New York City Diary

Words and pictures from my interesting life in New York.

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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Random NYC Photos

It looks like the world famous Soup Kitchen International is no more. Al never opened his shop last season. It is a great loss. His soups were delicious. There is some talk about him franchising but I haven't seen any action on that front.

Walking up Eighth Avenue, I zoomed in on some of the recently restored ornamentation at the base of the new Hearst building.

I walked to the post office on 60th Street near Fordham University. I had to drop a bill in the mail.

Later in the afternoon, I shot this photo of an NYPD emergency response vehicle. A suspicious package had been found in an office building and a massive emergency response unit came zooming in. The package turned out to be nothing dangerous.

My thoughts are with the poor people in Mississippi and Louisiana and the rest of the Gulf Coast. They are suffering the effects of Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans is completely flooded. I've been there twice in my life. New Orleans is a wonderful town. Old Storyville. The Hummingbird Hotel was a wonderful dump.

While I was thinking about the flood in New Orleans the name Galatea Dunkel popped into my head. She was a character in On The Road.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Columbus Circle

I took a very brief, maybe 15-minute stroll around Columbus Circle during lunch today and shot a couple of photos. They were mostly overexposed. My digital camera doesn't do well in bright sunlight. The photo above is of the globe sculpture at the Trump International Hotel & Tower at One Central Park West. I think that's Chile and Argentina on the globe. The famous and expensive restaurant Jean Georges is located there. Not in Chile and Argentina, I mean in the Trump building.

In this picture, you can see the infamous Huntington Hartford Building on the left and the brand-new Time Warner Center on the right, with the street light jockeying for position.

Tonight we'll be watching Globe Trekker: Central America. We love Globe Trekker.

McCarren Park Pool

I went for a walk yesterday afternoon. It more of a limp really, since I hurt my foot in kumite. I took this picture of the abandoned McCarren Park Swimming Pool. Here's a very good link that describes the W.P.A.-era pool and has a good slideshow of images.

I saw this poster for an upcoming art project to be staged in the pool. Here's a link with some information.

It started raining while I was walking, so I cut my walk short and went to Beverage World, pictured below. I took this picture while standing under the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE). The camera insisted on focusing on the beams from the overpass, so I hereby deem this fine photo of Beverage World a work of abstract art.

Beverage World is another one of our favorite stores in the neighborhood. Not only do they have the best prices on beer, but I go at least once a week to buy a case of White Rock Seltzer. I know seltzer is nothing but water that makes you burp, but we love it. There's nothing more refreshing after a hard day than a tall frosty glass of effervescent seltzer.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Place

Jenn's birthday was yesterday (Saturday) and while I'm going to leave most of the details off-blog so to speak, the restaurant we went to for dinner is worth mentioning.

We dined at a place called The Place, on West Fourth Street in Greenwich Village. Here's a link to the Place's website and here's a review.

We arrived at about 8:20 p.m. I was limping because I hurt my foot in kumite class a couple of hours earlier. I had requested a corner booth, and we were shown to a very romantic and secluded alcove at the corner of the back dining room. The Place is dark and cozy and reminiscent of a candle-lit cave.

It was a great table. We took our time ordering, starting out with a bottle of Cascinacastle't Barbera d' Asti 2002, a fine red wine from Italy. We had a toast to Jenn's birthday and then started thinking about what we wanted to eat.

Since it was a special occasion, I suggested we get three appetizers. Jenn came up with excellent choices: Sauteed Diver Scallops over a roasted beet and orange mizuna salad; Char Grilled Calamari and Tiger Shrimp over field greens with a fresh mango salsa; and a Frisee Salad, with blue cheese, fresh pears, candied pistachios and a sherry wine dressing.

For entrees, I chose the Roasted Leg of Lamb, with rosemary roasted potatoes and french beans, au jus. Jenn selected the Pan Roasted Cod, with jersey corn, asparagus and sugar snap peas over a saffron buerre blanc.

The food was spectacular. Of the starters, I think we both liked the scallops best. I know I did. I'm always wary of ordering scallops because they're easy to screw up, but these were tender and delicious. Jenn's Frisee Salad was also sublime. The calamari and tiger shrimp came on skewers and were pretty good but not as good as the scallops and Frisee.

The wine was delicious as well, medium dry with a slightly spicy finish. Yum.

Our entrees were spectacular. I very rarely eat lamb, but this was prepared perfectly, juicy and tender and full of flavor. It was cut into easily managed slices. The rosemary potatoes and French beans were excellent also.

