How to Avoid Looking Like a Tourist in NYC

how to avoid looking like a tourist in nyc by ari kellenA city of 8 million people, every year New York welcomes 48.8 million visitors.  And the crazy part of it is that most of the time, you can tell who these visitors are.  The stereotypical tourists who offer their patronage to the Bubba Gump’s in Times Square stick out like a sore thumb.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you want a real New York experience, then you need to change how you look and what you’re .  I recently read a blog post on some tips to make New York tourists better blend in, and I thought that I’d share some of them with my out-of-town friends.

Walk with purpose: New Yorkers walk everywhere they go, and when they do, they walk with purpose.  Apart from the Financial District, New York’s grid pattern is easy to navigate.  A similar tip: since most of New York’s streets are one-way, locals will cross if there aren’t any cars coming.  Tourists, on the other hand, wait on the curb for the “walk” sign.  

Walk on the right side: The sidewalk is like a second street for New Yorkers.  Keep to the right so as to not break the flow.  If you need to slow down or stop for whatever reason, step to the side so as not to get in anybody’s way; New Yorkers hate that!  

Avoid the “I heart NY” everything: New Yorkers have a strong aversion to anything with “I heart NY” on it.  Such a strong aversion that no New Yorker would ever wear it, not even a hipster who was trying to be ironic.  It’s fine if you want to, but you’re more or less telling everybody that you’re a tourist.

Be assertive: New Yorkers are confident and assertive about everything they do.  They’ve got their metro cards ready to swipe before they get to the turnstile, and know what they want to order before the line gets to them.  This all saves time, the one resource no New Yorker ever wants to waste.  

Stay out of tourist spots: A lot of people talk about Times Square, but spoiler alert: it’s not that great, and it couldn’t possibly be further away from what New York actually is.  Most locals avoid it because they know it’s full of tourists and people trying to take your money.   

Don’t look up: When walking, most New Yorkers look either straight ahead or at the ground.  Tourists tend to walk slow and look up.  

You can ask for directions: Before going out, you should have the directions of where you want to go saved on your phone.  This is a lot more easy than pulling out one of those personal NYC maps, which scream “tourist”.  If you do need to ask for directions, don’t stop somebody on the street, but rather head to the closest convenience store and ask an employee.  

Don’t get star struck: Because New York is so compact, there’s a good chance you might see a celebrity (I’ve been keeping a tally of celebrities I see, and it’s been getting pretty impressive).  If you run into one, play it cool and don’t stalk them.  Maybe flash them a friendly-yet-brief smile, but don’t ask them for a photo or an autograph.

Don’t stare: Plenty of different fashion trends and beautiful people can be found in New York City, and you can absolutely admire them from a distance, but don’t stare.  A true New Yorker has seen it all before, so they’ll know right away that you’re a tourist.

Don’t complain about the price and tip well: New York, because real estate is at such a premium in such a small space, can get expensive.  If you want to spend a lot of money in New York, it’s very easy to do so, but don’t complain about the price, and always leave a tip for good service.  

from Ari Kellen | New York City Exploration


What’s Up With the Mets?

The Mets started this season on a strong point, and for a moment were the top team on the NL East.  However, such dominance didn’t last long; although it’s still very early on in the season, they’re already below .500, and while they could make it to the wild card later on in the season, they’ll have trouble taking the NL East title from the Nationals.  But it’s not entirely bleak for the Mets; while this season is shaping up to be a tough one for the team, it’s not over yet.  I recently read an interesting article arguing that the Mets are setting the groundwork for a big win in the near future.

The Mets have still got some pretty talented players in their roster; they might have lost Colon to the Braves in a bittersweet loss, but Jay Bruce has been stepping up to the plate in a big way, in many instances hitting home-runs that have saved the game.  Alderson and Collins seem to be making decisions similar to a few years ago when they were rebuilding the team.  Some spots on the Mets roster could spell trouble, for example Asdrubal Cabrera.  For the second straight season, he’s forced to play the infield’s most difficult position while fighting through all sorts of injuries.  This happened last year as well, and it didn’t end great.  Flores and Duda are both out, meaning that Collins needs to rely on Reyes, Bruce and Rivera.  Sometimes this goes well – Jay Bruce has been doing very well this season – but not always.  

