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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Location, Location, Location

Union Square subway
Photo by myself, in Union Square subway station.

I like the colors in this photo.


Another building crane collapsed today, the second in two months. It happened on the Upper East Side around 90th Street, in the construction of yet another luxury high-rise condominium.

I heard a coworker mention the news in passing. Who would be surprised with so much construction going on. Sadly, two people were killed and one person was seriously injured in the accident.

You wouldn't think there is a troubled economy, with how much construction is going on. Without exaggeration, nearly every block has scaffolding on it. And the reason is that there is just too much money involved.

For instance, there was an article in the New York Times last weekend about the new building at 15 Central Park West, near 60th Street.

The building is prized for its amazing, unobscured views of Central Park. Sting and Denzel Washington have purchased apartments already. The renovation I'm working on is in the building, too, and the views are stunning.

It's one of the most desirable addresses these days. A doctor who had purchased a 5,800 square foot duplex was offered (and turned down) an enormous sum for his apartment - a whopping 85 million dollars. That works out to more than $14,000 per square foot.

By the way, the current rule of thumb for a Manhattan condo is about $1,100 per square foot. Meaning that a 700 square foot apartment would go for $770,000.

For my photos from 15 Central Park West, click here or here.

Related posts: The Cost of Living Here II: Or Life in Playland, The Cost of Living Here and The Sky is Falling.


Friday, May 30, 2008

It's in the Stars

Big Nick's Burger Joint
Photo by myself of Big Nick's Burger Joint on the Upper West Side, on Broadway and 76th Street. As the signs say, you can get ostrich and bison burgers at Big Nick's.

People are dining in full force on the street now with the nice weather. You wouldn't think that eating on the sidewalk with car and pedestrian traffic ambling by would be so great, but New Yorkers look forward to it all winter.

You contend with bright sunshine, or winds, or a passing drizzle, or pan handlers, or noise, or smokers. But there's something about eating on the sidewalk that feels glamorous and privileged. Even if you're just having a burger.


Lately the planet Mercury has been 'retrograde'.

You hear the term mentioned sometimes. People offer it up as an explanation for machines, communication and plans going haywire. (Mercury is the planet representing communication, and 'retrograde' means that the planet temporarily looks like it's moving backwards in its trajectory, from planet Earth).

I know there are probably loads of disbelievers out there. I've had an interest in astrology for a while, if only because there have been too many coincidences for me to deny.

So recently Mercury has been retrograde since May 26th. What's happened?

Well poor Mark, who trades moderately on ebay, has had a few things happen since the evening of May 25:

1. His Paypal account directed one of his packages to an address 4 years out of date.
2. He mailed a package to an incorrect address Paypal had given him.
3. Another package he mailed was damaged by the postal service.
4. Yet another ebay transaction did not do well. The recipient misunderstood the ad and left Mark his first negative feedback in over 4 years.
5. He got a parking ticket, even though it was announced on television that parking rules were suspended this week in Park Slope.
6. One of the mirrors belonging to his grandfather fell off the wall.
7. In opening the closet, he broke some of my teacups.

Mercury does not go direct until June 19th. I've told Mark to drive more carefully in the meantime.

Related posts: What are the Chances and Finito


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Much More on Food

Korean goods
Photo by myself in Koreatown, on 32nd Street and Sixth Avenue.

There are tons of snacks to be had at Woorijip, a bustling deli serving fresh and packaged Korean food. Hot and cold foods are displayed at the salad bar. Fully prepped meals change daily and are wrapped for take away.

Be sure to get there early, or you'll have trouble getting through the door.


Our current environmental consciousness makes sense - we all live on the same planet, how we dispose of whatever we use and where it comes from makes a difference.

A recent article in the New Yorker goes one step further. Where is our food coming from? Is what we're eating becoming endangered, or endangering other species? Is it good for us, our bodies? Is it good for our planet?

These questions are heavy ones, and so is the article, which is a review of The End of Food by Paul Roberts. These are important issues that we'll be hopefully talking about in the near future, just as we now talk about whether certain plastics are recyclable.

The differences among cultures have become obvious. Some can hardly afford to eat, and others eat unhealthily and in huge quantities. It used to take 10 weeks to raise a chicken for consumption. Now it takes a little more than 5 weeks. How do we navigate this stuff?

I have the luxury of choosing my food. Hopefully Mark and I can make healthy choices for ourselves and how we effect the rest of the planet.

Related posts: Building for a Greener Environment, On Zen and Eating Too Much Delicious Food


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

All You Can Eat

24 Hour Deli Counter
Photo by myself, somewhere in Harlem.

Mark and I were driving by this weekend when I snapped this photo. This deli counter faces the street. From the looks of it, you can get flavored coffee, 6-foot heroes, ice cream on a stick, birthday cakes and donuts anytime, day or night.


This weekend, Mark and I grilled hot dogs from Fairway. They were the long, skinny all-beef franks you might get on the streets, which are also called Sabrett dogs. But these weren't Sabretts.

