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 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

Week 6 – 3/13 – 3/19

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…

Biwon – Excellent Korean BBQ.
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bi-Won/183651674997827

Trattoria Lucia
http://www.trattorialuciarestaurant.com/

Jackson hole burger – Thoroughly confused by the name. Diner-like atmosphere.
http://jacksonholeburgers.com/

Krung Tep – Really excellent Thai. The Green Curry Duck was fantastic.
https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/08/nyregion/a-review-of-krung-tep-thai-bistro-in-great-neck.html?_r=0

Bell Diner – quick, cheap, very good.
http://belldinernyc.com/

Sagamore Hill

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.

Final Thoughts

Week 4 – 2/27 – 3/5

Weather is different here.

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.

Saturday

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

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..

Other Stuff

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.

It really was a week of food..

Final Thoughts:

Week 3 – 2/21 – 2/26

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.

Saturday
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
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!

Other Stuff
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.

And with that I’m grumpy again…adieu.

Final Thoughts

Week 1

Well…isn’t this a change of pace.

Cue theme to the Ipcress file:

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.

    And that completes week 1. Excelsior!