May 28, 2010

Travel Diary Photos on Facebook

I was just thinking, that the trend of excessive and needless cursing in american society seems to be their rebellion against the behavioral dogma of religion. Since Americans are quite rigidly religious society with their fanatic catholic schools and sunday church gatherings. So, by cursing, I guess, they think they are exhibiting their free-will and unconventionality. Lol. Cursing is a sign of low culture and lack of emotional self control. Even I curse sometimes, but then I know I lost control, thus my ability to wield myself are not as good and need further workout.

I enjoy Manhattan quite a lot and it's high rise architecture, but I don't really like the people, their rudeness, arrogance and ignorance. However, I am writing this post to leave my facebook profile link, where you can view some of the photos involved in the posts and stories told here.

So, here I am bare and disclosed, lol. No more anonymity, this is me and I am open for the world! One World, one Humanity! This is our world and our history, it is time to write it all together, as one, the one we have always been. One family - Homo Sapiens.

May 25, 2010

My American Journey. Summer 2010. A Travel Diary - The People

Hm, the average American person is a strange thing to define. In general, the people are pretty weird here. They have this peculiar mindset, a mixture between tolerance and hypocrisy. The public mindset is one of an overexposed ease, as in "I don't care what others think, how I look or behave" and in the same time there are constant comments that I observe behind people’s backs. This desire to display how socially eased one is at many occasions borders with neurotic behavior. For instance, there is a great number of people I see on the streets and in the bus that just talk to themselves. They mumble something under their noses and exhibit this "I don't care" attitude, other people also pretend that they don't notice it. For me, this kind of behavior is a sign of neurotics, not an easy going public mindset or whatever they may interpret it as.
In my country, people who talk to themselves in public places are also accepted with tolerance and general ignoring, but it is not by any means considered normal, as it seems to be here. And such individuals are fairly rare to see, while here literary every other person does it. A neurotic nation! I mean, these people don't have bluetooth head set or anything in their ears, so that they may be speaking on the phone, lol. All this is really weird.

People here also seem to curse excessively, probably that is why there are labels on some buildings explicitly stating that “Soliciting is not allowed”, as well as spitting, littering and drug selling, LOL. Yet people generally seem to spit and litter wherever they like, I don’t know about drug selling. Yesterday I came to the conclusion that New York has this strange oriental tint, it is dirty and lower culture prevails. Oh, yeah, having mentioned peculiar labels on buildings and streets, this is another uniquely American weirdness. There are all kinds of labels and signs with the most bizarre instructions, as if written for idiots. Of course not all labels are awkward, don’t get me wrong, some are quite helpful even, but only half of them, the rest seem needless, for example “This school is a drug free zone” .. right?! So, dealers, stay away, because you see what the label says! I mean, come on, this label is ridiculous, don’t you think? As if, the school only is a drug free zone and, say, the street around the corner isn’t, lol, because there is no label there, lol.

The American society seems very segregated still, despite all the patriotic propaganda. Everybody calls themselves American, but the different ethnicities live in groups and generally don't mix with others and sometimes are even hostile to one another.

Afro-American people still suffer from the complexes they had centuries in a row in the past and kind of look at me with certain dislike. Maybe it’s because I’m white, maybe it’s because of the way I dress, maybe it’s because of my body posture, which is straight and confident. Some of them wouldn’t even look at me on the street, as if they are stating something with this almost hostile ignoring. Maybe I dress inappropriately, but that again, I like the sporty elegant style and well, these are the only clothes I have, so? People seem touchy in regard to dressing style and in the part of Staten Island I live, there are a lot of black people behaving in a ghetto-like manner, all dressed up rapper style.

Now, I want to mention that I am not a racist by any means or sense, but just an advocate of culture, of civilized culture, that’s all. I see many well dressed and obviously well behaved people “of color” in Manhattan, but the truth is that most of the latino and afro-americans have a pretty low culture, that they happily exhibit. Of course, there are plenty of “white” people who dress like rappers and the like, who enjoy the ghetto culture as well. I will definitely go on a tour in the other more notorious “burrows” of New York in the months to come, but probably I will observe them from the window of a bus. Why, oh why must low culture prevail in this world?! And why young people in particular enjoy it? Is this the legacy of the hippies? Or is it just the result of the low levels of self-awareness and intelligence, since the prevailing mental content of a social group reflects on their way of life and exterior habitat. This topic can be expanded quite a lot, so I will not diverge on it here.

