why would New Yorkers want to pay 15 dollars to pile up in the dark? If you’re not convinced, just google “NYC movie theater bed bugs” and that should do it. Between the new cultural attractions and upcoming exhibits, ain’t nobody got time for movies, unless they are playing in outdoor parks of course. The new Chelsea location of the Whitney Museum just opened, and we can’t wait for the Hudson Yard Culture Shed to arrive in 2018. The High Line will be connecting the two centers for the perfect cultural stroll. In the meantime, The Met is hosting a Van Gogh exhibit this May and the Moma is currently showing Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series, an artistic look at the mass movement of African-Americans from South to North that marked the 20th century. Y’all gonna learn today!

Apple Watch: OUT / Ringly: IN

I personally don’t think the Apple Watch was ever “in” but it’s now officially dead – sorry Karl and Queen Bee, maybe it wouldn’t be if we could all get the same custom-made (and free) gold Apple Watch. The New York-based jewelry brand Ringly came up with a much better concept: a tech accessory that will allow you to live in the moment instead of being a slave to your messages and emails. Ringly is the perfect combo for people who do suffer from FOMO but choose to enjoy life. The smart ring is connected to an app allowing you to filter all your notifications. The cute device will change color or vibrate only for things you want to know about. That way, you won’t reach for your phone unless it’s for something important. Hopefully they come up with a design for men soon!

Ringly is available on ShopBop & Bloomingdale’s

Soul Cycle: OUT / Walking: IN

Don’t get me wrong, New Yorkers are still addicted to Soul Cycling. But the fascinating practice of biking in a candle-lit room to a Beyonce/Lady Gaga/90s playlist has already made it to France, which tells me it will soon make it everywhere else, which also tells me that New Yorkers will soon be over it. While waiting for the next crazy work out to take over, walking is making a huge come back. This is mostly thanks to technology: the newest smartphones or wristbands allowing to convert steps into burnt calories motivate people to walk more. Many New York offices started hosting “Walking Challenges” and reward the most active employees on a weekly or monthly basis. Plus, recent studies have shown that “sitting is the new smoking.” We are basically wasting years of our lives and ruining our bodies because…shocking…we weren’t made to stay at a desk all day! So this Spring, ditch the Soul Cycle studio and save $40 for a free walk in Central Park.

Fancy Restaurants: OUT / Fun food districts: IN

If there is one trend in New York that will never go away, it’s food. We will always be foodies and do ridiculous things to try the newest places like waiting in line for two hours or hopping a ferry, a bus and a train to taste the latest treat. But it feels like New Yorkers are no longer down with paying the price of a plane ticket for a fancy yet non-filling meal. Upscale “food districts” seem to be the new hype and a good alternative to boogie restaurants. In the past few months, Gotham Market, City Kitchen and Le District opened in Manhattan, following the foot steps of the successful Eataly and Brookfield Place. Smorgasburg remains a Spring & Summer all time favorite, with an open-air flea market and beautiful view on top of an amazing selection of food vendors. Bon appetit !

Michael Kors: OUT / Backpacks: IN

Has New York’s favorite handbag brand gone out of style? Michael Kors’ shares are down 37%, and it looks like the designer is victim of its own success; now that everyone wears the famous purses, watches and accessories, why would people be willing to pay a premium price? For shopaholics and early adopters, it’s time for a new brand. Until fashion gurus announce the “new Michael Kors,” another trend has made its way to the accessories department: welcome back…to the backpack! The 90s have been invading our closets for a quite a while now, and it wouldn’t be a true revival without the iconic backpack. I knew that the Brooklyn’s hipsters had never really forgotten about it, but it’s now spreading everywhere, from corporate offices to Manhattan nightclubs. So don’t be afraid to embrace the nerd in you!

 

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5 Shows That Capture The Real New York

There are many TV shows that are either shot or set in New York, but only a handful are truly New York-centric. Here’s my top 5 of the ones that capture life in the City in the best and realest way possible:

#5 LOUIE

The only reason why “Louie” stands in fifth position is because it’s harder for me to relate to a mid-age divorced father than let’s say, a columnist with a passion for heels and fabulous girlfriends. But that doesn’t take anything away from the genius of Louis CK. The comedian describes the contrasts of life in New York with subtlety and a sharp sense of humor that is reminiscent of Woody Allen: from the low-key downtown artist life to the loneliness and anxiety of the Big City, “Louie” just gets it. I only wish there was as much jazz in the streets of New York as there is in Louie’s head.

#4 GIRLS

Having no idea where you’re going in life is a pretty common feeling for Millennials living in New York…and whining about it at a vegan Brooklyn coffee shop is their local sport. Yes, Hannah is annoying and that’s why “Girls” only gets the fourth position. I mean the girl has a paid writer position at GQ and quits because it’s not intellectually challenging enough for her? I die. But besides the obnoxious elitism of the show, “Girls” does a great job at capturing the mixed experiences of young adults living in New York. From trying to make it as an artist to having your heart treated like “monkey meat,” “Girls” is the first show to reveal the not-so-glamorous side of life in the City as a twenty something girl in a raw, yet hysterical way.

