Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A solemn visit

I work just a little more than a block from the World Trade Center site. It's so close that one person in my office could see people falling from the towers on 9/11. That's what a couple of my co-workers said during our lunch break a week or two ago. They were also remarking that they found it strange -- maybe even disturbing -- that so many people treat the WTC site as a tourist attraction, peaking through plastic sheeting to take a photo of the construction.

So it was with mixed feelings that I visited the site during my break Friday. Sure enough, tourists were everywhere, camera in hand. I couldn't bring myself to take a picture of the wreckage.

It's amazing to think how the area must have changed in the last six years. After it happened, I remember thinking that it might not be worth the worry to live in a big city. But here I am. Time dulls those feelings, for better or for worse.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas (and crowds) at Rockefeller Center

We saw the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center on Saturday for the first (and probably last) time.

The crowds were horrific, not only at the tree but for about the three blocks surrounding it. Police officers blocked about every other crosswalk because people were stopping traffic, so everyone on the sidewalks were at a standstill until the walk light came on. Even then we could barely move.
The crowd was so thick at the tree that we couldn't even get close enough to see the ice skaters below. I suspect that if we would have gone up to the second floor of the neighboring NBC store we could have seen the rink. By that time I was too tired out to even try.

To top it all off, I just didn't think the tree was that impressive. Both Paul and I thought it would be larger. I mean, it's neat, but it's just a tree with lights. I'm glad we saw it once, but it'll probably be awhile before I see it again.

Paul's birthday was Friday. Per tradition, the birthday boy got to choose his favorite restaurant for supper, so we went to the Heartland Brewery, of course. But before that, I presented him with a present-- an ounce of Sam Adams' Utopia beer at a bar in Brooklyn. For Paul, this was a lot more exciting than it sounds. He actually insisted I take a photo of him with it. An ounce of that costs about as much as four pints of normal beers, so he fully appreciated it!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Brooklyn Museum

It seems that a lot of the museums around here have free or discounted hours-- during the workday. Luckily, one exception is the Brooklyn Museum. It's free the first Saturday of every month from 5 to 11 p.m.

Paul and I went this past Saturday. It was like going to Gallery Hop in Columbus, except we only visited one (very large) gallery.

The Brooklyn Museum is famous for it's collection of Egyptian artifacts. That bores me, and I feel guilty about that since it really is a big display. However, I did learn about crocodile cemeteries, so at least I came away with something.

I preferred the paintings (only one or two that I recognized) and The Dinner Party. The museum had also recreated rooms from homes of different eras, and I found that very interesting.

We spent about about three hours there and didn't see the whole museum. I guess that gives us something to do next month!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Winter's Eve

It's comforting to know that I can have a lovely evening in Manhattan -- complete with food -- for $3.

Monday after work I went to Winter's Eve at Lincoln Square. I wasn't there in time to see Lincoln Center's tree lighting at 5:30, although I got some good pics a few hours later. In any case, I was mostly there to see the crowds and eat the food.

About two dozen restaurants had tents set up in three clusters along Broadway, and all had samples for no more than five bucks, and a few things were free. I tried pumpkin bisque, sweet corn and yam bisque, peppermint bark, a mini apple cobbler, three different kinds of hot chocolate and (my favorite) chocolate mousse that was creamy and rich like good fudge frosting. The latter was the best $2 I'd ever spent.

It rained a little, but that was fine. Paul was feeling a little sick, but I really didn't mind going alone. And I almost got hit by a cab when I was crossing the street to take the subway home, so maybe I'm one step closer to becoming a real New Yorker?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving in the city

The first thing I was thankful for Thursday morning was a beautiful, sunny day. The temperature reached into the 60s-- perfect weather to watch my first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in person.

I had planned to bundle up in about four layers of clothing. Instead I wore a long-sleeve shirt and a fall jacket. It felt even warmer outside because of the crowds.

The parade's Web site said we may want to get there as early as 6:30 a.m. to get a good view. No thanks. We got there at 8:15, 45 minutes before the parade started, and contended with only about four rows of people in front of us. Paul and I are tall, so that hardly mattered. Not long after we got there, the major crowds began to arrived and it appeared to be difficult to even move down the sidewalks.

