Friday, April 30, 2010

The Globe at Columbus Circle

I'm not especially a fan of Donald Trump (OK, I'll admit I did watch "The Apprentice" for one season), but I absolutely love the globe outside his namesake tower at Columbus Circle.

Maybe because it represents what New York (and, seemingly, Trump) is all about on the surface-- glitz and flash, money and size.

Or maybe it's just because I like globes.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Brooklyn Botanic Garden in the Spring

Lilics: The flowers I miss most from home

No one would confuse me for an outdoorsy girl. Despite growing up with a pond, a handful of green acres and an old barn ripe for exploring, you were much more likely to find me indoors, curled up with a book.

In this respect, I haven't much changed. But ever since moving to a place where green and space, let alone greenspace, are few and far between, I appreciate them just a tad bit more. I'm absolutely positive I enjoyed a recent visit to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden much more than I would have 10 years ago.

The botanic garden was one of our first stops when we moved here in autumn 2007, but this visit was much different. This time my parents were along, in town for a weekend visit. And this time, the garden was filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of visitors eager to catch a glimpse of the tulips and fast-fading cherry blossoms. On that prior visit, we saw maybe a dozen or so others.

Cherry blossoms

The crowds didn't make the blooms crouch lower or the lilacs smell worse, but it did cut on the tranquility. But who am I to tell others to stay at home on a beautiful spring day so I can keep the pleasantries of nature all to myself? Gasp -- could I really be becoming the type of girl who loves the outdoors? I wouldn't go that far, although nowadays it's much more likely that you'll find me curled up with a book ... on a blanket outdoors.

Turtles on a log

Tulips: I'd much rather see them than grow them.

Monday, April 26, 2010

File This Under "Obvious"

Thanks, garbage can. Now I finally know how you got your name.
Hanging on the wall at the Fulton Street subway station

Friday, April 23, 2010


I'm not a huge fan of New York-style pizza. I don't want to eat a slice folded over. Give me deep dish -- or at least a thin, sturdy crust -- any day.

Despite my feelings, there's certainly no shortage of pizza places in the city. You can find a Ray's on every corner. Or get dollar slices at 2 Bros Pizza. Or visit one of the hundreds of holes in the wall that provide a cheap, cheesy lunch. You can even visit Michael Scott's "favorite local New York pizza joint" -- as declared in an episode of "The Office" that still makes me laugh -- Sbarro.

But by far the silliest place to buy a slice is near my place of work. Don't get me wrong. I've never tried the pizza at this place, so it might be the best thing on sliced crust. C'mon though, is "It'saPizza" really the best name for your enterprise? The mozzarella and pepperoni gave you away-- you don't really need to explain yourself in the restaurant name.

At the very least, why don't you scrounge up some spaces? It's. A. Pizza. Three separate words.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sushi in Soho: Sushiya at Whole Foods Bowery

You can't throw a chopstick without hitting a sushi restaurant in New York City, but if you're asking for that sushi to be delivered on a conveyor belt ... well, that's a little harder to find.

One of the very few places to get it is actually Sushiya inside the Whole Foods in Soho. The grocery store devotes half of its second floor to a handful of restaurants, with seats overlooking the mass of traffic that makes up Bowery and Houston Street.

We didn't pick a great time to try it out. Only a few other people were there, and I didn't know until too late that it was nearing closing time. That meant that we only got a few not-too-fresh items off the belt before we had to order what we wanted (eel and avocado sushi, please!). Kinda takes away the fun of the conveyor belt.

The prices were about what I would expect for around here-- $2.75 to about $4 for half a roll. For the newbies -- like I was a few months ago -- the color of the plate determines the price. That's why there's a rainbow of rims in the photo above.

I've had better sushi -- even in Bay Ridge -- but this was low-key and fun. I'd go back, but only if there was a large enough crowd to keep the sushi selection constantly moving. Literally.

Monday, April 19, 2010

An Afternoon at the Brooklyn Flea

A flea market in Brooklyn can't be a simple affair.

