It's official: I'm no longer just a tourist. This Wednesday marked my one month anniversary of moving to New York City, and it was (tangentially) a celebration for the ages. My office went out to celebrate completely unrelated circumstances, but I'll be darned if I didn't dedicate at least one Salvation Taco to this personal milestone. 

I survived one month. I outlived my 30-day Metrocard. Even better, I didn't lose it! (Given how absolutely packed each of those 30 days were, that's a small achievement in itself.) 

If you've been following the blog, Facebook, or Instagram, you've probably seen some snapshots from those 30 packed days. Now, I can finally tell the stories. Here's a few highlights from how I spent my first month in the Big Apple: 

Day 1 - Meet the Interns

My first day in New York started with an inhumane 6am wake-up and ended with 12 new friends. Luxottica's intern orientation was at the Port Washington office, a palatial open floorplan complex known best as "Casa Luxottica." With a mere 90 minutes between me and the LIRR, my first ever commute was more improv than battle plan. I overdressed for work, double-checked my backpack, and set off for New York Penn station. That day, I would meet my fellow intern class, get acquainted with the company's value, and drink my weight in free San Pellegrino. Viva Italia.

Highlight of my day: quoting "American Psycho" to my boss' boss' boss' boss. He laughed out loud - "this guy is in the right place!" It was a welcoming for the ages. Thankfully, my visits to Port Washington are few and far between. Tomorrow, I would join the New York City office. 

You can read more about my inaugural week in NYC on the blog here.

Day 2 - Celebrate International Running Day with Nike+ Run Club NYC

On Wednesday, June 1, I celebrated International Running Day with Nike+ Run Club NYC. Our group tore up the avenues on a 4 mile tempo run made infinitely more challenging by rush hour traffic. I was hooked from Step #1. Check out more about my experiences with Nike+ Run Club on the blog here. Go Blue, Run Blue.

Day 5 - Walk 100 Blocks

With my Unlimited Metro card gathering dust, I set out from Brittany Hall at 10 in the morning with a mission. Goal: walk to the Upper West Side of Central Park, when taking the 1 Train would be so much easier. Pfft. Public transportation? What is this, the future?

I had two legs, a backpack, and the length of Broadway ahead of me. Over the next 8 hours, I would grab brunch at Mudspot (St. Mark's Place), trek through Midtown, and finally peek into Central Park for the home stretch. The views from the Oak Bridge (above) were nothing short of breathtaking. However, since I had walked close to the length of the island by this point, almost anything was breathtaking. I was physically exhausted by the end and beat a quick retreat back downtown. I walked along Central Park West, grabbed coffee by Columbus Circle, then rode the NQR home.

How could this weekend get any better?

Day 6 - Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art on a Rainy Sunday

With gray skies forecast, my friend Tasha and I decided to visit one of the city's cultural treasures: the palatial Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 5th Ave), otherwise known as The Met. Our first stop was this year's Met Fashion Exhibit (ahem... "Costume Institute Exhibition"), a literal pantheon filled with the world's most impressive haute couture. Karl Lagerfeld's world-famous Chanel wedding dress took center stage and never let go. Tasha, a fellow member of SHEI Magazine (the University of Michigan's fashion publication), nearly had to drag me out. My highlight of this year's Costume Exhibit: the prototype Margiela smocks on display downstairs. Each piece was truly priceless. 

But that was only the start of our Met journey: Tasha and I would spend the next 4 hours wandering its great halls without ever leaving the first floor. Everything from Roman statues to engraved handguns sucked us deeper and deeper into the triumphs of the human experience contained within this monumental institution. We made plans to tackle the rest of the floors by August, but even that seemed optimistic - as if by setting a deadline, we would rush through and miss a small chunk of humanity just waiting to reveal itself.

Long story short: we just agreed to go back.

The Met is the museum for a lifetime, not for an afternoon. Here's to my first real visit.

Day 9 - Play With Cool Toys at Work

Persol sunglasses. 'Nuff said.