You see the Sabrett name on little hot dog carts all over the city. They have a natural casing that becomes taut from cooking, which deliver a particular texture. When you bite into the dog, it 'snaps' open. They are delicious.

Mark and I had one dog each, with a lot of mustard and a bit of ketchup. It tasted like a Sabrett. It was delicious. It was divine.

About an hour later, I wound up sitting in a hot bath. My feet and face were unbearably itchy. I wound up scrubbing my feet until they were bright pink and nearly raw.

I must have had an allergic reaction to the nitrates used as preservatives. Mark felt generally fine but a little queasy. Next time we go to Fairway, I'll let the management know my experience.

And next time, I'll have a Sabrett.

Apologies for my slow response to comments these days, and my poor showing at peoples' blogs. It's been a busy time!

Related posts: Meat, The Mother of All Supermarkets and How You Can Have What You Crave When You Want It


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Ahoy, Matey!

Fleet Week
Photo by myself in Hell's Kitchen, on Ninth Avenue around 44th Street.

Memorial Day weekend marks Fleet Week in New York. US Naval ships and crafts from other countries dock along the west side, this time of year. Sailors usually stroll the streets in groups near 42nd Street.

Here, a member of the US Navy in white, takes in the city with a member of the US Marine Corps, in beige and blue.


I used to work near 42nd Street on the west side. Around Memorial Day, I'd see sailors from other countries walking around. Most were from Britain, I believe, and walked around in their white uniforms with dark socks pulled up to their knees.

I always looked on this time of the year fondly. The military men and women stood out so obviously from us civilians, and it was nice to see them milling about on the sidewalks, enjoying the city.

Mark and I were on the west side today for lunch, and we spotted a few uniformed officers, who were probably American. For whatever reason, there didn't seem to be as many uniforms as in past years.

There were long lines along the West Side Highway, which runs along the edge of Manhattan, by the Hudson. Visitors are allowed to board some of the ships docked there. There was also a small group of people protesting against China, on behalf of Tibet.

Hell's Kitchen has loads of wonderful, affordable restaurants. Let's hope these fellas didn't spoil their pristine uniforms.

Other posts about Tibetan protests in New York: Peace to All and Tibetans of the World Unite.

For the New York Fleet Week site, click here.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Summer

Photo by myself in Bryant Park, at 41st Street and 5th Avenue.


Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone! Summer has begun.

Mark and I had our pick of a couple barbecues to attend today but we opted at the last minute to have one of own.

There was a last minute run to Fairway, a large supermarket in Red Hook, Brooklyn, for supplies. There was a run to the hardware store and flower market too, which had annuals spread out on the sidewalk. Begonias, petunias, pansies and geraniums were among the flowers there.

Most people in New York don't have backyards, but there are options.

You need a permit to barbecue in Central Park, in Manhattan, but you can certainly picnic. There are areas for barbecueing in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, and some of the other State Parks.

Mark and I are lucky enough to have a small balcony for a charcoal grill. There were hot dogs, cheeseburgers, potato salad and lots of beer. After some good chit chat outside, there was an attempt at video racing games (yes, we drank and we drove).

A good time was had by all. Hope everyone is having a lovely weekend!

Related posts: Meat, The Mother of All Supermarkets and How You Can Have What You Crave When You Want It.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Life's A Beach

Life Guard
Photo by myself in Sunken Meadow, a state park in Long Island.


New York beaches kick off the summer season with Memorial Day weekend. It was the first working day for life guards, though the waters won't be bearable for a couple months. The water temperatures for Long Island are typically in the mid-50's at this time.

Sunken Meadow is one of many beaches relatively close to the city. It's a state park with huge grass fields, areas for picnics and barbecues, and even a 27-hole golf course.

Wooden life guard posts are set up along a pristine beach, and a tidy boardwalk runs for nearly a mile along the shore. No one was in the water today, but there were a couple volleyball games in progress and many folks walking along the boardwalk.

The New York State Parks website lists 72 state parks that have beaches. The more well-known of these include Jones Beach and Robert Moses State Park.

Day trips are easily accessible destinations just outside the five boroughs of New York City.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Curse of the First Born

On the Sidewalk
Photo by myself, in Midtown.

Not the best photo I admit, but one that expresses the spirit of a given street corner.

From left to right: a woman with a dog in a bag, a guy on a cell phone, a woman smoking, a guy on a cell phone, a woman either adjusting her baggage or about to eat lunch, and a woman walking by on a cell phone.


It's been a long work week. Mark is fortunate because he's in-between projects. One big project ended and he's been free for a couple weeks.

Perhaps it's because I have what I call 'the curse of the first born'. I could never live the life of a freelancer, which is what Mark does (he's the younger of two in his family.)

A freelancer's life is feast or famine. You're either working yourself to the bone, or you're lollygagging about, waiting for the next thing. I imagine vultures or lions feel the same way, just waiting for the next big meal.

I could never do it. The anxiety would eat me away inside, until I'd become a quivering nervous wreck driving people around me nuts. I need the security, or rather, the sense of security that a regular, grueling job provides.

