Week 11 – 4/17 – 4/23

Fire Island National Seashore
For once I actually took some photos! Sadly I didn’t take any landscapes at Fire Island, but I did capture a bunch of birds including the rare Piping Plover. If I had captured the scenery they would have looked like Polanski’s The Ghost Writer – quiet waves, very secluded, a vague sense of foreboding as I stomped around the weeds. The national park area is not terribly large but I managed a two hour walk with only brief pauses to listen to the mockingbirds or try to nail down the identification on a Gull. Better yet, now that I’ve visited, I may actually try to get some volunteer work here next week.

Night Market
The Queens International Night Market has now opened for the season. I’ve never very much for anything one might describe as a ‘Fair’ (or worse a Faire) but this was nicely contained. No longer than it needed to be. In a roughly football field sized space they’ve assembled maybe thirty assorted food vendors selling small portions for a few dollars each – the cheese empanadas were the likely stand out along with the polish potato pirogi. Arranged as such, it’s basically stroll-about-Tapas which now seems like a fantastic idea for a restaurant… Corona park is unfortunately not terribly easy to visit from my side of Queens – no mass transit this far east – so I’m not terribly likely to return more than a few times a year, but for an occasional evening it’s perfectly charming. No carnival games, limited live music, only a small crowd considering. Clearly it’s too far from Manhattan to attract the masses, which somehow makes it feel slightly more genuine. No doubt that’s a foolish sort of appraisal but I would indeed visit again if only to try the peach tea I smelled from the Ecuadorian place…

Other Stuff
La Bottega: Excellent panini’s. One of the best lunch places I’ve gone so far.
Boswells: Average deli.
Mac and Melt: Sadly not as good as the macaroni in Montreal.
Mammas: It was fine.

I leave a terse account of where I went, but it was a busy week capped by a busier weekend (aren’t they all). It’s just so easy to setup a routine that involves barely any exploration. I’m committed to experiencing the region though until this whole little escapade is through. That’s a surprisingly difficult position to maintain sometimes. One has to accept a certain diligence of purpose to wake up when needed, drag out regardless, and see whatever needs to be seen. I’ve resolved for some years now to rebel against the locative complacency that appears so common. It is however a challenge…

And I’ll face again this coming week. Until then…adieu.

Final Thoughts

Week 10 – 4/10 – 4/16

As spring finally arrives, I’ve taken a second look at Alley Pond Park. Initially I was quite disappointed and it’s still hard to ignore the distant sounds of traffic, but civilization was surprisingly auditory even in the Catskills – and it’s all the best local thing going. Happily I’ve begun to notice a decent diversity of birds including red bellied woodpeckers and rusty blackbirds which I haven’t commonly seen before.

Other than walking around the week was a mixture of Beach and Food – neither of which came with many photos.

Friday
Visited a quiet long beach for lunch. I can already feel how packed it is on a summer weekend, but on a warm early spring day there’s only the occasionally stroller along the boardwalk. It’s a human beach though – long flat and clean – as opposed to a scenic one – rocky, secluded, mysterious. I can’t imagine I’ll come by too often but it might be a nice place to eat at lunch.

For dinner I ate at Fontana’s. Not sure I’d say it was up to Avli’s standards in part due to the diner atmosphere. The pita was excellent though.

Saturday
I had quite the day saturday exploring the Long Beach area. I was doing a small bit of photography teaching but didn’t take any photos of my own. It was a gloomy day too – not bad for photography actually but a bit tougher to pull off. The LB boardwalk is more akin to a Virginia Beach – vaguelly resort like – but colder of course and more generally residential. I’d say I preferred it to Long Beach but that may well have been the company. It too was desolate – but assuredly will not be in a month.

Saturday’s dinner came from Pancho’s Cantina. Food was excellent and I’ll always love Mexican food. Mexican restaurants though have the most peculiar vibe. They can’t seem to decide whether to be ‘authentic’ or kitschy and instead fall into that vague realm of distinctly novel but assuredly fabricated – tiki-bar esque. They’re utterly charming, thoroughly baffling, and benefit greatly from one or more margaritas…

Other Stuff
H Town Food Court: The H-mart has become ym favorite grocery store in light of Taro buns – steamed buns made and filled with sweet taro. They remind me of Hawaii and they’re fantastic. The grocery store also has a small but excellent cafe. Korean food mostly and every meal is served with bean sprout soup, kimche, and large portion of rice. I now wish every grocery store had an H-town…

Tea with cherries: this was my Easter breakfast. Pork buns and and black tea sweetened, ala the Russian tea house, with Meraschino cherries. Should have bought an Oolong but fantastic.

Overall this week was not quite as adventurous as others – or less documented anyway – but still offered some out and about. As always, more to come.

Final Thoughts

Week 9 – 4/03 – 4/09

Week 9 brought a return to NYC adventures as well as a pair of visiting friends in need of entertainment. That supplied a generous excuse to visit the:

Metropolitan Museum of Art & 9/11 Memorial

The former is just overwhelming. As noted after visiting the Brooklyn Museum, I think there is some challenge to the standard museum arrangement. The Met compounds that by just being too damn large. Unless one wants to see a specific thing, it’s this discordant walk from one age or genre to another with only scraps of story being collated in between. The highlight of that dizzying promenade was the medieval woodworking style known as intarsia. I’ve never really seen that before and it appears quite striking even now.

