I wish this could be a lazy Sunday, but I'm actually buried in work. We'll see how much gets done. Here's a recent photo, by which I mean it's about five minutes old, of me and the kids. Zachary and I got haircuts from Gaspar in the old neighborhood yesterday. The styling didn't hold up too well overnight, but when we left his shop we looked like two wiseguys.
So if you're just visiting my blog for the first time after seeing the Jacques Piccard story and video, thanks. I don't update this as much as I'd like because most of my writing is done for other outlets. I'm senior editor at BlackBook now, and that's going very well. By all means, check it out. Subscribe to the magazine or the newsletter. Here's my tag if you want to browse stories I've written. Some of the more enjoyable pieces of late were on Interpol, Sean Lennon, and Mile End delicatessen. My newly minted spirits column kicked off with tequila, which was a fun subject to research. (Today's assignment: single malts!)
More importantly, though, I run BlackBook's excellent series of city guides, which cover restaurants, nightlife, hotels, and shops in more than 60 cities around the world. The guides are all available on iPhone (and Android soon), so if you have one, and you like me, and you'd like to do me a favor (along with enjoying the guides), download the free BlackBook Guides app now. Thank you.
Personally, things are good. Zachary is four now and doing well in school. Sebastian turned three months yesterday and he's already in school with Zachary. Jenn's back at work already, and we're all enjoying our new neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn. I miss Williamsburg, my home of more than 10 years, but the Slope has a lot going for it, not least of which is the miracle that is Prospect Park.
So that's the brief update. It's super chilly today, so I'm glad our only real plan is to have brunch at our next door neighbors' place. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, or whatever day it happens to be when you read this.
Sebastian Oscar Ozols was born at precisely 9:00 p.m. on Friday, October 22, 2010 at Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn. He's doing great in every way. Jenn was wonderful and beautiful through it all. Zachary, who just turned four on November 23, is relishing his new role as big brother, though he occasionally gets frustrated that Sebastian can't do more fun stuff yet.
It's crazy having two kids, but we're handling it well. And we're lucky, as they're both reasonably good sleepers, considering their ages. Thanks for all the good wishes and I'll try to do better with updates here.
It's been a long time since I've posted an update to this site, and I hardly have the time to write anything of substance now, but the least I can do is post a recent photo of Zachary. I took this tonight after he got out of the bath and I towel-dried his hair. We had been at the Prospect Park playground, where he played in the water sprinklers until it was too dark and we had to come home.
The basics, since my last post: We moved from Williamsburg to Park Slope. The Slope is beautiful. I left Esquire and took a job at BlackBook. That's going great as well. And Jenn is pregnant. Zachary's little brother will arrive on or about October 16, 2010.
Watch this space for a more substantive update soon, I hope.
The Great and Harrowing New York City Blizzard of 2010
After somehow missing out on last week's blizzard, which dumped a foot of snow on Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, New York is finally getting hit by a proper snowstorm today, the Blizzard of 2010. Local news stations are going bonkers as they always do when it snows, with man-on-the-street interviews and the mayor talking about how great our snowplows are. The snow started sometime overnight and is expected to continue through 6:00 a.m. tomorrow, leaving us with more than a foot of white stuff on the ground.
Due to the inclement weather, Zachary's school is closed today, as are all New York City schools, so I took the morning off work to take care of him while Jenn went to 30 Rock for a big meeting. We bundled up in warm clothes and took a walk to McCarren Park, which is just down the street from our apartment in Brooklyn. While we were there, we decided to film our own on-the-scene snow report, and here it is. Enjoy your snow day, everybody.
In the mid 1970's, when my sister and I were little, my parents took us on a trip to Germany. To keep us occupied on the long drives between mountains and castles, we stopped by a bookstore and my mom bought us a bunch of tiny children's books.
One of the books was called Ilse Igel, and it was about a hedgehog helicopter pilot that did favors for people. Little Susi, for example, was afraid that it would rain on her birthday party, so Ilse flew up to the rainclouds and lassoed them out of the way. Young Philipp, meanwhile, wanted to help Frau Potthoff wash the upper-floor windows on her apartment building, so Ilse flew to the top and cleaned the windows with a mop. And Peter Maus, a police mouse, needed Ilse's help to stop a thief who was making off with a million Deutsche marks from the local bank. Isle used a cable and winch to remove the only bridge out of town, causing the robber to plunge into the water in his yellow car with red polka dots.