Mark handles the pressure and on-again, off-again workload very well. Our energy levels reflect this difference - he is high energy, wake up early and go full blast until conking out early, while I am a slow waker upper, who potters on and on until the wee hours.

Many people in creative fields are freelancers who work on one project at a time, or on an as-need basis. Advertising, especially, has a high turnover rate, while architects sit in one spot and stay at offices for long periods of time. Rome wasn't built in a day, right?

Anyhow, freelancers explain why, on any given afternoon, Starbucks and Barnes and Noble are packed. The subways and sidewalks are crowded too, and not just with visitors. It's the freelancing, freewheeling lifestyle of non-first born children that populates the coffee shops and diners and sidewalks and bookstores.

Oh to be an artist in the city. Perhaps in my next life.


Friday, May 23, 2008


Sea, in Williamsburg
Photo by myself in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on 6th and Berry Streets.

Sea, a popular Thai restaurant in Williamsburg Brooklyn, is packed on the weekends. I'm not sure whether people go there for the food, which is both good and reasonable, or the vibe, which is buzzing.

An eclectic, stage-like dining area with large fountains and a skylight make for an unusual and active setting.


You hear about famous musicians leaving their instruments in cabs all the time.

Lynn Harrell, a renown cellist, left his 4 million dollar Stradivarius in a New York taxi. So did Yo-Yo Ma, though his cello was only worth 2.5 million.

And recently, so did violinist Phillipe Quint, a Grammy award nominee. His 4 million dollar Stradivarius was left in a cab after a ride back from Newark airport.

All three musicians were fortunate enough to have had honest New York City cab drivers who returned their instruments without delay. Quint was so overjoyed with his reunion that he performed a special concert at the taxi company, for 100+ cab drivers.

I'm confident that most cabbies out there are honest. They've probably seen it all. I've heard that a taxi's back seat will yield just about everything, from cell phones to underwear to bodily fluids. And now, even a blind date.

New York cab driver Ahmed Ibrahim goes as far as arranging dates among his single passengers. Imagine that?

Related posts: Taxi Driver, Bridge and Tunnel.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Come And Get It

Urban Breakfast
Photo by myself in midtown.

There are fruit carts like this one on many corners of the city, especially in the morning. The carts compete for space with carts that serve the staple New York breakfast - bagels and coffee.


Speaking of food, there was a yet another excellent article in this week's New Yorker magazine.

Unfortunately, the article isn't available online, but the magazine posted an mp3 recording of Ian Frazier, the author of the story.

Frazier writes about a soup kitchen at the Holy Apostles church at 9th Avenue and 28th Street, which serves 900+ people lunch every day. The article cites a chilling statistic: 1.3 million New Yorkers cannot afford food for their families. In other words, 1 out of every 6 New Yorkers is hungry.

This article is particularly good for those interested in writing, New York history and architecture.

Frazier leads a writers workshop in the same church every Wednesday afternoon. He has met all sorts of characters and recounts the history of the building, which is colorful. The church spends nearly $10,000 every day to provide meals, and the money comes primarily from individual donations.

Times are becoming tougher. Food prices are steadily rising. And with the recent cool temperatures, I see more and more homeless people in the subway stations every morning.

If this city is to survive, the statistics had better start changing for the better.

The Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen employs 40+ volunteers each day. Click here for their website.

Related posts: Castaways, Signs of Hope and The Underclass.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Remembering Memorial Day

At the Canyon of Heroes
Photo by myself on lower Broadway, around Rector Street.

Along the 'Canyon of Heroes', where championship teams and events are awarded ticker tape parades, over 200 plaques with stainless steel lettering are set into the sidewalk. All along Broadway, you can see a record of each parade in history.


As humans, we have the need to commemorate. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, even ticker tape parades.

One of my coworkers just celebrated his 50th birthday. I asked him how he felt, since he wore a look of disbelief.

'I feel like I'm 22,' he said sadly. This made me wonder what was worse - feeling your age, or not feeling your age?

Memorial Day is this weekend. Every year, I'm immersed in work, and the holiday sneaks up on me. I usually stay in the city, which empties out.

I would find myself alone with the tourists, which isn't such a bad thing. I walk around and enjoy the city, which is remarkably less crowded. But the feeling is like being at a party when the cake arrives in the next room, and you find that you're suddenly alone.

This year, I'm happy to say, the holiday is not going to sneak up on me. No, I won't be a victim of the calendar.

Mark and I may attend a barbecue or throw a barbecue of our own. Or we might drive out to Long Island to see his mom, or we'll cook a few things, or walk around and enjoy the city that we're blessed to live in. Or we might do nothing at all.

It doesn't matter what we'll be doing. I'm just glad to look forward to the three-day weekend for once.

For more on the Canyon of Heroes, click here

Related posts: Past Times and Tourists for a Day.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

On Photography - Before and After

Chairs in Brooklyn
Photo by myself in front of a vintage furniture store on Wythe and South First Streets in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I really loved the colors at work here.

There are several stores that sell vintage furnishings in Williamsburg. Some are more of the 60's office variety, others include funky Scandinavian-inspired pieces.