We were at about the midway point of the parade, at 50th and Broadway. That's about 16 blocks from Macy's, where all the performances were. I couldn't help but notice that we were surrounded by symbols of New York and Ohio:
a Duane Reade pharmacy across the street ...

and an Applebee's to our right.

The parade got to us at 9:30. The parade featured a few semi-celebrities: Good Charlotte, Dolly Parton, Lifehouse, Wynonna Judd, Menudo and I think a few people from High School Musical. Of course there were several high school bands from around the country, and I couldn't help but recall how jealous I was when the Defiance High School band were invited to perform years back.

The helium balloons looks even larger in person than they do on TV. It sometimes felt like they were right on top of us. When any of them veers toward the sidewalk, the entire crowd cried, "Whooo!" in unison.

The parade ends at noon on TV but was done at 11:30 where we were. Then everyone crowded onto Broadway to take pictures and maybe catch a last glimpse of the parade as it winded south. It was strange to be standing in the middle of such a normally-busy throroughfare.

I wanted to take advantage of the sun, so we headed to Central Park a few blocks away, and we weren't the only ones. The park was completely filled with kids on the playgrounds and families (including us) climbing the huge rocks near the southern edge. Paul found out last night on the Internet that there are books dedicated to bouldering in Central Park, the rocks are that big.

The ice rink was busy as well, and Christmas music drifted into the air. Then we walked down Fifth Avenue, peering at a few of the holiday window decorations.

We cooked a traditional Thanksgiving dinner-for-two that night, but the day was certainly not like any holiday I'd ever experienced before. Unfortunately the warm weather didn't last long-- it's back to hats and gloves today.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Keeping a car in Brooklyn

I think it was Allison who asked if we had a car here. Yep- one.

This isn't really by choice. Paul's boss says he has to have one, although he's only used it for work two or three times. The subway goes nearly everywhere in New York City, but there's a few places that are just impractical to get to by public transit.

Here's some food for thought-- Almost all of the subway lines were constructed to get from one borough into Manhattan. So even though Queens is connected to Brooklyn (directly north), the quickest way to get there by train is to go to midtown Manhattan.

Anyway, the car has come in handy a time or two. We've gone to Bay Ridge's big (by comparison to others here) grocery store (it even has a parking lot!) twice and loaded up the trunk with food. Luckily there's a fire hydrant in front of our apartment building, so we park there and turn on the flashers. Paul hauls everything upstairs while I stay in the car to make sure we don't get ticketed.

Parking is a pain but not impossible. Street cleaning occurs every week, so you have to pay careful attention to the signs. For example, one side of the street we live on is cleaned every Thursday and the other is cleaned every Friday. So we have to move the car every week, whether we use it or not. When I didn't have a job, I would move the car five minutes after street cleaning ended and get a good spot.

I'm still not comfortable parallel parking, but I'm making myself do it. The car had to be moved yesterday, so I got in the driver's seat when I was walking back from the subway after work. Unbeknownst to me, Paul rode the same train home and had the same idea. When he saw the car pull away, he initially thought someone had stolen it! It would probably be a lot easier on both of us if someone really would.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Friday night fun

Friday night I had a strong urge to visit the Ravari Room, a Columbus bar Paul and I frequented with friends to start many a weekend. Instead, we went to Pacific Standard.

We found this place when we were first looking around Brooklyn for a place to live. It was near our hotel and had just recently opened. It's about 20 or 30 minutes from our apartment now, near one of the major subway stops in Brooklyn.

They specialize in west coast beer and sports. Paul likes the different brews on tap. I like the wide assortment of board games. We monopolized Connect 4 for about an hour, and someone else asked for it from me before I could even return it to the bar. Rock'em Sock'em Robots also seemed to be a popular choice, and a lively game of Twister was happening at the entrance to the bar.

One thing we've quickly learned about bars in New York-- they're open until 4 a.m. That's why it's loud so late outside our apartment (although the cold weather has put a stop to most of that).

Monday, November 12, 2007

Tasty treats and sad defeats

Even 500 miles away, we still can't divorce ourselves from Ohio State football. When we aren't here to watch the games on TV live, Paul's sure to set the DVR. And since we have the Big 10 channel, I don't think we've missed a one.