While this is a perfectly acceptable approach when expectations are low, it’s not sustainable if the Mets want to be the last team standing.  According to a quick survey on baseball insiders, the Mets are the only baseball team that consistently plays shorthanded.  That’s perfectly fine if you don’t expect to break .500, but it doesn’t look good if the Mets want to get as far as they did in 2015, or even last year.  For the Mets to make it to postseason, Collins and Alderson need to play a lot more aggressively.  Such players as Rosario, Cabrera, Reyes and Conforto, if used properly, could help propel them to postseason as opposed to making fans wait years for any hope of making it to postseason.   

from Ari Kellen | Sports

Eating All the Way to Citi Field

eating all the way to citi field by ari kellenI love Queens a whole lot, but most people in Manhattan and Brooklyn don’t visit much, apart from going to see the Mets.  Most people just view the 7 line, which runs through the heart of Queens, as little more than a long ride up to Citi Field.  Yet there’s so much more off this above-ground line than meets the eye.  Next time you’re on your way to “meet the Mets”, here are some great places to grab a bite or a drink right off various stops on the 7 line:

Irish pub woodside (Woodside 61st St): Once upon a time, New York was scattered with Irish ethnic enclaves, most of which have faded away as their residents moved out.  One of the few neighborhoods that still has a sizable Irish population is Woodside, Queens.  Although the Irish community isn’t as large as it once was, the pubs in Woodside still offer a level of authenticity that’s now lacking in most of Hell’s Kitchen.  If you don’t want to spend $12 for a Bud Light at Citi Field, then visit Donovan’s or Sean Og’s, both of which serve better beer for half the price.

Papa’s Kitchen (Woodside 61st St): In addition to being an Irish neighborhood, Woodside is home to a large Filipino community.  My favorite joint to visit is Papa’s Kitchen, a tiny spot (I don’t know how they fit in there) serving delicious, authentic Filipino.  Since so much Filipino food is deep-fried, it’s the perfect food to soak up that beer you had at Sean Og’s.  On evenings, they do karaoke, making Papa’s Kitchen an experience that goes beyond food.   

Tibetan food (Roosevelt Ave/Jackson Heights): Jackson Heights is the center of New York’s small but tight-knit Tibetan community.  Here, various hole-in-the-wall restaurants serve up top-notch noodles and momo (a type of dumpling) at ridiculously low prices.  Two places that really stand out are Phayul and Lhasa Fast Food.  Both of these are pretty hard to find; the former is up some stairs marked by a nondescript sign, and the latter is literally in the back of a cell phone shop.  But they’re well worth a visit, and will fill you up for less than what you’ll pay for a hot dog and fries at Citi Field.  

Tortas Neza (Junction Blvd): Owner Galdino Molinero, also known as “Tortas”, is an avid soccer fan who has turned his cash-only food truck into a love letter to the fútbol of his native Mexico.  While his loyalties lie with the Pumas, his 18 different overstuffed sandwiches are each named after a different Mexican soccer team.  Even if Tortas Neza is geared towards soccer, that’s in no way to discredit these sandwiches as a good prep for a baseball game.    

Rincon Criollo (Junction Blvd): After the Cuban Revolution closed down their popular Havana restaurant, the Acosta family brought their home-style cooking to Queens, opening Rincon Criollo in 1976.  Ever since, the restaurant has earned a well-deserved reputation for good old-fashioned, home-style Cuban cooking, and was even featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”.  The portions here are generous, prices reasonable, and the taste beats even Citi Field’s sausage & pepper sandwiches.  

Flushing Chinatown (Flushing Main St): It’s well-known that Flushing is home to New York’s largest and most authentic Chinatown, though most New Yorkers seldom visit; it’s even further than Citi Field, and once you get there, there are so many places, and it’s such a large neighborhood, that it’s all too easy to feel overwhelmed.  Yet for your post-game dinner, there are some places that are well worth a visit: the food stalls of the Golden Shopping Mall, hot oil wontons from White Bear, fall-apart tender Muslim lamb chops from Fu Run and the flavorful traditional Sichuan of Spicy & Tasty.  All of these serve truly delicious, stand out food at low prices, offering an authentic experience you can’t get anywhere else in New York.  

from Ari Kellen | Sports

Flipping a Stolen House

flipping a stolen house by ari kellenFew things are more cutthroat and surreal than the world of New York City real estate.  In a city that’s home to some of the world’s most outrageously expensive property, people will do just about anything, even in a place as far-out as Canarsie.  Yesterday, Sheriff’s deputies arrested a man for stealing a woman’s house with fraudulent paperwork and then flipping it to unsuspecting investors.  

This story begins when former Board of Education administrator Hillary Kerman went where many people go after retirement: Florida.  Kerman used to live in the two-family house before a fire in the early 2000s, and has since left the house vacant, waiting for the right time to sell.  She spends her summers elsewhere in Brooklyn, and her winters and springs in Florida.  While she was in Florida, Kenneth Pearson came up with a plan: steal the house with fraudulent papers and then flip it with the help of investors.  Last spring, Kerman noticed that something was amiss that May when she didn’t get her annual tax bill for the house.  When she dug further, she found out that somebody had filed fraudulent paperwork to steal her house, and then went to the house and found that it had been completely gutted.  