Speaking of mentality, let me share one unpleasant and almost scary experience I had with the locals a week ago. So, I wanted to find a pharmacy to buy some things from there. I looked up in Google and it found me one 24-hour pharmacy, since my days off weren’t around the corner. I will share my impressions from the American pharmacies and social utilities in the next post. This pharmacy was about 20 minutes bus drive from where I live. On the way back I took the wrong bus. Got off near a bridge and went on another stop, intending to take a bus to the ferry station and from there to take one of the two buses that lead home. The bus came after half an hour and the sun was setting down. I got on the bus and on the way I saw a park that was familiar and I knew there are stops of the buses I needed, so I decided to get off there instead of riding to the ferry station. It was already dark and about 9:15 in the evening. So I went into a small grocery to buy an energy drink to keep me confidence and lit up a cigarette. Just outside the grocery I asked a big, tattooed white guy about the bus stop and he gave me directions adding in the end “Be careful”. This advice got me a bit strained. Be careful about what? I mean, it’s not late at night, but there were very few people out on the streets. I went on the bus stop and looked at the schedule. The next bus was due after 40 minutes. Wow. I guess the transport is regular only during the day time. So I began to wait. There was this black guy across the street yelling about something. Then, after ten minutes or so a white guy, under 30 came by me and his first line was “I am a good guy”. He repeated that a few times. I stared at him unsure how to react. Then he asked me for a cigarette and repeated again that he was a good guy. I gave him a cigarette bewildered of his weird behavior. He went away.
I continued waiting on the bus stop. I began to feel that people from the cars that passed by me on the street stared at me and my feeling was correct. A white jeep car slowly approached me and stop just next to me. I completely ignored it and didn’t even looked towards the driver. The car stayed there a few minutes and then made a slow U turn and parked across the street. A loud rap music started from inside the car with explicit lyrics talking about sex. I guess the driver was trying to convey me a message. I continued not to turn my head towards the car, but I could feel that the driver was looking at me. I think he was black. He continued persistently to try to attract my attention with the loud music and when finally he got my message he drove away. Then another black car passed by me very slowly in an intimidating manner. I pretended I don’t notice it as well. This one didn’t stopped. Just as I was beginning to feel like I am going to get shot or kidnapped any minute now the bus showed up. What a relief. I complained to the driver for taking him so long. He looked at me and nodded, as if saying “Well done. Tough girl”. I looked at him with my eyebrow raised and sat. On the back of the bus there was a noisy company of very young black boys shouting something about “Fuck” and “Bitches”. So, I made it home intact, but this was a really freaking experience in a country and a state that claims to have a low crime rate. Really?! With this behavior of people at early evening I can’t imagine how they would behave if it was 3 o’clock at night. And they claim a low crime rate? Hard to believe. These claims may as well be just another piece of American propaganda. Dart Vader would say “The propaganda is strong in this one”. Sure is.

May 16, 2010

My American Journey. Summer 2010. A Travel Diary - First Impressions

The people in whose house I will be staying turned out to be really neat couple of a third generation Italian immigrant male and a Chinese female. They picked me up from the airport and were very nice to me. They took me with them to a super market, where I bought some food essentials and made use of their transport once again. They were also very cooperative when I forgot my bag with all my documents in a cafe at the ferry station, but this is another short story.

I am staying in Staten island, about fifteen minutes bus ride from the St.George ferry station. By the way, I flew with Airbus A380 and it is a really huge double decker airplane, an impressive machine. It flew and landed very smoothly, but I don't know why the air condition inside was turned up so low, that I couldn't get a proper sleep even, since I was freezing. The meals were good too and the seats comfortable, 4 out of 5 points for Air France, if it wasn't for the freezing condition. Maybe they should install heaters, instead of coolers, lol, being -40 C outside at 11,000 km. most of the time.

Anyway, when I arrived the first couple of days it was scourging heat in New York, probably the temperature would have felt much more comfortable if it wasn't for the extreme humidity in the air. The worst thing is, that I was told, that in the following summer months ahead, this hot and humid hell will settle to be the norm for the summer. Not good. Just as I was beginning to think that I shouldn't have taken my spring jacket, the weather drastically changed. Strong winds brought thick clouds in the sky, rain began to pour and the temperatures dropped so low, that a few nights I had to sleep with clothes on and still I was freezing in my bed. My room's walls seemed like cardboard with no insulation at all. The wind gusts were not only strong, but really cold too. Freezing ocean breeze just went straight trough my bones. It was tough, really tough. If there are such cold winds in the spring, I can't imagine how people survive here in the winter outside!?