Either way, you will come away with something that no one else has.


For those interested in current photography, I suggest a wonderful article in a recent New Yorker magazine about gifted photo retoucher Pascal Dangin.

I wish I could find the two photos that were printed in the article. An original black and white photo of a nude model by Patrick Demarchelier was published alongside the photo after Dangin's handiwork.

In the retouched photograph, the model's torso has been rotated, the back of her pelvis better lit. The lighting of her hair, background and body is even and flattering. Her bony hip is eased, to look less severe. The images are strikingly different.

From the reporter's description, you get the sense that Dangin performs minor tweaks based on a full knowledge of anatomy. He sits with photographers over raw photos to discuss his vision for an image, and is even present during photo shoots to offer his expertise.

Dangin has admitted to retouching Annie Liebovitz's photos for Dove the soap Campaign for Real Beauty, which were supposed to have been untouched images of 'real' women. So much for reality!

Here's the Dove evolution ad showing a model from sitting to billboard:

Related posts: The Arts - Live and one Videotape, Inspiration and Random Shots


Monday, May 19, 2008

The Hills Are Alive in Prospect Park, Brooklyn

Rabbit on a Leash, Prospect Park
Photo by myself, in Prospect Park, Brooklyn.

On our way over to the Brooklyn Museum of Art on Saturday, Mark and I passed by a fellow walking his pet, a long-eared rabbit, on a leash.


Many people have heard of Central Park, that many acre-ed space in the middle of Manhattan, designed by Frederick Law Olmstead.

Until this weekend, Mark and I hadn't really seen Prospect Park, another Olmstead park, in Brooklyn. We were surprised by how enormous the place was. (According to Wikipedia, Prospect Park is 585 acres large, compared to Central Park's 840+ acres).

Less manicured than Central Park and without the backdrop of tall buildings, Prospect Park rambles on and on. We walked by Little League games for kids of all ages, from teens to little ones who must have been around 5 or 6 years old.

Prospect Park, Brooklyn

There were couples sprawled out on the rolling lawns, people walking their dogs, people walking their rabbits (!), people throwing birthday parties at picnic tables complete with balloons and kites, people tending barbeques.

We exited the park to find a farmer's market in Grand Army Plaza, another Olmstead design. There were stalls offering homemade goat cheeses, baguettes, maple syrup and all else.

Mark and I wound up having a wonderful picnic lunch. We'll soon be back!


Lower photo by Mark, of the Little League games at Prospect Park.

Related posts: Out Getting Some Air and Keeping Your Dogs in a Row.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

At the Brooklyn Museum - The Dizzying World of Murakami

Murakami sculpture
Photo by myself, part of a massive Murakami sculpture at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

The Murakami exhibit is going strong until mid-July at the BMA, located near Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn.


Mark and I walked through Prospect Park today to the Brooklyn Museum of Art to see the Murakami exhibit that is currently on view.

Takashi Murakami is one of Mark's favorite artists. Recently we saw a television program that showed him fastidiously choosing every color in his large scale murals, in a paint-by-numbers way. If you're not familiar with his art, I'd describe it as playful, colorful and prolific.

Murakami combines cartoon characters, a huge palette of glorious colors, logos and comic book techniques into a dizzying array of work. Sea green topped mushrooms bare their teeth, surrounded by swirls of pinkish orange and coral. In another room, the walls are covered with cartoon eyeballs of different sizes.

For a slide show of the BMA exhibit, click here.

Some of the murals are gigantic, comprised of several panels into works 30 feet long. They are glorious and colorful, often with backgrounds of matte gold or silver. Some of the images resemble patterned wallpaper and was reproduced to cover the galleries from floor to ceiling. There were also incredible sculptures, as well as products on sale, produced for Louis Vuitton.

Recently the exhibit has been heavily advertised on the subway, and I hope parents are warned at the door. Some of the art is for adults only. I can only wonder what some children thought of a couple sculptures with exaggerated anatomical features. Ahem.

In general, the exhibit was fantastic and inspiring. If you're in New York in the next couple months, do make the trek over to the Brooklyn Museum.

Murakami Sculpture

For a the Times review of the exhibit, click here.

Related posts: How to Get From Here to There, and East Side Versus West Side.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Architectural Detail, Above

Tabla Ceiling
Photo by myself of the vaulted ceiling outside Tabla, an upscale Indian restaurant at Madison Avenue and 24th Street, at the base of the MetLife Tower. You can sit outside for drinks and watch the goings on of Madison Square Park, across the street.


The weather here has been sporadic lately. Not nice enough at all to have drinks and dine outside under an ornate vault.

The weather reminds me of San Franscico. It's cold in the mornings, at times nice during the day and cold again at night. You see a mix of flip flops and winter boots on the train.

Well, it's been a long week and I've run out of words. I'm absolutely knackered.

More, tomorrow. Happy weekend, everyone!

Related posts: Among Beautiful Things


Friday, May 16, 2008

'This American Life' on the City Streets

Paper Cutting
Photo by myself on 13th Street and University Place.