Now that we have Zachary, who is two years old, my mom found these old books and gave them to me. They've quickly become some of Zachary's favorite books to read on the subway to and from school. No, he doesn't read German, nor do I, though the plot is easy enough to figure out and there are plenty of cognates. But he still loves flipping through these cute little comics, and gets a big thrill when the robber drives into the water and he can say "splash!"
Ilse Igel was written and illustrated by Jørgen Clevin and first published in 1972. It is a Pixi book.
Here's a very short video that shows the view from where we were sitting in the Guinness Gravity Bar in Dublin. Central Dublin (south of the River Liffey) is visible in the background behind us. It's hard to make out much, but it's the area of the Temple Bar district, Trinity University, and St. Stephens Green. To the right of the frame are the Wicklow Mountains, where the water for Guinness comes from.
I think three videos involving Guinness are enough for now. Complete coverage of our Dublin tour starts here.
Yes, another video involving Guinness. Well, it is Dublin after all. This is from a visit to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin last week, one of the high points of our Dublin vacation. September 24, 2009 marks the 250th anniversary of the famous Irish stout, and the party is just getting started.
Jenn and I recently returned from a wonderful five-day vacation in Dublin, Ireland. I threw together a series for Jaunted.com on our trip that can be found here. This video depicts our first-ever pints of Guinness in Dublin, which we enjoyed at the Brazen Head pub. The Brazen Head bills itself as the oldest pub in Ireland (established 1198) and I'm in no position to dispute that. It was a fine venue to toast the start of our holiday.
Zachary's class enjoyed a visit with the New York Police Department recently. They were introduced to a police horse named Jack and got to sit on this police motorcycle. As you can see, Zach thought it was pretty cool.
Jenn and I kicked off the vacation season this year with a trip to Key West. We had a nice time and did everything we wanted to do, dining at great restaurants, visiting the literary landmarks, and going out on the ocean in sailboats.
The above photo is from Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Beach. Click on it to make it big. Key West isn't known for having great beaches, but Fort Zachary Taylor is quite good, with plenty of palm trees, clean white sand, and gentle waves. The sand is imported from the Bahamas, but who cares.
For a detailed rundown on the trip, visit my three-part series on Jaunted here, and if you'd like to see a detailed video tour of our hotel, read my HotelChatter story here.
I got out of work a little bit early on Friday and took Zachary to the playground at McCarren Park in Brooklyn. His latest accomplishment is climbing all the way up to the top of the jungle gym and sliding down the corkscrew slide all by himself. I stayed close to catch him if he slipped, but he didn't need my help. I always used to love those corkscrew slides as a kid. My sister and I used to call them "potato-chip slides" but I can't tell you where that came from.
Jenn and I took Zachary into Manhattan yesterday to meet Jenn's friends Lisa and Arturo and their daughter Amelie, who were in town from New Haven. We had an early dinner at Ruby Foo's in Times Square (not a normal hangout for us, to be sure, but it was good for kids) and then wandered around Rockefeller Center, as they needed to kill an hour before taking the bus back home. The weather was unseasonably warm for late winter. The above photo is not the closeup that it appears to be. I actually shot it from well across the ice skating rink and just cropped it to feature Prometheus. You can click on the photo to make it big.
I like the way Zach is smiling in this picture. He's just now learning to smile for the camera.
You ever see that show 30 Rock? This is 30 Rock, the building, where you'll find NBC Studios and the Rainbow Room. The Top of the Rock observation deck is also up there, though I've never been. It's supposed to be great.
And here's a wider shot of Prometheus and the skaters. Anyway, we all wandered around for a while, and I pointed out the Latvian flag among all the other flags that line the plaza. We sat on a bench for a while and Zachary and Amelie had fun pulling leaves off the bushes and tossing them into the fountain. At first we tried to stop them, but after a while we gave up. In any case, I've always like the Rockefeller Center area for its Art Deco architecture and constant activity. As far as tourist centers of New York City go, it's a much more pleasant place to hang out than, say, Times Square. We stayed for a while and let the kids run around, then Lisa, Arturo, and Amelie went to find their bus, and we took the subway home to Brooklyn.
If you've read this far, then let me take this opportunity to remind you that I write all kinds of stuff for the web. Check out my Jaunted stuff here, my Momondo stuff here, and my old Gridskipper stuff here. Beyond that you can just Google my name and all kinds of stuff will come up. Pass along or share anything that appeals to you. Clicks are good.