Yesterday and today the weather is improving, being cold mostly during the A.M. hours before noon. The nights aren't that cold anymore too. The humidity completely disappeared and the sun's warmth is very neat and pleasant. Crazy weather shifts.

Let's start chronologically from the first day now. I arrived on Friday and on the first day of May I took a good urban hike around the streets of Manhattan. Urban hiking is one of my favorite activities in new and exciting cities! Riding a bicycle is fun too, but you can't really see as much details and the bike rentals weren't exactly cheap really, especially if you want to rent it, say for a whole day, since it is paid on an hourly basis, something like 10-15$ per hour, helllo?

So, I got up early in Saturday morning and took off to the bus stop, which the Chinese lady showed me the previous day. The buses are well air conditioned (sometimes too well), the fair is a bit expensive tough, 2.25 USD per ride, no matter the distance. Having said that, everything is a bit expensive, too expensive even! And I also heard comments in this regards from other European tourists on many occasions. (Which reminds me about Michael Moore's movie "Sicko"and the part with the 120$ asthma inhalator that costs 5 Cents in Cuba....), but this I will expand in another post. I wen to the St.George ferry station and got on a big, smooth riding orange boat, that had three floors and hundreds of seats inside. The Manhattan - Staten island ferry is free, probably one of the very few free things in USA, apart from public fountains to quench your thirst at. From the ferry I turned left and went into Battery park. I phoned my employer, but they seemed surprised of my arrival, even though my start date was 1st May. So, in all, I had a full free week to just wander around and gradually run out of cash, lol. The organization and cooperation between the different agencies involved in this Work and Travel program do seem very loose, I guess every party is mostly concerned with collecting their taxes, of course, leaving the rest to the student's orientation skills. Luckily, mine are fairly good. So, after I knew I wasn't going to meet the work environment today I just proceeded to the urban hiking part.

I simply took off from the park, following the side walk towards the impressive heights of the buildings around and intuitively found myself on one of the probably most famous streets in Manhattan - Broadway. I took a picture in front of this charging bull Brass sculpture at the entrance of Broadway, which I guess symbolizes the aggressive financial risks people take on Wall street, which was near by. There was a line of people wanting to do the same. Then I just started to walk and look all around me, mostly upwards.

The 20th century high rise architecture of Manhattan is truly impressive with gorgeous masonry details, packed with symbolism in the form of sculptures, ornamental elements and esoteric allusions. And esoteric symbolism in the New York architecture is plentiful indeed. It seems that NYC is full of masons and their signs are just everywhere. Which adds up more to the experience of the mystery-minded adventurous traveler, who is looking up to read the signs. Hermes/Mercury and his Caduceus are just everywhere, being a favorite figure of architects and traders alike. Walking further along Broadway I passed by a 300 year old church made of brown stone with Gothic design and an old graveyard. There were a few masonic graves there as well, along with many other 18th century inscribed grave slabs. A bit further northwards there is another old church, where George Washington used to pray and some 100 meters behind it is the site of the 9/11 WTC twin towers, now a big construction lot with huge cranes working.

As I was walking and enjoying the grand scale and masonry of the buildings a negative trend established, that was the last thing I expected to see and this were the dirty streets. The pavements were stained with some kind of spots and greasy-like spills and also there were these black spottings all over the sidewalks, not only on Broadway, but on every street I have walked on so far in Manhattan and Staten Island alike. Do they wash the streets? The commercial garbage was also not lacking, mostly cigarette ends, candy wraps and papers. I mean, in my country - Bulgaria - we have been recently having some troubles with the garbage disposal company taking care of my city - Sofia - and yet the streets are cleaner than the streets of New York. I really completely didn't expected to see that and I was truly surprised. The verdict is that the streets of New York need to be cleaned and the people should learn to dispose their garbage and cigarettes in the trash cans, not on the pavement. In many European countries there are fines if you trow your cigarette on the street.