It's a fair draw between these and the Oliver Peoples for the position of "Alex's Grail Glasses." This particular pair was just a showroom sample I got to handle as part of an orientation, but man oh man what I would to do own a pair. For now, this selfie would suffice. Smile and say "handmade in Italy"!

Day 11 - #BeCourageous at Saks Fifth Avenue

The Friday of my 2nd week of work, the Luxury Department Store team and I visited the first-ever Ray Ban event at a Saks Fifth Avenue store. We were there on official business, but that didn't stop us from exploring Saks and spending some quality time in the photo booth. The print from this day is my most treasured internship souvenir. Who says work and play can't coexist?

Definitely not that guy in frame 2. The only thing he says has 5 fingers, and oh, is it talkin'. Week two, over and out.

Day 12 - Brunch Downtown, then March Downtown 

For Saturday #2, I woke up early enough to sneak in a run before brunching at The Wren, a gastropub in the Bowery. In case you didn't read the review, the Wren is my vote for favorite brunch (so far) - it's a rustic, charming, and absolutely delicious tavern that stands out from the crowd by offering (gasp) good food at a good price. The "Victorian curiosities cabinet" atmosphere is a thing of pure joy. Also on a short list of things that make me happy: the Maple Sage Sausage Sandwich with spicy-sweet maple sriracha mayo. Mmmmmmm.

With brunch over, I grabbed my backpack from the dorms and began another trek uptown, this time heading for Midtown to meet my family. On the way, a flash of gold drew me away from Fifth Avenue and straight into a Hare Krishna parade rolling its way down Sixth. This was my first experience with Hare Krishna as an organized religion - it was opulent, it was welcoming, and above all, it was communal. I'll give it to the Krishna disciples: there's an odd power to thousands chanting in unison. It certainly made for some good photography.

I followed the parade route for two blocks, gazing with both lens and eyes at the pure spectacle of it all. Where else on Earth does a milennia's old religion tower over Smart cars? My favorite shot is below:    

Day 15 - Catch the Sunset

After a long day in the office followed by some post-work bonding, I said goodbye to my fellow interns and headed home to decompress. It was only Tuesday, but I could tell this would be a long week. Already, I was taking on the responsibilities of an entry-level hire. No "coffee and copies" at Luxottica - I was making a difference with my work, and carrying that feeling home was as rewarding as any. 

That being said, I needed time away from a screen. Instead of crashing in the dorm, I laced up my running shoes and went west, young man! Eventually, I found the West Side Highway and chalked up a solid 5 miles as the sun dipped below the Hudson. It was a wonderfully natural moment, the kind that shakes you out of the concrete jungle and back onto the Earth. The picture above was from a quick break at the halfway mark: the resplendent hues of a New York sunset. Viewed best from Chelsea Piers, but experienced best with a runner's high.

Day 17 - Fall Asleep to the New York Philharmonic Orchestra

On Thursday, June 16, some friends and I camped out on Central Park's Great Lawn for the seasonal event to beat all others: the New York Philharmonic Orchestra's annual Concerts in the Parks series. I arrived on the lawn just before 7:00 to secure a good spot. Along with comforter-turned-lawn blanket, I had thrown together my best "yuppie" attire (still no Oliver Peoples glasses) to celebrate this great event. Orchestra? In Central Park? How utterly civilized. This was a situation for wingtips and water crackers.

Jokes aside, my desire to go was 100% genuine. I well and truly love music performance. My friends from back home know, but nearly everyone else is surprised to learn I spent half my life playing instrumental music. While I've long since sold my saxophone, the embers of that love remain. And when one of the world's premiere orchestras offers an outdoors twilight concert in the center of your city, those feelings burn bright. I nodded off to a Beethoven symphony as purple streaks multiplied and airplanes danced across the sky. It was a feeling I won't soon forget. Thank you to Kristen, Adam, Brady, and Alex for sharing this experience with me.