#3 HOW TO MAKE IT IN AMERICA

A show that was cancelled after two seasons as #3, really? Yes, really. Because to this day, no other one did a better job at grasping the vibrant hustling spirit of New York’s youth. Ben and Cam have that cool group of friends you wish you had when you first arrive in the City. They are all fighting not to get sucked in the system and dream of becoming the best version of themselves. They are creative and street smart but get easily distracted by New York’s random adventures and endless parties. “How To Make It In America” is touching because it represents our complex generation: diverse, ambitious but also incredibly lazy and impatient. I’m still hoping for its return one day.

#2 SEX AND THE CITY

Do I even need to explain? “Sex and the City” was the first show to introduce New York as a character as opposed to a place. The City is one of the girls: it has a personality, a voice, a style. It’s magical, cheeky, and fabulous. “Sex and the City” is a  New York institution, restaurants or neighborhoods featured in each season  reflect what was “in” at the time of the episode, but also set the trend IRL. To this day, we still don’t know how Carrie could afford her stunning brownstone apartment and countless Manolo Blanicks by writing this one magazine column, but it doesn’t matter. The ups and downs of single life in New York and most importantly the sacred aspect of female friendship in such a crazy City are the reasons why the show will forever live on.

#1 BROAD CITY

How can I explain the hilarity of Broad City? If you haven’t started following the adventures of Ilana and Abbi, then stop everything that you are doing and turn on Comedy Central. If you have, then you probably screamed “YAS QUEEEEEN!” while discovering my #1. “Broad City” is simply the best show I’ve discovered in a very long time, and my favorite New York-centric show currently on air. “Broad City” is to 2015 what “Sex and the City” was to 2000. It paints a colorful portrait of what young souls in New York are up to these days: carelessly partying, smoking, Tindering, procrastinating, and laughing…a lot. You wanted “Girls” without all the whining? Broad City did it. Ilana and Abbi who both created and star in the show as fictional versions of themselves don’t take anything too seriously which is what makes the show so real and relatable. “Broad City” wasn’t the result of an all-star production team in search of the next big thing in comedy: it comes from the talent, energy and sass of two New York comedians who were trying to prove their parents they were actually working on something. It has that “Started from as a web series now we’re here” liberating format that makes it unique. Now go binge watch the first two seasons!

What are your favorite New York shows?

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Widow Basquiat: A Must-Read New York City Tale

Picture New York in the 80s. Graffiti is slowly emerging from the Lower East Side’s dark alleys to the trendy galleries. Artists, drug dealers, and pimps own Downtown: a (not so safe) haven for visionary minds. A girl buys a one-way bus ticket to New York with only a few bucks in her pocket. Suzanne Mallouk’s story starts like many others, but the rest is History. Literally.

I am not a fast reader, but I finished Widow Basquiat in 3 days. This book is as addictive as the nature of Suzanne and the legendary Jean-Michel Basquiat‘s relationship. Once you start, you just can’t stop. Kind of like the heroin that the two lovers used to do in the Great Jones loft.

It’s hard to imagine that the city described in Widow Basquiat is in fact New York. It made me wonder if we traded creativity and irreverence for safety and Starbucks at every corner. On her first night in the City, Suzanne witnesses a murder:

“I went straight to the Seville Hotel. The first night a prostitute was murdered by the infamous “Slasher.” (…) There were cops everywhere and the women who were staying at the hotel were moaning and screaming and cussing at the police officers. I was so frightened that I moved out to the Martha Washington Hotel on 29th and Madison, which was only for women.” 

But New York was also the beating heart of a new vibrant art scene. Running into Andy Warhol or Keith Haring was just a typical night out:

“My strongest association with Keith was at the Paradise Garage club. (…) There was no liquor so everyone came high on mushrooms, pot and mostly hallucinogens like ecstasy and acid. (…) It was really (Keith) who brought graffiti into the SoHo galleries. (…) He was a real social radical. (…) The white art world disgusted him. Jean was black and had to present himself as separate from graffiti somehow. Keith was gay and white and could glamorize graffiti in a way that Jean could not.” 

Today, Chris Brown throwing bottles at people is considered a hot club experience. Suzanne even got into an epic pre-TMZ era cat fight with no other than Madonna over Jean-Michel Basquiat:

“One night Suzanne goes out to the Roxy and finds Jean-Michel with Madonna. Suzanne throws herself at Madonna and starts pulling her hair, scratching and punching her. (…) Jean-Michel laughs and laughs. (…) Later he paints A Panel of Experts. (…) On the collage he crosses out the word “Madonna.”