When I reached Union Square, there was a modest protest of working unions for Labor Day. I passed by them and continued straight on Park Ave. Guided by a huge, plain and ugly corporate building in the distance with a big "Metlife" logo (which reminded me of "Sicko"again) I reached the Grand Station terminal. There was this big and gorgeous stone sculpture of masterly craft with Mercury, standing on top of a beautiful clock with roman numerals, in symbolic composition with a man, holding tools on his right side and a scribal woman on his left side. I will dig deeper into the meaning and interpretation of the architectural symbolism of different statues like this one in another post! Inside the terminal was very impressive, the masonry decorations above the sealing windows, the huge chandeliers and zodiac sky sealing - a real beauty of human creativity indeed. The Mercury's caduceus persists almost in every decorative element, along with an old-style ship steering wheel with wings (which I presume are the wings of Hermes). Later on I will include photos as links to the posts where appropriate!

From the Grand Station I continued on, passed the Rockfeller building and finally reached Central park. In all I walked about 2.5 hours from the ferry station to Central park. A walk that I really enjoyed and recommend to every tourist who really wants to experience Manhattan close up. You should hike the streets, forget bus rides, bicycles or cars, you will see nothing from a window! Central park was a pretty fresh green spot amids the skyscrapers surrounding it. A beautiful piece of phytodesign and landshafting. I hiked a little bit along the alleys and went on the other side, which is the east side. Then I took the street next to the park back, which was the 8th Ave. The grid is a bit confusing to navigate initially, but when you get the hang of it you can orientate well in it. So, I passed by Times Square and I really kind of almost missed to notice it. There was nothing too impressive about the place, the pavements were dirty, but the excessive number of blinking commercials on the buildings finally caught my attention and I recognized the popularized place, where teen fans of MTV Total Request gather to scream and wave to the cameras. In all, I was really left with the impression that those famous landmarks of Manhattan are simply overexposed and overadvertised, so that when you see them live you just can't help it but remain somewhat disappointed with the difference of what you have expected and what you actually see. This is the negative effect of too much populism I guess. Or maybe, New York has kind of a lost its former glory, for a complex of reasons leading from the past and the build-up of mistakes and negatives.

My American Journey. Summer 2010. A Travel Diary

If someone had told me just an year ago that I would ever have the desire to go to USA, I would have laughed. What will I do at the source of all ugly stereotypes of contemporary culture, social manipulation and global propaganda? I have always thought of the general American public as pretty dull people, narrow minded and religious fanatics with their commercialized churches with all kinds of ridiculous titles and slogans like "Don't be too open minded, your brains may fall out". The country of fast food and obesity. And this is the opinion of most Europeans.

December last year I thought that by the beginning of this summer I would have finally finished my magnum opus literary piece of philosophical criticism to old and new issues in our world. Then, I stumbled upon one of those Work and Travel programs over the internet and suddenly I pictured myself going in New York and publishing my book there, a true adventure with a great purpose it would be. So I was hooked to my newly evolved dream and went to an agency and applied. I paid promptly all the fees and everything, which at the end summed up to a little over 3000 US dollars, including plane ticket and 800$ cash in my pocket upon arrival for paying my accommodation and having means to sustain my life functions until I receive my first salary.

So there, in short, on April 30th I arrived in New York. Having prearranged housing, which I found over a website and a job offer with Evelyn Hill inc. I was unable to finish the book by now, but I bought this very nice HP Mini 5102 netbook (with the performance of which I am very, very satisfied, not to mention the keyboard, that is a real pleasure to write with and this is not an advertisement), so my initial plans of publishing it here had to be dropped off the picture. However, I will continue working on it from here, along with the first hand insights I will gain on north American culture on the way. I think I finally decided on my mission in this life, Criticism and a tough one too. I think this is what my brain trained for all these years in my developing life up until now when I will be turning my 26th anniversary since I was born in this world on the 2nd of July.

In this travel diary I will be publishing my experiences, pros and cons, insights and everything interesting about my stay here for the summer. Along with some updates on the much anticipated book from my closest circle. Closest, because I had kind of a kept in a secret, despite all the secrecy, it does trigger much interest and I can humbly disclose that when it is finally ready, it has all the potential to turn into a big scandal to a variety of social fields. We will see. For now, I am eager for insight on this much controversial culture of USA and I wish to share it too :)

I thank to all my readers and I will also appreciate comments from you, questions and just general feedback! I think I will keep the same main title for all future posts regarding the Diary. Alright then, this was the introduction, I know two weeks have already passed since I am here, and I have not been standing still either!