I’m running late on this post – it’s been quite busy. The main adventures of note, however, were Sagamore Hill, Teddy Roosevelt’s home during and following his Presidency, and a bunch of restaurants. I’m not keen to become some cut-rate food blogger so I’ll simply list them. Perhaps I’ll be more verbose in future weeks…
I’ll need to visit again in Spring to tour the grounds, but the house is quite the impressive collection of interests and history. There’s no photography allowed in the interior but the exterior is a Queen Anne house – large but not enormous. It’s quite the interesting look into a life intimately connected to the conservation movement, America’s imperialistic age, and the modernizing economy of the early 20th century.
As a wintry mix of snow and freezing rain pelted the new residence, I booked it north for my yearly pilgrimage to Montreal.
It’s been seven years since the first visit – initially undertaken to celebrate my birthday and practice some french. Since then the birthday hasn’t changed much, but I’ve long since come to terms that Québécois is dangerously close to indecipherable. More likely I’m simply unable to parse words spoken around me and too quickly. Happily I have managed a few abortive exchanges before outed as an anglais. Better yet they usually assume I’m french – I guess I dress the part….
This particular year comes with a certain foreboding. In coming north I passed New Paltz and indeed stopped long enough to get my favorite pizza – Roccos buffalo chicken slices for the curious.
The remainder of the drive was in a mix of clear weather followed by awful bluster. I pulled aside in Schroon Lake and got a glimpse of a life I might well have some day – rural mountain living so very far from what I have now. That’s the crux of it really. Instead of driving life-to-vacation I drove from life-to-old-life-to-vacation and the snow topped mountains provide a clear visual token of just how dramatic that change has been.
There’s simply no time. Choice by choice by choice and few are even made. Most aren’t even considered for lack of time, lack of information, lack of presence. How ever am I supposed to manage it all – or anyone?
My final destination was the Auberge le Pomerol which I hesitate to even mention since it’s by far the best place in Montreal and I’m not keen to see that ruined. The location is half the credit – directly across from the main subway station and just outside the lively Latin quartier and old city. The remainder is the charming narrowness and petite rooms made welcoming by small snacks and a basket of croissants brought by in the morning. It’s like the finest rented room from an earlier age. A genuine welcome.
In prior years my arrival has been accompanied by a small student riot. The city is quiet this year – I instead treated myself to Montreal de Lumière, an assorted festival / outdoor art gallery. Not even single digit temperatures can ruin the city’s liveliness so cleverly ensconced within a nearly four hundred year history. Rabid graffiti murals, Art Nouveau, and old stone gothic all populated by college students seemingly immune to temperature and old couples walking hand in hand. There are the police laughing at their peaceful city and spiral staircases so thoroughly impractical leading to tasteful studettes or claustrophobic restaurants. Neon announces the liveliest streets just as curtained dormers guard the quietest. I love it here…and have every time I’ve come.
Friday was an early night – 10ish on account of the cold.
The following morning I woke to my warm croissants and fresh oranges. I read some and lazily assembled. Only around 9 did I brave the 1 degree exterior. Despite the cold I walked Le Village, Sainte-Marie, and Lornier. In truth I should explore further afield – I rarely take the subway in lieu of walking and I always stay at the same place. It’s decidedly un me-like to pass the afternoon in the hotel, but this is a truly rare place.
The utlimate destination of my promenade was Burger Royale. The burgers are fine but the macaroni is worth the entire trip. Just as I walk the same streets I eat the same food and wait at the same coffee shop for it to open since I’m invariable early. I take a few photos – mostly of the many murals in town – but they don’t change all that frequently. I instead pretend to live here – somehow without working – and not at all caring about everything else that might be. It’s Halloween in a sense…and I dress up each year like a normal person not profoundly stressed by the constant engine of more.
That evening I attended the season opener of the Montreal Impact in the Stade Olympique. Again a great tradition. If only to live on such perfect clockwork…ahh…I could do I think but only here.
Next year I often think. Next year I’ll stay longer and explore more of Quebec. Perhaps in the summer. There are, of course, other things I want to see like La Maurice. If I’m wise I won’t visit Montreal that trip. No good spoiling it. Truly.
In any case I walked the distance. Took a little over an hour but I was still in the stadium well ahead of the match -Impact versus Seattle sounders. Birth town versus home town? Perhaps.
