Days 4,6&7- Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge and Veteran’s Day

Firstly, sorry for the lack in posting.  I realise ACTUAL bloggers are updating their stuff everyday, and my uselessness is not from lack of things to say.  Everyone who knows me will tell you, that has never and will never be the case.  I ALWAYS have an opinion and something to say (I like to think of it as being the youngest of 7 children and the only girl syndrome).  We have just been really busy since we last touched base.  We randomly met some Maori people in a bar and on the streets.  We shot in some more awesome locations, we moved accommodation (and our million bags down the road, and my mother and brother (husband of Vienna) flew in from Aotearoa to hang with us on this trip.
But let’s take you back to where we left off…
As we all know, the All Blacks won! Before we go any further I need to point out that I am female, but I was bought up in a house hold of males.  I am the youngest and only girl of 7 children, so if you’re useless at maths (which you shouldn’t feel too bad about because I am too lol), I have 6 older brothers.  We all excelled at sports and all of my brothers played rep rugby, some going on further with 4 of them playing rugby overseas at various times.  So when you see that girl who knows all the rules and all the terminology and your like.. “MAN, that chick knows too much about rugby, she’s just trying to show off”. Stop. She probably had no choice in the matter! lol.  Getting back on track.  We decided the night before that we would definitely be going to watch the All Blacks game.  Eden had sussed the where and when, so early on Saturday morning (not actually early, but early for us night owls) we got up and headed to a bar/pub called “The Australian”.  If you’re in New York City around the time of an All Blacks game, head there.  It’s on 20 W 38th St in Midtown and although it’s called “The Australian” it feels closer to home in this metropolis.  Note- DON’T ORDER THE EGGS BENNY, sadly, it’s not what you will be expecting compared to home.  But other than that, the vibe is sweet.  We got there just after the haka, gutted.  I think Vie and I were fluffing a bit in the morning, and I literally sat on the bed for half an hour figuring out what I was doing awake, so Eden wasn’t too pleased we missed the best bit. Ha! But we got there and found a standing space in amongst the crowd of English, a couple of Kiwis, American rugby fans and some Aussies that were there.  The game was in full swing and I had to feel sorry for the super polite English guy that was foolishly standing to my right.  He got an earful! I was pom bashing and ref abusing and Vie and Eden were cheering just to the left of me, so lucky we had stationed ourselves next to someone wearing an AB’s jersey because I think we were in the middle of English supporters.  We also wore our moko kauae!  That seemed to fend off any comments that may have been thrown our way, they were probably too scared, which worked for us. LOL.  ‘Bout 20 minutes into the game, this tall guy walked past me, paused, smiled and said “Kia Ora”.  He looked stoked to see some Maori faces.  This was the first time anyone had said “Kia Ora” to me the whole time we had been in New York.  Don’t get it twisted, I had been saying “Kia Ora” to every Tom, Dick and Harry that had been staring at us doing our Soldiers Rd thing around New York, but of course, nobody had said it back.  So to have someone say it to me, I couldn’t help but feel a slick of home had been exchanged.  I said it back he gave me the Maori eyebrow chur nod and made his way down the back through the crowd.  Fast forward to half time and our stomachs were growling so we asked for a table down the back and luckily they had TV’s everywhere so we could still watch the game.  We went down there, and sitting on the table across from us we noticed another Maori wahine, repping an AB’s jersey and cheering loudly.  I had to smile.  She was exactly what you would expect a Maori watching an AB’s game in a pub to be, except she was in New York, which made her that much cooler.  Turns out, the bro who had said “Kia Ora” to me was her friend and had heard of Soldiers Rd.  So 5 minutes later, there we all were at one table, with him (Dean Walker) his beautiful girlfriend, the cool cheering Maori lady (Ata Papa) and their friend Jenni who I had been emailing but hadn’t met.  SMALL WORLD! Dean had come here to play rugby 16 years ago and had stayed.  Ata Papa was cool, I felt like she was a cuzzy, she had that real whanau feel and she is actually really accomplished and acclaimed singer here in the States.  She came here on the way to London 12 years ago to start an OE.  She headed to the Bronx to crash on someone’s couch that she knew, and she’s still here, repping Aotearoa as a talented entertainer.  Tau Ke Ata!  Jenni had come here as a nanny 19 years ago with someone working at the embassy and had been working here every since.  There, in the middle of Manhattan, was a table full of Maori people, living here in Manhattan, and us, all cheering louder than the Poms around us for the AB’s.  I couldn’t help but smile at the odds of that happening, but also at how Maori and awesome our table seemed in comparison to everyone else around us. HA!  We were giving them heaps when they mucked up and jumping around the place.  It was awesome.  We had a korero with them,  as all three of them have lived here for longer than 10 years.  These inspiring Maori living and dwelling here in New York, working and striving and hustling the rest of the city.  They were cool.  By the end of the game and with the awesome result, we all left our separate ways with a hariru and exchanged details.  We had even seen some other Maori looking people lining up for the bathroom that we had stopped to say hello to as well.  It was a cool morning, and it helped that we won!
