Short Story: Balling

He was lying on the bed of a suite on the 23rd story of a five-star hotel in Manhattan. Far beneath him, the cars and busses rolled past hurried workers and slow-footed tourists. The buzz of the city that never sleeps filled the air of this clear night. The stars however, remained outshined by the bright lights of the man-made monuments of engineering New York City was home to.

She was sitting on the large mahogany desk and sipping on a glass of bourbon. The desk was an impressive piece dating back to the 19th century and rumored to have belonged to Governor Grover Cleveland before his ascend to the presidency. But even the most devout admirer of antique furniture wouldn’t have been able to avert his eyes from the lady lounging on it.

He opened his eyes just enough to make out her silhouette, attempting to figure out if she was indeed real or just a piece of his vivid imagination, ready to disappear into thin air in an instant. His imagination had always been at hand to play games with his mind and at this particular moment of time, he was dreading to discover that all had been but a dream.

She was staring at her glass as if it contained the answer to the all-important question of the meaning of life. And to her, maybe it did. She took another careful and measured swig of bourbon. She pushed a wisp of a long, blonde hair behind her ears before looking up and staring at the replica of an Andy Warhol painting above the bed.

He closed his eyes again and dozed off. This time, he was sure he was dreaming.

The sun was shining down on him and the voices of excited teenagers, playing children and concerned mothers was ringing in his ears. Central Park was filled as was to be expected on a beautiful Summer day. He was lying on the freshly-cut grass on one of the lawns with two elderly men sitting on a blanket nearby listening to the radio broadcast of the Yankees game (they were leading by two runs with one inning to go). And there she was.

She was shooting free throws on one of the nearby courts, hitting them with passable accuracy. Next to the hoop was a speaker blasting a playlist playing the Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Phoenix and Jay-Z. Her focus however, seemed to be completely taken by getting the ball into the hoop. She kept her eyes on the rim, kept her elbows straight and then released the ball towards her goal in a perfect arc. After every shot she made, a faint smile appeared on her face. When she missed, a look of despair and dejection appeared on her face.

At first, he just glanced over after hearing the rhythmic bouncing of the ball on concrete. But then, when everything else in the park failed to capture his attention, he couldn’t help but continue to watch the stunning girl so fully absorbed by practicing her free throws. He tried to work up enough courage to go and talk to her, wondering which words would have the effect he wished for. Just as he got up to walk over, the sound of laughter pulled him out of his dream and back to reality.

She was still sitting on the desk, but this time she was smiling and giggling. Dawn had reached New York City, with the first rays of sunshine illuminating the hotel room. With the morning, a different kind of mood had taken hold of the woman. The glass of bourbon had been replaced with a little black notebook, which she was reading intently and with the same focus she had shown on the basketball court.

He opened his eyes fully and took a moment to get used to the sunlight filling the room. He stared at the girl in front of him and a smile appeared on his face. The last night now seemed like a distant memory destined to float away in due time.

She finally noticed his awakening. A final laugh escaped her throat. She leaned back and looked at him in silence. As so often, she didn’t know what she wanted to say. Instead, she grabbed the tiny black notebook and began to jot down something. The strokes of her pen flew over the paper.

He watched her start writing and closed his eyes again. The more often he opened his eyes and saw she wasn’t gone, the more he was convinced that she wasn’t gone. He slowly counted to ten and then opened them again, focusing at the desk.

She wasn’t there. Nothing but emptiness was to be found where she had been sitting. However, the tiny black book had been thrown onto the bed. Frantically, he flipped through the pages, skimming through the back-and-forth banter of their early courtship until he reached the last page of the book. His eyes devoured the content of her writing.

He sighed. After pulling on his clothes, he took a moment to gaze upon the city where dreams came to come true or die.

He opened the closet, grabbed the basketball hidden inside and turned around.  With a hint of hopefulness in his voice he said:  “Are we leaving?”

Behind him, she looked at him with her bright, blue eyes peering into his, and smiled.


 

That’s it for today. I’m always looking for feedback, so please hit me up on Twitter or in the comments section!

Sincerely yours,

Albert

 

 

 

Crossing the bridge

Walking is definitely my preferred way of discovering cities. New York City with its easy layout therefore is perfect to explore on foot. My friend and I never considered using the famed NYC subway since travelling underground isn’t a very good way of seeing a city. We also didn’t take advantage of one of the iconic yellow cabs with the build-in screens in the backseat. Instead, every morning, we set out on foot starting from our hotel on 45th Street. One of our longest walks took us down to SoHo and a wonderful little neighborhood restaurant, where we enjoyed a light lunch (especially compared to our other meals). Another one led us through the central park past the steps of the Met to the Guggenheim museum between the 89th and 90th street before we returned on Madison Ave strolling by the numerous designer shops.