It was a good game, sort of. Montreal led until the final injury time when they allowed a goal to give away victory for a tie. Frustrating. Almost worse than a loss…
No worries. I held my scarf and sang the fight songs and heard the bell’s clang after each Impact Goal. There’s quite the ritual to it with clapping after certain superb plays and the customary referee booing. I’m frankly not convinced sports aren’t a sort of religion…
In any case, I made my way back subway. No use braving the cold both ways. Might have made another go of the city but the temperature was too much and there’s nothing I haven’t strolled pat anyway. In the end, I made another early night of it and an early return the next morning. The weekend as a whole was less an adventure and more…a reminder. It’s the connection between quite a few lives at this point and serves as a useful anchor of past and present. Fitting it should be Montreal. I’d describe the city the very same way…
I don’t mean that in any genuinely meteorological sense – wind, rain, sun, and storms – are seemingly as likely as anywhere along the northeast coast, but the cold…it comes with different assomptions and sensations here. It’s not just cold…but alien.
As a counterpoint one might describe an upstate winter as peaceful, cozy, lethargic even. The blustery winds of the city however are biting and incisive. One is driven to walk all that much faster and do that much more just to escape it’s ever-presence. Try as they might, the buildings and concrete only offer an occasional windbreak but do nothing to soften a harsh and unpleasant winter. When caught outside…you run.
That was the general sense this weekend – perhaps the coldest of the year. In lieu of any signifcant adventures this instead became a weekend of food. That is, of course, half the joy of living in such a cosmopolitan area…but not every weekend will so fulfilling.
Despite this, there was one adventure – the Queens Zoo.
It’s small by any measure but accessible and economical. Zoos remain in that awkward middle area of fantastic and possibly horrific, but the majority of the animals are North American and the broader organization appears to genuinely support worldwide conservation. The standout of the dozen odd enclosures was the sea lions during feeding – the cold clearly did nothing to dampen their appetite – but I remain partial to the grumpy looking buffalo, breath visible against the faux prairie.
La Morenita Ecuatoriana Restaurant
Lunch was found afterward at a nearby Ecuadorian restaurant. I had the pork dish which was good but challenging to eat around and not especially worth a second look. The restaurant itself was much the same although I can appreciate the ambiance of it all.
That experience was however the staging grand for a pair of food experiments made later in the day.
Barberton chicken is effectively just fried chicken. I appreciate the thin vaneer of culture to it, but I’d never made fried chicken and this was as good a recipe as any. Barberton chicken is Serbian, or Serbian-American and now associated with Ohio. One of many things I found one day skimming food articles on Wikipedia…
For desert we made mango lassis Which were…B-. The yogurt wasnt sweet enough nor the ice well enough chopped. The overall flavor was there though and I look forward to fine-tuning the recipe. Maybe a combination of milk and yogurt? A question for another weekend…
Sunday is the laziest of days, but brought me north to Flushing. It’s a chaotic area A for me anyway – and I don’t have the slightest idea where anything is, but I’ve had a friend and guide bringing me to all the top locales.
Duck Bao! I hereby present possibly the best food deal with the city. Tiny little duck sandwiches on steamed bread with hoisin sauce. One dollar each.
Even with the duck, the day wasn’t over. Directly across the street we had chicken in curry with oil rice at the Malay Restaurant. No photo unfortunately but the chicken practically melted into the curry sauçe. Easily one of the great culinary experiences of my time here…which is already well challenged with competition.
That largely completed the weekend with errands filling out the rest. Next weekend is in Montreal and by the time I’m back at it hopefully some warmth will have returned. I’d like to see Manhattan soon, but I’ve yet to brave the effort. Coming soon, I say. Coming soon..
Earlier in the week I ate at the Colony Diner. Quite exceptional actually. Reminded me a bit of the Everready but I give the Colony the edge actually. The oversized red potato salad portion scores all the points.
Friday night was dinner at Ayna Agra. Best naan! The Mango juice was on point as well and the staff both friendly and attentive. I’ve yet to find a chicken korma I especially prefer down here and should have gone for the Vindaloo. The meal was exceptional though and this is currently my favorite Indian place in the area.
Still living on the edge on novelty, but a certain routine is forming. It’s not a bad thing…and at least my plants are getting watered again. The adventures continue however and show no sign of slowing down.