I was walking along when I found this gentleman cutting beautiful paper animals on the sidewalk. I'd love to know his story.


You meet all types on the street, often by accident: dog walkers, transvestites, women with triplets, men in clown suits, veterans, gangs.

There are teachers, students, people from every country imaginable. People walk with their dogs, their cats, their parrots, their musical instruments. It's a little like The Breakfast Club.

There are commoners and there are celebrities, too. Like Jackie Onassis.

The graphic artist Chris Ware created a lovely animation for This American Life on just such a situation: running into a celebrity on the streets of New York.


Related posts: The Sublime and Ridiculous, Or Why I See Few Celebrities in New York and A Bit More on Celebrity, Past and Present


Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Low Down on Walk Ups

Brick Townhouse, UWS
Photo by myself on the Upper West Side, at 78th Street and West End Avenue.

I love the variations you can find among townhouses. Here, a gracious arch frames an opening. There is a sculptural quality to this entrance that I find compelling.


Townhouses were called tenement buildings at one time. They are called 'walk-ups' by New Yorkers, to mean that the building is divided up into apartments on each floor that you walk up to.

Having a townhouse to yourself is a lovely fantasy. The New York Times recently printed that single-family townhouses comprise between 3 and 4 percent of the available habitable real estate in Manhattan. So good luck on having a whole townhouse to yourself!

Widthwise, these buildings were made to be just wide enough for a parlor and a straight run of stairs. They're typically four or five stories high. Five floors are just enough to make it humanly possible to come home with a bag of groceries, trudge upstairs and then find that you forgot the milk.

I knew someone who lived on the seventh floor of a walk-up, who routinely threw large parties (!). His poor guests trudged up the six flights and the poor smokers soon trudged all the way down again to get their fix.

Five floors are also an ideal distance for plumbing, because New York City water is just pressurized enough within the pipes to get to the fifth floor without relying on a pump.

Buildings taller than five floors use water tanks located on the roof. You see these water tanks silhouetted on top of older buildings. A pump in the basement pumps water up to the rooftop tanks, which use gravity to get the water down to apartments when needed.

The above photo shows a handrail that is completely illegal by today's US building codes. These days the vertical struts of any railing have to be at most 4 inches apart, which is about the size of a baby's head.

Other countries have their own building codes. You see improbable railings in Europe that would allow babies, the sight impaired and their households to fall through.

Related posts: Building for a Greener Environment, 42nd Street and Things to Come.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Brooklyn Ale House
Photo by myself in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

One of the many bars in Williamsburg. There's an old-timey feel to this place.


My Dad has a fantasy of traveling to China and eating at a different restaurant for every meal. He could travel from town to town and could go on forever.

So I bought him the Lonely Planet guide to China a couple Christmases ago. It's enormous, about two inches thick. Of course he hasn't gone yet, and when (and if) he ever goes, the book will be out of date. But it's the thought that counts, right?

In the same way, you could have a drink each night in a different bar in New York and Brooklyn and not run out of places until your liver gave out.

There are sports bars and old timey bars and very, very trendy bars. There are hotel bars and tacky theme bars (airplane interiors, beauty parlors, thatched tiki huts, old railway cars).

There are underground bars without signs. There are wine bars and champagne bars. And on and on.

Related posts: Pub Crawl.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Cycle of Decay

Ruins in Red Hook
Photo by myself in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Behind a series of warehouses near the water, there is a ruined building from a different time. There's a mysterious and sculptural air about it, like a Rube Goldberg contraption.


There's a community garden a few streets from us in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where members pay yearly dues to work a plot of land. People plant flowers and vegetables, landscape gardens and create little ponds with koi.

Most neighborhoods have a community garden. It seems as if there are quite a few in Red Hook for instance, for whatever reason. There are some prominent ones in the East Village, along Houston Street. You're welcome to wander off the street and walk inside, provided you stay on the paths.

As a city dweller it's great to be able to get your hands dirty or compost your food stuff. Mark and I feel like we're doing our little part.

We haven't joined the garden near us, but we're going there to compost. On weekends, we dump a week's worth of odds and ends into the bin. People are there constantly, shifting the heaps from one bin to another, then using the final, rich compost for their gardens.

Last weekend, I was in such a rush, I brought the wrong bag with me. When I emptied the bag in the bin, I was surprised to find a pair of shoes I was going to leave out on the stoop. Egad!

The woman tending the compost pile and I were both surprised. I made some sort of lame-o half-funny comment, then took the shoes and skedaddled.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Could You Keep It Down?

After a Rough Night
Photo by myself in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.


When we first walked by this fellow lying across a stoop, he was out cold. I don't know if he was homeless, but he looked like he'd had a rough night out. It was Saturday afternoon, a brightly sunny day. I took a few photos from behind the railing.

'You should stand above him and take a photo,' Mark said, making the universal hand gesture for picture taking.

It'd make a great shot, but I didn't have the courage to do such a thing. We went about on our errands. When we returned, the man had rolled onto his side.

I snapped a few photos while Mark talked about whatever he was talking about. Then suddenly the man woke up, looking confused and a little annoyed.