Still, Paul was excited to watch the game with the OSU alumni club at a bar in Times Square on Saturday. Of course, he wasn't very excited when we left with a loss to our name.

The game was preceded by a visit to Bierkraft, a store selling (what else?) specialty beers in nearby Park Slope. He was happy with the selection but has been disappointed with the surprising lack of homebrew supply stores in New York City. As in, none.

After the game, we headed back to Park Slope for a visit to The Chocolate Room. Paul and I agreed to celebrate my new job at a place of my choosing, and this was it. It's a small cafe seating maybe 25 people at the most and sells only chocolate desserts and wine. I got a delectable piece of cake with fudgy frosting. Paul's hot chocolate was as thick and rich as fondue (which is also on the menu).

But today it was back to the real world. I started my job proofreading documents translated from other languages, and tomorrow I'll learn more about the writing aspect. Some good news: the dress code is superb (jeans are OK) and I get the day after Thanksgiving and all the typical holidays off (albeit without pay). And work starts at 10 a.m. I can live with that.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

One month down

Today is our one month anniversary in New York, and I celebrated in a memorable fashion-- I accepted a job and became a New York resident.

I start work Monday as a proofreader/writer for a language translating business in downtown Manhattan, near the World Trade Center site. I became a NY resident by finally getting a driver's license here. I have only a temporary license now-- the real one is sent in the mail, so I'm not sure how my photo turned out.

My mini celebration continued with some shopping in Park Slope and a piece of Oreo cheesecake at a Bay Ridge bakery.

I also stopped at a grocery store a couple of blocks away that I had never yet visited. And this might be the highlight of the day-- they have the small flour tortillas I've been searching for! Now I can go back to making quesadillas without rationing my dwindling supply.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Jolly holiday

Paul's mom and sister visited us last Thursday through Sunday, so that meant more exploration. This time, however, we stuck mostly to our neighborhood.

Paul and I had never walked to the shore since we moved here, so that was the first order of business. It's an easy 20-minute stroll, and the views are lovely. Across the bay is Staten Island. Look south and you see the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Look north and you see lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. A nice hiking/jogging/walking trail hugs the bay, and I'm sure I'll be using it more next spring.

The shore is also lined with beautiful multi-million dollar homes with garages (sigh), along with more modest (but still outrageously expensive, I'm sure) houses on the side streets. We also walked down Third Avenue, which has a long stretch of restaurants and stores.

On Friday we rode the Staten Island Ferry and visited Chinatown and Little Italy. But I was most looking forward to seeing Mary Poppins on Broadway that night. For a little under $40 a pop, we got the second to last row in the balcony. No matter. I love the movie, and I found the show surprisingly different but still fun. The show has a few different songs (but "Jolly Holiday" was still included, hence the title of this post. I hope someone got that reference!), but the spirit is still the same. The backgrounds were beautiful and ornate, as was the theater itself.

Paul, Sherry and Becky went to the botanic gardens on Saturday morning, while I headed to the main Brooklyn Public Library. Another thing to add to my list of annoyances: I can only reserve five books at a time. In Columbus, I would reserve 10 or so books and just make a visit every month or so. In any case, I had to print out a few pages from the computer there, so I took the time to pick out a handful of books. The branch closest to our apartment is small and doesn't have much of a collection, so it was nice to actually be able to browse.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Taking off the rose-colored glasses

I love our apartment and I love living in New York, but it's not all sunshine and lollipops. Here's a few things bothering me so far:

1: The noise. Our apartment is on a busy road above a bar, so that means traffic at all hours and people talking (and screaming) until the wee hours many nights. Drunk patrons in yelling matches are not at all uncommon.
On the plus side: Living on a busy street means there's a lot of stores and restaurants nearby, the sidewalks are well-lit and I never feel unsafe walking back from the subway.

2: Walking outside in bad weather. I got my first taste of that last weekend, and how I longed for a car and garage! As I found out Saturday, my boots aren't exactly rainproof. Luckily, boots with cute designs on them seem to be quite popular, so I think I'll be getting myself a pair.
On the plus side: We spent a lot of money on gas in Ohio. We're spending a lot less here on transportation, even with monthly subway passes for both of us.