Early afternoon I visited the Brooklyn Museum. Historically (and despite last week’s effusive praise) I’ve had a mixed approach to museums. At some conceptual level I appreciate any institution dedicated to collecting, collating, preserving, and exploring knowledge, but art museums are a particular challenge – I far prefer art to be within the context of a broader environment. A room with nothing but artwork is too forceful and contrived an experience to really impart much more than raw aesthetics. Far better that Portraits are with their histories, pottery with the culture using them, and statues beside their temples. Context, especially with non-western art, is challenging enough for me to grasp without the additional barrier of curated cleanliness in the way. Sometimes it’s better to let history be a little cluttered…
That said, the museum is genuinely expansive. The first floor has Ming bases and an impressive collection of African art. The third floor (second closed) houses the Egyptian art predominantly which is truly astounding. The sheer amount of items (just in this one collection) and the incredible details behind them can only give the barest approximation of how large and long-lasting the Egyptian civilization lasted. The sort of culture that can build pyramids and preserve language and give such a visceral look into their experience over such a long distance of time is perhaps the most awe-inspiring and humbling part of the museum experience.
The third floor has a scattering of things including paintings by Thomas Cole & Frederic Church…names from my upstate life. Also a tree growing out of a piano.
Marilyn Minter holds the fourth floor place of honor. Despite wandering the halls and reading the info plaques, I’m not sure I’m in any place to offer the slightest comment or criticism. The work is sexual…at some level…but the sensation is one of violence. It’s not all gross but most is uncomfortable. That is presumably by design but it doesn’t feel tremendously truthful either. This is manufactured gross not captured or incidental gross. And even that isn’t universal. Her early photos are quite striking and her more recently images are nearly humorous, but the middle period 1980s-90s is…particular, for sure.
Regardless of my abstracted take on museums or these specific exhibits, it was a wonderful way to pass a saturday. And enhanced greatly by the company beside me. I feel bad summarizing a 560,000 square foot space so cavalierly, but like the museum itself, I impart merely the barest glimpse…
Moving onto the food portion of this weekend, I passed dinner at the crowded (popular) Avli Restaurant. I was eager for Greek and the Chicken Souvlaki was everything I wanted it to be and the tzatziki was exceptional. I had been told Bayside had exceptional Greek. I appear to have found it.
Sunday was mostly an errand day – detritus moving tasks like switching of over a few mailing addresses and grocery shopping.
Later for brunch I ate at Royal Queen, (Music warning on that link) a dim sum place up in Flushing. I’ll let that website describe the experience… Truly though it was fantastic even if I barely knew what half of everything was. The dumplings are by far the best.
The weekend’s eating continued; I cooked a Clafoutis to bring to dinner at a friends. For those not up on their regional french cuisine, it’s a dessert rather like a thick fruit pancake. Perhaps similar to flan in a way but not quite as custardy. Sadly I wasn’t able to find the customary black cherries so I used grapes, but the effect was the same. I suspect a professional would have used more sugar than I did…and a larger thinner pan…but my variation was gently sweet and let the fruit come through. A success, je pense!
The earlier friday, I passed an enjoyable end of week happy hour at Plattdeutsche Park. I’m not exactly sure why they had an Oktoberfest on tap, but seemed a charming enough place to meet my new colleagues and ample parking. The Bon Jovi/Journey tribute band Bon Journey supplied the music…I really am on Long Island.
Last week was an introduction. New job, new apartment, new city, new adventures. This week I attempted to make good on my self-made promise…
My first real adventure – Fort Totten. Built to defend NYC during the civil war, it was never completed and instead served a variety of later purposes including its modern incarnation as home to the New York Fire Department. Otherwise I strolled the snowy roadways and snapped photos of the largely antebellum era park structures.
Before heading home, I purchased plants for my office and taro buns from the local Korean H-Mart. Lychee drink!
Later that evening, I visited Williamsburg. It’s clearly popular…trendy and recalls, to my mind, the vibrant mixed-use neighborhoods of Jane Jacobs. I couldn’t personally imagine living somewhere like that – a wonderful panoply of smell and sound too endless to imagine – but it makes for lovely place to visit. Bit like an old public square really…soon followed by the digestive walk home.
In this particular case we visited Sweet Chick, a chicken and waffles joint. I’ve never eaten that particular cultural lifting but it’s surprisingly effective. The waffles are predictably given the à la carte treatment with associated batters and butters, but it’s really the chicken that make the meal. These were crispy and moist which made the waffle more like a sweet breeding and the combination, and culmination, quite satisfying.
Today’s adventure was of the cultural variety. With a prompt 10am departure, and after weaving beneath the 31st street subway tracks French Connection style, we found parking and walked the remaining distance to the Museum of the Moving Image.
