23 March 2010

09 May 2009

Plans on writing. Posts that are in the works.

View of gantry cranes in Gantry Plaza State Pa...Image via Wikipedia

Hi all,

I am writing about neighborhoods right now. I'm just delving into my non-professional passion of social geography. So, I am going to write specifically about the neighborhoods in which I am working. They are West Harlem / Morningside Heights (Manhattan), Flatbush / Prospect Park South (Brooklyn), and Long Island City (Queens). I might sound a little academic at times. There are just very interesting histories that need to be included. Also, it's hard for me to use abstraction. Though I am good at abstraction, my curiousity runs too deep to limit myself.

Each of these neighborhoods I work in are in some capacity underserved. Yet, there is a charm about each of them that makes them desirable to live in.

Additionally, I still need to finish my Paris Flaneur Travel Guide. It's not a checklist of to do items, but an impression of what you might see when you go. The places I mention might be in the guide books and they might not be in the guide books. That's not the point of being a Flaneur. There are places that deserve more time, and those are the places I'd like to tell you about.

Once again, I'd like to say that this blog is more of a personal blog than a themed blog. So I will no doubt throw in some personal finds, especially now that I have a phone that makes it easy to add blog posts from anywhere.


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02 May 2009

Times Square

Times Square, originally uploaded by j.ankerberg.

Yes, I risked swine flu to take this picture.

01 May 2009

27 January 2009

Arriving, the excitement of a new place

September 18, 2007

I hope that everyone knows the feeling of landing in a new airport and being amazed. If you had no idea that the plane was moving and you were just waiting in a tube shaped capsule for 8 hours, then stepping out of that capsule is somewhat of a shock. Well, landing in Charles de Gaulle is a shock.

Firstly, when I imagine the whole voyage via a Google Earth trip, it amazes me that I am on a whole other side of the planet. Secondly, Charles de Gaulle airport is extremely awful. If you can imagine a worse airport experience, I feel sorry for you. It is even unappreciated by the French who must deal with those horrible airport employees, taxi drivers, and bus drivers. If it's bad for the French, then imagine a foreigner who must deal with it in another language.

Tara and I took a taxi into Paris because dealing with a train while carrying these huge bags would be a hassle. I must say that the only time that Parisian taxi drivers are pleasant is when they are driving. Apart from that, they are a bunch of jackasses. They don't help put your bags in the car. They don't exactly make you feel like they want to take you somewhere, as if it wasn't in their job description. If you are going to someplace where they don't want to go, they just say no, c'est pas possible, and drive away.

Finally getting into the city limits, I thought to myself, I am going to live here. I am going to be walking in these streets, shopping in these little stores, hustling and bustling with the rest of the Parisians.

We got dropped off in this small street in the 20th arrondisement. Surveying my surroundings, I just couldn't help but thinking, this is all so French and Parisian. The doors, the windows, the pipes on the outside of the building, I couldn't imagine it being the same elsewhere.

So the plan was to go to this apartment that she had arranged by way of a friend. She could stay there while looking for an apartment. I was going to stay there for just a few hours in order to get some rest before heading out to the hostel I had planned on staying in. If the voyage didn't merit some rest, then carrying up hundreds of pounds of baggage to the fifth floor where this apartment was located did merit it.

Five floors, what a pain, but what a view. Tara and I opened the window and looked out. There were no Parisian monuments in view, but we both had the feeling, a feeling so strong we both had to just say it. "We are in Paris." "We ARE in Paris." "This is amazing."

The chimneys were everywhere. The buildings were just planted next to each other in a patchwork manner. A cat was meowing. The varying roof levels just asked for someone to make an obstacle course out of them (parkour). Then the sun broke through the clouds giving me a sense of calm which was very much in order given the past few days.

After a few hours of waiting there and just breathing in the new air, I finally decided to head out to the place where I planned to stay for the following few nights. So, down again.

Walking my bags to the nearest metro gave me a chance to be on the Parisian streets. It also gave me a chance to see some more of the Paris that is away from the tourists. Despite being on a rather small side street, there was still quite a bit of foot traffic. Curving around the bend, I saw some youths and was wondering if they might give me hard time as I'm obviously carrying two big hey-I'm-a-tourist bags. Well, they were cool and just chilling outside of their school. The street was crowded with cars and pedestrians. The sidewalk descended in elevation to the metro station. This also made it difficult to manage the bags without bumping into old women doing their shopping or old men smoking their pipes or cigarettes on the street.

The metro is fun for me. It's a game, a sport. In fact, I feel as though I've been trained in public transportation in the French system. What does that mean? It means I don't mind having physical contact with others. I use eye and body language to communicate in addition to vocally communicating. When boarding and leaving the train, don't mind your other passengers, just do what you can to get on or get off. It really doesn't have to be that difficult. It also doesn't need to be an object of complaint.

This leads me to a series of questions that a lot of French people ask me. They first ask me, "Am I enjoying France?" Then, they ask me, "Do you miss America?" Then a few questions such as, "What do you like in France, what do you dislike in France, what do you like in America, what do you dislike in America?" and finally to the concluding question of "Which is better?" These series of questions really annoy me, because no one wants to hear me answer each one in detail, I could go on for hours. So, I usually say, "Yes, no, cheese, everything is closed on Sunday, my friends and family, George Bush, and neither."