Oh, no. It must have vintage clothing, handmade jewelry and, of course, critically-acclaimed food. Not that I'm complaining. I can think of a lot worse ways to pass a Sunday afternoon than thumbing through one-of-a-kind necklaces and eating delicious Central American food.

Paul and I had been to the Brooklyn Flea once before, in its outdoor location in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Fort Greene. Now that the weather's warmer, the market is still there on Saturdays, but it moves indoors to the old Williamsburgh Savings Bank building on Sundays. I wanted to go to the flea market almost as much for the building as for the shopping. So yesterday we went.

It didn't disappoint. The space was both giant and dramatic -- columns, arches, and even a giant mural. I'm pretty sure the neighborhood TD Bank doesn't look like this inside.

Most of the food stalls were downstairs, in the bank's old vault. I've never seen doors so thick.

We skipped the booths selling lobster rolls and gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. Instead, I opted for pupusas -- one filled with zucchini and another with beans and cheese -- with a side of pickled cabbage.

Paul got in line at Asiadog and ended up with one hot dog topped with pork belly and onions, another with crushed potato chips, spicy ketchup and jalapeno mustard.

Best of all, I left the Brooklyn Flea with a necklace and a chocolate croissant. A day well spent, indeed.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Subway Adventures in New York

Most subway rides are ho-hum, nothing special. I usually get a seat right away and immerse myself in a good book. I don't bother my co-passengers. They don't bother me.

Lately there's been a few exceptions. To wit:

I boarded the train after work last week. No problems until a couple of stops later. Between the second and third stops, the lights went completely out in our car. I few seconds later, the train jerked forward into the station. Then the doors wouldn't open.

OK. I turned on my cell phone's flashlight and kept reading until the subway workers herded us into a car where the door had been opened. Ten or twenty minutes and a couple of transfers later, and I was on my way home again.

Then something else strange happened. I noticed the guy sitting directly across from me kept glancing up. I doubt I would normally notice this, but I had just finished my book. Instead, I was listening to music, leaving my eyes free to wander. The guy kept looking up, then drawing on his sketch pad. He got off at the stop before me, so I can't be sure, but I think he was drawing me.

When I asked on Facebook if this was creepy or flattering, most people voted for creepy. I tend to think it was neither. I've seen these artist-types on the subway before, and the drawings I've seen them do aren't half bad. I only wish I could've seen what he produced.

In any case, it wasn't nearly as creepy as something that happened a few weeks ago. I had just swiped my MetroCard and was making my way to the platform when something about the man standing against the wall about 15 feet to my left caught my eye. Something about the way he was moving. What is he ... wait ... is he masturbating? I was momentarily shocked but kept on walking. Did I just see what I thought I saw?

I'll never know, but on St. Patrick's Day I had something to compare it to. As the subway rolled into my home station, I saw plain-as-daylight a guy standing against the wall taking a piss. No mistake about it this time. He was barely zipped up by the time the doors opened and people fled by. A ride and a show.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Unseasonable Spring Tulips

The weather was so unseasonably warm last week that I actually ate lunch outside. It was a nice April surprise, and so were the fully bloomed tulips that lined the benches outside the Federal Reserve where I ate and read. The brisk winds made them look like they were dancing.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Washington, D.C.: More Questions Than Answers

Our visit to Washington, D.C., left us with a lot of unanswered questions. For example:

Do I have what it takes to become an old-timey airline stewardess?
(At the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum)

Does Paul have a stronger grip than Abraham Lincoln?
(At the Smithsonian National Museum of American History)

Could Paul become the first beer-brewing banker astronaut?
(At the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum)

When's our next trip home?
(At the National World War II Memorial)

Friday, April 9, 2010

The 8-Mile Washington, D.C., Tour

Eight miles.

That's the distance Paul and I walked Saturday in Washington, monument to monument to museum to monument.

I'd been to Washington, DC, four times before, but the last time was in the summer of 1999. (I completely missed the Bush administration. Too bad.) I remembered that the main attractions were within walking distance of each other, but I forgot that going from one to the next in a single day is quite a hike.

We did it anyway.

