“ I gotta close the window before I record cause New York don’t know how to be quiet”. New York is not only loud vocally but its overall swagger is far from quiet. New York City is a place where people want to be heard, where people want to be seen, and where everyone wants to be recognized. There is a reason why characters like King Kong, Spiderman, and bat shit Bruce Wayne has taken residence here; it is a playground for people (and animals) from all walks of life. It is literally a concrete jungle perfected out of inspiration where dreams may be built as high as skyscrapers or it may be destroyed and thrown away into the New York sewer. It is a place where the tolerant and the intolerant mingle and permeate every nooks and crannies of high-rise buildings. Everything that you thought hasn’t been said HAD been said, New York City has become a symbol of freedom and the personification of strength and diversity of the American culture.
Over the weekend the Sotrendy crew was fortunate to experience Gotham as a group. We were hunting for inspiration in hope to recharge our creativity which has been plagued by the stress of every day grind. I must say, I’ve traveled to many cities and countries but New York is really in a class of its own. The grandeur towers soaring above built by greed and ambition mixed with the chaotic pace at ground level throws your ethical being into a frenzy, yet you longed to come back to it. For a few of us that’s exactly what we did, but for others in the group it was their first time experiencing the true meaning of madness. It’s not hard find a reason to love Manhattan, depending on your preference of course…from upscale clubs and restaurants that ONLY requires you to be “Kate Moss pretty or CK model handsome” to get in to a more laidback vibe of sipping pumpkin spice latte in a hyped up coffee shop to fulfill your tumblr fantasies. New York has served as a melting pot that created a plethora of style and taste that will surely satisfy everyone’s needs and wants.
Unfortunately with all that New York has to offer we only had 12 hours to spend on our day trip, but we made every single minute count with the help of Anthony from Halcyon Photo and Pravan from SNTRL. With time ticking away our itinerary was stuffed with non-stop eating and shopping at all the go to places from SoHo down to the alleys of St. Marks. The second we passed The Holland Tunnel we rerouted our destination on google maps and headed straight to the fashion district. It didn’t take long before we found ourselves amongst many fashionable and “hip” yuppies strutting their attire alongside Broadway’s sidewalk. Thanks to these trendsetters the appeal of sophisticated high-end boutiques and trendy clothing stores became the foundation of the prominent cast iron buildings which gives SoHo its identity. The façade is not something to be in awe about when comparing it to the whole Manhattan but reminiscing its historic past it is a clear representation of how SoHo has flourished over the past 35 years. If you didn’t know, SoHo was once a manufacturing district that drove its residents away as far as the street was paved because it gave birth to the omen of Broadway’s red light district in the pre World War 2 days (what’s cooler than having hookers hang around…uhhh NOTHING). But I think it’s only necessary that we owe our gratitude to the aspiring and struggling artist of the 60’s as they saw opportunities in those once vacant “loft” that has been graced with unseen beauties and eventually transformed its visage to the image we know of today.
One of many timeless facade in SoHo.
The first store we went to was Uniqlo, it is BASICally a cooler version of H&M. The reason I said its “basic” is because I’ve shopped at Uniqlo outside of the states and I have to admit that other international branch has a wider range of selection and more fitting clothes but nonetheless I still went in and checked it out because it’s definitely one of my favorite go to stores. We then headed over to stores like Supreme, Kid Robot, and the usual hipster itinerary, which was pretty dull in my opinion and pretty uneventful. As we walked to our next destination we tried to fully immerse ourselves in a world that is so well known and very much talked about yet it is a place that can make you feel alone and foreign to. With us concentrating every single brain cells to the things that are going on around us, we decided it be best to refuel and grab a bite to eat.
Otafuku! if you like creamy Japanese balls this is the place to go
Since we were very close to the St. Marks area I took the liberty of deciding where to eat and shepherd everyone to Otafuku located in East Village. It’s very difficult to find these types of food in D.C. or should I say nearly impossible and if you read my previous entries you would know by now that I am a huge sucker for street eats. For those who are foreign to Otafuku, it’s not street served like the Halal Guys, it’s actually a hole in the wall spot the size of a luxurious walk in closet…literally, (just to give you a perspective of how small this place is) which serves Japanese street delicacies like Takoyaki, Okonomiyaki, and Yakisoba. With occupancy limited to 3 customers at a time, everyone patiently waited as the lines moved in and out, but little did we know that it was going to take nearly 30+ minutes until the food was ready. But to me if was worth the wait, but I cannot say the same for others in the group as they may argue since the texture and taste of the food was a little out of their comfort zone (if you’re wondering what it’s like, google it!). For the next few hours or so we continued on our food adventure forcing foreign treats in our stomach until our digestive organ pleaded for mercy.
With the extra load we were carrying in our stomach we kept marching on as a group towards the Center of the Universe aka Time Square. By the time we saw the reflection of neon lights that lit up 7th and Broadway we braced ourselves for the wave of people that would soon engulfed us. After dodging and weaving through the battalion of tourist and locals we managed to scout a safe open space where we gathered back into formation and let me tell you it didn’t take long before selfies were taken and once again we took the form of foreign tourists. As the memories in our Nikon and Canon cameras filled up, our stomach that felt stuffed with foreign crumbs two hours earlier were once again on E and was begging to be fed. With every shiver from the numbing New York breeze and what seemed to be an eternity of power walking, we knew our internals would thank us for some hot hot Japanese Ramen. We decided it be best to head back to St. Marks where we had an array of Ramen joints to choose from.
We soon found out that we weren’t the only hungry eaters craving for some hot noodles, so we opted out for the next best Ramen joint that wasn’t too busy but still had a decent amount of attendees (because you can judge how good a restaurant is from the amount of customers). From then on it was a gastronomic blur as I stuffed my face with hot Japanese egg noodles with the spiciest most devilish red broth Setagaya had to offer. I wouldn’t say it was the most magical Ramen I’ve had but it was god damn delicious, imagine BBQ pork, salted eggs, bamboo shoots, corn and raw octopus to top it off (the raw octopus is an extra appetizer just in case you’re wondering) with hot miso broth for added goodness. I concentrated on the insanely concave bowl in front of me tuning out every conversation that was exchanged across the table. The excitement that started early in the morning when we arrived was soon replaced with a feeling of satisfaction and a happy taste bud as we walked out of Setagaya.
The next thing we knew, we said our good byes and thank you to Pravan and we parted ways. The only thing I regret was not staying over night and truly explore the city but with us being only four hours away it only meant for the another trip in the near future.
Photos: Andrew Sudwi & Sebastian Marin
Words: Andrew Sudwi