I shot this photo of the Empire State Building while doing some of my typical last-minute Christmas shopping, rushing to Macy's Herald Square (foreground) during my lunch break to pick up a bottle of Clinique lotion for Jenn. We spent the holiday with Jenn's family in Arizona and came back on the 30th. Our New Year's Eve party last night consisted of me cooking a ribeye steak dinner at home, accompanied by a bottle of red Bordeaux wine from the Bottle Shoppe on Graham Avenue. Zach slept peacefully upstairs as we watched Anderson Cooper looking very uncomfortable co-hosting CNN's Times Square New Year's Eve ball-dropping countdown show with Kathy Griffin. The ball dropped and then it was 2009. Out with the old, in with the new. Today we went to FAO Schwartz, which Zach enjoyed very much.
Here's a photo from our recent vacation to Boynton Beach, Florida over the Thanksgiving holiday. We went for a late-afternoon stroll at Green Cay Wetlands (Cay is pronounced "key") and happened to be in the perfect position to catch the sunset. It was November 25, 2008, and this is what it looked like. Click on the photo to make it bigger.
Nota bene: I'm on Twitter now. If you care to follow, my username is VictorOzols. Very creative, I know. You can find my Twitters/tweets/whatever they call that stuff here.
Also, I recently started writing for a travel website called momondo.com, and have a "content channel" called - big surprise - New York City Diary. My Momondo stuff can be found here. Momondo.com is a good place to find cheap airfares, so if you're flying somewhere, give it a look. It might save you some time and money.
And I'm still the weekend editor at Jaunted.com, and here is an archive of my stuff.
The East River and Manhattan from Java Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Here's a photo I took last night at around 6:30 p.m. I was at the end of Java Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, looking out over the East River to Manhattan. I have a rather cheap and old digital camera, but I used the "night shot" setting and was able to get kind of a neat photo out of the situation by resting the camera on a Jersey barrier so it would stay still while the shutter was open.
I think the ambient moisture in the air (it started pouring down rain a few minutes after this photo) captures the city lights over the water in a nice way. Click on the photo to make it big.
By the way, the East River isn't really a river at all, it's a tidal estuary. And I think the old stories about mob guys putting their adversaries into concrete shoes and dumping them into the East River is a myth. You'd have to stay still for a long time for the concrete to harden. It hardly seems worth the hassle.
I'm saddened to read that Jacques Piccard died today. Jacques Piccard was a Swiss oceanic engineer famous for making the deepest ever ocean dive, which he accomplished on January 23, 1960 along with Lt. Don Walsh. The two entered a bathyscaph called Trieste and descended 10,916 meters (35,810 feet) into the Challenger Deep, an area in the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench, touching down on the deepest part of the ocean anywhere on earth. That's quite an accomplishment, and one that hasn't yet been repeated.
I had the good fortune to interview Mr. Piccard by telephone back in 2005 and ask him what it was like to descend to the deepest part of the ocean. The interview never made it to print, so I will take this opportunity to publish it here, in its entirety. It could probably use some editing, but it's nice to hear the rhythms of his French-accented speech, and I wouldn't want to take out anything important. Also, I want to post it in a timely fashion. I'll probably post a link to it on Jaunted.com tomorrow as well.
Please read and enjoy it.
Interview with Jacques Piccard
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Okay, yeah, sure
Okay, please you will excuse me but my English is relatively poor.
Our base was in Guam.
And until we could arrive to the place, precise place of the Mariana Trench where we were to descend, to dive, we had about four days to tow the submarine with a tugboat and the sea was pretty rough, and it was not a very nice trip. It was interesting of course, everybody was looking forward to making the deep dive, but the weather was relatively poor.
And when we arrived on the 23rd of January , the early morning, we arrived at the place, we had to start the dive as soon as possible because the waves were bad and the sea was very rough, windy, some rain also I believe, and so on.
But the first impression was as soon as we started the dive, being in the bathyscaphe, even just a few feet below the water level it was absolutely quiet and smooth and no waves anymore, you know, and so we could really start diving in very good spirits.
And looking through the portholes, the water seemed empty, no fishes of course because there are very rarely fishes on the surface of the sea in the middle of the ocean, the Pacific.
But the blue of the light was absolutely beautiful, clear and limpid and absolutely beautiful water.
