What to Expect When Australians Visit New York

I’m Australian, so obviously I have Australian friends and family. I’ve been in New York just under a year and in that time have seen 12 friends and family members here. Some had already planned to come before I moved, and others decided to come partly to see New York and partly to see me.

It took me time to get used to things here, and I know some things are different to home. I also know some things here seem really exciting and cool when you don’t live here or haven’t been before. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what it was like the first time you came here but other times, you have zero patience for things you’ve already done that your friends want to do.

Here’s what to expect when an Australian comes to visit you in New York:

“Why Don’t They Just Add Tax to the Price?”
This conversation will happen everywhere, over and over and over and over, even though the answer was explained in the first conversation.

Here’s the thing, no one really knows why the sales tax isn’t included in the price you see on the shelf, on the menu, or on the board. No one knows exactly how much it’ll be when it comes time to pay. And whingeing about it every time you underestimate the cost of something will not change the fact you have to fucking pay it.

This conversation is the worst when the check comes at the end of a meal. Generally, we split the bill equally here unless someone went crazy on drinks. Restaurants, bars, and cafes don’t have an issue with taking multiple cards like they do in Australia. Try asking someone in a cafe in Sydney to split the bill equally between four people, all on different cards, and see how that goes.

But watch a group of Australians get a check here.

Australian one: “Wait, how much was that?”
Australian two: “Mine was only fiftee – oh, why is it that much?”
Person who lives here: “Yeah guys they added sales tax.”
Australians: “What? Ugh why can’t they just include the tax? In Australia you know how much things are when you order them!”
Person who lives here: “Shut up.”

“10% is an OK Tip, Right?”
No you tightarse, it’s not. I don’t care that we don’t tip in Australia and I don’t care that you think the service doesn’t warrant anything over 10%. That isn’t the point.

The person serving you doesn’t set the prices, and they don’t set their own wages. Yes, it’s indicative of a bigger problem but the fact is, waiters and bartenders get paid nothing. Help them out when you can.

Are They Meant to Pour That Much Alcohol in My Drink?
In Australia, alcohol is very expensive and very regulated. A vodka soda there will cost you around $9, and it will only contain one shot of alcohol. Here, it might cost the same and you might have had to tip someone $1 for it but my God it’s worth it.

Australians will whinge about the cost until they watch the bartender pour that drink without measuring it. They’ll then look at you like “Did they make a mistake?” then proceed to get hammered off three drinks. It’s not a mistake. It’s the best damn thing ever, and god help me when I go back to Australia.

“Let’s Go to (Insert Tourist Attraction Here)”
I’m sure people who live here have the same conversation with people places other than Australia, but this is something I have gone through multiple times.

I tend to not enjoy being in crowded places – and I do see the irony in that statement considering my current location – but there are many places in New York, Brooklyn especially, that are lively and interesting without being full of tourists. Your usual New York attractions are a completely different story:

  • Times Square is the worst fucking place on earth
  • The Empire State Building takes forever to get to the top of, and it’s also boring
  • Rockefeller Center is full of chain restaurants
  • Top of the Rock attracts every annoying tourist with a DSLR in the world
  • Central Park is OK if you don’t have allergies (which I do, so)
  • Midtown streets are boring and ugly, especially around Macy’s and Madison Square Garden
  • The Staten Island Ferry takes a long time and you can’t see the Statue of Liberty that well anyway

And so on.

The worst though is when you have a friend coming for New Year’s Eve. I’m lucky to have had great New Year’s Eve experiences. I’ve been to multiple Falls Festivals, thrown house parties – the clean up was worth it to not have to deal with public transport – and I’ve been to the event they have at Opera Bar looking out at the Sydney Harbor fireworks for free.

It’s summer in January so the weather is generally pleasant and warm. Being outside isn’t a problem, and there’s always a lot of room to move around if you’re at an event.

It’s not like that here in January.

My friend made plans to visit me for Christmas and New Year and in our first conversation about it, he tried to make me agree to go to Times Square on New Year’s Eve. This continued for the five months between him booking his flights and arriving in New York.

times square

Every single person I know here made a face and said “no” when I mentioned the possibility of Times Square on NYE. Finally, on New Year’s Eve when no one wanted to pay $600 for a ticket to a crowded bar full of tourists, we went to my friend’s party.
We got to see the trainwreck that was Mariah Carey, the crowds of people wearing diapers, and the ball drop (still don’t even know what that is) on TV from the comfort of a warm bar.

Australian friends and family, keep coming to visit me. I love seeing you and I love showing you around. Just don’t ask me to go with you to Times Square. Please.

The Five Worst Dates I’ve Had in New York

Dating is hard. I don’t think it matters what city you’re in, what year it is, if you’re a male or female, or if you’re using dating apps or not. It’s just really fucking hard. Dating, or just basic romantic interaction, is the inspiration for blogs, TV shows, movies, songs. Businesses. This is because everyone finds it hard and wants to talk about how hard it is.

Some dates are great, and lead to love. Some are OK, and lead to nothing. Some are bad, and lead to funny stories.

