A few months back my wife and I took a trip to Brooklyn, New York. Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers were playing a show with their band “Better Oblivion Community Center.” Conor is the lead singer of Bright Eyes, one of my favorite childhood bands. Phoebe on the other hand is also one of our favorite artists, morso gaining notoriety in the last two years with her sad, but joyful singer songwriter tunes.
I managed to keep the trip a surprise up until a few weeks before when I accidentally said “When we go to New York…” To which my wife replied, “What?!?”
We got into New York about 11pm on a Saturday night and took a lyft to our AirBNB in Bedstuy. It was our first time in the city and I found myself wanting to see everything. The lights from the view of our car ride sparkled in a way I had never seen. Everything was intoxicating and new.
When we arrived we debated on food as it was late in the evening. We were tired and didn’t know a ton about the neighborhood we were in. “Was it safe? Is anything open? Should we just go to sleep?” Eventually we mustered up the courage to go outside, making our way to a local pizza joint. It was our first New York Slice! And for those wondering, it was NOT Sbarro.
One of the biggest things I struggle with is always feeling like I have to be doing something! When we woke up Sunday morning I felt anxious and fearful that we would miss the most of the day. My wife reminded me, “You have nowhere to be! This is vacation!” So, I slowed down.
We made it out of our AirBNB around 11am and took a lyft to Williamsburg. My friend Paul had recently moved to New York and I wanted to see where he'd be living and working. Williamsburg was his first suggestion. The train he took got delayed and we had time to kill, so we checked out Sey Coffee. Sey was a phenomenally decorated place - it was drenched in natural light, decked with beautifully designed wood seating, and an abundance of plants. The coffee was delicious and the pastries spot on as well.
We wondered around the neighborhood, uncertain of where to eat and eventually found a cool looking asian restaurant. Afterwards, I wanted to capture some portraits of Paul. There was a walkway just outside the restaurant that went up and across some train tracks and overlooked the city. I knew this was the spot for photos.
It started raining, but that didn’t stop us. Paul pulled out a joint, told me that New York wasn’t harsh on weed, and also how hard it’s been to find community in the city. My heart understood the longing for friendship in a foreign place as I had once moved to a new city, 3000 miles away from my home. The pain of loneliness can kill you or at least drive you in to a maddening depression. I wasn’t sure how I could be there, other than to just be present and be a friend.
”You smoke he said?” “Not really”, I responded, not wanting to address that I had recently started taking a new medication and I wasn’t sure how it would effect my state of being. We walked a few more steps. Paul put out his joint and I took a polaroid of him. We called for another car to take us to our next destination and parted ways.
A few minutes later we arrived at the Brooklyn Art Library. It was the other reason, aside from the concert that I wanted to go to New York. The Brooklyn Art Library hosts “The Sketchbook Project” - A museum where people can send in their very own sketchbooks from around the world. It houses 1000’s of entries and Dawn, my wife, had recently been in the process of completing a sketchbook to be displayed at the library as well. I wanted her to see the place in person. So we did.
The library has it set up so you can digitally search for a book and they will pull it off the shelf and bring it to you. Two of our friends had submitted books in years past and we were able to check them out, along with a whole handful of other random peoples books as well. Each book was different. Some were sad, some insightful, some full of photos, paintings, and random ramblings, but each completely its own.
The next day Dawn and I decided to cross the Brooklyn Bridge. But before that, we wanted to get our first New York Bagel! We waited in a line at a spot I found online. Our line mates were construction workers and other locals. I took photos like a tourist and no one paid any attention to us until we got to the counter and the girl at the register said “Where are you from?”
The bridge is about a mile in length. The sun was shining and the air was cold. People were out all across the bridge. Some on foot and others biking. Oddly enough it didn’t feel super crowded despite all the people we passed. We took in every step, feeling the cold air in our lungs, and the heat from the cloudless sky on our backs. I stopped quite a few times for photos again. The newness of a city I had never seen, still very much alive and pulling at every ounce of my curiosity.
Once over the bridge, we walked some more and google maps lead us to a terminal to take the train to Central Park. We were nervous as we had never been on the subway in New York and didn’t know what to expect. There were multiple lines at the entrance, a ticket counter with a person and an automated machine that we thought maybe also was for purchasing tickets?
So Both Dawn and I got in the two lines. I got to to the attendant before Dawn got to the machine. I was told I needed to visit the automated one. I was a little frustrated, but as I realized the day before, we had nowhere to be. We got our tickets from the machine and carried on our way.