Although Kerman had left the house vacant for some years, the damage from the fire was minimal, and many things were still left in the house, including vital documents and various personal effects: her and her grandparents’ wedding albums and all of her parents’ possessions, and somebody had even torn out the trees and rosebushes in the house.  Prosecutors were surprised to see how quickly the thief had moved.  Pearson sold the house to flippers in just two months for $265,000 (these are Canarsie prices, not Manhattan prices), who never bothered to look inside.  It had been cleaned out, and so they knocked down all the walls to make an open floor plan.  

Since this happened, Kerman needs to sort out various details, such as how to start getting her mail again.  The investors are also having a hard time getting money from their title insurance company.  After a month-long grand jury, the police finally found Pearson, who now faces four felony counts.  The most serious charge, filing a false instrument, carries 7 ½ to 15 years in prison.  

If you’d like to learn more about this bizarre story, you can click here!

from Ari Kellen | New York City Exploration

Is Pepsi Getting Political?

is pepsi getting political by ari kellenThe current political situation in the United States has left many people upset and disillusioned, with just about everybody and every brand getting political.  The Women’s March back in January was a gigantic protest event that truly rocked the country, with one out of every 100 Americans taking part.  During the Super Bowl, one notable Budweiser commercial told the story of founder Adolphus Busch, which explored his early years as an immigrant with a subtext critical of Trump’s harsh anti-immigrant stance.  Even Pepsi has taken a stand in their most recent commercial featuring Kendall Jenner, yet this was pulled almost as quickly as it was released.

If you haven’t seen it yet, the commercial features Kendall Jenner, half-sister of Kim Kardashian, leaving behind a modeling shoot to join a vague protest march.  By handing one white police officer a Pepsi can, she’s able to bring everybody together.  In the background, Skip Marley’s song “Lions” plays.  The song references the Lion of Judah, a symbol in Rastafarian ideology meant to save Africans and the diaspora from the colonial powers (i.e. rich white people like Kendall Jenner’s family).  

One thing that’s always fascinated me about commercials is their ability to create unique worlds and events, if only for about 30 seconds to a couple minutes at most, that in the real world would never happen.  This new Pepsi commercial is definitely one of those, yet it’s also kind of tone-deaf.  The protests to which this commercial pays homage started out against Wall Street and the inequities of capitalism, exemplified by gigantic corporate giants (like Pepsi).  

It might seem like a complete lack of self-awareness that Pepsi would try to make itself a champion of the protestors, yet at the same time this follows one of the basic tenets of advertising: go where the money goes.  It follows a trend that various other big brands are going: Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Burger King and even the Fearless Girl statue set up by the State Street fund.  For those who are concerned about the direction of big business and our country as a whole, such moves can seem refreshing; a way to say “we’re on your side”.  But at the same time, it’s difficult to decipher whether or not they’re sincere, and whether or not these big corporations are doing the same thing they’ve always done: try and make more money, just this time with a different tone.  

from Ari Kellen | Musical Minded

Mixed Feelings About Colon

Mixed Feelings About Colon by Ari KellenThere were some mixed feelings for Mets fans tonight as Bartolo Colon made his first Citi Field appearance of the season.  Because this time, baseball’s lovable everyman wasn’t playing for the Mets, but rather for their fabled rivals of the NL East, the Braves.  And maybe it got to the Mets’ heads: over the course of a 12-inning game last night, the Mets were only able to get one run and five hits.  Although the Mets won their first game of the season on Monday, such playing isn’t going to get it done.  

For six innings, deGrom was doing well, yet Robles let some hits go that allowed the Braves to tie the score and bring the game into overtime.  When he went out to the mound, Colon was met with cheers from both his former teammates and their fans.  Yet after Colon spelled doom to the Mets, those fuzzy feelings may go away soon.  As Bruce pointed out, you’re almost guaranteed to get a fastball from Colon, which puts players on the defense.  By hitting Colon’s “mistakes”, few and far-between as they are, Bruce was able to score the only run for the Mets of the game.  

The Mets’ frustrations after various blown chances came to a head in overtime.  Rafael Montero, the seventh of eight Mets pitchers, wiggled out of a first-and-third, one-out jam in the 11th with a double-play grounder from Garcia.  Yet his magic died out in the 12th after Matt Kemp was able to get a two-run shot that propelled the score to 3-1 in favor of the Braves.  This might be discouraging, but it’s also only two games into baseball season.  Anything can happen, and I’m excited to see what this entails.  Hopefully I’ll get a chance to head up to Citi Field soon!  

from Ari Kellen | Sports