So we start to dive, relatively slowly first, and, due to the physics of the bathyscaphe, normally when you dive you dive faster and faster, it is what happened.
And in order to control our speed and temperature you remember the Trieste was made with a sphere in which we were protected from the pressure of the water.
And the sphere was heavier than water, it was fixed to a container of gasoline, light gasoline which gives buoyancy for coming up after the dive, you know?
So we had to control the temperature of the gasoline, which was very important to know that everything was smooth.
The temperature in the gasoline was slowly increasing due to the compression of the gasoline.
And so everything was smooth, so we, after a few minutes we arrived to about 1,000 feet it was already darker, and then, gradually, as soon as we were continuing the dive the water was darker and darker, and when we arrived to approximately 600 meters which is about 2,000 feet we were really in the depths because it was completely night, you know.
We had searchlights so we could use our searchlights to try to see some (spheres?), there was some plankton in the water, not very much but we could see some light snow, you know, snow which was going up as we were going down, you know. Relatively speaking, the plankton which was remaining at the same depth continuously was appeared to be coming up.
So it was interesting to see but nothing special. We were used to dives, Don Walsh had dived previously. Everything was smooth so we could keep in touch by telephone with the surface. We said everything is fine, we are now at 2,000 feet, 3,000 feet, 10,000 feet, I believe even deeper to 20,000 feet.
But when we arrived at approximately 4,000 meters, 15,000 feet about, then the telephone stopped. The telephone could not reach the tugboat, the surface boat, so we were absolutely alone, by ourselves, we had no way to communicate with the surface.
This was an interesting point. We knew at least we could even say that the telephone was going until 4,000 meters, the telephone was going maybe better than what we could normally expect. So the communication was good until these 4,000 meters.
Then we continued, we arrived to 5,000 meters, 6,000 meters, maybe I can speak in meters? Everybody is knowing that about three feet is making one meter.
So we continued to dive and when we arrived at 10,000 meters approximately we could hear kind of a “fok” noise, and a small movement, a little bit like a very small, little earthquake. We didn’t know what it was so I stopped the bathyscaphe, to take a few minutes for thinking about this noise.
And I told to Walsh, you see, if when we will start to dive again if we are going very fast it would be showing that we are losing gasoline, which would be extremely dangerous, of course.
If, on the contrary, the bathyscaphe is starting to dive again very very slowly, it means that our equilibrium is good, and that “fok” that we felt in the dive was of relatively no importance of all. This is what happened really.
Then we continued to dive. Finally we arrived to approximately 11,000 meters, 35,600 feet at that time.
And 200 meters below us on our fathometer, we could see the bottom. And it was important because some oceanographers had told us that maybe it would not be a real bottom, it would be just more and more sedimentation, or ooze in the water with the possible danger that we would enter into the mud too deep and then not see anything more, and stay in the mud, which would not be bad because by dropping some ballast we could always make the submarine lighter and come up to the surface.
But seeing on the fathometer a beautiful straight line on the bottom, it showed that the bottom was clear, that it was practically, probably no stone, no rocks and so on, and that the mud was sufficiently resistant so that we could really land on this kind of bottom.
So I slowed down the submarine and made it very very light in the water, just a few pounds more than the water, and so we went down and down very very slowly and finally at 35,800 feet we touched the bottom. Very slowly, didn’t make any clouds.
You know, if you land on sand or on ooze if you land too fast you can make a big cloud and you don’t see anything more for a few minutes.
But on the contrary the landing was so slow, so perfect I can say, that the bottom was not disturbed at all. We could finally look through the porthole, we could finally see the bottom on the deepest-known place in the earth, in the sea.
Another thing which was extremely important and very interesting. No oceanographer at the time could know with precision if very well complicated, well-organized life was living on the bottom. In other words, are there fish living there, or if no fish maybe some shrimps and so on.
So for fun, one oceanographer would remain on the surface, of the sea, it was Dr. Rechnitzer, told me before the dive “I prohibit, I tell you, you are not allowed to come up to the surface if you don’t see at least one fish,” you know, just to show it was important to look carefully.
Of course we looked very carefully but it was very simple.
When we arrived at the bottom, just at about ten or 15 feet from the porthole, we saw a fish which was at first absolutely not moving at all, and after a few minutes he started to move and to swim, very slowly, and to disappear in the darkness a few feet farther.