When I first arrived in New York I dated a LOT. It was summer, I didn’t really know anyone, and I didn’t have a lot going on at work. It didn’t matter if I turned up on four hours of sleep, or hungover… or hungover and on four hours of sleep. These conditions are perfect for dating, and I organized dates all over Manhattan and Brooklyn in my first few months here.

These are the worst experiences I’ve had:

1. The “You’re Just Not Crazy Enough” Date
I met this guy in a cafe somewhere around Flatiron/Gramercy after work, off a 6 subway stop. Between telling me that I speak too quietly (fair point, probably, but maybe you should just… listen better?) and that he prefers Muay Thai to kickboxing, not that I asked, I found out he is divorced and has a stepson.

He quite clearly made up that he “forgot” about a comedy show “somewhere in Brooklyn” he’d planned to go to. I was relieved it was ending, but didn’t want to end up on the same subway.

This is how things went in my head:
Fuck. I’m going to Brooklyn too… I don’t want to be on the same subway. Find out where he’s going and pretend you’re not getting the same subway! Yes good plan Justine. OK.
Me: “So where in Brooklyn?”
Him: “Ummm Williamsburg I think.”
Damn it I’M going to Williamsburg. Ugh. OK.
Me: “Oh cool… which subway are you taking?”
Him: “Yeah, I just need to say that I don’t think this will work. You seem really smart and sweet but I need someone a bit more out there because I’m basically insane. So yeah I think we should just leave it there.”
Me: “Um OK. Bye.”

I need to give background. I had only just arrived in NY. I didn’t have close friends to talk to. Obviously, I had ways of talking to my friends in other places, but the fact I didn’t have anyone to go to immediately just made me really lonely.

I was also dealing with the end of something long term, so I wasn’t really in a place to handle public rejection. Everyone nearby heard what he had said, saw him shake his head to himself while he said it, and had to watch me walk out alone. Humiliating.
I did get a chance to tell him how I felt though:


2. The “I Forgot We’ve Already Met” Date
As I said, I went on a lot of dates in summer. I’m sure others did too. But, I hope I would remember if someone I had already met turned up again. I met this guy at a bar in Williamsburg.
He was really cool, a total unashamed, self-described lumberjack/hipster. He created his own little community in Williamsburg by drinking alone at bars and befriending the staff, even inviting them over for dinner. If that guy had liked me, I would have kept dating him. We had a good time, we did text a few times after to set something up but New York life kind of got in the way. I started using a different dating site and received a message from him. Same photos, same general bio, and same points in the first conversation.

“Oh, you’re Australian? That’s so cool, I love Australian music…” and so on.
We chatted back and forth and I mentioned a couple of bands who had recently played in New York, the same bands I’d mentioned on our first date, wondering if that would help his memory. It didn’t. He then asked for my phone number, and I had to say I’d known all along we’d already met and was playing to see how long it would take him to remember.

He seemed embarrassed, and we did go out twice after that, texted a little but then that was the end. The actual dates themselves were fun. I made friends with one of his friends at the bar we were at, and sang George Michael songs with her, and we went to two awesome shows. But it’s pretty embarrassing that someone didn’t remember me.

3. The “I’m Too Wasted to Stand Up So You Need to Send Me Home” Date
Ah, now this one was different. We’d already met, already been dating for a couple of weeks. He’d been watching football all day, I had been shopping around Park Slope and working on this blog. I started getting texts after the game had finished, a game I had thought would finish much later because fucking American football takes for FUCKING ever because this so-called “chess game” stops play every two seconds and people apparently aren’t capable of running more than a few meters at a time and they’re too fucking pussy to even be tackled properly and, I’m sorry… side issue. I miss Rugby League sometimes, OK?

Anyway. I said I wasn’t ready to meet yet, and still had to finish things and get ready to go out. I said not to come and meet me at the bar up the street from my house until I said so, because I didn’t want him to wait alone. He then texted 20 minutes later saying he was at the bar. I kept doing what I was doing, but skipped a couple of steps getting ready.

When I got to the bar he had befriended a couple. The woman was great, the man was not, and upon finding out I was Australian said he could name all the states (he couldn’t) and made a big deal about how we all eat Vegemite and own kangaroos or some shit. Meanwhile, the guy I was meeting was so drunk he couldn’t focus his eyes properly, couldn’t stand, (to be fair he’d injured his hip so it might have been partly that) and kept forgetting things I had said a minute before.

We left to go next door to another bar that had food, and he said I could go ahead while he finished his cigarette… even though the door was literally next to where he was standing and I’d said it was OK for me to wait outside with him. We got inside, he told me he was a “broken person” as an excuse for drinking too much while watching a football game, and I sent him home in an Uber we had to walk two blocks to get to because he’d put in the wrong location.

He sent me a text saying I’d “completely fucked him over… thanks” even though I hadn’t actually done anything. Did I end that dating experience then and there? No. It took him not giving me anything for Christmas (he wasn’t even Jewish) and then getting way too wasted and embarrassing me on NYE to end that one… I’m a slow learner.

