It's Up To You, NY

I am kicking my birthday month off with a quick visit to The Big Apple.



My first trip to New York was a family trip. My dad took us to visit family in New Jersey, and of course, while we were out there, we did the touristy thing. Dad was good at that, making sure we traveled the great U.S. and saw all the monuments and national parks we could.


When I was twenty-two, I went back to be reunited with my biological family on The Montel Williams Show. A friend accompanied me, and despite the falling snow, we ventured out. We ended up at the Blue Fin Bar in the W Hotel, she lost her jacket that night, but we had too much fun to care. I also got hit on by my first celebrity at that bar, don't even bother asking. To the grave!


As I got into entertainment and modeling, it became a more frequent thing. As a photographer, it's even rarer, especially when the client has an emergency leaving you with a paid hotel room, paid ticket, and a paycheck. (Always get paid for showing up)


The Hotel

The Pierre is one of the most famous hotels in New York. It overlooks the park and is within walking distance of fantastic shopping, bars, and dining. As expected, my room was flawless and very polished. It's an older hotel with older decor and clientele. Most of you reading this are in California, so this is far from a Kimpton or Mondrian edgy-modern-cool style.


(I don't understand why we don't have places like this in California, see below.)


The bar inside the hotel was closed the first night I was there, and I found myself at the Lowes down the street. I travel alone plenty, so I had no problem sitting at the bar, ordering a snack and a drink. My iPad is usually in tow in case things get boring, but no need here.


The bar was packed, and of course, after a few drinks, people started their introductions and pitches. The place was crawling with suits and executives talking business and cheers'ing over accolades. The couple next to me was hilarious.


I'm from Los Angeles, and apparently, it's obvious. That's how the conversation started, "Excuse me, we're over here trying to figure out where you're from." As soon as I said California, they fell out in laughter and confirmed whatever bets had been made. "So, what was it, the hat or the scarf?" I asked. She said the scarf, and he said the hat. The conversation rolled on from there.


He called me a hard drinker, and I laughed, correcting him - I'm a purist. It was a Maker's neat and a coke on the side. They were too much fun, offering me another drink that I tried to shy away. Then he raises his hand and asks the bartender to bring me another coke! I was dying. They left before me leaving me to discover my bill had been taking care of. "Ching Ching Ching goes the money tree" #IYKYK


They were there reconnecting as old friends, and by the end of the night, she was inviting me to stay at her house the next time I was in town.


I'm pretty sure they reconnected as soon as they got back to her room!


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The Food

The food in the hotel was terrific, but eventually, I wanted real food. Most mornings, I had breakfast at the hotel, but I started to get a craving for hash browns. Below is the list of places I enjoyed and recommend:


Red Rooster, Harlem

Tessa, The Upper West Side

Festival , The Upper East Side

Okonomi Yuji Ramen, Williamsburg


I usually have a ton more photos but I was in it, not even thinking about posting. Just enjoying my food. *smiley face*



The Park


I cut through the park for everything. I did so much walking on this trip I had to take my boots in to get re-soled. Central Park has it all. Earlier in the week, all the kids were running through the park with their outdoor classrooms and P.E. classes. One of my favorite phrases came from a teacher who said,


TEACHER: "Are you in class right now?"


1ST GRADER: "Yes."


TEACHER: "Then I'm going to need you to put your shirt on."


Bet you a million dollars his dad is a shirts-versus-skins kind of guy!


Later in the week, the artists, performers, and vendors start to pop up. You can spend a whole evening in the park and be thoroughly entertained and fed, maybe BYOB though. Oh, and don't stay too late - make sure you're safe always. The last warning is about the squirrels. They are big, and they will walk right up to you if they think you have food.



(The performer above was amazing and the location enhanced it, the audio on the video doesn't do his music justice.)

(The performer below blew my mind away, there is so much talent in this park)



Williamsburg

Hands down, my favorite place! This was my second visit to Williamsburg, this cute, artsy bit of Brooklyn. The only place where my clothes and hats did not stand out.


Williamsburg gets me every time. Food, drink, shopping, people watching, and a creative vibe. Now, I heard from a friend that there aren't any dispensaries here, but an art store found a loophole in the system. They can gift you product equal to the amount of money you spent there on digital art. Yeah, let that sink in. You pay $50 for art, you get $50 of product and so on.