My heart pretty much just leaped out of my body and bounced on the ground. I walked away very quickly, pulling Mark by the elbow.

Related posts: Castaways and The Underclass.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Where the Kids Are - Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Wood Door, WIlliamsburg
Photo by myself in Williamsburg, Brooklyn around Wythe and North 7th Streets.

Mark and I visited Williamsburg today. We ran some errands and toured our favorite furniture stores. This old wooden door had personality and caught my eye.


Fellow Daily Photo blogger Fredrik in Sweden had asked me about Williamsburg a while back.

Some of our favorite furniture stores are in Williamsburg. The Future Perfect is inventive and expensive, a little like an art and product museum. Next door, its cousin A&G Merch sports more affordable items. And down the road is our all-time favorite, The Golden Calf, which offers antiques, Thomas Paul pillows and cool tableware. Mark and I just love to go and look at stuff.

Williamsburg has great restaurants, too - a modern Vietnamese place, a couple upscale bars, a delicious Italian wine bar, and a French bistro. There are a couple extremely popular Thai places, too, that are packed on weekend nights.

I liken Williamsburg to Cambridge, Massachusetts. There's an informal vibe. Select surfaces are covered with graffiti or stickers, and the kids there dress in that shlumpy hipster way.

Williamsburg Hipster

Indie Movie Shoot
We encountered an old fashioned record store abuzz with customers, and an independent movie in the making. Parts of the neighborhood look sketchy, with their old warehouse buildings, but it's all very safe. New condo buildings are under construction near the water and real estate prices have escalated hugely over the last few years.

Other posts on Williamsburg: Hipster Douchebags, Artsy Fartsy.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

If You're Happy, Clap Your Hands

Dancing on the Subway
Photo by myself on the subway tonight.

After a long day, it was something else to witness someone singing to himself and shimmying on the subway. This dude was twirling about, chanting and twitching frantically in front of his reflection in the subway window.

You see all sorts on the train. People are usually sullen, or tired, or angry, or crazy, or neutral. This person was so obviously happy. I've never seen anyone like him. How refreshing after a tough day.

Other passengers felt the same and broke out into giggles. Some looked about to cry. I tried to take photos, but it was useless. I was hanging onto a pole with one hand, tottering around in heels while the train went stop-go.

I didn't get any good pictures, but I felt this one captured the feeling of the train tonight: energized, fun and a little nuts.

Related posts: Au Secours, My First Run-In With the NYPD, and The Rules.


Friday, May 9, 2008

Every Day is Kid's Day

Photo by myself in Bryant Park, at 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue.

There are a couple areas for bocce games at this park. This gentleman was among a few sharing a serious game the other day.


TGIF, everyone. By the way, it's Mother's Day this weekend.

We'll be in Lawn Guyland to see Mark's mom. Plans are vague. Hopefully we'll have nice enough weather to drive near the water and have a nice lunch.

And I'll call my Mom in California. It'll be nice to chat with her.

When I was little I asked my Dad why there wasn't a 'Kid's Day', since there was a Mother's and Father's Day. Of course he told me that 'Every day is Kid's Day'.

I was disappointed by his response, but I now share his thinking. Oh to be a kid. They can run around, have fun and generally not worry too much.

I hope everyone is either spending time with his or her mom or is wishing her well. And if you can't be together, well, I hope you're thinking of her.

Related posts: Tricks are for Kids.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Clever Cat (Not)

Tiny Kiosk
Photo by myself around Sixth Avenue and 32nd Street, I think.

I actually don't recall where I took this photo. There are many kiosks that sell papers, cigarettes, gum and snacks on the sidewalks and in subway stations.

I was drawn to this kiosk because it was particularly tiny. The owner knew I was taking a photo and hid behind the displays, to my frustration.


Sorry for digressing from New York to my cat, but I cannot resist. I posted earlier about my cat Dida, who had a peeing problem.

For the longest time, Dida had trouble peeing inside the box. We had to move the litter box into the bathroom because she always missed. It didn't matter if the box were in the middle of the room or in the corner. There was always a puddle on the floor.

Mark was tempted to explain to the vet that Dida's 'pee hole' was located incorrectly. We did take her in to see if there was a physical problem, but I couldn't say such a thing without giggling.

It turned out there is nothing physically wrong, even though she's gone through two bouts of bladder stones. The peeing is a psychological issue.

Fortunately, Mark saved the day by changing the litter box. Ironically, the box for the cat that can't pee correctly is called a 'Clever Cat'. It's basically a very deep plastic container, so deep that there's no way Dida could pee out of it, no matter where her pee hole is.

After using the litter box a few days, we placed the lid on, which is solid but for a large hole. Theoretically, Dida jumps up and through the hole, does her business and hops out.

We've never seen this happen, though. The whole phenomenon is a little like the Loch Ness Monster. We're so happy there's no more mess in the morning and are considering setting up a hidden camera.

Related posts on Dida: Tempting Fate and Our Extended Family.


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

Fanelli Cafe, Soho
Photo by myself on Prince and Greene Streets in Soho.

