UMAMI MART MATSURI FESTIVAL
Preface:
$100/5 Days/NYC/Tourist
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4 - GAME OVER!

Since Obama officially announced this country's Recession a few months back (they called it the "Bagel" on West Wing season 5; Recession is a bad, bad word), all we hear on the news any more is about jobs lost (unemployment at 8.1%!), tanking stocks (Nasdaq down a gajillion points!), and how Madoff and Co. destroyed yet another retiree's life.

This ain't just another Bagel, folks. This is serious.

In reality, however, the Bagel hit the average New Yorker long ago- me and my friends, who mostly work in the arts, have always had to be creative with the little cash we earned (my job at the Bronx Museum in 2004 only paid me $25,000/year, if you can believe that. I still don't know how I survived on that alone, but I happily did). We've always had to know where to go for BYOB, and how to eat well, from paycheck to paycheck. This has always been our reality.

Which is why $100/5 Days ended up working out. Granted, I couldn't have done it without dinner plans falling through and the graciousness of my friends who invited me over for dinner. Nor could I have done it without Trader Joe's within walking distance- Whole Foods was much closer, but any person on a restricted budget has no business going there.

By Day 5 I had $6.77 left. I split some Thai takeout for lunch which came out to $8 each between the three of us. And actually that was it for the rest of the day- I attended Ayagwa and Tmonkey's wedding ceremony at Brooklyn City Hall and we wandered into a Pete's Downtown after (which turned out to be a pleasant surprise), where their family kindly footed the bill. The rule was that no one could take me out during the 5 days, but at that point, my budget was blown, and the occasion was too special to make a fuss.

So technically, I completed $100/5 Days with a negative balance of only -$1.23. In 5 days in NYC, I managed to eat and drink on $101.23. Pretty amazing!!!! Was it fate or faith? Definitely a little bit of both. By the second day, I didn't tell anyone I was doing this- I have really wonderful friends who would just want to take me out, which was really not the point of $100/5 Days at all. I wanted to try maintaining my normal lifestyle, with severe budget cuts. It's something we are all struggling to figure out right now, more than ever.

As I said for Day 4, I wanted this to be about my wanderings as a well-fed tourist on a budget. I don't live here anymore, and hoped I could eat out for $20/day. Conclusion: NOT POSSIBLE. I made it on $30/day for the first 2 days, which in itself was pretty damn miraculous- but I would certainly not have made it to Friday had I not had a kitchen, or knew people who did.

But the thing is, eating in the comforts of home is not only the cheapest (I fed five people with under $10!), but also the loveliest. I'm not sure if it's growing up, or if the restaurant scene is starting to bore me a little, but there is just a level of relaxation and control you have in your own house that a restaurant could never provide. I know it goes both ways, but it wasn't until this last week that I realized the golden merits of eating at home, whether you're on a budget or not.

$100/5 Days turned out to be a great experience for me. It made me realize that in my heart of hearts, I'm a true New Yorker, and will never just be a tourist here. Although I do want to work on some sort of food guide for tourists- in this city (or any city?) you've really gotta know where to go to eat on a budget. It's not fair for poor visitors!

Thanks everyone for all your support!!! Best of luck with the Bagel- we're gonna make it!