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After basking in the glory that is victory, we headed off to Central Park.  Lucky for us, Vienna and Eden’s cousin Alexis had come to meet us at “The Australian”.  She was able to navigate us easily to places in Central Park and while we were there we did some shots with the wonderful scenery as a backdrop.  Central Park is HUGE! In some places you nearly forget that you’re in a huge city.  Then you look around and see that you’re sharing that huge green space with a trillion other people who are all taking photos, walking dogs, running (lots of people running) or biking or pushing prams.  Then you realise you are after all, in a huge city.  They have people there hustling to see if you want to be transported around on rickshaws (pretty much a bike with a carriage at the back).  They also have the option of a horse and carriage.  So for you lazy fellas, you’re in luck!  You will never be more grateful for the wide open green spaces we are given in Aotearoa until you come to a place like New York.  But in saying that.  They utilize the space they are given really well.  There are people sitting, reading, chatting or just hanging out everywhere that there is a place to do so.  Atleast they aren’t taking it for granted.  If you’re going to Central Park, head to “The Rock”.  It has an awesome backdrop of lake and trees as well as the New York city skyline.  Bit of both worlds in there.  There’s also Strawberry Fields which is a memorial for John Lennon right across the road from where he was shot.  We were lucky enough to have a busker there singing songs by The Beatles to set the mood.  FYI, the buskers there are given a time limit on how long they can sit and entertain.  Which is an hour.  You have never seen hustle like you have seen hustle in New York.  You can pay a guy a dollar to tell a joke and if you don’t laugh he’ll give it back.  You name it and people are doing it in Central Park, trying to bag a buck.  Vienna and I can’t help but admire the hustle that New Yorkers have. Age, race, gender, it makes no difference. EVERYONE is trying to make a dollar somehow and there is no shame in it.  You can’t beat it, but our upbringing, and I guess in some ways our cultural side, can’t help but feel a bit sad for the kuia and koro that are out in the cold, cleaning rubbish or wiping tables.  We don’t know how lucky we are!
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On a brighter note,  Sunday was a day of rest.  We do have to mention something funny that happened tho,  we met a lady who was really interested in us being from New Zealand.  When I tried to explain that we were pretty much like their equivalent of Native Americans she quickly interjected “oh, but you guys have to be mixed”.  I found this funny.  I know she wasn’t intentionally meaning to be rude, but it came off a little, well, racist.  When I tried to reiterate that where we are from, we consider ourselves Indigenous, she again had to correct us that we are clearly of mixed blood and not FULL native.  I know not all Americans think this way, I’m not that naive.  But I do find it funny that without really realising, the tone comes off as a little bit racist.  What if we WEREN’T of fair skin colour and looked full blooded Maori…  Would that make a difference?? Food for thought.
On Monday, we decided with the sun shining, we would head to Brooklyn Bridge.  Off on our old mate the subway we headed, and after sitting down for a feed, we went to walk up and across the Brooklyn Bridge.  Let’s just get one thing straight.  If you’re wanting to dilly dally your way up, stopping here and there or where ever you please, Don’t! There is a walking lane on the right, the opposite side to us at home, which is actually crucial, I’ve learnt that the hard way in the middle of my left-handed walk day dreams.  Secondly, there is a bike lane on the left.  Stay clear of the bikes, they are no joke! These cyclists aren’t in cycling clothes or nothing, they are in regular clothes.  Most of them dressed cooler than your average. But ALL of them are equipped with a bell, a voice box and the funniest I found, a WHISTLE.  They will use all of the above if you are in the way, and they are not ashamed to scream out at you.  There are also heaps and heaps of people on this bridge too.  We were amazed at the amount of people/tourists and just everyday New Yorkers that frequent this bridge.  Anyway, we found a good spot that we were both happy with, and out came the Maori makeover bag.  I got dressed on the bridge.  Everyone watched.  Some people took photos, others just watched on, wondering if there was going to be something happening.  We got some awesome shots on the bridge.  While we were doing these, I heard a “Tena Koe” from behind us!  Turn around, and sure enough, we saw a few Maori people that were as surprised to see us in piupiu on the Brooklyn Bridge as we were to hear “Tena Koe”.  It’s mandatory when you see a kiwi to stop and do the who, what, where, when and why.  It’s not like you HAVE too, but you just want to. You want to know what they’re about and they want to know what you’re about.  That’s the beauty of culture I suppose.  There’s a mutual interest in one another.  Turns out, they lived and worked in Toronto and were only visiting, but how cool it was to stop and chat to them where we were.
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We finished the day stopping off at our local diner across from Eden’s for some pancakes.  But not just any pancakes.  The best pancakes ever!  If you’re in New York Midtown, we feel like this is something you need to go and do.  The diner is called Renaissance Diner and if you’re on 9th Ave it’s between 51st and 52nd St, closer to the corner of 52nd St.  Ask for Tony because he was the man.  You see, we went to this other place on Saturday night.  We were starving and had planned to go to our local but couldn’t wait the 5 block walk. Lol. So we went to this random one and the service was atrocious.  DON’T WORRY.  We have not gone all American on you guys, but you do realise how important service is because you have to give tips here.  That’s how they earn most of their money.  So, when you’re not given good service, it’s actually really noticeable.  This happened here.  We tried to order pancakes the way we have them at home, with some whipped cream and some strawberries and the sorts.  It was a nightmare.  So going to Renaissance Diner and being served by Tony, who made it super easy to order all our extras, and then returned with the HUGEST plate of chocolate chip pancakes ever, was a dream.