The move, a type of traveling

So it was Sunday, September 16. I packed everything I needed: four t-shirts, five dress shirts, four sweaters, two nice pairs of pants, two pairs of jeans, a few long sleeve shirts, my Tempurpedic pillow, various books, various toiletries, some food things that I knew would be difficult to find in France, and enough underwear and socks to last a month. It was the last night in my home, the last night in West Michigan, the last meal with my family at San Chez, and the last time with the cats.

In fact, the previous week was filled with different 'lasts'. I saw people for the 'last' time. I said goodbye like I was going into deep, dark space. Nope, just France. I had been to France before. I knew what the move would be like. I knew what I had to do, for the most part. Of course, the situation was different between this time and that of three years ago. I had gone away for a semester. It was really quite normal for a Calvin student to do that. People were habituated to having their friends leave for four to five months. Nothing was 'last' about that time. It was have fun, and I'll see you in five months.

What changed? As a recent graduate, I'm expected to go out into the world and prosper. I'm 24 years old, (as of 2007) and almost all of those years spent in Michigan means that the world I'm going into doesn't include this state. Going out this way, to a new country not just a new city or state, sends a message. A message that could be interpreted in several ways. It could, in actuality, be the last time with some things or people.

To reveal my actual feelings about the whole situation could be a little mean. Because in fact I do want to see certain people for the last time, I want to do certain things for the last time. It's almost a question of identity. Am I someone who does this or hangs around with these kind of people? No, I'm going to stop when I'm over there. I won't even have the option over there.

Monday, September 17 was to be the day of departure. Well, I made it halfway.

I got everything loaded up into the Protegé. This was actually to be the last voyage in the car that carried me around during the last 6 years. The flight left at 3 p.m., so I had a few hours to have fun, which meant going to Calvin College and seeing people before leaving. I ran into questions like, "Aren't you supposed to be in France?" and, "Didn't you graduate already?" It was nice. I ran into people that I wouldn't have seen otherwise.

I got going a little late. So, I raced to the Chicago-O'Hare airport. As a Michigander who knows how to drive in Chicago traffic, I got there rather quickly. I parked it on the top of the ramp. It was a very hot day, leaving the air conditioning of my car was difficult. But no, I had to keep going, I had to get these two suitcases and a backpack, combining for a total of 120 lbs off the roof of the parking garage and checked in.

I'll save you the details of this part of the airline mess. Let's just say that when you have a United flight operated by American, don't go to the United desk. What kind of shindig is that anyways?

So, I'm cutting it close. I get through the security check after having removed the screws from my knees. Man, security is tight these days. The next glance at the departures screen says that my plane will be 30 minutes late. OK, that's fine. That will give me one hour in Newark to change planes. So, this part of traveling, the waiting in the airport, is actually the worst. And the airports on my journey didn't help alleviate the annoyances during these segments spent at the airport.

Hey, I've got my computer with me. It's like having a piece of home wherever you go. So, I leave my real world and commence my universally appealing and understandable virtual life. I say that because everyone knows that you can be someone online, which is a lot better than being anyone in the airport. You can be completely different, show people what you want to show them. You can no longer escape from your past, if your past is online, not that I'm doing that. Well, that's another topic, one's identity.

Oh well, back to real life, man real life sucks. The plane was delayed another 30 minutes. OK, no problem 30 minutes is still alright I think. Then 10 minutes later it gets delayed another 15 minutes. Well, (insert swear word). Looks like I'll be missing the flight out of Newark. We could still make it, I think.

On the plane, I get seated next to an old man who doesn't like any physical contact, and apparently his clothes have a nervous system in them as well. I'm checking out the other people around. No babies, good, businessmen, fine, and ooh, a cute girl, who looks artsy. So, we sit out on the tarmac forever, obviously not flying or doing anything that could speed up the time of arrival.

Then the landing came about 10 minutes before the departure of the next plane. Well. let's go, I can do it. Despite the announcement to let people through who need to connect to other flights, everyone clogs the aisle as soon as the fasten seat belt sign is off. Thus, smashing any hope of getting to the next flight, and that's when I calm down.

I'm making my way to the Air India desk. I'm glad I wasn't infuriated, because there wasn't anyone there to berate. Why? The Air India desk is only open four hours per day! So, I'm hanging around to see if there will be anyone who comes by. Well, it's the artsy girl.

I initiate conversation seeking self-recognition that I'm not that shy. "Hi, are you looking for the Air India staff?" "Yes, I am. I'm going to Paris." "Me too. I'm going to work there." "Me too, what are you going to do there? "I'm going to be an assistant d'anglais." "I'm doing the exact same thing."

To make things short, Air India only has one flight per day to Paris from Newark. Well, at least I have someone to share this inconvenience with, Tara, the artsy girl. We had to endure one night in a New Jersey Holiday Inn dreaming of the City of Lights while surrounded by giant gas containers and other industrial equipment. In case many of you don't know, this part of New Jersey is to New York City, what Gary, Indiana is to Chicago. It was not how I imagined waking up on September 17. Well, the airport was fun to hang out in, solely for the plenitude of foreigners there. We essentially built a fort out of our luggage in the food court. Snuggled comfortably amongst our suitcases, we computed away our remaining hours in America.