And this was very, very interesting, you know, because a fish living like this in the bottom of the sea of course is using oxygen for breathing. And this oxygen was, of course, in the water, and where was it coming from?
It could come only from the surface, because on the surface you have the (phytoplanktons??), or the vegetable planktons, making oxygen, producing oxygen, and the waves, taking oxygen from the air, or taking air from the atmosphere, and, by current, this oxygen finally arrived to the deepest place in the ocean.
And then, also, if you have water coming from the surface, maybe after several years of voyage, of course, this new water will push the old water away, and this water will finally arrive back to the surface.
So you can imagine it is a kind of a movement from water from the surface coming down to the bottom of the sea, and back to the surface, and so on. These are cycles which can take scores and scores of years, of course.
But it was very important, because, at that time, many people, scientists, also, and politicians, economists, economic people, and so on, said what can we do with the refuse, I believe you say, of the nuclear power, energy. What is the word?The product which has a radioactive, and which are coming out of nuclear …
VO: Nuclear waste?
Nuclear waste, that’s the word, thank you very much. So people said, oh nuclear waste, we can drop them in the deep trenches and then they would stay there forever.
And no, we said no, it’s not true, this fish practically told us that we are not to drop any nuclear waste in the bottom of the trenches, because we know that the water is finally coming back to the surface, and all the sea would be damaged, all the oceans and so would be damaged by the nuclear waste.
So this was quite clear and as far as I know no nuclear waste has been dropped on this bottom, in these places. Unfortunately there are many other places where they do this which is also very bad, but at least this water at least for now is protected.
So this was what this fish explained us, told us I can say.
How was the fish? It was nothing special. Not at all like the deep sea fish that you can see in the dictionary, encyclopedia and so on and so on.
It was a flat fish, about looking like a sole, not more than one foot at the most in length and about half in wide.
And it was a flat fish and it was important to know it was a flat fish because are usually living on the bottom, so this fish was living on the bottom of the trench.
It was not a fish that we would have, for instance, (trained/trailed?) with water with the submarine from mid-water or from the surface,
No it was a fish really living on the bottom. In other words, the deepest part of the fish, the part which was below the fish was in the mud, and we could see only the top of the fish if I can say so. A flat fish living in the mud, half the body in the mud and half the body in the water let’s say.
And the two eyes, typical from these animals, with the two eyes on the same side of the head, were clearly visible.
VO: Like a flounder?
Exactly like a flounder, exactly like a flounder, very similar to a flounder. Might be a flounder. To be sure, our observations which were relatively short, of course, we had other things to do, to be sure that this observations were good we should really make more dives, and continue to dive several times to see other fishes and so on.
This is a dream that I am too old to realize that myself. But sooner or later other people will make use of marine for great depths, new bathyscaphes will certainly make other dives at these places.
I can also tell you that the Japanese people are using the remote control instruments, and they have been approximately in the same area that the place where we landed and they found and described the bottom of the sea exactly as we saw it.
But up to now apparently they didn’t see any fishes yet.
So this is the story of the dive, well, an important point is, I told you that until about 12,000 feet the telephone did function very well, it was an acoustical telephone with no cable of course, like radio however by waves instead of being by cable. A telephone that you could use normally.
Excuse me, I wasn’t very clear, and we had no cable, no electric cable, no cable at all between the surface boat and the submarine.
We were absolutely free and the telephone was only going by using ultra, ultrawaves, ultrasound, you have a word in English? Ultrasound, exactly yes.
So, being at the bottom, we said we’ll try the submarine (phone) you never know, maybe it will work again. And we called the surface, “this is the Trieste, we are down at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, how do you hear us?”
And you know the sound took approximately seven seconds to go to the surface, and seven seconds to go back again for the answer, so we could not have any answer before 14 seconds.
And just after 14 seconds we heard the surface “Hello, Trieste, wonderful. How are you, we are glad to hear you, communication is quite good,” and so on and so on.
So that was the telephone which was not working at 5,000 meters was apparently working at (??) meters.
Why? This was simple to explain. The surface boat was not still on the surface. It was moving, going for a few miles on east and west and north and south and so on. And the communication was good, whatever the depth was, just when the surface boat was on the vertical of the submarine.
Then the waves could go very well. But if the surface boat was too far away, it was a reflection, a refraction?? Of the wave, and nothing could arrive to the antenna of the boat.