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Tuesday here in the United States of America was Veteran’s day.  New York city has a huge parade that started at 11.30am and went all the way till 3.30pm going up 5th Ave from 23rd St till 59th St.  That is a huge and busy chunk of New York and after 9/11 the intensity and purpose of this parade means that much more to New Yorkers.  The traffic was crazy, but luckily for us we were rocking the waewae express.  But we definitely felt sorry for the detoured traffic, they were backed up all sorts of ways.  We headed on down to see if we could catch some sort of military contingent to snap some photos with.  We knew with the relevance of our name being Soldiers Rd we really wanted to grab some shots with some people down there. Equipped with our Soldiers Rd Maori makeover bag, we saw some Army trucks and smack bam on the sidewalk, got changed.  I was able to jump on one of their army trucks and they were pretty obliged to let us just do our thing.  We also were able to search out a few veterans.  One was called Nick, he was a returned servicemen in his late 60’s I’d say and he had no trouble posing staunch with me.  I was dressed up in our full on vintage, straight colonial days kakahu.  Hair swirled up and feathers adorned.  A few people thought I was part of the parade I think, because I posed for a few photos with people passing by.  One lady even followed me to ask me what Native American tribe I was from.  When I explained that I was actually from New Zealand, we engaged in a conversation about moko and the similarities between Native American culture and ours, and she couldn’t believe that with the way I was dressed and with the feathers I was wearing, that I wasn’t somehow a part of the Native American veterans contingent in the parade.  She snapped some pictures with me regardless and was grateful to have met her first New Zealander.  We also got a shot with a current U.S soldier dressed in his army gear bearing the flag for Black Veterans for Social Justice.  He was awesome and we asked for a Soldiers Rd shot with him and his son.  We did notice that the parade was divided into the relevant groups depending on their race.  We also saw loads of high school marching bands and caught up with a former Navy officer named Carl (sounded like Cole in his New York accent haha) that posed for a photo with me and also managed to get a kiss on the cheek from both of us, the old charmer. Lol.  After getting changed, I was randomly asked by some people nearby for an interview.  Turns out they were from SONY and were interviewing people for the newly released film called “FURY” starring none other than Brad Pitt.  They had me at Brad. LOL.
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A few little tips and hints about New York.  There are these things everywhere on the street.  Look out for them! They are pretty sneaky but  I have the slight inclination that many a wandering tourist looking up has fallen prey to their demise.  They’re kind of like trap doors in the pavement that lead down to the kitchens that most of the restaurants on the street have.  That’s how they load the food in and out and it’s kind of like a “service” door but in the ground.  BEWARE.  They are everywhere in midtown New York and we haven’t fallen down one, but I would hate if it happened.  Some have cones around them like this one, but some are just open doors, flat on the pavement.  You have been warned!!
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If you’re going to get a hotdog from the street vendors,  ask them for the cost of it BEFORE you get them to make it.  There is no actual price list up, so if you agree to it, and they make it, consider yourself hustled.  They WILL add on an extra dollar or two.  If you’re being charged more than two dollars, say you’ll go to the next one and they will say “oh for you, two dollars two dollars”.  The street vendors are pretty good cooks, they know what they’re doing.  If you find one you like, go back to them always.  If you become a familiar face they spruce up your stuff free of charge.
On the topic of food (again), we had dinner at Justin Timberlake’s restaurant ‘Southern Hospitality BBQ’ on the corner of 45th St and 9th Ave. If you have never had cornbread, this is the place to indulge- they serve it with the most amazing honey butter, it’s like have a beautiful, moist piece of cake with your dinner. And that ain’t a bad thing! We also witnessed some impressive displays of strength and balance in the waiters that carried massive trays full of delicious southern food up the stairs, one handed, up on their shoulder. Divine food, if only JT himself had welcomed and seated us. Haha! One can only dream. Prepare to drool, people:
Lastly, we just want to give a quick shout out Cynthia for having us to stay at her ONE bedroom apartment (where Eden has also been staying for a few months) for a week free of charge. In fact, we got breakfast cooked for us by Eden and Cynth even gave us her own bed!  So thanks heaps guys! Congratulations on the JOB to Cynth.  She is now in the process of moving coasts after getting the coolest job as International Footwear Merchandiser for Forever 21.  A huge and awesome clothing store here in the states.  (Please give your new boss/future bestie the nudge to bring it to New Zealand!)
Our next blog will take you to the top of New York city and introduce you to the wonderful lady from St Francis College in Brooklyn who is hosting our booked out portrait day on Saturday.  We are so excited to get back into something familiar and meet the people that have made this trip all worth while.
Till then,
Taan and Vie #SRPNYC
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