The rest of the museum was suitably impressive. In truth we mostly wandered the Egyptian and Medieval wings along with European artwork while barely touching the southern wing. In retrospect I would have liked to have seen some of Jean-Léon Gérôme’s paintings, but there’s no reason to see it all in a day. It was all too much as it was. Still – one of the great marvels of the world and only 30 minutes or so away…

Following lunch, we visited the 9/11 memorial a good ways south of the Met. The real victory here was me over the subway system. I wouldn’t exactly say I know what I’m doing, but I’ve got a decently handy understanding of Manhattan now – or at least the main North/South subway lines. There’s not a chance of me jumping on anything without double checking a thousand times, but I’d probably do that anyway. The success of confidence over a natural aversion to city transport is the real cause for celebration.

As for the monument itself – striking for sure. I’m not sure it has quite the same impact the Lincoln or Vietnam memorial have – it doesn’t feel nearly as hallowed as I might expect for what is truly a grave, or at least cenotaph, to catastrophe. Maybe that’s fitting though. 9/11 reflects neither a national mistake nor the dashing of a nation’s savior. It’s a tragedy but perhaps one that should inspire not so much reflection as an eagerness to get on. Or not. It’s a challenging time to write about or discuss and the monument didn’t seemingly make that any easier. Does that that make it more successful or less…?

In any case, it marked the end of a Saturday in the city. Couldn’t have asked for better weather and – low and behold – I took a few pictures along the way.

Russian Tea Room

What a fantastically unusual experience. The Russian Tea Room was founded in 1927 (post-revolution), but shows much of the old imperial splendor. In modern language that comes off almost gaudy but within the confines of a slightly darkened interior enlivened by waiters bustling around blinis and clanking tea kettles it’s really quite spectacular. I attended the afternoon tea service, of course, so I can’t speak to the broader menu but the sandwiches were uniformly very good as were the deserts. The initial cavier was too fishy for my own taste but the second had a wonderful salty sense to it that went well with slightly soft cracker beneath. Altogether it was a wonderfully cosmopolitan addendum to an already city-filled weekend. I would most certainly go again if only to stare at the baffling array of mixed genre paintings spread hectically throughout.

Other Stuff

As usual I visited a few other (read foody) things throughout the week.

E.A.T : Madison Ave deli with a somewhat claustrophobic seating area. Excellent bread and the foccacia sandwich was quite good. Well-placed as a light follow up to the met.
Shake Shack : I’d possibly visited once before but this falls into that narrow world of regionally significant burger joints. Not as good as In and Out or Culvers but good enough. Pricey though…
Burger City : Not at all pricey! Cash only but similar enough to Shake Shack I can’t imagine visiting the former anytime soon.
Bonchon : Peculiur chain of korean style fried chicken. The breading is very sweet. Possibly better as a leftover than in real time, but the food was very good even though the atmosphere was a cross between darkened dive bar and k-pop superstore. Odd.

That concludes another charming weekend. Weather is finally getting good so I’m keen to start turning this into more of a photo blog. Soon. Very soon…

Final Thoughts

Week 8 – 3/27 – 4/02

Week 8 brought me back home. After nearly two months trapped in suburbia, I’ve been looking forward to some time with the trees and mountains. Along the way I made a good show of errands – dentist appointment, visiting my old employment, saying hello to the friends I made at my old local deli. I drove around New Paltz a bit – there’s a grilled cheese place around now and a Vietnamese place on the way but I didn’t have time to stop. I did get to visit the Elting Library though – make my showing amongst friends. It was otherwise a decent weekend for photos. Much prefer to let them do the speaking but I will append a few notes to the itinerary…

Friday Dinner: New York Restaurant in Catskill. My second visit. Food has been excellent both times, but the musical accompaniment leaves something to be desired. If only they didn’t sing… This night’s performer was actually quite talented but upstate covers of Marvin Gaye are perhaps a little less preferred… The curry rice though was perfect.

Saturday

Despite some light rain which became snow toward the top, I passed Saturday morning ascending the Harding trail to the Escarpment. It’s only about two and a half miles and I didn’t go any further than the junction that heads off to Laymen Memorial, but it was a nice short jaunt in just excellent hiking weather. High 30s, low 40s is just perfect for staying cool and not sweating the moment you start moving. At the lower elevations the snow watch patchy, but by the top it was pretty well covered. I suspect it’ll be May before it’s all fully melted on the peaks – looking forward to another Catskills excursion soon/

Saturday dinner was supplied by the 3500 club at their annual meeting. There’s a photo of me receiving a letter for completing all the peaks in winter floating around somewhere…

Sunday

Smokehouse of the Catskills
My butcher before leaving the area. The Lowensenf Bavarian Style Mustard is perfect on damn near anything.