4. The “I’m Sarcastic, Not a Dick. You Just Don’t Get Me” Date
I met a guy in the East Village, who proceeded to tell me how much better the Upper East Side is than anywhere else. Any time I would say anything about Williamsburg or even Brooklyn in general, he would make a snarky remark.
He challenged everything I said, continued to bring up Australian cliches like kangaroos (seriously Americans, you need to get over the kangaroo thing) and said there were no mosquitoes on the upper east side like there are in Williamsburg. Needless to say, there was no second date.

5. The “I’m Wearing a Fedora” Date
You know when you get an indication a date is going to be bad even before you go on it? Well, that’s what happened. We arranged to meet at IFC in the Village.
This guy worked for BAM and could get free tickets to movies. I was grateful for that of course. And by the end of the date I was grateful we’d been in a theater where you don’t have to talk for most of the night. I said I would meet him at the front of IFC and described what I was wearing.

I got this response:


We met, we watched the movie, we got on the F to Delancey to go to a bar called The Backroom. You might have heard about it.

On the subway, he asked if I went to art shows, and when I explained I have a very short attention span and often get bored at art galleries and exhibitions, he said that it’s important to really study paintings and art works to understand what the artist wanted to convey. This is probably true, but not something I’m terribly interested in tbh. The conversation wasn’t really going anywhere, he would ask questions, I would answer, and he would relate them back to himself.

The real kicker was when he said he’d read some of my reviews (I’d sent him links to my blog) and they were good, but when he writes reviews he likes to be ‘more academic, yet still accessible.’ I left soon after, we did not go home together and we did not see each other again.

I’ve been on good dates too, of course, but it’s fun to write about the bad ones. Even if a date is bad, you’ll get a good story out of it. I haven’t been on a date since old mate fedora… but don’t feel sorry for me. I like being on my own, and don’t need to fill my time with sub-par dates.

Roommates in New York Suck

I’ve only shared two places since I arrived in New York. I shared the first place in Williamsburg with a great girl who ended up moving to Portland. I was in the other girl who lived there’s room while she traveled around Europe, and moved to the other room when she came back.

She was away for most of the time I was there, which was great. At the time, I found her a little intense but this was nothing compared to what I would go through with the next roommate. Oh, by the way Australians “roommate” = “housemate.” I was not sharing a room with anyone!

It started out fine in Park Slope. I was sharing with one other girl, who’s around the same age and has a similar job to mine. She liked to read a lot, and she liked the same TV shows I did, so while I knew we wouldn’t be besties – like I was with most of the people I lived with in Australia – I thought we would get along.

  • The Kitchenware Debacle
    I have shared houses for about ten years now. I understand the importance of bringing things into the house when you move in. The Park Slope girl… let’s call her ‘Loser’… told me I could use her kitchen things and didn’t need to buy new ones when I first met her.
    Seeing as I had arrived with basically nothing, I spent most of my time and money decorating my bedroom. I did intend to buy plates, cups, cutlery, etc eventually but this wasn’t a priority since you can’t sleep on a plate, I don’t cook often, and she’d said I could use hers.
    One night, she was watching ‘Nashville’ in the living room, and I sat down and joined her. She looked at me and said “You can use my plates and cups for now until you get your own,” in a very passive-aggressive way.
    I got up, finished my meal in my bedroom and ordered plates, cups, and cutlery online immediately. Something I was planning to do anyway and something she hadn’t said was a problem previously.
  • The Amazon Fire Stick Incident
    Loser had an Amazon Fire Stick (a device you plug into the TV that gives you access to Netflix and other fun things) set up in the living room. I used it maybe three times and she had said this was fine.
    One night, I felt like watching ‘Friends.’ I’d watched maybe ten minutes and she came out of her room, all cranky, telling me to watch something else because she was watching ‘Pretty Little Liars’ (ha, see, ‘Nashville’ and ‘Pretty Little Liars’? LOSER) but had paused it because she was on the phone. About three days later she told me her Fire Stick had broken, (*sneeze* BULLSHIT *sneeze*) so she’d moved the one from the living room to her bedroom. And if I wanted to use the TV, I could get my own.
  • The “Call the Super!” Night
    I got home late one Friday night – she was already home – and the toilet was running. Yes, this is annoying, and yes, it’s something you think you can fix yourself but you can’t. I went out again on Saturday, and most of Sunday, and on Sunday night she yelled at me for how I hadn’t called the Super about it, and suggested I had broken it again after she had “fixed” it.
    This is despite the fact maintenance people don’t usually take kindly to you asking them to do things for you on weekends, and she had already texted the Super (the guy who fixes things in the building, for my Australian friends playing at home) to come in the next day.
  • The Secret Vacation
    One morning, when I was getting ready to go to boxing at 5:50am (YES, this is what time I get up. YES, it’s insane. YES it’s also worth it) I could see light coming from her bedroom. Since she is a Loser, she gets up at the same time every day and anything outside of this routine is weird. When she wasn’t there that night, I assumed she’d gone home for the Holidays (Christmas, New Year) for a while. It was great to have the house to myself, but it’s also great to know how long you’ll have it for. And to, you know, communicate with the people you live with so they don’t worry. Not that I would – but she didn’t know that.
  • The Surprise Moving Day
    The day of the Oscars was great. I got to see ‘Moonlight’ take out Best Picture over ‘La La Land’ after they’d all thought they’d won – haha – and I found out Loser was leaving. I, being an organized Type A person, started looking for new furniture immediately. I contacted people about couches, ordered a coffee table, a new bed with storage so I could move my bookcase into the living room, a toaster, and a microwave. When I asked on the Tuesday if she knew when she was leaving, she told me she didn’t have an exact date yet, but she would keep me updated.
    Thursday night, I got home and saw piles of boxes in the living room. We had been texting and emailing about potential replacement roommates, so I asked her if she was moving on the weekend in one of those texts. No reply.Next day, I was supposed to have a bed delivered, so I organized to work from home. Loser had left at her usual time, so I assumed she was just getting really organized to move on the weekend, or early the next week, since I hadn’t heard otherwise.