So, by chance the surface boat, the tugboat and the small, other Navy boats which were there to help us, by chance they were just on the vertical of the submarine when we were on the bottom.
So we could speak and tell them where we were, what we were doing, and so on. And also we could tell them in advance, I told them we will arrive at this afternoon, and I believe we arrived at two minutes before four, so just practically exactly what was expected and computed.
So this is the story of our dive. I am just sorry that nobody did it again after this, after us, but as I told you before this will come certainly.
VO: Okay, well what was it like when you finally got back up to the surface and you got out of the Trieste. How was your homecoming up on the surface?
Oh, this was also interesting. We had two portholes on the Trieste, one forward, one backward. And on the one backward, aft, the windows, porthole was on the door, we could open or close, we could close it when we start to dive, we open when we arrive at the surface, and this is in a little chamber which is full of water.
And which is on the same pressure as the water itself. So in order to close this small chamber called antichan ??? or small chamber we had a panel of Plexiglas which was about one inch and a quarter thick. And this panel, for some reason too long to explain now, could not stand some kind of tension, and although the pressure was the same inside and outside this little chamber, it was some crack that which was the noise that we heard before that I told you.
It was a crack maybe about half a foot, a few inches long. And we saw, we discovered this small crack when we were down on the bottom, and when we came up, due to the lower and lower pressure, the window closed. The small crack disappeared, it remained but it was completely tight again, watertight again.
So when we arrived on the surface I had to blow with compressed air the entrance tube. And when I blow the compressed air I decided to do it slowly so it would not increase too much the pressure inside, so that full panel could not be destroyed by the inside pressure due to the compressed air. I hope you understand what I mean?
So for this I opened the compressed air with the bottle we had inside the sphere, very slowly, and normally we make empty the entrance tube from this water, in a few minutes. Due to the fact that I was doing it very slowly it took I believe ten minutes, I don’t remember, ten or twelve minutes probably. And at that time the telephone did not work again because the antenna was out of the water. So I could not explain to the surface crew that we had to wait ten minutes or fifteen minutes so that we could open the hatch and get out.
So we did it very slowly, and the people there on the surface, unfortunately, believed it was some accident, maybe we are no more alive and so on.
They were slightly afraid until we could finally open the hatch and get out of the submarine.
Over the weekend, Jenn, Zachary and I went for a walk in McCarren Park as we often do. On the way back we noticed a classic car show taking place under the elevated portion of the BQE so we decided to check it out. As we were walking by the car in the above photo, it started spewing out flames from two stacks coming out of the hood, so I had to shoot it.
The next picture is of a car I thought looked cool, but I can't recall the make or model.
The car show was somehow affiliated with a bar called Union Pool. I haven't been there in years, but it's become very popular with the hot rod crowd.
This afternoon, after I finished my entries for Jaunted, Jenn went into Manhattan to meet a friend, so I put Zachary in the jogging stroller and went to McCarren Park. I could hear music from the McCarren Park Pool, so we headed over to check out the free show. The performer was a rapper/hip-hop artist named Aesop Rock who was joined by Rob Sonic and DJ Whiz. I hadn't heard of the first two, but I think I met DJ Whiz one time at a club called Good World, but that's going back a ways and it might not be the same Whiz. In any case, the music was pretty good, and Zach liked looking at all the people and especially the inflatable dancing stick figures.
After a few minutes at the concert, we headed over to a quieter part of the park so I could let Zachary run around on the grass and kick his little soccer ball. On the way I bought a soft-serve vanilla ice cream cone.
He enjoyed the ice cream cone and, naturally, got ice cream all over his face. Then we found a patch of grass and played some rudimentary soccer. Zach got distracted by a rock and then kept kicking the ball to a group of women relaxing on a blanket who were all taken in by the young charmer.
Jenn is out with her mom seeing South Pacific on Broadway, and I just put Zachary to bed, so I finally have a moment to myself. Tchaikovsky is on the radio, and it's pleasant enough outside to leave the windows open instead of cranking up the air conditioner. It's Friday night and I can finally take a breath. Let me savor that for a second, because I've been working hard. Deep breath ...
Today was a good day. The weather was nice. Work was fine. We gathered by the window to watch a big balloon rise above Central Park. I left at 6:00 p.m. on the dot and raced downtown to Chelsea to pick up Zachary from day care, then continued on to Brooklyn. Zachary was happy and giggly on the subway, making friends out of strangers as he always does. We dropped by the grocery store on the way home and bought some seltzer.