My personal highlight of all this walking was my first successful crossing of the Brooklyn Bridge on my third visit to the famous landmark connecting the two boroughs. The beautiful bridge was undergoing massive construction in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy, so the number of tourists attempting to cross over was surprisingly low. On the other hand, the number of fitness conscious joggers battling the heat by showing off their (lack of) abs was definitely higher than anticipated. Joining the joggers on the bridge were the speedy cyclists adept at startling the unsuspecting tourists trying to take pictures at the most inopportune sections of the bridge. We took our time on the bridge, stopping often to enjoy the views of Manhattan and Brooklyn or to catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.

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Photo: Darko Miodragovic

The perspective from the bridge is unique as you can see the glory of downtown Manhattan on one side with the almost completed World Trade One looking over the skyline. On the other side the midtown scenery is dominated by the Empire State Building in all its glory, with other famous older landmarks like Rockefeller Center and the Chrysler building also vying for attention.

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Photo: Darko Miodragovic

After spending about half an hour on the bridge, we finally reached Brooklyn. Coming from the financial district and the famous golden bull, the vibe encountered is noticeably different and more creative. We took a walk around a block in Dumbo finding interesting design studios, tiny fashion ateliers and organic neighborhood shops. A special place was a café set under the archway of the nearby Manhattan bridge, an image that has stayed with me since returning.

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Photo: Darko Miodragovic

I had never paid much attention to Brooklyn before, but this first glimpse of the borough has made me curious. We wrapped up our little excursion over the river with artisanal ice cream at the Brooklyn Bridge park, where we waited for our boat to take us to Liberty Island. For my next visit to NYC, Brooklyn Heights and Williamsburg have been added to my itinerary.

Walking around a city or countryside is the best way to discover new places that tours don’t necessarily always cover. The main advantage is the ability to set your own pace, allowing you to pause and linger around interesting corners and people of the city you’re visiting. If you don’t like the direction you’re heading down, you can always turn around or take another route at the next crossing.

I hope you’re enjoying my summer series about NYC. If so, please like, subscribe and share!

As you can see, I changed the WordPress theme for the blog, giving it a cleaner and more minimalist look. It is still subject to experimentation as I’m thinking of hosting this blog on my own. But what do you think about this new design? Let me know your thoughts!

See you on Friday!

Sincerely yours,
Albert

The park takes center stage

First off: The Zürifäscht was incredible. With great booths and fantastic parties, I spent most of my weekend in the city enjoying the party. The highlight was the spectacular display of fireworks both on Friday and Saturday, illuminating the clear summer sky and accompanied by a brilliantly fitting soundtrack. As far as pyrotechnics goes, the Zürifäscht didn’t disappoint and still delivers the gold standard. I really hope you didn’t miss Switzerland’s biggest festivity this time around, because it kept its promise of sun and spectacle. If you did, make sure you’re here in 2016 for the next edition.

After such a busy weekend, obviously many visitors of the Zürifäscht will have the need to calm down and relax. The city of Zurich has many great places by the lake for an afternoon of bliss, including the Renten- and Chinawiese. On beautiful summer days, they’re packed with high schoolers, college students, stay-at-home mothers and fathers and anyone lucky enough to have a free day.

However, nothing can compare to the recreational area my friend and I visited last week: New York’s central park. The massive green patch in the middle of Manhattan is one of the great wonders of the city. Also known as the lung of the city, the 840 acres has been a mainstay of all of my New York visits so far.

The first time I arrived in the city of dreams, I was awestruck by the skyscrapers as well as the energy and mass of people. I felt right at home. This feeling was amplified when my friend and I, staying in a hostel on around 95th street, walked the few blocks and stepped into the park. Seeing such a large space of grass and trees amidst the brownstones and posh apartment blocks was fascinating. We then made our way to the Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis Reservoir. I clearly remember standing there, staring at the calm face of the water, getting passed by the swift movements of joggers and thinking: why would I ever leave?

On my second visit my girlfriend at the time and I covered even more ground: we took a bicycle tour through the park and explored more of the east side I didn’t know before taking the route to the sullen memorial to John Lennon. One of the great architectural feats of the central park is the ability to merge cyclists, joggers and tourists. During the tour we discovered many of the hidden ponds and fountains scattered all over the park. We enjoyed the shade the tall, impressive trees provided and listened to the bits of trivia our guide had to say about the park.

This time around, my friend and I spent most of our time on a Sunday lounging in the large lawn in the south of the park near the Fifth Avenue entrance. Just watching the various pastimes of New Yorkers brought serenity to the hectic pace of our six-day trip. To our left, three twenty-somethings were trying to produce bubbles as large as basketballs with one girl succeeding after what seemed to be a hundred tries. Our eyes followed the bubble as it took flight, ascending higher and higher passing the young ladies lying on their towels tanning themselves. With the help of the slight breeze the bubble travelled over to the group of high school kids celebrating the end of the school year and the promise of future. It continued to the couple clumsily tossing a baseball back and forth. The girls, who had blown the bubble, were naturally delighted by their success and their laughter filled the air, although it was soon drowned out by the excited shouts from the group playing high level beach volleyball nearby. The bubble, now slowly descending, got a last bout of second wind and flew by a kid in Spain jersey (unsuccessfully) trying to emulate his idols with his father. We took a last look as the bubble burst on the soft grass and continued our journey reenergized and completely recharged.