3: Not having a thermostat. I didn't anticipate this one. The landlord controls the heat throughout the building. He turned it on yesterday and it was about 90 degrees throughout the building. Everyone here had all their windows open. Luckily it's off today. I always thought nyc apartments were supposed to be cold.
On the plus side: It should be nice and cozy this winter, and I don't have to pay for the heat.

4: Grocery selection. Who would have thought 6-inch flour tortillas would be so hard to find? These were a staple of my diet in Columbus. Now I'm rationing all I have left from the move. A few other faves are expensive, hard to find or both. For example, a small jar of peanut butter is about $2.50, and I can only find graham crackers in one shop (a drug store), and they're $4 a box. I guess we'll be putting all the money we saved on groceries into food.
On the plus side: A Greek grocer less than a block away has pitas in all different flavors at reasonable prices, and the larger grocery store in our neighborhood has several varieties of couscous. Also, the fruit and veggie grocer across the street is quite convenient.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

In search of the perfect cannoli and other adventures

The rain continued through Saturday morning and into the afternoon, but Paul, his friend Ryan and I braved the downpour and visited Chinatown and Little Italy. Carrying around an umbrella wasn't nearly as annoying as trying to bypass the small ponds that collected where the sidewalk met the street.

In any case, we ate at a small Chinese restaurant and walked down the streets. I liked peeking into the markets. Like the markets in our neighborhood, these had no front wall. However, they sold things that didn't look the least bit familiar, and the Chinese signs didn't help much.

Little Italy abuts Chinatown and is more my style. Lots of streetside cafes and restaurants, and the smells are hard to resist. Paul and Ryan got some gelato at Ferrara (which dubs itself "America's oldest pasticceria") while I continued on my quest for the perfect cannoli.

The pastry part of the one I got there was covered in chocolate, which I was surprised to find I didn't enjoy as much as the plain ones I've eated before. The search continues.

By the time we took the train to the Staten Island Ferry, the sun was shining and the weather was warm. We hopped on the 5:30 boat, which meant we had perfect views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island at dusk on the way there and lit up at night on the way back. We could also see our neighborhood near the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Arts and Sports

On Thursday I unexpectedly saw my first play since moving here.

I had exchanged a couple of e-mails with a friend of a former co-worker (that's you, Sam!), and we were arranging a day and time to meet. Then she e-mails me Thursday afternoon and writes that her husband got two free tickets to a show and he can't make it. Would I like to come? Of course!

"The Overwhelming" is an off-Broadway play about an American family who moves to Rwanda in 1994. I really enjoyed it (now I have to see "Hotel Rwanda"), and the seats couldn't have been better-- third row, dead center. Even better, though, is knowing someone in New York besides my husband!

Friday and tonight we have Paul's former co-worker/friend staying with us. He suggested getting some cheap pre-season NBA tickets for last night, so we spent much of the evening watching the Knicks play the Nets. I was eager to go-- not to watch the game, but just to see Madison Square Garden.

As the photo illustrates, our seats were pretty high (we were about a half-dozen rows from the top), but the view wasn't bad. It was actually easier to see what was going on by watching the court rather than the giant TV screens.

We left during the fourth quarter and ate dinner at ESPN Zone in Times Square. Not normally my type of thing, but it was a good experience. My burger was tasty, but it reminded me of all the yummy burgers Paul won't be able to grill now. :-(

It rained most of the night, and this was the first time I'd had to lug an umbrella for more than a few blocks. It made me long for the warmth and shelter of a car and garage.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Home sweet home?

We've been here two weeks and two days now, and I think we have only one box left to unpack.

The books are on their shelves, the electronics are plugged in and the coffee table/trunk is in place.
At long last all of our appliances are working, and we even have the internet at home. Pop open a bottle of wine!

We left Columbus at 10 a.m. Oct. 8 and arrived in Brooklyn 12 hours and 4 cat scratches later. Will and Grace didn't meow quite the entire trip. Grace was actually quite curious, looking out the windows and and (unsuccessfully) trying to sit with the driver. Will spent most of his time in the (unused) litter box. When we got to the apartment, they spent at least a portion of the first hour laying on top of each other in a small cranny in the bathroom.