Just across the street from the Apple Store is this historic cafe with its distinctive neon sign. I've never been there but I have the feeling they serve great desserts.


Sometimes I feel that I present New York as this amazing place to live.

Well it can be. Sure.

But then I worry that I'm misrepresenting this place. Because while you can find the greatest people and experiences, you can also find the worst.

Mark swears that the most virulent strains of people live here. I agree. You find often them in leadership positions, because they'll do anything to succeed. They yell at their employees and then turn around and schmooze their clients.

You find them driving crazily on the roads without signaling, stopping in the middle of crosswalks, and making pedestrians walk around them. You find them littering. You find them sitting on the subway, not thinking about the elderly or pregnant women standing nearby.

Every place has its share of awful people. But what makes the horribleness disappear at the end of the day is coming home to a nice dinner with Mark. Then I sit on the sofa between him and the cat.

I power up the computer, respond to comments on this blog and try to figure out what to write next.

You can survive any place if you have a little refuge. I hope everyone has theirs.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Silhouette in Riverside Park
Photo by myself in Riverside Park on the Upper West Side, around 69th Street.

This structure, with its winches and chains, must have been used to load ships. Now it looks about to topple over. The Hudson River and New Jersey are in the background.


We've had some beautiful days here in New York.

Yesterday for the move, it was gloriously sunny. Mark and I were walking to his apartment in Greenpoint when we encountered two of his neighborhood buddies. One is an artist who works as a creative director by day. The other escaped a tough life in LA and will soon be a Greenpoint restauranteur.

We all stood on the sidewalk, reminiscing about how empty the neighborhood had been just three years ago. Now it's hopping.

'It's become Williamsburg,' one of the fellas said, referring to the trendy neighborhood next door.

'You get out of the subway and there's a ton of people,' said the other, holding his hands out wide.

I said goodbye to the cat who lives in the corner bodega. He was asleep on a box of detergent but was good enough to crack open a yellowy eye. At the cashier, I ran into one of the women who had helped rescue the homeless cats with me last fall. The grey cat in her care has been adjusting well.

Small world. Saying goodbye to Greenpoint was bittersweet. We had our frustrations with finding consistent restaurants, and how sleepy it was at times. But the people were great. Despite what you might think about big cities, you can get to know your neighbors.

Finally, we said our farewells to Mark's downstairs neighbors, his landlord and another neighbor down the street. Then we packed up the fish and motored off.

'Well that's the last pizza we'll have in old Greenpoint,' Mark said.

I assured him he was wrong. No, we'd be back for pizza and a beer soon enough. I can't imagine never going back.


Monday, May 5, 2008

On Japanese Food and Fish

Otafuku, East 9th Street
Photo by myself on East 9th Street and Second Avenue.

Otafuku, a tiny Japanese eatery, is a standing-room only gem. There are two cooks crammed in the front, who cook pancakes or octopus fritters. The dishes are piled high with fish flakes, mayonnaise, seasonings and dried seaweed.

People will stand outside in the wintry cold to eat this stuff, it is that delectable.

I love it, I love it, I love it.


Today Mark and I moved the last of his things from Greenpoint, his old neighborhood, to Park Slope, Brooklyn.

It happens every month - you see moving trucks all over the place. People are moving to and fro. The last couple months, we've been making little trips back and forth. Today was the last of it.

Most importantly, this morning we drove up early to get Mark's fish. Geared up with two large beverage coolers to transport them and their fish water, we looked like EMS workers ready to perform an organ transplant.

Getting the fellas (there are several little ones) and the water into the coolers was no problem. The stones, fake plants, and equipment came along too. We gingerly placed everything in the back of Clive, Mark's Mini Cooper, leaving the fish until the last possible minute. A lid covered the cooler so the water wouldn't splash out.

Then we were off. We soon discovered that many of Greenpoint's streets were closed off because of the Five-Boro Bike Tour. Thousands of cyclists biked through all five boroughs, starting in Battery Park City and ending in Staten Island.

The police had blocked many of the streets with wooden sawhorses, and there were no signs directing anyone. I could hear the water sloshing around as we tried to figure a way out of Greenpoint.

Eventually, we made it out (yay!), taking several detours and back roads. In the end, fish, water and equipment were delivered and re-installed intact. The fellas are now swimming around quite gaily in their tank, as if nothing happened.

Note to everyone - if you're planning a move, check whether parades or races are going on.


Sunday, May 4, 2008

Decisions, Decisions

Ice Cream
Photo by myself around 14th Street and Fifth Avenue, today.

The ice cream truck with its familiar tinkling jingle is a symbol of suburban summer. You'd be surprised how many of these trucks litter the streets of New York, when the weather is nice.


Today Mark and I ventured into the East Village. While walking around, we noticed a couple of movie theaters participating in the Tribeca Film Festival.

Very, very informal queues were arranged on the streets, between metal police barricades. A cool drizzle of rain made the scene especially unglamorous.

Still, I told Mark that we should try going to the Film Festival next year. In our years living here, neither of us has managed to go.