Of course we tasted each other's food, and I can tell you that the cod that Jenn ordered was excellent, especially with the jersey corn.

What birthday dinner would be complete without dessert? We ordered two dessert dishes: Traditional Creme Brulee infused with lavendar and Warm Spiced Bartlett Pears, Caramelized, with Heath Bar Crunch ice cream. They brought out the Creme Brulee with a candle in it, and I sang a quick version of Happy Birthday to Jenn.

The desserts were decadant and wonderful. Everything was decadant and wonderful. I highly recommend The Place for its romantic atmosphere, excellent food, and good service.

Friday, August 26, 2005

The World's Largest Store

I stopped by the world's largest store on the way home from work tonight. This is what it looked like when I walked in.

And this is what it looks like from the outside.

I'll take their word on it that it's the world's biggest store. It is quite huge and sells everything. It actually takes up two buildings, which are connected. There's the Broadway Building and the Seventh Avenue building. In the photo below, I'm standing on Broadway looking west along 34th Street. Macy's takes up the length of the block. Just follow the row of flags on the right.

I've shopped at Macy's Herald Square as long as I've lived in New York. I pretty much only go shopping when I need to buy gifts. That place is crazy during the holiday season, but it's still a great place to get all your shopping done in an afternoon. I especially like the wooden escalators they have on the upper floors.

After I left Macy's I walked from 34th Street to 23rd Street and shot these photos of the buildings by Madison Square Park. The weather was very pleasant, with mild temperatures, low humidity, and a beautiful sunset.

Bad Taste

I was in a rush to get out of the house this morning. I needed to drop off the laundry and I had to do an interview for a freelance story I'm writing for The Star-Ledger. In my haste, with my mind on all the things I had to do, I accidentally inhaled a big whiff of Brut (by Faberge) aerosol deodorant spray.

I went "ack!" and then "ptooey." I washed out my mouth, gargled a little bit, and brushed my teeth. Even now, after several hours, breakfast, and a big bottle of grapefruit juice, I can still taste it. On the plus side, my mouth won't smell bad if my tongue sweats.

Normally, I wouldn't even use an aerosol deodorant, but it was on the giveaway table, and I am a parsimonious (read: cheap) man. Free deodorant. Who wouldn't take advantage? But in the future, when using an aerosol deodorant, hold your breath until the air clears. Trust me on this one, I've done the research so you don't have to.

I'm not a parsimonious man in matters of the heart. Jenn's birthday is tomorrow, and as an early birthday present last night I accompanied her to a couple of clothing boutiques in the East Village with the promise to buy her something nice. We wound up at a shop called Meg, on East 9th Street. I had never heard of it (Jenn might claim that I have) but apparently it's a very popular shop with modern designs and decent prices. Jenn's a fan, as is my work colleague Anna. Here is a link.

If you ask me, the best part about any women's clothing store is the "man chair." The man chair is the place the man sits down while his girlfriend or wife shops. As long as I have a comfortable place to sit, I don't mind if Jenn tries on a dozen outfits. I don't have any research on this, but I can almost guarantee that having one or more man chairs increases the revenue in a women's clothing boutique. If I didn't have a chair, I'd be whining and complaining and asking if we can please go now. Please!

But with a man chair, I'm fine waiting, and Meg has two excellent man chairs. They take the form of wicker basket-type chairs with cushions. The best part, however, is that they hang from the ceiling, so you can literally "hang out" and swing around while the lady oohs and aahs over tank tops and "empire waisted" shirts and dresses (I just learned that term last night).

I was so into the hanging chair that I forgot to take photos of the shop, which I had intended to do. Here's a picture of a chair that is similar to Meg's mesmerizing man chairs.

As I swung and swiveled, Jenn picked out a very nice black shirt, and I bought it for her. We took the subway home to Brooklyn, stopping by Hana Foods and Sal's Pizza for provisions on the way to our apartment. Jenn conked out early, as she was very tired, but I stayed up and watched The Daily Show. Christopher Hitchens was the guest.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Running of the Bulls

Good Morning. Welcome to Part 2 of my description of Tuesday. After we left the Comedy Central studios Webster, MaryAlice, Jenn, and I took a crosstown bus to the subway, and the subway to 8th Street, where we walked to the Central Bar on 9th Street for Nicole's book release party. Sometimes public transit in NYC can be frustrating, but this time we got downtown in a flash.

