Saturday, 22 November 2014

Brooklyn, the Gateway to Manhattan

This post contains swearing.  If that's a problem for you, don't read it.  There are times when profanity is the only way to properly communicate something.

I arrive at Penn Station in New York in the afternoon.  I'm travelling with a large hiking pack, so the sane thing to do seemed to be going directly to the hostel and setting it down before trying to strike out into Manhattan.  There's no space in those city streets for a hiking pack.  I took the train to Brooklyn, and walked about 15 minutes downhill, under the freeway, into an area of town that looked rough.  When I arrived to the Pacific Lofts hostel, I saw this.


This building is the Pacific Lofts Hostel.  The reason you don't see a sign on the front saying “Pacific Lofts Hostel” is because the man who runs the hostel takes the sign down during the day to discourage anyone from reporting an illegal boarding house and getting him shut down.  The sign, when it was on the door, was this one:


  I felt reluctant as soon as I laid eyes on the place.  It looked cracked and broken and a little bit dangerous.  The sign may as well have read “we don't give a shit about your comfort” and the flaked paint, cracked brickwork and uneven steps may as well have been another sign saying “no one gives a shit about this house either.”

Welcome to Brooklyn, asshole.


I was sick.  It was late afternoon.  This place had online reviews that made it sound like it was workable and had been operating as a hostel for awhile and I thought I'd give it a chance.  All I wanted was a bed and a place to store my stuff that was within semi-easy reach of Manhattan.  Warm reception aside, this hostel was still offering me exactly what I was after.

So.  I was shown into the downstairs space.  The door frame had warped to a point where the door barely fit anymore, and when it pushed open this place said hello.


Hope you enjoy your stay.

When I wrote in my journal about it, my exact words were:


"This hostel is sketchy mc. sketchville, served with a side of sketchy with a decent lug of house made sketch sauce."  I stand by those words.

The landlord had been digging up the cheap, press-on laminate in the living room while guests were staying in the hostel.  The couch, TV, cleaning products, mortar mix, buckets, brooms, shovels, fans, personal junk, lysol, spray-starch and a bunch of unrecognizable garbage that couldn't possibly have belonged to guests were...  well... here.

Next to the fridge, there was the cooking area.

Off-camera, there was a single pan.  The technique to cooking with this single pan was first to remove the microwave from the stove, and then line the pan with tinfoil and put it on the burner (where the microwave used to be).  The kitchen didn't have a sink so you would have to throw out the tinfoil afterwards rather than wash the pan.

That way the pan wouldn't get dirty and other people could use it, of course.

Necessity really must be the mother of invention.

Pardon the mess, he says, we're just replacing the flooring.  He didn't add that this decision had been made while the hostel was full.

The dorms were just behind the last door and weren't a lot better. No air circulated in the basement space.  Something that looked a lot like mold was on the baseboards.  The guy running the hostel didn't check my ID or make sure I wasn't a NY resident (which you're legally required to do if you run a hostel in NY).  He had lost his phone so he didn't have a chance to charge me for my stay at first.  I got to sit and think about it for awhile.

Making decisions while you're sick as a dog is more challenging than making decisions when you're feeling well.  The calculus works differently.  The factors involved in “should I find another place to stay” are more complicated.  Could I find wifi, find another place to stay within a reasonably comparable price range, get to that place to stay and avoid getting into an argument with the operator of this hostel, and do it all without degenerating into a vomitous mass of Jonathan?  Probably, probably, probably, probably and probably not... in that order.  Travel while sick is more complicated than travel while not sick.  I just stayed the night, stale damp air and all, hoping that the next morning I would have a few more personal resources to bring to bear. 

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