My latest venture is an online boutique, and this was the perfect place to do some secret shopping and vendor research for the store. If you're a fan of vintage shopping and unique boutiques, this is the place for you. Want more detail? I've listed my favorite sites below:


Finders Keepers

Le Grand Strip

Catbird

Verameat



Harlem

While at a meal with friends in Brooklyn, they kept bringing up Red Rooster. This is THE place to get soul food in Harlem. So the next day, I ventured out to eat and see what else Harlem had to offer.


It was refreshing being somewhere that makes white people look out of place. The streets and sidewalks were packed, and there was plenty of action on Lennox and 125th. Do you need roll-on oils, incense, beaded waist chains, or artwork? Just walk.


I kept seeing the best ghost decorations the whole trip, and it inspired a small ghost tattoo (the PacMan ghost). The night before, knowing I was heading to Harlem, I looked up tattoo shops in the area and found one called Black Ink. Solely based on the Yelp reviews and went by after eating as strongly suggested by the waiter at Red Rooster.


Actually, what he said was, "You're going to Black Ink? You trying to get into a fistfight?" and then he laughed, admitting that they'll love me there and I should go.


I walked in and noticed the bottle and glasses of Hennesy at the front desk, immediately recognizing I was about to have a good time. A gorgeous girl named Krystal checked me in, and Rok did my quarter-sized tattoo.


Then come to find out these guys have their own freaking T.V. show! When I asked, Rok was shocked and then laughed that I came in for the tattoo alone. I said yes, "You guys have great Yelp reviews," and we laughed. Too much fun at this place.


They all were giggling over my silly tattoo since everyone else was getting massive Wu-Tang and N.Y. pieces. When it was all said and done, group consensus... It's pretty dope!


Fueled by soul food, adrenaline and Hennessy, I walked back to the hotel. See the video below to meet Rok and Krystal, be sure to stop by if you're even in the neighborhood!



The Met

When I say I took the time to enjoy the city, I mean it. That includes making it to The Met Museum. Something on my bucket list that, for some reason, seemed out of reach. Purchasing my ticket online while eating breakfast relieved me from the long lines at the door.



There were a few things that I wanted to see, like the Van Gogh's and Monets, the Egyptian artifacts, and ornate rooms from Louis XIV and company, so I made sure to see those. Everything else took a whopping three and half hours to see! I didn't think it was possible to see that much art in one day!


Between the lighting, the staging, art, and jewelry, I was totally inspired a million different ways. By the end of it, I was turned around backward and completely lost, which is a facial expression security and staff are familiar with.


Lighting seemed to be the thing that I was blown away by the most. Not just the lighting on the statues and in the room displays, but the lighting the painters are able to make it seem so life-like. Sometimes it's hard to make the lighting look the way you want it to look on film or camera, so seeing it done in paint was amazing.


After picking up some goodies in the gift store and doing some more street vendor shopping down 5th Ave, I made it back to the Pierre for the last time. This was my fifth night, and by now, the bar in the hotel had opened up, and I managed to make a friend in both a regular patron and the bartender. We both agreed it was nice to get back to not just seeing but becoming a familiar, friendly face somewhere. Bourbon and Burgers for the win every time, even if it is a $62 burger (and I had two)!


The bartender was amazing, and sadly his name is escaping me. He did teach me that Winston Churchill's mother had a hand in inventing the Old Fashioned in Brooklyn.


Anyway, if you're reading this, Hi Rachel!!!!!!




Thank You New York

It was nice to stay just long enough to miss my room and my dog. Actually, I missed my dog as soon as I left. It's been two days since my return, and my legs and feet are still sore from all the walking, but it was so good to see that much of the city.


Okay, the number one word New Yorkers say the most is "Audacity." Things to eat and drink if you make it to the Bronx, a chop cheese and an egg cream (which has neither egg nor cream). Ubers are easier than cabs. Take advantage of the exit row seating on the way there and back to get some extra legroom.


How do I know it was a successful trip, my screen time was down 85%, and that makes me smile.


I think that's everything folks! Thanks for taking the time to read and check this all out, I appreciate it as always!