The photo above is a crowd shot from the party. The young blond woman just left of center is Jessica, one of the students/job candidates featured in the book. There's a photo of the author, Nicole, two posts down, proudly signing copies of her book for friends and admirers. The pictures look greenish because I had to use the "night shot" feature on the camera, which makes everything like Special Ops recon photos.

I know Nicole from the time I worked as a business reporter at Dow Jones Newswires. For being a brainy, white-collar kind of job it was also sort of a sweatshop in that the beast needed to be fed "copy" all the time. It was insatiable. That meant hustling nonstop, making calls, typing at a furious pace. In such an environment, I made some great friends (and even found a future wife).

Nicole, who now writes for Forbes, was one of a group of a half-dozen or so people who I still count as my dearest friends, and who were almost all present at Jenn and my wedding last year. So it goes without saying that we are all very happy and proud of her to publish this excellent book, and we are sure it will do very well. You can find out more about her book, The Running Of The Bulls, by clicking here.

A good bunch of us were at the book release party as well, so it was a reunion of sorts. As time marches on, we don't see eachother as often as we used to. People are married, people have children, people have different jobs and increased responsibilities. I don't mean to have a Cat's in the Cradle moment, but that's basically what it is. Fortunately, we are all still in touch and do get together on occasion, for which I am grateful. You've got nothing if you don't have friends.

Below, from left to right, Jenn, Tara, and Penelope, making nice for the camera.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Daily Show

The Daily Show set, right after the taping ended.

Finally now at 10:19 p.m. Wednesday, I have a chance to sit down and write something about the exciting day I had yesterday. I'll do it in two parts, in case I conk out and can't write any more after describing what it was like to see a live taping of The Daily Show. Part 2, when I get to it, will describe Nicole's book and book party in greater detail.

Jenn and I got out of work at 4:00 p.m. Together we walked to 52nd Street and Eleventh Avenue where we met our good friends Webster and MaryAlice. Through proper prior planning, they had obtained four tickets to that day's Daily Show taping, and they were kind enough to invite us to join them. Here's what the line for the Daily Show taping looked like.

We had to wait about a half hour in that line. Some Daily Show helpers handed out laminated passes to us in the line and then herded us into a secondary waiting area. It was a medium-sized room, maybe 500 square feet or so, with tan walls, fluorescent lighting, and very little furnishing. There were rest rooms off to the side, which was good.

The wait in the holding pen wasn't too bad either. A Daily Show helper, early 20-ish white guy with mid-length dark hair basically explained the rules: be really loud, and high energy, don't take photos, don't eat or drink, etc. Jon will come out before the show to get to know the audience a little bit, answer some questions, tell some jokes, etc.

We were then herded into the main studio. I was really itching to take some photos (I had my camera in my bag, after all) but stifled the urge. I didn't want to get us all thrown out. That would have been uncool. Anyway, we're huge fans of The Daily Show, we watch every night. Hardly ever miss one. In fact, I'm blogging as fast as I can so I can post this before tonight's show (Trent Lott is the guest).

We had four good seats at the end of the row, about four rows up from floor level. The set is smaller than it appears on TV. We were right next to the teleprompter station and security guard, so I definitely couldn't take a picture without getting busted. I actually tried to shoot a picture out of the corner of my bag, but it was just too awkward and dumb so I decided to just chill out and enjoy the show.

There was a warmup comic who was pretty good. He reminded us to be really loud, but the crowd was boisterous already. Then Jon Stewart himself came out. Of course he was really cool, chatting with people and making jokes.

Finally he sat down at the desk, cue cameras, cue music, cue intro "Tuesday, August 23, 2005, this is the Daily Show with Jon Stewart." Cue cheering crowd, clapping, yelling. And then the show began. We were screaming like we were at a Yankees game.

I can't describe the whole show to you, it would be too much work and perhaps many of you saw it last night anyway. Jon Stewart did a bit about Pat Robertson calling for the murder of Hugo Chavez, Steven Colbert did This Week In God (with Compari-Sin), Ed Helms did a report on some "extreme" health insurance plan in California, and Rachel Weisz was the guest.

It was a great episode. When it ended (after the Moment of Zen, which featured rats on surfboards) we shuffled out of our row and toward the exit. I was trying to take some stealth photos (see top of page). Then I noticed that many people had cameras out and were taking photos with reckless abandon and nobody was doing anything about it.

Here's a better view.

All four of us really enjoyed the show. It was laugh out loud funny at times. As I said before, we are really big Jon Stewart fans, so to see his show live was really great.

We walked from the studio and very easily caught a bus across town to the subway. Before we hopped on the bus I shot this photo.