Race was at the heart of Basquiat’s work and remains one of the most powerful themes of the book. If certain anecdotes tend to show that racial tensions eased compared to the 80s, it’s only in a superficial way. Obviously, Suzanne wouldn’t get fired for dating a black man today. But she could still be discriminated for it. The tragic death of Suzanne’s friend Michael Stewart in 1983 also feels sadly current:

 “He had a massive hemorrhage at the base of his brain that appeared to have been caused by strangulation from an illegal choke hold (…) A grand jury investigation did ensue, (…) but those police officers are still out there walking the beat.”

The addiction to both people and substances is the main subject of the book:

“They do coke six or seven times a day. He tells Suzanne she can only wear one dress. He tells her she can only wear one pair of very large men’s shoes. He does another line of coke and paints Big Shoes (…) Jean-Michel sticks black paper over all the windows so that they won’t know if it is day or night.”

Widow Basquiat gives such a unique perspective of what it was like to be a twenty-something rebel in New York City at that time. Finding drugs and finding love was definitely easier back then (Jean-Michel moved in with Suzanne a few days after meeting her.) People could live in Manhattan like a complete Bohemians and give zero fucks about society:

“They dress in long black waistcoats and walk down 3rd Avenue carrying black and silver walking sticks. (…) They live without electricity and only use candlelight. They have no appliances or even a telephone.”

Beyond an inexplicable form of nostalgia – it’s not like I WANT to be a heroin addict in an abusive relationship –  the book made me want to explore today’s New York art scene. Basquiat only gained recognition as a major artist in the last few years of his young life, and even then, his paintings sold for the fraction of what they do today. I’m now on a mission to meet the legends of tomorrow. And even if we all know how this love story ends, Widow Basquiat still makes it a fascinating journey.


Order Widow Basquiat on Amazon.

If you want to immerse in Basquiat’s world, don’t miss The Unknown Notebooks Exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum until August.

Learn more about Jean-Michel Basquiat here


 

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New Yorkers You Will Meet: The Filthy Rich

 

As I often mention it, everyone has a side hustle in the City, but I haven’t told you about mine yet. When I came to New York in 2012, I had the opportunity to work at catering events while I was job-hunting. Now that I have a full-time position, I still do it occasionally for extra money. It’s pretty much like being a waitress or hostess, but at private events, including people’s homes. This is how I’ve gotten to know the surreal world of a New Yorker type I like to call The Filthy Rich.

The filthy rich lives in a loft, preferably in Soho, Chelsea or the Flatiron District. The filthy rich enjoys gigantic books on coffee tables, white furniture, ironic art installations and candles, lots of candles. As a matter of fact, the filthy rich’s weekly candle budget probably equals a month of groceries for you. Electricity is so 2000 and late.

The filthy rich throws fancy parties with his filthy rich friends who like tiny food with complicated names. It takes more time to describe the tiny food than to eat it, but it doesn’t matter. The filthy rich still wants to hear about it:

FILTHY RICH LADY: “And what is this meatball-looking thing?”

ME IN MY HEAD: “You just said it, it’s a meatball.”

ME FOR REAL: “It’s Polpette Alla Romana”

FILTHY RICH LADY: “And what is that?”

ME IN MY HEAD: “It’s free food. FREE FOOD. And it’s so small you will literally burn the calories by chewing it so get over yourself and eat.”

ME FOR REAL: “It’s a meatball. Would you like to try?”

FILTHY RICH LADY: “No, I’m good. It’s so pretty though!”

Oh yes, filthy rich ladies don’t actually eat. I have a theory that they are on a diet called “Eating By Default:” if they hear a thorough description of a food item and stare at it long enough, their bodies somehow gets all the nutrients from it.

Male or female, the filthy rich does make up by drinking. A lot. The filthy rich can’t handle the sight of an empty glass, like, ever. That’s why he hires people whose one and only job is to refill over and over again. The filthy rich’s friends are more important than him. It’s usually the reason for filthy rich events in the first place. The host sometimes requires you to “shadow” a guest, which basically means following them around like a puppy and refill their glass when it’s closed to empty. Just picture going to a party with a Boozy Fairy God Mother. Here’s the challenging part of the job: you can’t wait until the glass is actually empty, because God forbids the filthy rich guest has to stop talking about his new boat and must NOD at you. That would be catering drama.

Some filthy rich people are not that fun because…well, you know…mo’ money mo’ problems! So occasionally, they will hire you as a “party motivator.” Not that this isn’t self-explanatory, but just to be clear: the filthy rich gives you  money to make guests dance and clap their hands. Yes, caterer workers do make a difference in people’s lives.

Overall, the filthy rich isn’t that bad; he usually lets you try the tiny food and tips. But when I grow up and become filthy rich myself, I hope I don’t turn into a filthy rich person.

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