Before I had a blog, I had a stack of these. Handwritten journals of my traveling tales. Page after page filled with my poor penmanship and young adult angst. They’d invariably include (now fully faded) movie stubs, theatre tickets, museum brochures and often rudimentary drawings, likely of something I couldn’t describe with words and exclamation marks. This week, I decided to open one up, go back in time and walk down the proverbial memory lane.
In this ode to New York City, the words quoted are taken directly from my journal (lucky you!). If you’re short on time, read them alone for a poetic escape. Read the article in full for the complete narrative.
My New York minute occurred over the winter of 07/ 08. Back then, I was studying a degree in fashion at RMIT University. Take a wild guess where a naive twenty year old would choose to find the best fashion imaginable? I arrived on 63rd and 5th with three nights accommodation, a thousand dollars in my bank account and an unlimited supply of hope.
I opened the curtain to find that it was snowing
I quickly realised my Converse sneakers weren’t going to well equip me for snow. The city that never sleeps huh? Waiting for the stores to open at 11am meant endless blocks of window shopping.
“This is Alex, she’s from Australia, she needs a job and a place to stay in three days”
The Dead Poet I was assured had a laid back atmosphere. The place where everybody knew your name. And fast. As a new patron would enter the bar, they’d announce my status again and again. Come back on Sunday, they said. By Sunday afternoon, they had a picture of me behind the bar amongst the other locals. All of whom, we knew by name.
on finding my feet
I luckily came across a cafe named Ruby’s. And guess what? They were hiring!
Jo, the manager mouthed across the bustling morning trade “you want a trial now?” I made her a coffee and she gave me the job on the spot. As for your wage, you had a choice. $11 an hour or choose to survive on tips alone. I chose the hourly rate.
I waited for twenty minutes for Tom Hanks on the top of the Empire State Building – The bastard didn’t show.
(That’s a Sleepless in Seattle reference in case you didn’t know and wow! – wasn’t I the comic genius at twenty?) Built in 1931, it was the tallest building in the United States, that is, until the Freedom Tower was built in 2012. However, I do need to mention the Chrysler building. Oof! Boy did it charm the pants off of me. ‘Majestic’ is all I wrote.
on chance encounters
Make sure it’s clean and leave a bottle of wine
Kelly, the milliner from Seattle let me stay at her place over Christmas and New Years while she went up state. All she asked in return was to ‘make sure it’s clean and leave a bottle of wine.’ We met at a bar on Spring Street, and she was kind to let me intern with her once she returned.
I thought you’d died
The Ruby’s Christmas party rolls around (set at the Kingswood, their sister restaurant) and if the mentionings of a bar tab were anything to go by, it was a raucous one. By 6am the following morning I was convinced someone had stolen my iPod (it was on the kitchen table), that someone had stolen my jacket (found outside, in the garden) and convinced I was capable of dancing in heels. I had gracefully (I can only assume it was graceful) fallen a meter and a half from the bar to the floor. Apparently my back and head broke the fall. Thrilled I wasn’t concussed, I headed home. ‘FYI, New York is gorgeous at this time. Quiet and peaceful’.
Now I’m at work, bored, thinking about how many times I’ve served a particular fork.
Working at Ruby’s on Mulberry Street brought in a regular trade, but some nights, when it was really cold out, it was quiet beyond belief. I’d sit by the hot water pipe, read my book, write in my journal and wonder all manner of unimportant things.
on keeping it dramatic
On the R train, I was back on Spring St by 11pm. I went from denim to chiffon in minutes
New Years Eve was a complete drama. From boys who never texted back, to house parties with new friends in Brooklyn, and a train back to the city for the countdown. I jumped in a cab and head to the only place I knew would be busy, with no ID check: Kingswood. By 4am, I came home and changed into Converse and a sweater in search of pizza. I live a block from Little Italy and not an open pizza shop to be found. Believe me, the city can sleep!
I get redirected to Louis
My first jazz experience in the city involved a saxophone, drums, a bass player and $13 cocktails at Louis. The sophisticated melody lifted one’s thoughts, forcing them to flow. The expressions on the musicians faces appeared to be possessed by the rhythm. I guess they were.
I caught the 6 train uptown to 86
Getting around on public transport is seriously easy. And it always sounds seriously dramatic.
on living my dream
Kelly reaches out to her network, Isaac Mizrahi (“now at Saks!”), Temperley London and Diane von Furstenberg. Now we play the waiting game.
I extended my stay in New York City for one reason and one reason only: to attend New York Fashion Week. Not only attend. To gain access to working with designers, seeing shows and perhaps more importantly, attending the after parties. Kelly has me help around her studio with filing, rearranging and trimming her hats. I give her a hand by sewing on things like bows, braids and bands.
My mission today is to get into the fashion tent
“I’m here for Betsey Johnson at 2pm, I’m here for Betsey Johnson at 2pm, I’m here for Betsey Johnson at 2pm.” I recited my lines to gain entry into the tent. That was the easy part, getting into the show would be much harder. I grab a coffee and take it all in. “Holy shit, Tyra Banks just walked past”. I join the queue, I’m ushered to the side. I sense the lights beginning to dim, I hear the music start. I’m led to an entrance. Oh my glob! I’m IN! I’m IN!
The following day, I do it all again “Badgley Mischka at 1pm, Badgley Mischka at 1pm, Badgley Mischka at 1pm”. It worked again, and this time I get a goodie bag to take home. The third day I test my luck with Michael Kors at 3pm. No chance, my luck had worn out. As the show comes to a close, out walks Anna Wintour and none other than Donald Trump.
But I couldn’t dare turn my head to gawk, Nylon magazine were taking a picture of my hat (one of Kelly’s beautiful designs.) I rushed back to her studio to tell her all about it when she offered me a ticket to the Temperley London after party. A sip of Moët, a goggle at the room’s fashion choices and a flirt with wait staff. Being a twenty-year-old never felt so good.
on unemotional goodbyes
They admire me, I can tell. (Two days at Fashion Week and I’m a dribbling narcissist)
By early February it seemed the community around me were starting to move on and move out. Flying home, visa runs, off on holiday. The final week consisted of many farewell parties. I always knew it had been a good day when I’d write about ‘treating’ myself to a cab.
I will go home with a love for the people, and the life of the city. Most of all, I’m grateful for always feeling safe.
You just never know what luck the big city has for you. And surprisingly, all mine came from the one place I technically wasn’t allowed to be in – bars. (Then again, rules are meant to be broken.) I found the most kind, most giving people and notwithstanding, I fell head over heels for fashion.
Surprised I wasn’t more emotional to leave, somewhere deep down, I know I’m not done with New York City and all it’s wondering offerings.
I guess the old saying rings true. “And if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere!”.
Ode to New York City final note: I’m happy to inform you that The Dead Poet, Ruby’s and Kelly Christie is still in business today. Sadly, Kingswood and Louis are permanently closed.