Week 16 6/5 – 6/11

This was a scattered week of routine and repair. A number of new restaurants filled any gaps.

Bareburger – decent but expensive. Part of that trendy genre of “fancy burgers” that does as well as their location.

Martha’s bakery – nearby on Bell avenue. Acceptable desert bakery but the gelato doesn’t stand up to Maggie Moo’s ice cream just up the street.

Press 195 – service was inconsistent and the bread a bit sharp, but the fries were genuinely fantastic.

Villa Rustica – poor selection and extra charge for sauce with garlic knots? Meh.

Greek World – likely overpriced, everything in great neck is, but the mussels really were excellent. Tough to park along the main drag. Probably a one off.

Wonder Woman
Like the rest of humanity I saw Wonder Woman. As a character her literally history has always struck me as more interesting than her artistic merits – you’re seemingly jumping right into the overpowered deep end the moment you start bringing Greek Gods into the mythology, as villains no less. How does a Batman even come to be in that sort of universe?

The film is, of course, noteworthy for being the sole watchable contribution to the D.C. Universe and thoroughly enjoyable one at that. There’s also that whole female protagonist and director thing that shouldn’t even be noteworthy in 2017 but is because our universe is as comically deranged as anything drawn with speech bubbles.

The plot was standard comic book fare and the secondary characters were shades of irrelevant. Gal Gadot was perfectly cast though and WWI is a novel enough setting. The female antagonists implied motivation was perhaps the most subtlety a super hero movie has ever shown.

I had originally hoped to view from an Alamo Drafthouse – there are two within an hour. The times didn’t work so maybe for Dunkirk which is the next movie I’m likely to care enough about to see in a theatre. It’s rare – and I feel guilty for only getting pulled for the big budget nonsense. As much as I liked Wonder Woman, we’re still rehashing an eighty year old property. There was a narrow period in my life where I saw enough movies to view the off kilter mid-list. The mid-list doesn’t exist, my time is much constructed, and off kilter only comes to film if it’s been vetted through three generations?

Who and where is the current Fitzcarraldo?

Somewhere on Netflix I’m sure. Or HBO. I’m seemingly the last person around who decidedly does not prefer to binge or even approach a long series. Just no time for this sort of thing…no matter how thinly that seem justified by what I write about.

That said – WW gets an A- or A+ if you curve for my general fatigue and ambivalence toward superheroes…

Fort Totten

I returned to Fort Totten in better weather. It was more populated this time around but the museum was still closed and the buildings somehow felt even more disheveled without the excuses of winter. I had heard from a program flyer that Ospreys were roosting nearby – after a long walk without any hint of them I discovered the nest on the far side of the island amongst the light polls. There were three in total – the one greedily clutching a half eaten fish. Not sure why it continued the fly around with the fish exactly…but it offered a great opportunity to get some more bird photos…

Next week I’m at Pukaskwa National Park in Canada. Not bringing my camera though-purely a hiking trip.

Final Thoughts

Iceland Trip

Passed the last week and change in Iceland. Rough itinerary and photos below.

May 20
Þingvellir National Park (opens 9AM)
Strokkur – Geyser
Gullfoss – Waterfall
Kerið – Crater Lake
Keldur Turf House
Gluggafoss Waterfall
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
Dyrhólaey peninsula and arch
Reynisdrangar cliffs
Vik Beach and town

May 21
Gluggafoss Waterfall
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
Dyrhólaey peninsula and arch
Reynisdrangar cliffs
Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon and hike
Svínafellsjökul glacier
HIKE Morsárjökull 6-7 Hours

May 22
Hike in Vatnajökull National Park
Fjallsárlón glacier
Jökulsárlón glacier
Stokksnes beach
DJÚPIVOGUR town
BÚLANDSTINDUR – mountain

May 23
Mjóifjörður- fjord
Klifbrekkufossar – waterfall
EGILSSTAÐIR – town
Bakkagerði- puffins? (adds 2 hours)
Hengifoss – waterfall
Litlanefsfos – waterfall
LAGARFLJÓT – lake
Arctic Henge

May 24
Hljóðaklettar – canyon
Dettifos – waterfall
KRAFLA – Víti Maar – caldera
LEIRHNJÚKUR – lava field
Námaskarð – lavafield
LAKE MÝVATN – lake
GOÐAFOSS – waterfall
Explore Akureyri

