New York State of Mind : Aylesse Sordillo, Graduate Fellow

By May Dobosiewicz

Aylesse Sordillo

Been here: 7.5 years

Lives in: Central Harlem

From: Outside of Boston

Is there something you do regularly that you could only do here?

For sure. I’m really into underground electronic music shows, and New York is one of the only places where you can pretty much see everyone since they’re not the kind of people who tour super broadly. PS1 has a whole summer series called WarmUp. They have a backyard where they do electronic music shows with music and beer.

Do you have a favorite museum?

The Brooklyn Museum.

If you could change something about New York, what would it be?

It would be less expensive to live here.

How do you feel about Citibikes moving into Harlem successfully?

It would be good. Everyone should be able to have Citibikes, not just people who live below a certain street. It would also be good for people who want to go to Central Park and then explore Harlem. I ride my bike in Harlem all the time, so I think it would be fine. I mean, the Harlem dirt bike gangs haven’t had any accidents yet. They’re these groups of usually about 50 guys on dirt bikes or ATVs, and they just zoom through red lights, doing wheelies. It’s a regular occurrence when it’s relatively warm out.

Have you ever gotten in trouble with the law here?

I had two friends visiting from out of town. We were drinking out of a Sprite bottle, but it was pink since there was also cranberry juice in it. A bunch of undercover police pulled us off the train and gave my friend a $15 ticket for drinking in public. And one time I got a ticket for running a red light on my bicycle. Those are my two run-ins with the law.

Have you been to Brighton Beach?

I once went to Brighton Beach to see a reggae concert. Everyone there was Russian, plus me and my two friends, and the reggae band. It was one of most bizarre experiences I’ve had.

Who would New York not be New York without?

Those recurring characters you see based on the part of the city you’re in. Like that woman on roller blades with the bags of bottles. And there are these two people I see every day when I bike to work along Fifth Avenue—I don’t know who they are, just a man and a woman, always wearing backpacks and sunglasses and hats. They’re always singing hip-hop music to themselves at the top of their lungs. New York wouldn’t be New York without dealing with really strange people on a daily basis.

What was the strangest thing that’s happened to you in the city?

I was celebrating finals with a couple of friends (one of them is Polish) at this bar we used to go to all the time in Greenpoint—not a fancy place. We were having drinks outside with these two guys, who were mostly speaking in Polish to my friend. Then this really big guy rushes out into the backyard area and starts screaming at these guys in Polish—obviously really angry. Next thing you know, he takes one of the guys, throws him on the ground and starts punching him. He smashes his hand on a beer bottle but keeps punching, so there’s blood everywhere. Then he throws our table across the yard, so our drinks, bags, phones go flying. At this point we’re obviously scared. We pick our stuff up and try to run out, but he grabs our friend, Mark, by the neck and throws him against the wall! Mark takes off running and when we get into a cab and the driver asks, “Are you okay? You look like you’ve been in a slasher movie.” We knew we had blood on our clothes and shoes, but we thought we looked relatively normal. Then at Columbia, the security guard was staring as though something was really wrong with me. Turns out my face was covered with this random person’s blood!

Have you ever had a pickleback?

Yes. The last one I had was called A Different Kind of Pickleback—a shot of whiskey, and then the pickle part was a gel-like puree, sort of like a jello shot. Picklebacks are awesome.

What’s your favorite NYC-based movie?

The Wackness. It’s a coming-of-age movie set in the 90’s about this guy who sells weed out of a slushy cart.

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