I logged in to my computer, and Loser walked in the house. “Oh, hey, just so you know the movers are coming now,” she said in her stupid voice and walked into her room. I went and hid in my room, wrote a hilarious Facebook update, and waited.

My hilarious Facebook post

When I couldn’t hear anyone any more, I went into the living room and it was empty. Completely. Empty. Of course, I don’t expect someone to leave their own things they need/want in the house when they move. But I do expect to be told when said things will not be in the house any more.

She came back to the house that afternoon, and the next day. And decided to lock her bedroom, so that when a girl I was showing the room to was on her way to see it, I had to tell her not to come because I couldn’t open the door.
When I asked Loser why she locked her room, she said it was because she’d left things “including a jar of money” in there. I got very mad, and sent her the below.
No reply, but by Monday night her room was completely empty.

“If you don’t need to be here when people are seeing the room, then you don’t really need to know when they’ll be here. I can do all of that to save you time, and direct them to you to work out the official stuff. By the way, I really doubt anyone would steal money out of your bedroom, and if you’re that concerned then maybe take it with you. I have my own money and I don’t think a person looking at the room with me there with them would try to steal anything.

I also didn’t really appreciate you not telling me when you were moving everything out when I asked about it a couple of times last week, and you leaving a huge garbage bag of your old food in the kitchen that started leaking everywhere. If you just wanted to get out ASAP, that’s fine. You don’t need to be petty about it though.
If you can make sure the door is unlocked so I can show those two people the room tomorrow at 8pm and Tuesday at 8:30pm, it’ll make this whole thing a lot quicker.”

The day she moved out, I went and bought some cushions to sit on.
I had this setup. Luckily, I only had one night of feeling like I was in ‘Trainspotting.’

Life imitating art imitating life










Is there a moral to this story? Choose life… wait, not that story. My story.

I recommend being more discerning about people you’re going to live with, and never assume anything. That, and make enough money to get your own place so you don’t have to deal with other people’s personality problems.




Locked In – A Lesson in Irony

I’d lived in New York for three weeks. I’d stayed in and moved between two sublet apartments, started a new job, met countless new people, and just cut the only person I’d known in New York before I arrived out of my life. In short, I was fucking stressed and needed a release.

I’d gone to a few yoga studios in Park Slope before, but the one I chose in my stress-release mission had a Restorative class that made me feel like I had light coming out of my head. It was frequented by the kind of health-fad conscious women who bought the studio’s $10 gluten-free treats, and finished each class looking like they’d stepped out of a yoga commercial.

I, on the other hand, usually finished classes looking like a sweat-drowned rat and it was no different on this swampy July afternoon. The deep breathing we’d done at the end of the class had made me release all my stress into my scented eye pillow, something I thought I’d done discreetly. It wasn’t until I went to change out of my soggy clothes that I realized the stress was all over my face, letting everyone know I’d forgotten to take off my mascara.

I used wet toilet paper to de-goth my eyes which, in hindsight, took a lot longer than expected. I opened the door into the dark studio and got ready to give an awkward apology to whoever was there waiting. Only, when I got to the front desk, I realized there was no one there to apologize to.

My first thought was “OH thank God I don’t have to do the awkward apology!”
Then, when I realized a shutter locked from the outside was covering the door, my next thought was “How the FUCK do I get out of here?”

“Climb out the window? See if there’s a back exit? Try the other windows?”
The options my brain presented me were like a morbid Choose Your Own Adventure! story that would lead to my certain death. I tried calling the studio hoping it would divert to someone’s cell phone, but the click of the answering machine I heard next to me proved otherwise.

I called 911. I have never called an emergency line for an actual emergency before. That is, unless you count calling the police to ask them to remind the neighbors across the street that screaming “To the window, to the wall! To the sweat drop down my balls, to all you bitches crawl!” along with their stereo at 1am, is an emergency.

The fact the operator could decipher anything I was saying through my sobbing rant is nothing short of a miracle, and she told me the Fire Department were on their way. I sat and ate two $10 gluten-free muesli dirt bars while I waited, giving the studio owners a big mental “FUCK YOU” as I chewed. I could hear sirens getting closer, then I heard a deep voice through the door.

“Can you reach the window?”
“Are there any other windows you can reach?”
“OK, we’re going to start cutting!”

The shutter lifted. The light afternoon sun and a group of strangers exercising their right to intrude on someone else’s problem greeted me. The men from the Fire Department made sure I was OK and left quickly. I watched them leave wishing I could too, while I explained to the next-door neighbors how I’d been abandoned.


After I assured them I was fine and gave them my details to pass on to the owner, I started walk-crying. This is a term all New Yorkers should be familiar with; it best describes the times you have no choice but to walk and cry simultaneously.

I walk-cried to the subway station and thought about the irony. I’d gone to the yoga studio to release the stress I’d been feeling and had ended up getting broken out of there crying.

What should I do to get over this? I likened the situation to being stuck in a traffic jam when you’re already late. Or perhaps, a “No Smoking” sign on your cigarette break.
All you can do is give it a quick “FUCK YOU” and try to find a new stress release.


I Heart Park Slope

I hadn’t been to Park Slope before I moved to New York. For those not in the know, it’s in South Brooklyn, not in Manhattan. I hadn’t spent a lot of time in Brooklyn in general, except for one or two trips to Williamsburg, and one night in Dumbo.

When I was spending my last weeks at work doing nothing but researching apartments and clothes, I found an ad for a short sublet in Park Slope. The owner needed someone to stay in his apartment for two weeks, starting from the day I was set to arrive in New York.

We had a quick Skype call, I signed an agreement and sent him some money, and we stayed in touch until I was on my way to New York from LA. Sadly, due to my lack of urgency getting to LAX from Hollywood, I missed my early flight and didn’t get to meet him to get the keys. I had tickets to see The Cure that night, so I chose to stay in a hotel in Chelsea (not THE Chelsea Hotel, though the thought of giving someone head in an unmade bed there like Janis Joplin did doesn’t disgust me) and go to the Park Slope house the next day instead.

I wasn’t prepared for the way the neighborhood was going to win me over. Brownstones towered over the streets that were covered in leaves from the trees that lined the edges. There were books left in boxes for strangers to enjoy, and families walked their dogs up and down the streets together.
I found myself just going for walks just to enjoy the summer sun – something I have never thought of as a good pastime – and just smiling at everything and everyone.

Brownstones, trees, sun. Beautiful Park Slope.

The time came to leave the sublet house which was only a block away from Prospect Park, and move to another place in Williamsburg; still in Brooklyn, but in the trendier northern part. To say Williamsburg was a visual disappointment is an understatement.

In place of the brownstones Park Slope is known for, Williamsburg has a mixture of new unaffordable high-rises, old weatherboard houses, and converted warehouses. In place of the trees, garbage bags. In place of the books, nothing. In place of charming little families with dogs, rude hipsters with ironic hair.

But it wasn’t just the visuals that drew me back to Park Slope. People in Williamsburg kind of suck.* Any time I went out to get food, coffee, drinks, clothes – fucking anything – I was immediately turned off by people’s attitudes.

People walking slowly to get and give me my takeout order after standing around staring at their own tattoos for five minutes. A guy telling my friend and I not to move chairs in a café since we were ‘blocking the entrance’ (we weren’t). A guy at a bar yelling at me after I told him he’d poured me the wrong beer. Girls giving me the up and down stare and eye-roll in trendy Bedford Avenue shops. People staring at me because I wasn’t wearing a fucking hat at Toby’s Estate.

The ugly streets of Williamsburg. Pretty sunset though.

Park Slope has much more of a community vibe, and people are actually nice to each other. I have some favorite places so far, but I’m sure I’ll add many more as I spend more time here.

1. Rise – 5th Avenue and 14th Street, Brooklyn
This is not a restaurant, bar, or café. This is my kickboxing studio. I first went to Rise on a ClassPass… pass? when I was staying at my first Park Slope apartment. The instructor, Carrie, was so friendly and lovely, and even though I couldn’t meet her enthusiasm and energy at 6am, I loved training with her right away.

The classes are so FUCKING HARD, but in the best possible way. I’ve done things with Rise – jump rope, burpees, gotten out of bed at 5:30am to get the subway to Park Slope from Williamsburg to go to class – that I’ve never managed to master before. I look forward to my classes, I look forward to being challenged, and I especially look forward to training with Carrie. She remembers everyone’s name even if you’ve only met her once, she laughs at my Snapchats about how much she made my body ache in class, and she tells us all she loves us all the time. I’m so grateful I’ve found a place that makes me feel so strong and happy every time I go to a class.

2. Roots Café – 5th Avenue and 18th Street, Brooklyn
The first time I went into Roots, the owner served me and told me the drink I chose – the salted caramel latte – was her favorite drink on the menu. She also asked me where I was from and said I have a very elegant voice. She thanks every customer for coming in, invites them to come back, and remembers the regulars’ orders. In short, she makes you feel wanted.