The subject matter is largely the art, science, and magic of film, and like any good film it was made immensely better by tight editing, a narrow theme, and a reasonable viewing time. The exhibits variously cover the history of film, hair/make up, stage design also advertising, promotion, sound recording etc. It doesn’t force itself to be exhaustive and wisely contents itself with a few evocative samples (makeup of Mrs.Doubtfire for example) before moving on.
The current marquee exhibit is Martin Scorsese. It occurred to me as I wandered through that I’m not as familiar with his films as I thought. I’ve seen Goodfellas, The Departed, Wolf of Wall Street, and parts of Raging Bull and Taxi Driver. The storyboards were probably the most striking example of craft for me…something I should maybe consider if I ever decide to write more fiction.
In any case, the best exhibit in the entire place is a recording booth where you dub over the lines of famous actors/actresses. On one level it’s technically very impressive to near instantly match my voice with that of someone onscreen. On the other, I really feel like I brought something to the role of Sugar Cane…
Lunch followed at Saffron just a few blocks away. It had that same quiet echo every Indian place seems to share but also warm naan, subtly sweet bismati rice, and a well balanced chicken korma.
If happiness is a short list than New York is hell. Since moving here it’s grown unmanageably long but I’ve obviously been hitting the list with vigor.
Following lunch, we glanced over the map and identified Roosevelt island as geographically distinct enough to warrant a visit.
At the north half is lighthouse park. The parking lot is unpaved, feral cats live in abundance nearby, and the signage fails to say what or why exactly anything is there. (Later learned most everything old was either a hospital or prison.)
On the other, gentrified, end of the island is Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms park. A fitting destination for Presidents Day, it’s actually quite charming and has an excellent view of Manhattan. The trees aren’t in bloom obviously so it might be worth a second look but considering the state of our current politics, it’s a pleasant reminder of presidential greatness and a national vision sadly never quite attained but inspiring nonetheless.
Earlier in the week I visited a few other restaurants:
Golden Crest – Jamaican restaurant near union ville. Like seemingly ever Caribbean restaurant, it’s rather dark inside and I felt decidedly out of place rolling in wearing a tie, but the curry chicken and rice and peas was everything I wanted it to be.
Michael Anthonys – Haven’t tried their Buffalo Chicken pizza yet, but it looks a bit like what I miss from Rocco’s upstate. In the mean time, I suspect it’s nothing like “New York Pizza” (Too many toppings), but no complaints for lunch.
White Castle – I first say the place while visiting the library last week. I technically have been a White Castle previously, sometime in middle or high school on the way back from a fish store in Paramus with my parents, but I recollect nothing and decided i needed to again experience that particular mixture of pop culture fast food. I can’t say I’m likely to do so ever again – it’s perfectly average – but the staff were endearingly sincere for working at a throwaway stoner joke.
I live in the city now – Queens specifically – although nowhere near the bustling gentrification of Astoria. I’m on the opposite side – a statement both geographically true as well as representative of the circumstances that brought me here.
In a word or two, I’m not a city person, and I’m especially not a New York City person. It’s always felt like a vaguely evil place something akin to a modern Mordor. Plenty of people seem to like it fine, of course, and that’s just grand, but I’ve certainly never thought I’d want to live there…
And now I do.
The reason is a job change – isn’t it always – but it comes with a certain rotation in outlook. NY is no longer the other, and now instead the is. I’ve yet to decide what I think about that exactly, but it hardly much matters. This is where I reside now and until that is no longer true, this is where I explore. Seemingly everyone has a NYC story.
This is, dear readers, is my own.
Week 1 – 2/11/2017
I’ve yet to decide what format this rambling discursus shall take, but until then I present a short listing of preliminary explorations with annotation.
Queens Library – Bayside Branch
I felt a professional obligation to stop by. The gold library cards are quite sharp and the sign up was simple. Sadly parking was not which means I’ll likely never come back.
TSA Precheck at JFK
It’s a mentally disjointing process to go to the airport solely for paperwork. Bit tricky to find the TSA Precheck office in terminal 4 near the delta terminals, but very quick to accomplish. I can’t help but suspect program is just a regressive class barrier in the guise of travel security, but…sigh…one can’t fight the culture war everywhere.
Hill and Dale
Bar in the Lower East Side. Not exactly my usual scene and it was too packed for me to notice anything but how in the way ofI was of the poor wait staff, but The Floozy was quite good (it’s a drink!) and comes wryly with a flower. Definitely want to visit the tenement museum nearby.