Sincerely yours,
Albert

PS: I’ve been really motivated by getting new followers the last few days and I would like to thank them so much for reading! Please continue to like, share and follow!

The art of play

First of all, sorry for the slight delay as I’m having some technical difficulties here. So, this might arrive at your timezone on a Thursday, but it’s still Wednesday where I am, so I guess that counts!

One of my favorite pastimes in the US is going to the cinema. The screens are bigger, the seats are roomier and no breaks disturb the flow of the movie. They add to the entertainment by showing half a dozen trailers before the movie starts. On a rainy New York city day, my friend and I took a break from all the sightseeing to watch the apocalypse comedy “This is the end” by Freaks & Geeks alum Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg. I enjoy self-irony a lot and a movie full of actors poking fun at their profession exactly fits the bill. The host of cameos highlighted by a delightfully rude Michael Cera and stunning Emma Watson had me laughing throughout.

However, one of the lines that made me smile and think is delivered by James Franco, who asks the LA-hating and art-bashing Jay Baruchel (this is not an exact quote): “You don’t like art? Do you like videogames? That’s art. …” Continuing his rant and showing Mr. Baruchel the error of his ways, he goes on to call sandwich- and lovemaking art as well.

Mr. Franco is not alone in his assessment that video games are art. A few hours before we fled the rain for the comforts of the cinema, we spent the morning a the Museum of Modern Art. The MoMA is a staple of all my New York City itineraries and my absolute favorite museum.

After walking through the fifth level with works by Picasso, Van Gogh and Monet and the fourth level with late 20th century artists such as Warhol and Lichtenstein, we reached the third level featured pieces I hadn’t seen in 2009 and 2011. The exhibition on level 3 featured classics of videogame history. It included videos such as a hilarious play-through of a player trying to build their Sims house without cheats (spoiler alert: unsuccessfully) and a great space battle in the massive universe of EVE Online. For the interactive parts, visitors could test their skills playing the hallmarks of gaming culture: the original Tetris and Pac-Man. Games as Sim City 2000 and Portal also received their due at the diverse installation.

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Foto: Darko Miodragovic

Needless to say, the exhibition made me appreciate the museum even more than I already did before. A lot of video games are fantastic artistic endeavors. Some developers succeed in crafting beautiful virtual worlds and writing breath-taking stories. Some of the worlds I see as very interesting creations: the vast world of the revolutionary online game World of Warcraft; the creepy, but intense atmosphere of Bioshock Infinite and the creatures of Pokemon, thoughtful plays on real-world animals. Video gaming has become a platform for artists to bring their vision to an interactive medium. With technology improving, creations are becoming more realistic and animations are becoming more fluid. The new consoles and the ever increasing computing power allows content these modern-day artists to push their creations to new levels. I’m pretty excited to see what the future will bring. As a next project, I’m looking forward to playing the critically acclaimed apocalypse game “The Last of Us”, which has received rave reviews for the cinematic parts of the playthrough.

Which games would you include in an art exhibition? Have there been any worlds, which have blown you away? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

If you’ve enjoyed my thoughts, please like, share and subscribe!

Sincerely yours,

Albert

On top of the world

The next two weeks will feature a special summer series about my favorite city: New York. The town has inspired millions of people from around the world. I love its energy and diversity as well as the unique blend of old buildings and modern skyscrapers.

This year, I’m fortunate to be able to visit the city for the third time. Travelling with a friend, we spent our first day walking around and exploring downtown, starting from the financial district and working ourselves up to the village. The Sunday was then spent in mid-town at the traditional tourist attractions and at the lung of the city: the central park. Both ofus have been enjoying the warm weather, taking in the scents and scenes of a city so different from all the others.

My favorite tourist attraction in New York is the fabulous Rockefeller Center with its observation deck. Every time I visit the city, I take the 43-second elevator ride to the 82nd floor deck. There are three reasons why I prefer the Top of the Rock to the world-famous observation deck on the Empire State building. Firstly, the boundaries of the deck are glass and therefore transparent. Secondly, it is more spacious and accommodates fewer tourists, making it less crowded and easier to move around on deck. And thirdly, you are treated to a magnificent view of the beautiful Empire State building in all its glory.

To start off this series and end this post, I would have liked to show you the view that never fails to inspire me to follow my dreams: But unfortunately, due to technical problems with my laptop (it wasn’t able to read the SD card), I’ll have to upload the picture later!

Edit: Here is the promised picture with the Empire State taking center stage, and World Trade 1 and the Statue of Liberty barely visible in the background!

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Foto: Darko Miodragovic

So, we’re off to do more exploring. See you soon!

Sincerely yours,

Albert