Minnewaska State park is one of my favorite places in all the world. I visited soon after moving to New York is 2008 and I’ve gone back multiple times per year ever since. Peter’s Kill, in particular, is one of the loveliest steams anywhere in the state and easily accessible from both the Peter’s Kill entrance as well as the Lower Awosting trail. I did the latter this weekend through the adventurously rambling Mossy Glen trail before doing the long Awosting loop and returning on the lower Awosting Carriage Trail.

Rocco’s – my favorite pizza place (in competition with Brio’s in Phoenicia)

Cornell Northeast Ornithology Course
My birthday present to myself was an online course on bird identification. Yes, yes, I’m well on my way to being a grouchy retiree, but by starting early I’ll be ahead of the rest of the old coots.

Other
Just a few notes on restaurants I visited throughout the week.

Margaritas – my standards for Mexican are always so high, but I certainly can’t complain.

Cordon Bleu Deli – The jerk chicken was surprisingly good.

I realize this is a very scattered entry. I’m still feeling my way through style and organization. I lean heavily toward an annotated list with photographs. Perhaps I should leave it at that. Many more weeks to fine-tune my approach, I should think. Perhaps I’ll consider it while eating my fancy german mustard…

Final Thoughts

Week 7 – 3/20 – 3/26

I am again late in posting but I’ve come to suspect they may just be the way of things. My initial few weeks benefited from a sort of social trial period – lots of novelty but a bare minimum of routine or responsibility. As I come to more fully embrace the requirements of my job…as well as all the assorted life tasks I’m keen to complete…my ability to document all the little adventures has dried up.

And yet I persist.

There’s no particularly good reason to do so other than a desire to keep going. I hope I’m at least getting better at noting the important things in my own life and describing them aptly. At one level that’s deeply untrue at least insofar as this blog. I very much avoid anything too close to work or relationships. It still feels very gauche to talk overmuch about myself – let alone anyone else – versus the things I’m doing. That said, it was a lovely week.

Much of it was spent slowly watching my way through HyperNormalization.

youtube.com/watch?v=-fny99f8amM

While each narrative thread was interesting I’m not sure the conclusions were cleanly discovered. In short, they endeavor to show how, for various reasons, there is and has been a growing disconnect between what appears to be going on, especially in media, and what actually is. More fully than that, once stuck in a system that presupposes certain truths it’s impossible to see beyond them. HyperNormalization is the inescapable pull of systems upon those within – they are simply paralyzed from seeing a way beyond their status quo and they craft increasingly elaborate break-fixes to maintain the unsupportable fantasy.

This term – and its applications – are compelling. My own reliance upon living in a given place was well shattered by this move…hardly a grand political system…but the allure of complacency and blindness is fundamental to the human experience no matter how unproductive.

Which is perhaps why I ate again at Ayna Agra. That or the garlic naan is too fantastic to ignore…

Saturday was quite the busy day. It began with my first solo trip to Manhattan via the Bayside train. $4.50 weekend ticket and thirty minutes later I was in Penn.

My own mental map of NYC is pretty shoddy but it’s slowly being pieced together. Neighborhoods remain mysterious but I have a slightly better sense of midtown and now the west side via the 1-2-3 line.

The destination for this particular jaunt was a presentation on social justice advocacy by Marlon Peterson. It took place within the school of social work at Columbia university – gorgeous campus – and filled the better part of three hours. All in all, I’m not sure I personally grabbed much in the way of tangible skills but he’s an engaging speaker and I did find myself slightly better exposed to a field I’m only marginally aware of. It’s a shame really that the industries that, in my own mind, contribute most significantly to our collective quality of life – environment, social work, community centers – are so badly funded and generally unable to target their message. In part I think it’s because they attract people who deeply care and therefore have no capacity to understand just how deep uncaring can go. Marketers and advertisers understand shock and awe in a way someone with dedication will never really comprehend.

A related problem – there were barely any males in the audience. Even ignoring the many issues of sexism and privilege that intersect, the simple fact that half the population seemingly has nearly no practitioner connection to social means advocacy messaging seems doomed to a certain functional dilution…

With such heady matters under consideration, food and drink became paramount. Lunch was therefore acquired at Bernheim and Schwartz apparently in the morningside heights area. It was spacious and lively and the black bean burger was genuinely fantastic. It also reminded me of New Paltz – p&gs and cuddles were both beer hall-esque establishments with excellent menus and convivial environments.

Day drinking later continued at West End Hall. This was large and quiet in the mid afternoon. Clearly more of a night spot but the weissbeer was a worthy addition to the day.

From there I reversed direction and largely doubled back home but not before a brief tour of Penn station. There’s very much more I want to say about Manhattan but I don’t feel like I have the words together just yet. My time here has been short but surprisingly well received. I miss my mountains, of course, but I can manage anywhere if the company is right and the urge to explore can be satiated. This saturday offered plenty of that – enough so I passed Sunday cooking and reading.

Next weekend I return home so I’ll get a nice point of comparison. Many more words yet to come and now that the weather is turning hopefully some photos as well…

Final Thoughts