Day 18 - Pratiquez votre français avec un film publique

Ce vendredi soir, j'ai assisté à une projection publique du film classique "L'air de Paris" (1954). C'était beau - le film et l'environnment. Avec un propre "Arc de Triomphe" comme le décor, j'ai regardé l'histoire d'un jeune athlete qui veut changer sa vie. J'ai pris beaucoup de plaisir de ce chance à pratiquer le français, parce que j'ai du la quitter récemmet en école. Mais mon amour de la langue d'amour ne quittera jamais.

Hon hon hon le fromage.

Day 19 - Go Vintage Shopping in SoHo

I took my brand new Agora Clothing N64 jacket to the only place it could truly call home: the vintage shops South of Houston St, New York. Accompanying me was my best friend Kristen, who was willing enough to shoot some awesome photos of our trip. But we did more than just scoff at $400 Metallica tees - we made a whole day out of it. Over a sunny Saturday afternoon, we walked Little Italy, went sneaker shopping, and I finally tried on an Arconym jacket during a visit to KITH. Errolson Hugh, you're the man. When I get four digits, they're going straight to you and your GORE-TEX. 

For now, however, I am a poor fashion intern with an Excel spreadsheet forecasting my lunch budget. The JA-1 GT would have to wait. But an iced latte at a sidewalk cafe? That would make the spreadsheet happy. Kristen and I kicked back after a long walk and swapped our best NYC stories. There would be many more downtown Saturdays still to come.

Day 20 - Overpay for Novelty Food and Post It to your Instagram

Yup. It's a Smorgasburg trip. The title about sums up my feelings on this "summer landmark." In short: it's the most touristy money-suck since the Wax Museum. Go once just to tick your box, then avoid it all costs. Check out my play-by-play, 3-course review of Smorgasburg on the blog here if you'd like to learn more. 

On a brighter note: the above-ground L back from Prospect Park offers some truly stunning views of the NYC waterfront. I snapped the below in between physically painful shocks of buyers remorse. Sigh. Smorgasburg.

Day 23 - Sing Happy Birthday to Ice Cream

On a random Tuesday, I rushed down to Madison Square Park for an old friend's birthday. Breyers Ice Cream was founded 150 years this June, and to celebrate, they were feeding 1.8 million Manhattanites as much ice cream as they could stomach. I waited in line for way too long just to reenact my own Goofy Goober meltdown. Total damage: 3 bowls, 2 selfies, and 1 camera crew interview where I sang Happy Birthday to an inanimate object. Good thing I had company.

Thanks to my friend Maddie for reminding me to take off the birthday hat before going back to work! Ice cream is serious business.

Day 25 - Attend a Today Show Concert

The following is an excerpt from my work-in-progress noir crime thriller, "The Man-Child in the Darkness."

Picture the scene: New York, the city that never sleeps. Until now. It's 3:59am - too late to be early, too early to be late. Even the pigeons have pillows with a coo side. Suddenly - the still is shattered. A 4am alarm echoes in the canyons. Radar. I bat my eyes and cling to consciousness. I have 59 minutes and 50 seconds to get two miles uptown. 5:00 is coming like a train on fire, and I have a check-in to meet. Showing up even seconds late could jeopardize my standing, and when I'm up this early, uncertainty isn't just an enemy - it's the enemy.

It's 4:01 now. "Get moving," I grit to my blankets. My roommate in tech is just now going to bed, and soon, I must go, too. The big show is starting in 58 minutes now. 57. 56. 55. I slide out my door, one pant-leg flapping in the wind. Minor details. This morning was the easy part. The tricky part is surviving Today. 54. 53. 52. 51. Then, after all that comes the real test: I'd have to survive today. 50. 49. 48. Off to a good start.


So, yeah, I woke up at 4am to snag VIP passes to a Today Show Summer Concert. My early alarm paid off: Kristen and I were against the stage, two rows back from the front. "Pit" doesn't even begin to describe it. 