Okay, I also bought some beer. Radeberger Pilsner. Big bottles only cost $1.99 there. I'm sipping one now and it's delicious. If you're reading this and feel compelled to race over to C-Town right now and buy some, forget it. I bought the last four bottles. Sorry.
As soon as we got home, I put the beer and seltzer in the 'fridge and very quickly changed out of my work clothes and into shorts, sneakers, and a t-shirt. Then I grabbed Zachary's sippy cup and jogging stroller, and we made our way out to McCarren Park. It was 7:30 when we finally got rolling. The sun was still up, but wouldn't be for much longer. I jogged to the park while Zach relaxed in the stroller and enjoyed the ride.
Once we got there, it was a surreal experience that you can only have in New York. So many different, interesting things were going on that I almost envied Zachary's perspective on it at just 20 months of age.
Here's what was going on at the park tonight:
I could hear the music coming from McCarren Park Pool about two blocks away. It turned out to be a band I had never heard of called Ween. We didn't go in, of course, but you could hear the music just fine by the soccer field and jogging track, where we were hanging out. Ween sounded pretty good, like an outdoor summertime concert should.
We jogged a lap around the track. On one end was a group of Latin American dancers doing some kind of native dance. A drummer was keeping time, and some of them were wearing indigenous striped wool outfits. I'm not sure where they were from exactly but I'll guess Bolivia or Guatemala or someplace that still has strong pre-Hispanic traditions. Zach and I stopped to watch the dancers.
On the eastern corner was a dreadlocked personal trainer we know named Kiki. He was leading a class so I didn't bother him, but he is always nice to Zach ("How you doing, my brother? All right, my brother.") We wouldn't know Kiki if it weren't for Zach, who is amazingly deft at arranging introductions.
On the southern apron of the track was a group of break dancers getting ready for one of their regular outdoor dance sessions. They were just getting warmed up, but Zach and I have seen them dancing up a storm a few times recently. It's always a cool scene: somebody brings a boom box with the latest dance mix, and people take turns on the linoleum, popping and spinning and body rocking and other terms I'm not familiar with. Some of them are quite good and it's fun to watch.
I rolled the stroller onto an open strip of grass and let Zach run free. The sun was just setting like a big fireball sinking behind Manhattan. Two soccer teams were battling it out on the field in front of us. The music from the concert washed over us. I tried to take Zach's picture but he kept turning away. We both savored the moment and then it was time to head back home.
We live in Brooklyn, but I manage to get into Manhattan just about every day. During the week, that's simple enough, since that's where my job is, but on the weekends I generally find a reason to cross the East River as well, like karate, shopping, or meeting friends. But this weekend I've hardly left the neighborhood, let alone the borough, because I was at home doing work.
I recently picked up a gig as weekend editor at a travel website called Jaunted, and it took a while for me to figure out the format, HTML coding, etc. All in all I think it went well, and you can read my entries on Jaunted.com. You can find an archive of my Jaunted stuff so far here.
The site I used to write for, Gridskipper, was recently relaunched in a different format, and I figured it was a good time for me to make a change. But my Gridskipper archive is still up, and can be found here. I'm not sure all the map posts work yet, and the comments that had accrued during the site's previous incarnation have been wiped out, but most everything else is there, the hits as well as the misses.
Anyway, I didn't leave Brooklyn this weekend, but this afternoon Jenn, Zach and I did leave Williamsburg. We took a walk to Greenpoint, a charming Polish community in north Brooklyn. I deposited a check at the bank, and Jenn bought some Polish candy at the candy store pictured below on Manhattan Avenue.
I'm especially fond of the hazelnut chocolates. As we were walking home, it started raining, so we finished our walk with a jog. Fortunately, we had the jogging stroller, if not good jogging shoes.
For those of you who have been waiting since March 20, 2006 for a panda face cookie update, I apologize. In that time, a great many panda face cookie cartoons have passed through our home unblogged about, I'm afraid. There's just not that much time in my life to keep up with it. But Jenn offered me this one today, and it cries out for translation. Here's the full cartoon (click on the photo to make it bigger):
The best I can guess is that the music the panda is listening to suddenly brings him to some big insight or epiphany, and it's probably related to being made of chocolate. Anyway, if anyone out there speaks Japanese and cares to translate in the comments, I'd appreciate it. Here's a close-up of the final panel: