I like to think of this summer as a bell curve. After Month One, I was riding the updraft – between tourist and local was me. The migrant. The transient. The intern. I knew the subways; I had an opinion on Ray’s Pizza. But I also had an expiration date. Regardless of my love for the city, I was leaving it in mid-August, meaning every second of every day between now and then was merely Act II. A hurtling descent towards the end.

But what a glorious descent it was! Now fully adjusted to life in New York, I set out to make the most of the ever-decreasing time that I had left. Over the month of July, I drank the marrow: from the Gowanus Canals to the Upper West, neither heat nor rain could nor even tornadoes could prevent me from living the summer of a lifetime.

If you've been following the blogFacebook, 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 month #2 of my New York summer: 

Day 31 – Eat Some Seriously Good Tacos

Before part of my team traveled to Italy for this July’s “Luxottica Days” exposition, we had a special bonding night at Midtown’s Salvation Taco, a gourmet Mexican restaurant and lounge by Grand Central Station. The décor was phenomenal – an eclectic collage of ethnic kitsch arranged to present a multicolor, lights-and-textures experience – but the real winner was the food. Everything was sized to share, perfect for a large office group at Happy Hour. Piping-hot empanadas came by the tray, and tortilla chips were always within reach to scoop up one of the many delicious salsas. I ate my weight in Mexican food, washing down savory meats and cheeses with rich hot chocolate and fried golden churros. All in all, a wonderful (and tasty!) send-off before the Italy trip.

Day 32 – Tour NYC Without Going Near Midtown

The weekend of July 4th, my parents came up to visit and see (in their own words) “my New York.” Their message was clear: no touristy crap. They’ve seen Fifth Avenue more times than I can count, and there’s a whole other island to explore. It was job – nay, my duty – to show them that New York City exists past Midtown. I grabbed a TimeOut and went to work.

On Saturday, we got brunch by the Flatiron Building at Almond NYC, a Michelin-recommended bistro serving up New American comfort food. You can read the full review here – believe me, not even the pictures do it justice. Then, we took the train downtown to NYU so they could see my building and ahem “apartment” (read: one-fifth of a two-room suite). We didn’t even go inside.

Brunch at the fabulous Almond NYC.  Check out the full review here.

Brunch at the fabulous Almond NYC. Check out the full review here.

After the drive-by touring, we took the train down to Bowery to visit The New Museum, one of New York’s famed contemporary art museums. While the museum was currently changing exhibitions and therefore had limited gallery access, the exhibits we could see (including the New’s famed skydeck) were worth the “pay what you want” admission. I especially liked the preview of “The Keeper”, the New’s upcoming exhibit on collections and the people who curate them.

Excerpt from "The Keeper", now at The New Museum.

Excerpt from "The Keeper", now at The New Museum.

We then walked over to Lafayette St before heading downtown towards SoHo, avoiding Broadway in favor of the neighborhood’s many vibrant side-streets and their unique retail destinations. The clear favorite was PIRCH, a home showroom unlike any other. The presentation alone is the stuff of dreams – sharp lines, minimal pricing callouts, and beautiful lighting could deify a toaster. But the real highlight was the in-store signage. It was funny, it was emotional, and it enchanted in a way no video or audio ever could. Hats off to PIRCH SoHo for the two hour walk through an appliance showroom I never thought I’d enjoy.

The visit concluded with dinner at PRINT, the restaurant at Hell’s Kitchen’s Ink48 hotel. I stayed the night with my parents at Ink48, happy for any reprieve from my humble one-fifth downtown. Plus, being uptown meant I was that much closer to New York Penn – and early tomorrow morning, I had a train to catch.

Day 33 – Breathe Fresh Air

At sunrise July 3rd, I woke up, ate a quick breakfast with my parents, and then grabbed the LIRR to Manhasset to observe the holiday how it deserves to be: on a white sand beach in the company of friends. My friend and teammate, Brad, was gracious enough to host me for the holiday. We ran, we beached, we ate burgers – and best of all, we did it away from the city. From my South Shore beach chair, Manhattan seemed a million miles away. It was a perfect weekend getaway with even better company.

A big thank you to Brad and his family for their hospitality.

Day 34 – Celebrate America

On America Day proper, my friend Kristen and I took to her rooftop to watch the New York City fireworks light up the night. Instead, we watched sheets of rain turn celebrations into storm gullies. Good thing we didn’t barbecue.

Thankfully, the rain cleared up before too late, and we were able to catch some of the now-waterlogged fireworks out over the river. Happy 240th Birthday, America! You’re far from perfect, but you’re the best we’ve got. Despite the self-loathing and cynicism so present today, I’m proud to be an American, by birth and by heart. Really, who else celebrates with steak and explosions? Say it with me, now. U-S-A. U-S-A. U-S-

Day 38 – Enjoy Some R&R

With a 9-5 job and an NYU Summer night class in full swing, I was thankful for a quiet week at work. I spent my mornings this week eating breakfast in Herald Square, giving myself enough time to enjoy this urban oasis with a book in hand before heading to the office. At the time, I was completely absorbed by Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities. Set in 1980’s New York, the story follows multiple characters caught in the madness of a city teeming with selfish desire dressed as virtue, every chapter a psychological study of the “Greed is Good” 80’s under the guise of a riveting human drama. It is perhaps one of the greatest novels I’ve ever read.

Day 39 – Help the World to See

On Friday July 8, the Luxottica interns visited Fishkill, New York to volunteer with OneSight, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending the world’s vision care crisis. Along with my intern class, I helped administer eye exams to dozens of bubbly campers from the New York area, many of whom would receive their first pair of corrective glasses through OneSight’s generosity.

The work we did today was especially meaningful for me given my family's hereditary vision issues. I remember putting on my first pair of glasses as a young child: from gradient edges to defined architecture, the world sharpened in an instant. Within a week, the piercing headaches I foolishly thought were “growing pains” faded away. As they faded, my world came into focus. It was a point of inflection in the trajectory of my life – I’ve worn corrective lenses since the 6th grade, and physically could not imagine my life today without them. Helping someone else flip that lightswitch was both rewarding and familiar all in one. Thank you, Luxottica, for organizing this experience.   

Day 40 – Make A Pilgrimmage

This weekend, my friend Joe visited New York City to see “my New York” – no Midtown, no Statue of Liberty, Downtown and Brooklyn, etc. Stop me if this sounds familiar. While I loved showing my parents around, touring with friends is an entirely different experience: we got brunch, shot the breeze, criss-crossed Brooklyn, and even walked from McCarran Park all the way back to NoHo, stopping whenever we saw something cool.

We ended the afternoon with a visit to Flight Club, New York’s world-famous sneaker consignment shop. A three-deep crowd flowed around a case full of Yeezys – meanwhile, I basked in the glory of HTM Flyknits (above), considered some of the rarest Nike sneakers ever produced.

It was a pilgrimage rivaled only by the Hajj.

Joe stood back, Snapchatting my reactions to our mutual friends who would screenshot my foolish icon worship for presumed birthday blackmail. Thanks, bro.

Day 41 – Faire une promenade

On Sunday July 10, I met my French host family at a sports bar in Chelsea to watch the Euro 2016 final and enjoy some long-overdue catching up. It had been over 4 years since we last met – when I stayed with them in Summer 2012, I was a plucky 10th grader with all of two years of French under my belt. Their patience, hospitality, and genuine encouragement stoked in me a love of French culture that burns bright to this day. While my grammar has certainly suffered since I stopped taking formal classes this past semester, I was happy to now speak French with confidence around the wonderful souls who had first given me that comfort to try language.

And after four long years apart, you can bet there was much to talk about. Philémon (who I first met when he was in the French equivalent of middle school) was now studying Medicine at university. His parents were as charming as always, switching from flawless English to French soccer banter like trained interpreters at a dinner party. We talked about our lives, the state of the world, and of course, about the Euro Cup. Then, after the game, we walked along the High Line in Chelsea before exchanging au revoir’s.

When we last talked four years ago, it was kid-to-kid – video games, music, middle school crushes. Now, we met as adults. In fact, he had even become an uncle! It was a wholly different experience than my visit to French, but I almost preferred this one. Time affects all the same, but afternoons like this truly put the years in perspective. Sure, I met the old friends I remembered; but I bonded with the wonderful people they were in the present. À la famille Faidherbe: merci pour me rendre visite.

Day 42 – Live and Breathe Luxury

This Monday, I shadowed at Bergdorf Goodman, America’s most luxurious department store. They were mum on photos, so you'll have to take my word for being there by the spyshot above. Bergdorf is a palace built on dreams: gold, marble, and silk may cover the interior, but there’s an intangible aura – a gravity powered by the traditions of Old New York - that truly keeps the roof up. Stroll the halls, drink in the sights, and try to leave without your spirits on another plane. Bergdorf Goodman just feels special. I left my shadowing experience feeling just as ephemeral as my “shadow” title implies. At Bergdorf Goodman, floating out the door is par for the course.   

Day 43 – Cry Tears of Laughter

The Daily Show's own Adam Lowitt, performing live at The Slipper Room.

The Daily Show's own Adam Lowitt, performing live at The Slipper Room.

On a friend’s sniff-laughed recommendation, I spent this Tuesday night at a burlesque-club-turned-comedy-showcase called the Slipper Room on Orchard St, Lower East Side. For $5, I laughed until I cried at one the city’s truly hidden comedy gems. On the ticket the night I went: local talent, Comedy Central writers, and the supremely funny Adam Lowitt, The Daily Show's “Senior Jewish Correspondent” himself.

Day 44 – Learn that “Sale” is Relative

Today, my buddy Naman and I went to Dover Street Market (30th St and Lexington Ave) to check out their End of Season Sale. Dover Street Market is the retail concept store of Comme des Garcon’s own Rei Kawakubo: an uber-stylish gallery where the art is available for sale and also for try-ons. Working our way down from the top floor, Naman and I checked out selections from Gucci, NikeLab, UNDERCOVER, and Junya Watanabe.

Well, I guess “checked out” is the wrong terminology – I got nowhere near the register. Even with a 60% off sale, the patchwork Junya Watanabe denim I so desire still costs more than Manhattan rent. Sigh. One day.

See: "uber-stylish gallery." Alternate caption: "it's dat boi"

See: "uber-stylish gallery." Alternate caption: "it's dat boi"

Awesome store, though. I power-walked back to the office, coming off my lunch break with daydreams of designer fueling my afternoon spreadsheets. Sigh. One day.

Day 45 – Eat Cupcakes, Sell Glasses

After my Bergdorf experience earlier in the week, I had the opportunity to spend today at the legendary Bloomingdale’s (59th and Lexington Ave) for the second half of my store shadowing immersions. Whereas Bergdorf is more boutique (both in feel and in footprint), Bloomingdale’s is a significantly larger business. On turnover alone, Bloomies is a giant. That’s not even counting their nine floors of merchandise, containing everything from home rugs to Chanel pret-a-porter to Nespresso coffeemakers. For God's sakes, there’s a branch of Magnolia Cupcakes in the store.

The Ross kid in me felt indulged: this wasn’t the fickle, feeble fashion business. This, like Luxottica, was business and fashion. I was in heaven. Thank you to the entire Bloomingdale’s sunglasses department for hosting me!

Day 46 – Collect Fricks

Ah, the end of a whirlwind week. No better way to celebrate than by touring one of New York’s cultural treasures, the Frick Collection (70th Street & 5th Ave). The Frick Collection is a private art collection hosted in the converted home of commodities magnate Henry Clay Frick, one of the great 19th century barons who made Gilded Age New York a truly golden city. Like the Rockefellers and Pierpont Morgans, Henry Clay Frick spent his time off the clock immersed in the culture and philanthropy of the era. When he died, he willed that his family’s “modest” (by the standards of the time) mansion on 70th Street be converted into a museum to house his vast art collection, then opened free to the public for the enjoyment of all.

Over a century later, I visited the Frick Collection to do just that. While no photos were allowed in the gallery, I can provide you with the following: go. Frick’s collection of Great Masters is perhaps the best in the world – if you are a fan of Rembrandt, de Goya, or Titian, this is your holy ground.

Day 47 – Ponder Modernity

Friday? Frick. Saturday? Let’s rejoin this century. I spent today at the world-famous Museum of Modern Art (53rd St & 5th Ave), one of my favorite museums on the planet and a habitual stop on my visits to New York. I guess finally coming by on Week 7 still counts.

My highlight from this visit was “It’s All True”, an exhibition on American artist Bruce Conner. Conner’s work drips madness – his multimedia work is angry, sardonic, and excruciatingly provocative. You won’t walk through this gallery without at least one “sacred cow” challenged. Politics aside, the art itself isn’t made to offend. In fact, it’s more meant to stoke conversation. He doesn’t splice images of war to get a rise, South Park-style. Conner’s paintings, sculptures, and performances were products of their era, meant to challenge comfortable assumptions in order to promote a better future.


I left with a notebook full of scribbles and a new appreciation for this little-known visionary. My favorite of his: “Bombhead” (2002) above. It’s gleefully subversive, right down to the tie pin. An afternoon well spent.

Day 48 – Leave "Brooklyn"; Explore Brooklyn

This Sunday, I decided to spread my wings and see the parts of Brooklyn away from Williamsburg, the only neighborhood I had explored out of the entire borough. Around 10:30, I took the F train down to the Gowanus Canals district and simply went for a walk. Over the next two hours, I would find graffiti murals, overgrown side streets, renovated industry, and a side of Brooklyn wholly different from the gentrifying bruncharies of Bedford Ave. While I had but my iPhone to capture the journey, the visual exposure was something no camera could capture. Here’s a few of my favorite shots from the day:

Day 49 – See the Future

On Monday July 18, I went down to the legendary 495 News showroom to get a sneak peek of sportswear brand DYNE’s Season 3 collection. I have to stay hush on details until later this summer, but believe me – this is a paradigm shift waiting to be released. Thanks to Chris, BJ, Shunta, and the whole DYNE/495 families for hosting me today.

Day 49.5 - Patronize the Arts

Cheating on the format with this one: the same day I attended the DYNE line show, my sister Stephanie came up to visit Kristen and I in New York City. I scored us theatre tickets through the lottery, and the three of us sat three rows back from the stage for a production of the musical Avenue Q, the raunchiest puppet show ever produced.

We laughed; we gasped; two puppets did the nasty. It was a hilarious play, and unlike any other show I've seen before. In true theater fashion, we finished off the night with coffee and pie at a diner before - unfortunately - heading out early to sleep before Kristen and I went to work the next day. Thanks for visiting, Steph!

Day 51 – Breakfast with Coco

Back to Bergdorf’s for a Chanel meeting. Remember that whole “special” bit from earlier? It applies to breakfast, too. Please scatter my ashes at Bergdorf-Goodman.

Day 54 – Camp during Summer

A riddle: what do you do when your high school friend visits and requests to see “your New York”?  

Jokes aside, my friend Nolan was nice enough to pay me a weekend visit with the condition that we just hang out – no need to plan extravagant tours. Long story short, after a late night of Lower East sidewalk cafes, Nolan, Naman, and I got up with the sunrise to camp outside of a clothing store.

Nolan recorded material for the sitcom he’s now probably writing as Naman and I waited for the release of an exclusive BAPE t-shirt that just happened to look like it included a Michigan logo. Four hours later, we secured the shirts and wrapped up the experience with some much-needed brunch. After profusely thanking Nolan for his patience, the two of us headed down to the Financial District to tour Wall Street. We successfully fought the urge to take novelty pictures on the Bull. Then, we grabbed dinner and hung out around St Marks Place to wrap up a busy, fun New York weekend. Thanks for visiting, Nolan! The bearded dude in line behind us says so, too.

Day 55 – Experience Sound

If I lose my hearing tomorrow, I will live my days in muted happiness knowing I heard “Colombia” by  Local Natives through some of the highest fidelity digital speakers on Earth. Do you know what 4 minutes of adrenal chill feels like? Because I do now.

Sigh. One day.

Day 57 – Run Towards the Light

My favorite shot of the New York skyline, taken from Mile 4 of a late-night long run. Three nights a week, the West Side Highway becomes my private runway as I tear up asphalt at river’s edge as the sane world is tucked in bed. After all this talk about showing people “my New York”, it’s photos like these and the often private moments they capture that truly portray just what that looks like.

Day 60 – Celebrate Family   

My second month in New York ended… in Philadelphia. After two long months away, I took an Amtrak home to my own area code to celebrate my sister Stephanie’s entrance into medical school. After her White Coat ceremony and a family lunch, I headed home to something other than one-fifth of a kitchenless dorm. In fact, I just headed home.  

And it felt great. That weekend home was a corrective lens in its own right: I loved my time in New York this summer, and with two weeks until my mid-August move out, I’m going to keep loving it until my time here expires. But, like a child slipping on their first glasses, I suddenly saw everything that had faded during my 10-week whirlwind. Namely, I saw my family. Being back with them in our familiar environment was R&R on a level no “reading in Herald Square” could ever replace.

The next day, I took the train back up to New York to being my last two weeks in the city. Ahead of me was move-out day, relaxing at home, then the start of my Junior Year at Michigan. I looked out the window and saw the skyline, shining clear like lights in the darkness. For now, I wouldn't lose my self in farsighted wonders. Ahead of me now was just New York.



AS RAKESTRAW | The personal site of Alex Rakestraw.