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!