I’ve always dreamt of living in New York City and working in the glamorous world of high fashion, and for ten weeks this summer, I got to do just that. Albeit my Park Avenue penthouse was replaced by a New York University dorm, and rather than working as Anna Wintour’s right hand, I was an unpaid intern at a fashion showroom (where multiple designers’ collections are showcased and then sold to stores around the world). I was in heaven. Not only did I learn a ton about the wholesale side of fashion from some of the industry’s top players, but I got to do it while living in one of the best cities in the world. Inspired by the Late Show with David Letterman, I’ve decided to make a top ten list to give you a little taste of my experience:
Top ten reasons why I love New York City:
10. The Brooklyn Bridge. Before stepping foot on New York soil I made myself take an oath: thou shall not partake in touristy activities. And with the exception of a trip to the Museum of Natural History (it was raining, my nieces were visiting, and I secretly loved it), I kept my promise for nine whole weeks. On the tenth and final week, though, something changed. Suddenly, I developed an overwhelming urge to cross the Brooklyn Bridge. Camera charged, friends in tow, I set off on my journey. I was awestruck. Built in 1883, the Bridge is an architectural masterpiece, and the view is simply outrageous. It takes roughly 30 minutes to cross, and the best part is that at the end, you’re in Brooklyn — a borough so vibrant, you won’t know where to begin. My suggestion: Motorino pizzeria in Williamsburg (my favourite pizza!).
9. The Lingo. Why do Americans say the darndest things? Example: I’m waiting to pay for groceries when a woman asks me: “Are you on line?” My response: “Huh?” “Are you on line?” she repeats. I continue to stare at her blankly until an employee beckons her to stand behind me. Only once the cashier shouts “next on line!” does it finally hit me that “on line” in America is the equivalent of “in line” in Canada. Well who would’ve thought? And that’s not all. There’s also the ambiguous parting phrase: “Have a good one”, which means “have a good day” but could really mean “have a good cataract surgery.” Alright, one more and I’m done: since when is the response to “thank you” not “you’re welcome” like in most parts of the world, but “uhuh?” These Americans crack me up.
8. Ladies come first. The men of Wall Street may run the city by day, but come sundown they have no choice but to relinquish their power, and hand the reins over to the almighty rulers of Manhattan nightlife: the women. Raised hemlines, revealing blouses and contrived flirtations with bouncers are not required here, for in this city being a lady is all you need for an all access, all-expense paid pass to any club or bar of your choice. Men on the other hand, are left waiting on the sidelines — desperately trying to latch on to a large female party. The math behind this is simple: women + more women = more men trying to get in bar (i.e. big bribes for bouncers and even bigger bar tabs due to female surplus).
It didn’t take me long to realize this phenomenon, and let’s just say I savoured every sweet gender-inequality-moment of it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for equality of the sexes, but after being pushed to the back of the line far too many times at Montreal nightspots to make way for men with big bills, this was a change I got used to.
7. The Men got moves. Aside from the cat calling and the not-so-discreet “I’m undressing you with my eyes” stares, the men of New York City know how to flirt, and I’d be damned if I said I didn’t enjoy it. Tall, short, fat, thin, these fellows have the confidence and skills to come right up to you and start talking, and man have they got chutzpah — rejection is simply not part of their vocabulary. And while on some nights this full-throttle form of flirting was more aggravating than endearing, most of the time it made me wonder if maybe more cities should make their men wait outside of bars for painfully long periods of time?
6. Central Park. Unless you’re one of the lucky few who have the luxury of escaping to the Hamptons once the city gets extra hot and sticky, Central Park is likely to become your summer destination of choice. However, with a territory that covers 843 acres of land (6 per cent of Manhattan), a zoo, endless summer concerts and plays, basketball courts, tennis courts, 26 ball fields and more — it’s hardly a consolation prize. In truth, I couldn’t imagine a better weekend activity than a picnic in the park with friends followed by hours of absolutely nothing. Central Park was my ultimate summer refuge: a place that is so intrinsically New York, yet feels nothing like the big city.
5. The Museum of Modern Art. Like Montreal, Manhattan got its share of rain this summer, meaning that when I couldn’t unwind at the park I was hiding out at the MoMA. Just one look at Van Gogh’s A Starry Night, and all calm was restored. I would lose myself in the Miro’s, Picasso’s and Kandinsky’s, all the while marveling at the building’s sleek and modern design. Although the paintings are my favourite, the film, architecture, photography and sculpture collections are fantastic.
4. Food. Limiting oneself to a single paragraph when writing about food in New York City is akin to trying to pack six sumo wrestlers into a Volkswagen Beatle: impossible, but worth a shot for humour’s sake, so here goes. First off: why don’t we have diners in Montreal? You know, the kind of places where you can get bacon and eggs, tuna melts and apple pie à la mode for breakfast, lunch, dinner and the 5:00 a.m. post-bar snack. Not only is the food at diners delicious and their service around the clock, but they possess an old-school charm that never fails to fill me with happy images of poodle skirts and jukeboxes. Then again, maybe I’ve just seen Grease one too many times. Another favorite are the delis. Corned beef on rye, cheese blintzes and matzoth ball soup — Jewish soul food is at its finest at Manhattan landmarks like Katz’s, Ben’s and the Carnegie Deli. Alas, I’ll stop here before I get onto the subject of street meat and falafel stands and this paragraph turns into a novella. But just in case you’re wondering, the answer is yes; what you’ve heard is true — street food is really that good and that cheap.
3. Internships. You work long hours, perform mind-numbingly boring tasks and make zero dollars doing it, but all fun aside, there’s a reason why hoards of college kids leave their nests and flock to the island of Manhattan to intern the second school’s out. It’s best summed up in one word: experience. I know, because it’s precisely what I came for, and because it’s just what I got. How can one gain work experience when pretty much all they do is answer phones, file and run errands? The answer is by watching and listening. I watched and listened to everything and everyone in the office at all times, and I was amazed by how much I learned about the everyday ins and outs of the business. I also learned that hard work rarely goes unnoticed, and in time I got to sit in on important appointments and interact with major clients. They even invited me to intern during fall fashion week, which I obviously accepted. If I had to do it over again I would — for as fiscally draining as unpaid internships can be, the knowledge I gained, the contacts I made, and the amount of fun I had are priceless.
2. Summer in the City: From free jazz concerts at Madison Square Park and movie nights along the Hudson River, to rooftop parties, parades and designer sample sales — nothing beats a summer in this city. Unless of course you’re lucky enough to spend it with your three best friends who just so happen to be in living in the city during the summer like I was. The amount of fun we had was criminal. Seems the old cliché is true; it’s the city that never sleeps. It’s also the city where there’s constantly somewhere new to go, someplace new to try and new people to meet. I wish I could share my tales of debauchery, but my 79-year-old grandmother will be reading this. Sorry.
1. It’s alive. I can’t explain it. All I can say is this city is alive. There’s an undeniable energy. I felt it wherever I was, and it made me feel alive too. It’s cheesy, but it’s true.