The morning was gray and chilly, but that didn't stop us from getting up bright and early to take some photos at the White House and Washington Monument. We planned our trip waaaaaaay too late to get tickets to go inside either. No matter. We had too much planned to do anyway.

Later in the day, when the sun was actually shining.

Next up: the Lincoln Memorial. As we inched closer, I increasingly felt like I was walking into a penny.

Paul read Lincoln's addresses on the walls of the memorial while I took photos.

A few cherry blossom trees bloomed around the Washington Monument, but most of the ones we saw surrounded the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial. That meant the trek from Lincoln to Jefferson was beautiful, crowded and slow-going. The huge crowds got me thinking: Is any man (or, yes, woman) really worthy of such huge statues in such ornate buildings -- works of art, really? I mean, these are people we're talking about, not gods. And is such propaganda-in-marble really needed to keep alive the memory, the dream, of the founding fathers? I don't have an answer, but I can appreciate the architecture nonetheless.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at a couple of Smithsonian museums and taking a peek at the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights at the National Archives. But we made it to the Capitol Building in time to watch the sun set over the distant Washington Monument. It had been a long, lovely day.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Washington, D.C., in Bloom

How much can two people see -- and how far can two people walk -- in Washington, DC, in a day and a half?

Too much and too far, as Paul and I found out during our getaway last weekend.

OK, so I don't actually think we saw too much, but we did cram in pretty much all of the major attractions in our 40 hours in the city. But the focus of today's post is the reason we went to DC in the first place: the cherry blossoms.

Washington is all abuzz and abloom each year for the National Cherry Blossom Festival, this year from March 27 to April 11. More than 3,000 trees were a gift from Japan in 1912, and now the cherry trees line the Tidal Basin and other spaces near the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial.

Jefferson Memorial

No doubt the trees are beautiful. We got to DC at nearly the perfect time-- in fact, the peak bloom was only three days before we saw them. Even better, the weather also was nearly perfect -- warm and sunny.

Unfortunately, that combination meant that we were far from the only ones there. Very far. In fact, I highly doubt there's an infant in the DC metro area without a photo of them in mommy's arms, flowers in the background. The crowds didn't detract from the beauty, but they sure compromised the peace.

But no worries. A few thousand people here or there certainly wasn't going to ruin my weekend. And I could always take solace in a pint of something else that only comes around once a year: Capitol City Brewing Company's special Cherry Blossom Ale.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Most Trustworthy Restaurant in New York

The cover of the menu at Panchito's in Greenwich Village-- at least they're honest.
But if I were a margarita connoisseur,
I would be wondering why I wasn't at Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Paul Finds a Weird New Hobby

"The Week of Paul" ends with an explanation about something I'll never get ... his new-found affinity for saunas.

A friend invited me to the Russian and Turkish Baths in Manhattan and I took him up on it.

The bath house has several different versions of saunas: a blazing hot Russian one, a Turkish one, a red wood Swedish-style one, a steam room and an intense aromatherapy room.

The basic premise is that you sit in one of these saunas until you're about to pass out from the heat, then you plunge into the ice cold pool at the facility that's kept just above freezing.

Going from overheated to near hypothermia shocks the system and leads to a sort of euphoria and an intense feeling of relaxation.

After doing this for a while, we put our silly-looking robes on and went up to the cafeteria where we ate Russian food (I had the herring) and drank giant Baltika beers. This got me feeling very good and we went back into the saunas for another hour or so.

I witnessed the strange Russian ritual in the unbearably hot Russian sauna (I think it's around 135 degrees in there) where a big brawny 'masseuse' would dip a bunch of oak leaves in a bucket of cold water and beat a person with them while they laid down on the side of the sauna. I had to pass on that- I felt it was sadomasochistic enough to sit in this sauna where you need to pour buckets of cold water on your head just to keep from passing out.

After a couple more sessions, we retired once again upstairs where we had another Baltika beer and relaxed on the rooftop terrace with the old, shirtless Russian men.

I was so relaxed, I nearly passed out on the subway ride home and came to an understanding why so many cultures are into this.

He doesn't write about saunas at Presidents by the Book, but you should visit it anyway.


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