3. Woops! Bake Shop – 5th Avenue and 17th Street, Brooklyn
I’m not sure if the guy I see most mornings is the owner, but whoever he is, he always remembers my order and makes the mornings less terrible. He also plays great music; I’m often greeted by Beatles’ album songs like ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’ and ‘I Want to Tell You’, or some classic blues music when I walk in. They also have the best chocolate muffins I’ve ever eaten in my life.

I love living in Park Slope. Every time I leave the house I smile to myself because of how beautiful it is, even in the dark and rain. I urge anyone who visits New York to come to this neighborhood and enjoy its beauty, and pick up a free book from a stoop.

*Note: there was an exception! The people at Reunion on Union Avenue in Williamsburg are awesome.

What I’ve Learnt Since I Moved to New York

I’ve been here four months now but it feels like I’ve been here for years. Time goes a bit differently here. Or maybe I’m just getting old. I’m reminded of things through the ‘On This Day’ feature on Facebook and most of the time I think “I remember that! It doesn’t feel like it happened four, five, six years ago!”

In my four months, I have learnt some things and changed my thinking in some ways. I’ve been more trusting of other people, and more careless than I should have been. As a result, there were some hard lessons to learn.

Don’t Trust Other People To Do The Right Thing By You:
In my first few months here, I managed to:

  • Get locked in a yoga studio after the last class of the day
  • Get scammed by someone selling fake Radiohead tickets on Craigslist
  • Lose my passport
  • Lose my phone

I’ve always been a lucky person. I’m never that person who loses things or gets scammed. Of course I’ve had some bad luck in my life, but I’ve also seen many more people have consistently worse luck than I do.

My attitude in life is a little naive but I tend to believe that if you have a good outlook and do the right thing by others, that it will be returned to you somehow.
I learnt very, very quickly that just thinking things will work out because you want them to is not realistic. And it’s especially not realistic when you live in a place with millions of people crammed into it.

Yes, bad things can happen when you live somewhere small too, and of course things can go well in a big city. But if you’re not looking out for yourself when you’re around a lot of people, there’s a bigger chance of something bad happening.

Don’t trust other people to do the right thing by you. If it comes down to them helping themselves, or helping you, most of the time they’ll help themselves. Make sure you take care of yourself, and don’t expect to be lucky all the time.


Radiohead tickets! One real, one fake. Can you guess which is which?*


It Is Expensive to Live Here:
But only when you’ve had bad luck like I have and wasted money on fake tickets, replaced your passport and your phone.

Otherwise, alcohol in bodegas and supermarkets and CHEMISTS (yes, that’s right, they sell beer and wine in the chemist) is cheap. Transport is cheap. Food (when you cook it yourself, and hello, dollar slices!) is cheap.

If you’re living the high life and going out to dinner, lunch, and brunch regularly then it will add up. If you’re taking Ubers or taxis from one side of Brooklyn to the other side of Manhattan, and paying $10 per drink (including tip) on nights out every week, then you will eventually look at your bank account and cry.

The luxuries are expensive, but the basics are cheap. And this is a big, welcome change after coming from Australia where everything is expensive.

You Don’t Have to Plan Everything. Or Anything:
I lived in Sydney for 8.5 years, and spent a lot of time worrying about my plans for the week, or for the weekend. I very rarely did things at the last minute, and if I did it was things like going shopping, or going to a movie.

I would often feel a bit anxious if I didn’t have plans to do something on a weekend. But here, I know I can decide on something at the last minute if I want to. I know something will always come up and there will be options for me to choose from.

I also know I can stay home and watch Netflix and not feel bad – yes, there’s a huge exciting city to go and have fun in – sometimes it’s OK to stay in, stay warm, and catch up on your stories.

* The bottom one is the fake.


Moving to New York

So many things have been written about New York. Honestly, SO MANY THINGS.

Before I got here, I had been introduced to it from the hugely popular book series, The Babysitters Club. This, of course, happened when I was a young girl. Not when I was old enough to actually come here. For those unfamiliar with this amazing series, a group of girls formed a club so they could babysit for kids in their neighborhood. Hence, the title, The Babysitters Club!

The reason I liked this series, apart from the fact it was really easy to read – according to my Year Five teacher I was a lazy reader – was because these girls were so independent. They always had so much fun. They had so much freedom. I did not have that freedom.

A couple of books had the group of girls go to New York City on the train (alone) from Stonybrook, Connecticut. A group of 13 year old girls (and two 11 year-olds; shout outs to Jessi and Mallory!) were allowed to traipse around a huge city that by most accounts, was not a safe place back then. They went out to lunch, to dinner, to fucking Bloomingdale’s, and around Central Park all alone.

Reading this – obviously fictional series – I often wondered why I couldn’t have that same freedom, and why I didn’t have options like that available to me. I lived in the literal middle of nowhere.

I once said to my mum that I wanted to be able to “leave the house, tell you I’m going out, and then NOT COME BACK UNTIL I WANT TO!” She calmly explained to me that I was ten, and (quite rightly) I wouldn’t be going anywhere without her knowing about it.

But this feeling carried over into being a teenager, and again when I was an adult.