I think part of the trouble is that since many of the films shown are equally unknown, it's tough to figure out which of the 250+ films to watch. A quick look at the movie roster is overwhelming. I feel like I'd have to sit down for a few hours before making my educated choices.

Anyway, we have a whole year to figure out which movies to see. Hopefully, it won't be raining.

Related posts: The Arts - Live and on Videotape and For Your Viewing Pleasure.


Saturday, May 3, 2008

Lost in Translation

Smokers Unite
Photo by myself in Koreatown, on 32nd Street and Sixth Avenue.

There is always an assembly of smokers outside this building. Mostly Korean businessmen while away their stress, regardless of the weather.


After a long week of quiet dinners and drinks relaxing with Mark, last night we went a little nuts (hence the delayed post).

An old coworker friend was leaving her job, and a group of us went out for drinks, followed by a few hours in a karaoke booth. A couple of martinis, beer and sake later, I was giggling uncontrollably, watching Mark belt out 'Hotel California'.

If you're interested in a surreal, 'Lost in Translation'-like experience, karaoke is the solution. Every city with a strong Korean or Japanese population has these places - small karaoke booths where you can sing and celebrate and embarrass yourself.

Each booth is individually climate controlled. There are unlimited drinks and food. People pay a set fee per hour to have free reign over the karaoke machine. Meanwhile, cheesy dated images of couples and sunsets play on the video screen with subtitles.

In New York, there are some random bars that have Karaoke night, but the individual booths in Koreatown are the real deal. Walking down the hall to the ladies room, hearing the various parties around me, I felt like I was in another land.

Even though the experience was tame, the place felt seedy and transient. Everyone was engaged in pure excess - food, drink, enjoyment.

I'm not sure Mark and I would ever do it again. We'll have to recover from last night first.

Here's the trailer of 'Lost in Translation':


Friday, May 2, 2008

Food for Thought

E10th Street
Photo by myself on East 10th Street and Second Avenue, in the East Village.

A typical pretty street shows stoops, trees and quaint sidewalks. There are even little iron things that cordon off the trees.


The other night, Mark and I had dinner in a small place with an open kitchen. We had front row seats to the cooks and the grill.

The head cook was reading the tickets in a sharp tone. The others bent to work, heads down, with a quiet intensity. It was a treat to watch.

The cooking shows on TV have elevated line cooking to a new level. The restaurant business has always been a macho profession, but because of Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsey, everyone now knows exactly how macho - late nights, stress, competition and the hint of danger. There's a performance aspect to the whole thing as well.

Speaking of cooking, has anyone noticed the following tendency among Top Chef contestants?

The nervous chef describes his or her dish: 'I've made a honey-glazed (whatever) with a little bit of (whatever), over a bed of (whatever). It's tossed with a little bit of (whatever), covered in a (whatever) gelee, a little bit of (whatever) and finished with a (whatever) jus. Enjoy.'

The operative phrase is not the 'whatever', nor the French terms thrown in, but 'the little bit of'. And when the nervous contestant speaks, the phrase is reduced to 'alittlebitta', over and over.

I just want to get on the show to have the chance to say, 'I cooked a whopping amount of (whatever). Enjoy.'


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Signs of Hope

Bacon Sign
Photo by myself at Union Square, at the Farmer's Market.

This chalkboard sign advertising fresh, local meat drew appreciation from the crowds this afternoon.


Thanks again to everyone for the kind wishes for my dear cat, Dida. She is humbled to be in the spotlight. Hopefully Dida will get used to her new feeding schedule before her owner keels over.

I've been listening to podcasts at work. It's my small attempt at multitasking and maximizing what few brain cells I have left. Today, an episode of Fresh Air, an NPR favorite, moved me to tears.

The story is set in LA. Steve Lopez, a columnist for the LA Times, met a homeless man named Nathaniel Ayers. Ayers turned out to be a musician. In fact, he also once lived in New York, where he trained at the Julliard School of Music, but dropped out due to mental illness.

I know how many readers of this blog love street musicians. Here was one who was homeless, who could play the violin and picked up the cello and trumpet. And here was Lopez, a writer just trying to do the right thing, who didn't know much about classical music but was learning about it through his new friend.

Lopez published articles in the Times about the homeless man, and his readers donated musical instruments in response. Lopez used the instruments as rewards to try to get his subject off the streets and into rehabilitation.

I don't want to give too much away, but you get the point. Lopez has written a book about the experience, and a movie is in the making. Called 'The Soloist', it stars Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr. It's that good a story.

Should you hear the podcast, be prepared. It's moving.

Well, I was moved. I sat there at my desk, sniffling away. All the elements are there - the talented man tortured by inner demons, the ardent writer trying to save the situation, the lessons learned on both sides.

If every one of us were as actively involved in our cities as Steve Lopez, what kind of world would this be? Or if every one of us had a Steve Lopez to watch out for us and help us reach our potential, what then?

The possibilities are beyond our imagination.

For the Fresh Air podcast, click here.

For the articles Lopez wrote in the LA Times, click here .