Our 100 boxes and various pieces of furniture arrived the next day. I felt bad for the movers, carrying box after box of books, a sofa and dressers up about 30 stairs (no elevator here, fellas!).

Most of the rest of that first week was dedicated to unpacking. It almost felt like Christmas, except you knew that everything you unwrapped was something you really wanted. In Columbus, Paul had placed in a large rubber tub about 50 beer bottles he uses for homebrewing, thinking the movers would shrink-wrap the tub as-is. Instead, they wrapped the bottles up two or three at a time in a few pieces of thick white paper. Some forest somewhere is down a tree or two thanks to us.

We didn't leave Brooklyn-- and it didn't actually feel like we were in New York City-- until the first Sunday. We rode the train to Central Park and leisurely strolled the grounds for a couple of hours. (That's Paul in the photo with, I believe, the Upper East Side in the background.) I tried to determine who were the locals and who were the tourists, not really sure which group I now fit into.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Williamsburg

With only a few more weeks (days?) of sunny, warm weather, Paul and I devoted Saturday to exploration.

First up: the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Entrance is free from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays (yep, I'm still a cheapskate, even here). According to a brochure we picked up there, it's 52 acres with more than 10,000 plants. I liked the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden (Gail and Joe-- that photo's for you!), and Paul enjoyed walking around the Herb Garden. It almost felt like we were back at his mom's house.

The trees and plants were green and lush, and I look forward to going back in the spring to visit the rose garden. But even among what must be one of the most peaceful places in Brooklyn, you could still hear the traffic not terribly far away.

Next up was the Brooklyn Brewery. Obviously my home-brewing husband was looking forward to the Saturday morning tours (also free) and samples (alas, $3). He hadn't been to the brewery before, but he had visited the neighborhood for work not long ago and assured me I would like it.

But first, the brewery. The tour is in one large room of a warehouse and the "bar" is an adjoining room with picnic tables and taps. I believe the bar is only open on Saturday afternoons for the tours and on Friday nights. Oh, and there's a skinny and extremely tame cat that has the run of the place and seemed to like to nuzzle against the guests and sit on the table where you buy your beer tokens.

It's in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, near Queens and just east of Manhattan. I fell in love with the neighborhood on the spot. But besides the rents being out of our price range, we agreed that we're probably not cool enough to live there. As Paul said, we would probably always have to eat at vegan restaurants where they used humanely-slaughtered beans. The place did have a lot of vegetarian, vegan and environmentally-friendly options (we ate lunch at a cafe where we ordered organic pancakes and organic french fries). I like that. And I really enjoyed all the one-of-a-kind specialty stores and the young crowds (I find that "hipster" is often repeated when referring to this neighborhood).

Another possible problem to living there-- I probably don't have the required number of ironic t-shirts. They were so prevalent that I think we started ignoring them and then had trouble remembering the good ones when I tried to make a list (examples: "Jesus was homeless" and "Relationships are hard work" with pictures of tools). But I'm sure I could up my collection. I would probably start with the shirt in the photo. (It's not true-- I love NY!)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Visiting via the "R"

No doubt about it that visiting a city is vastly different than living there.

When Paul and I came to New York City on our honeymoon four years ago, we stayed at a nice hotel near Madison Square Garden, a stone's throw from the theater district.

But when Paul accepted a job in Brooklyn, living in midtown Manhattan wasn't on the table. We probably could have afforded a large shoe box or maybe even a small refrigerator carton. Instead we're in Bay Ridge, a Brooklyn neighborhood about 40 minutes from those same theaters.

Bay Ridge offers plenty: restaurants, bars, shopping and a great view of the water and a major nyc bridge. But learning to navigate the subway was priority No. 1 if we were ever to explore beyond about 20 blocks or so.

We've only been here 12 days, but I already know the R train pretty well. The stop nearest our place is small and clean. (Although a sign I saw along the route today doesn't exactly reassure me-- "CAUTION: This area has been baited with Rodenticide," complete with a nice picture of a rat.)

But our very first visitor didn't use the subway at all. My brother-in-law is in the city on business and on Thursday was the first person to enter our apartment who wasn't either our landlord or a repairman of some sort. Hopefully he gave the in-laws a good report.


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