While I would mainly feel this way when I spent time at home in Grafton – at 25 I told my mum I hated being away from Sydney and at home for too long because I wanted to just go for a walk and get a coffee, and I CAN’T DO THAT HERE – it started to become more apparent in Sydney, too.

  • Why can’t I go and get a drink at 2am if I want one? Why can’t I go buy some alcohol to drink at home at midnight?
    (This is why.) 
  • Why can’t I look up what’s going on in my city on any given night and find something amazing to do?
    (This is why.)
  • Why can’t I go out and get a meal that isn’t Maccas or a kebab after 10pm?
    (Because the options are very limited.)

This huge FOMO I had was made worse after I visited New York for the first time in November 2014. New York is a place that’s been represented, recreated, and fed to me through so many TV shows, movies, and songs. A place I already kind of knew before I even arrived, a place I recognized even though I’d never been before.

There’s something about it that makes you feel like anything is possible. And I don’t mean that in an ultimate, #blessed #followyourdreams kind of trite inspo way. I mean it in a smaller, every day way.

I can go anywhere I want, at any time I want. I can start Friday with no plans for the night or the rest of the weekend, and then realize on Sunday night that I managed to fill up two whole days with last minute, fun plans. I can find something last minute and different to do every night of the week.

It’s also the kind of place where, since there are so many people crowded in it, things are bound to go wrong sometimes.

But even when you feel like everything is hopeless, or when you have that quick stab of realization that your closest friends and family aren’t around you – something that usually presents itself on a crowded subway in peak hour when everyone seems to be looking right at your face – something little will happen that reminds you it’s OK.

For me, it’s seeing people being kind to others even when they don’t have to be. Or watching the city lights flash past from an Uber going over the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, when I was too tired or lazy to get the subway home.
And seeing the morning sun over the city from the Manhattan Bridge, when I’m jammed up against the wall of the subway with three other people touching me.

On one particularly difficult night, I’d been in line for a bus home (one of those big yellow school buses) from a music festival for about an hour.

I was feeling anxious being alone with all these people who were obviously in groups with their friends, and my mind did its thing where it asked: “What if it’ll always be like this? Going to festivals alone! Being alone on a bus home! Being alone… FOREVER!”

When I finally got on the bus, I was questioning all the life decisions I’d made to date, and convinced that everything was ruined. I would never get used to New York. Never get over this feeling. Never not be alone.

A guy in the row next to me looked around at everyone, and out of nowhere started singing:
“In the town, where I was born. Lived a man… who sailed to sea. And he told us of his life, in the land of submarines.”
As he continued “So we sailed, into the sun, til we found a sea of green. And we lived beneath the waves, in our yellow submarine,” more people joined in.

Then the whole bus was singing “We all live in a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine!”

It was like that scene in Almost Famous. Something so small, as some loudmouth guy wanting to sing to change the mood on the bus, completely changed how I was feeling.

And that’s something I try to think about when things haven’t gone my way here. I look for the good. I look for the reason behind the lesson.

I will be writing a lot more about my experiences so far, but this is a short introduction into the start of my ongoing love affair with this amazing city. I hope you’ll continue to follow my steps!

Live Review: Children Collide – The Annandale (29.12.12)

Children Collide played an intimate show at The Annandale Hotel in Sydney to finish off an eventful and turbulent 2012.

The first time I saw Children Collide on their own headline tour was at The Annandale, in 2008. They’d supported many bands around Australia in the lead up to that show and managed to sell The Annandale out that night. Fast forward four years and things have changed. The band have released two studio albums since then, they’ve enlisted a new drummer and Johnny Mackay has relocated to New York City.

This gig didn’t sell out. It’s unclear whether the timing of the gig is wrong, being between Christmas and the New Year, or if the band haven’t won over many new fans with most recent album Monument. It’s bizarre to see them in such a small space and still be able to move to the front row easily.

Children Collide were late on stage, making the crowd unsettled. They opened with old track ‘Terrible Lizard’ and moved into new track ‘The Flat Earth’. There were a few problems with sound in the first few songs, there’s a bad mix and the bass is muddy. Although, this could be because I was standing right next to the bass amps, in front of bass player Heath Crawley.

Lead singer Johnny Mackay didn’t address the crowd between the first few songs and rushed through them; old favourite ‘Skeleton Dance’ was without its final solo and chorus, and newer single ‘Sword to A Gunfight’ was also cut short.

‘Across The Earth’ saw the crowd become a lot more aminated and Mackay crowd surfed, still playing the guitar solo. Things got a bit rough with ‘Prussian Blue’, but when you’ve seen them a few times, you come to expect these things to happen and no one was hurt.

Songs from Monument are generally well-received but it’s the tracks from The Long Now that really had people going crazy tonight. The singalong and crowd participation in ‘Farewell Rocketship’ is always the most fun and jumping around to ‘Chosen Armies’ and ‘Social Currency’ has become a standard at a Children Collide gig. We were finally introduced to new drummer Mitch McGregor – the drummer from Dardanelles, who replaced Ryan Caesar in early 2012 – within the last three songs of the set.