May 25
HÓLAR Í HJALTADAL – town
HOFSÓS – town
SIGLUFJÖRÐUR – town
[VATNSDALSHÓLAR] on way
BORGARVIRKI – fortress

May 26
Ísafjörður
Sea Monster Museum in Bildudalu
LÁTRABJARG

May 27
Snæfellsjökull National Park
ARNARSTAPI – town
LÓNDRANGAR – rocks
DJÚPALÓNSSANDUR – beach
Kirkjufell – mountain
Kirkjufellsfos – waterfall

May 28
Hike Near Rekyjavik
Blue Lagoon
Gunnuhver
Reykjavik

May 29
Gjain
Haifoss
Reykjavik

Landscapes

Birds

Final Thoughts

Week 14 – 5/08 – 5/14

May 13th was Global Big Day – a celebration of birding neatly combined with one an impressively expansive citizen science initiative. One of the happy accidents of my NYC adventure is just how much birding I’ve managed to do. It’s become more of an interest in recent years, but hiking is oddly counter-productive on the birding front. Too much movement and too much distance to cover. It’s a challenge to hike here which suddenly leaves me with time to explore smaller, denser areas at times more amenable to actually seeing the animals as opposed to just hoofing it past them.

Saturday
Weather was miserable, but Saturday morning I visited Jamaica Bay Nature Sanctuary. The walk around West Pond took about an hour – a nice stroll accompanied by tree swallows and mockingbirds. I had the place to myself which made taking photos really quite pleasant in spite of the dreariness. This is definitely a place I’ll need to revisit.

Sunday
Not a damn thing. Had a rest day. I wrote some – not here mind you – but elsewhere. I reviewed some number of my older short stories which I weren’t as god awful as I remembered them. That does not seem to jive with just how difficulty it has been to find published homes for any of them, but that doesn’t much change the fact that I find them eminently readable…at least for myself.

Writing, Exercise, Photography. Those are the three main goals I’ve set for myself – there are of course others as well – but since arriving here I’ve managed the latter two quite handedly. The first has suffered though. Too many other tasks, too many distractions. Efforts have been made however and I’ve revised my own approach. I now have a professional column I write bimonthly so I’m not without some limited degree of success. I will however need more days like Sunday – quiet and uninterrupted – to make these efforts pay off. Soon! Maybe just maybe soon.

Other Stuff
Jersey Mike’s – deli chain. Similar to Jimmy John’s. Not bad, but a bit annoying to get to from work.
Gyro World – in contention with Avli for best greek I’ve had since moving (or maybe ever). I don’t crave Greek that often but I always enjoy it once I’ve gotten it. Solid choice and decent nearby parking.
Douglaston Deli – supposedly they have the best potato salad in NYC. It wasn’t bad but I find that claim questionable. Nice to have finally found a good deli though. Huzzah.
MaggieMoos – Excellent ice cream! I’m slowly growing find of Bayside. Quite walkable once you’ve gotten to the center area. Lively, lots of restaurants, and little gems like Maggie Moos. It’s sort of like an off brand Coldstone, but the ice cream is a little fluffier and it appears to be independently run.

Next week I’m on vacation – the second of four this year – to Iceland. Instead of having a specific weekly report I’ll likely just combine everything into one large Iceland dossier. Should be lots of photos. It will take me a bit to get together though so…wish me luck in the land of ice and fire. Cannot wait to see me some Puffins…

Final Thoughts

Week 13 – 5/01 – 5/07

Week 13 provided the perfect contrast between old life and new. Saturday I parallel parked, hopped on a train, then rushed to a subway all to eat dinner near Times Square and visit a whimsically small gangster museum. Sunday I returned to New Paltz for the annual Ragatta, an equally whimsical bit of culture surrounded by the gorgeous Hudson Valley

Saturday
To prepare myself for a day of tall buildings I visited the Alley Pond Environmental Center. That side of the park is actually quite fantastic and I added a number of new bird species to my list.

I did not take my camera to the city, but Carmines was excellent. The Museum of the American Gangster is the last minute undergraduate version of a proper museum – vaguely spurious information, tacky photocopied exhibit descriptions, inconsistent tone and depth – but really quite fun. I mistakenly perhaps got myself the student rate and for $12 the two or three room museum with accompanying tour is charming. I can’t say I learned anything too specific and even the premise – a museum about American organized crime – feels thin, but it made for a lovely walk around the East Village. One of the nicer parts of town for sure and easily visited.