The seats aside, I also genuinely enjoyed the experience. I watched sunrise over Fifth Avenue, met some wonderful people (thanks to Alex and Kaylee for the photo at the top!), and screamed the words to "Can't Hold Us" on national TV. By the end of the set, millions around the country had seen some lanky man-child with a Macklemore cut piping up the stage - and my day hadn't even started yet. I'm pretty sure sweat from the stage hit me before the gravity of the moment. 

Thank you to Kristen, Marshall, and Chirstine for all their help making this possible! And a big thanks to Kristen for inviting me. I got a bagel, powered through the 9-5, and went home for a well-deserved nap. How could this week get any better?

Day 26 - Obtain the #GrailGlasses

For the Friday surprise of a lifetime, I had a sudden opportunity to buy both Persols and Oliver Peoples sunglasses. I know it's just the Italian lenses, but I kid you not, I saw colors brighter that day. Excuse the vanity shots above - they're the best I could do on short notice. I have since worn the Persols (left) every day and am just now rotating in the OP's (right). Middle school me would've never believe I'd ever own a sunglasses rotation, but hey, it ain't half bad. I still love my Ray-Ban Clubmasters, but they'll gather dust for at least the next few weeks. #GrailGlasses acquired and a sunny weekend ahead on which to wear them. Friday, I'm in love.

Day 27 - Walk the Williamsburg Bridge

This Saturday, I built my hipster street cred with a trip to Williamsburg, Brooklyn for brunch with my friend Emma. We overpaid for petite pastries, discussed performance art, and went vintage shopping without buying anything. I am a fixed gear bicycle and a beard away from becoming what I fear mo- oh god halfway there.

We capped off the day by walking back to Manhattan along the Williamsburg Bridge. I sweat off brunch just enough to vindicate an afternoon ice cream at Oddfellows, but by the end of the walk, no cool treats in the world could stave off my sunburn. Darn you, Swedish ancestors! Thanks for the height and blonde hair, but this complexion is just unfair. As for why there's no pictures of me from this journey: I was as red as those bridge poles above. Just focus on the Bakeri pastries instead:


Day 28 - Be Proud of Who You Are

 This Sunday, I attended New York City's Gay Pride March, considered by many to be the most important event of its kind anywhere in the world today. Production aside, this year's parade carried special meaning: floats, marchers, and citizens alike paid their respect to the victims of the Orlando nightclub massacre in some incredible moving ways.

As a straight male working in the fashion and luxury industry, I empathize with the gay community in this moment or grieving and recovery. I have many important people in my life who felt their way of life threatened in a way no human being should. Thankfully, this weekend was a holistic if symbolic relief from that fear for a city-wide celebration. The parade was a reminder of just how beautiful love's many expressions can be when given the equal stage they deserve. For one weekend, the City That Never Sleeps became that stage. It was truly amazing to watch.

Day 29 - Edna. Mode.

And guest. 

Day 30 - Keep Your Head in The Clouds

The end of my first month in New York City ended a lot like how it started: with low fog, shrouded buildings, and a mysterious call that I can't help but answer. Overall, I'm loving the city. My time with Luxottica has been a blessing - I've learned so much, met so many, and can only believe the best is yet to come. My time with the city of New York has been some of the happiest days of my life. If you look at the "ABOUT" page of this blog, you'll see that one of my founding contradictions is "rural Pennsylvanian/aspiring New Yorker." 

After a month of living in the greatest city in the world, the training wheels are off. I might still get lost in the Village, but I know a few subway lines, eat Pret for lunch, and turn crosswalks into human-vehicle Mexican standoffs because hey buddy I've got a clock to punch. During Month One, I nurtured that spirit from the moment it hatched. In July, it takes flight.

So what will the next month bring? More runs. More boroughs. An NYU Style Journalism class. NY Men's Fashion Week. Restaurant reviews. Neighborhood exploration. Oh yeah - and tons more sunglasses. I hope you'll join me.



AS RAKESTRAW | The personal site of Alex Rakestraw.