They finished up with an energetic version of ‘Jelly Legs’ and the usual set closer ‘Fire Engine’. There was no point waiting for an encore, they never play them, and everyone shuffles out after the band throw themselves and their instruments around and walk off stage.

They put on a great show at The Annandale, as they always do, but I can’t help being a little disappointed that this gig wasn’t sold out. They haven’t lost their talent or performing ability but they may be slowly starting to lose the ability to win new fans or wow their old ones.

Live Review: Deep Sea Arcade and The Preatures – The Metro (30.11.2012)

The Preatures come on stage to a welcoming all-ages crowd at The Metro. From the very start of their set, they show enthusiasm and appreciation to be supporting Deep Sea Arcade. They play to an almost full venue but most people are sitting down on the steps.

Despite their interaction with each other, evident ease while playing and a whole lot of talent and sexiness, their set drags a little because of the poor mix and problems with the sound. The bass is much too heavy for their music and it drowns the vocals out.

About halfway through the set, singer/guitarist Gideon Bensen puts down his guitar to strut around the stage and sing. He looks a little like Alex Turner from The Arctic Monkeys, both in hair-style and stage presence.
The Preatures finish their set with a slow song but the poor sound means that Isabella Manfredi‘s voice isn’t as loud as it should be and somewhat overshadowed by the guitars.

Deep Sea Arcade come on stage a little late and they too fall prey to dodgy sound. All through the first three or four songs, they have a roadie moving around on stage, checking cables and unplugging amps. Singer Nic McKenzie can’t be heard well and there is a bit of feedback coming from the guitars.

It is incredibly disappointing for this to happen to such a talented band. It’s not clear whether it’s because of the poor sound, or if there’s something else going on but they seem to move quickly through their set and only stop briefly between songs to take a photo of the crowd – asking them to look like zombies.

‘Steam’ gets a huge reception and the sound improves which is a huge relief. Things improve from here, the set no longer feels rushed and there’s no more feedback. ‘Lonely In Your Arms’ is also a success and has the front part of the crowd jumping around.

New song ‘Black Cat’ sounds great, a lot heavier than what we’ve heard from Outlands and it features a Wolfmother/Led Zeppelin-esque riff. The diehard fans at the front seem to know it but the rest of us nod our heads politely.

‘Girls’ sounds perfect and it’s such a relief that they managed to fix the sound up for at least half of the set. McKenzie invites everyone to the after party at Club 77 – perhaps not realising that at least 50% of the gig attendees are under age. Album-opener ‘Outlands’ closes the set and the band shuffle off.

As everyone starts to move out of The Metro and on to George Street, I notice a girl chasing someone who grabbed one of the setlists. She slips over on someone’s spilled drink and goes flying – but shows no lack of determination and gets straight back up and starts running again.

Deep Sea Arcade played well together and managed to play all of their hits, it’s just a huge shame that the quality of the sound wasn’t up there with the quality of the band itself.

Live Review: Harvest Festival – Parramatta Park (17.11.2012)

Back for a second year, Harvest Festival took place at Parramatta Park on 17 November. Unlike other Australian music festivals that cram the same local artists onto the line up every year, Harvest books mainly international bands. The local bands played their sets early and left us to enjoy a festival of acts we might never see again.

The Dandy Warhols were on early at The Great Lawn stage. There were a few problems with their sound; the bass was drowning Courtney Taylor Taylor’s vocals and Zia McCabe’s keys. It isn’t until the hits ‘Bohemian Like You’ and ‘Get Off’ that the crowd started to pick up and show some enthusiasm but unfortunately, the set felt like a let down.

Cake played later on The Great Lawn stage and seemed to forget that people were there to see the hits, not their new stuff. The absence of ‘Short Skirt, Long Jacket’ was incredibly disappointing for many who were only watching their set to hear that song. Playing ‘Never There’ and ‘The Distance’ right at the end added to that frustration.

Ben Folds Five drew a huge crowd over on The Windmill Stage and rightly so. The poor sound that had tainted a couple of bands earlier had been fixed, and you could hear Ben Folds’ distinctive voice clearly for ‘Brick’ and ‘Dicks on the Wall’.

Back at The Great Lawn stage, it was time for Beck. He swaggered out with an impressive light show and a talented band. The best moment of the day was at sunset, singing: “I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me?” with thousands of other people. ‘Where It’s At’ had everyone moving and gave Beck the title of act of the day. The mixture of acoustic and electronic and of old and new tracks was just right.

Sigur Ros brought their atmospheric, mesmerising live show out to a huge crowd on The Great Lawn. Their music is not something I would usually listen to but paired with some amazing images on a huge screen behind them, it was very easy to get lost in it.

Santigold finished up the night on The Windmill Stage with a huge party. Everyone in the crowd was pulling out their best dance moves, trying to keep up with her dancers. The whole set was fun from start to finish and the perfect way to end a great festival.

Harvest brings something different to the Australian festival scene, friendly attendees and a relaxing atmosphere. You can tell you’ve attracted the best kind of people when the huge line snaking its way down the hill isn’t for the bar – but for the vegetarian Indian food stall. Well done Harvest, you were definitely my favourite festival of 2012.