I don’t have my sealegs about town yet, but I’ve got an ever-improving mental map of NYC. On returning home I was almost able to recollect everywhere I was. Progress!

Sunday
The New Paltz Ragatta is the happiest day of the year and not even overcast weather can change that. Sadly I didn’t take all that many photos – too busy enjoying New Paltz being its weird happy paltz self – but before hand I took a stroll around the Nyquist Reserve. I also took what is becoming my favorite photo of Skytop.

Other Stuff
Veranda – lovely italian place in Bayside. Bit pricey.
Halal on Wheels – small food truck near Hofstra. Food was excellent but too slow to make consistent use of.
BKNY – decent but unexceptional Thai place in Bayside. Luckily even average Thai is fantastic.

I miss New Paltz. No other way around it. It’s a truly gorgeous place and far more attuned to my particular sense of things. The city goes well enough and I’ve carved a lovely niche around myself – I certainly can’t complain financially or professionally. One does await a return though – perhaps to New Paltz – or perhaps to somewhere else entirely. Each turn of the wheel has brought something new. I have no idea when that might be and I’ll keep up with grand metropolitan adventures as long as necessary, but it’ll be nice to return home someday…wherever that might turn out to be.

Final Thoughts

Week 12 – 4/24 – 4/30

Friday
‘I love fishing…’

Whenever I hear a line like that I find myself seeking clarification. And sure, some people probably do love fishing…or whatever hobby they’re referring to…but this professed love so often translates as nothing more than a few rare instances scattered across a lifetime. I don’t necessarily mean this as a judgement – whoever has time for anything – but still; One fishing trip, a fisherman does not make.

In my own case, I might genuinely argue I love hiking, perhaps photography, travel for sure, and reading even more. I could not, however, say I love live music.

Truth is, in thirty years I’ve seen barely a half dozen band shows and only maybe a dozen orchestral concerts. Each has been enjoyable, but my approach to music has never been terribly social or anthropological in nature. At most I appreciate famous historical concerts with sense of wistfulness but I’m hardly ever driven to seek shows even for bands I really enjoy – with a few noted exceptions.

Friday was one such example.

Bonobo is not, as far as I know, a tremendously popular band but they managed to fill ‘Terminal Five‘. I suppose I’d describe them as slow electronica, but the music isn’t that slow and the quartet of violin players make electronica seem questionable. I might attempt to call them moody, international, akin to a sort of electronic folk…but why describe poorly when I can simply link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmitHcHqsCI

With such an abstract sense of genre, I had no idea what I might find in person. The audience was lively though and diverse. The music was a hair loud – it always is – and the venue surprisingly crowded, but it felt youthful in all the ways I usually do not. I wouldn’t often seek a group of bouncing 20-30 somethings in a somewhere city warehouse…but now that I’ve made a thing of perhaps I might go see more? Or maybe not? One good concert, a concert-going makes not either.
Saturday
In the morning I planted trees at Marine Park. I had originally found the program through the Land Conservancy but it was really managed by NYC Parks with assistance from another local land conservancy specializing in the city. The park itself was small but protects a decent shoreline. The planting was an effort to fight against invasive grasses that do little for the local populations. Prior groups had already mowed the area and post-holed the ground. All that remained was the planting itself.

Truth is, I should have made a more significant effort to do some volunteerism long before now. Here in NYC I find my options for environmental volunteerism decided limited whereas upstate there were more than I knew what to do with. I made an effort though and it felt good having my hands in the soil. When this whole adventure ends, I very much need to find a place where I can plant trees, maintain trails, and count birds. Soon. Coming very soon.

Evening I ate at Buddy’s Kosher Deli. The red potato salad was noteworthy. May very well get a second look.

Sunday
I mostly caught up on errands, but I did attend volunteer day at the Fire Island National Seashore. I was hopeful I could leverage the civic spirit from sunday into a gig for the national park service. Sadly their only weekend availability was interpretive roles. I was and am far more keen on resource management. Sadly, my work hours and theirs are simply not aligned. In a way, though, it might be for the best. Fire Island was lovely to visit the prior weekend but it is 45+ minutes away. The travel pollution alone is not inconsiderable…

My weekend was otherwise spent exercising, writing a bit, and doing all the other things that keep life moving forward productively. I’ve overburdened my time with tasks I cannot possibly complete, but I’m still trying to hold it all together. Maybe next weekend I’ll finally take a break…

Fat bloody chance.

But as always, we move forward.

Final Thoughts

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