Now I've got to go, because it's 11:00 p.m., and the Daily Show is on! I'll write part 2 soon.

Daily Show/Running of the Bulls

I can't post much at the moment, being at work, but here's a teaser for what's coming up later tonight. Two particularly exciting and interesting things happened on Tuesday. In the afternoon Jenn and I joined our friends Webster and MaryAlice to attend a taping of one of our favorite TV programs, The Daily Show with John Stewart. It was great.

After the taping, we went directly from the studio on 11th Avenue to our good friend Nicole Ridgway's book release party at a place called The Central Bar on East 9th Street. Her book is entitled The Running Of The Bulls: Inside the Cutthroat Race from Wharton to Wall Street. It chronicles the lives of seven students from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania as they try to get educated and employed while retaining their sanity and humanity. It's an excellent book, with rock-solid reporting and touching stories of ambition and inspiration. You can find out more by clicking here.

I'll post more on those subjects tonight after karate.

One more item of business: a big thank you to Chris Mohney of Gridskipper for posting a blurb/link about my Water Taxi Beach entry. You can see that here. The resulting bump in traffic was notable.

Gridskipper is a website about urban travel that belongs to the Gawker family of sites. Check it out.

And have a nice Wednesday.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Water Taxi Beach

Jenn and I made an excellent discovery yesterday: a perfect white-sand beach on the East River at Hunters Point in Long Island City, Queens called Water Taxi Beach. Here is a link and here is another.

I can't sing the praises of this wonderful beach loudly enough, for it has everything you could want in a beach, except swimming (although you can get wet). Here's what we saw as we walked through the gate. You can click on any of these photos to make them big.

Water Taxi Beach is thusly named because it's located at the Hunters Point stop on the New York Water Taxi route. In order to boost weekend ferry traffic to Queens, New York Water Taxi President Tom Fox had the brilliant idea of creating a one-third acre sand beach complete with picnic tables, beach volleyball court, snack stand, beach bar, groovy music, and a spectacular view of Manhattan, right next to the ferry slip.

It's an excellent beach, and if it wasn't closed today I'd say ditch your job right now and get there. Naturally, the beach is served by New York Water Taxi (easy access from East 34th Street in Manhattan) but it's also a breeze to get there by subway. We took the G train from Brooklyn to get there, and we walked home.

Here's a view taken from the northeast corner.

So here's how it went. Last week Jenn had mentioned to me that this beach existed, so we decided to pay a visit on Sunday. We vacillated a while on Sunday morning, thinking it might be too hot to go to the beach, but we finally got our act together and left the house right before noon. It took a short subway ride and short walk to get there, and we were instantly impressed.

We were among the first guests to arrive at the beach. The weather was hot and sunny, with occasional clouds and a pleasant breeze. We chose a picnic table near the water with an umbrella to protect me from the sun's harmful rays (I don't do too well in the sun).

We soon noticed that there were misters lining the main area where the tables are set up. When I say misters, I mean things that spray a very fine mist of water over the area to cool the temperature a little bit. Misters are popular in places like outdoor cafes in Phoenix, Arizona.

Jenn took this photo of me by the water. The yellow hose you see behind me is the mister hose, and the little black dots along the hose are where the mist comes out. Whenever I got too hot I would go and put my face in front of the mister to cool off. Everybody loved the misters.

Here's an artistic photo that Jenn shot. The green hose, creatively coiled because it was a bit longer than they needed, connects to the misting apparatus above.

We were really grooving on the beach and the whole scene, pleased with ourselves for making the trip. We noticed that everybody else who was arriving also seemed pleased with themselves. We suspect the beach saw a lot of first-timers because New York Magazine published a story on it last week. Anyway, the beach has only been open for less than a month.

And what's so great about it is it's a real beach. Yes, they trucked in New Jersey sand, and yes it's fenced off from the water, but the vibe is very much a beach vibe. As soon as I smelled the sunscreen it put me in a beach frame of mind, and I really appreciated the scent of the ocean and the warm sunshine.

Here's a look through the fence near where we were sitting.

In this one I just looked to the right a little bit. Please notice (from left to right) the Chrysler Building, the United Nations, the Trump building (tall dark tower) and the Citicorp Center (silver with sloping roof).

We also saw that everybody was delighted when they noticed the misters, and cooling off by the misters became a regular pastime. We referred to it as "going for a swim" because it's the closest you can come to swimming at that beach. I went for a swim about a half-dozen times.

So in case I haven't made it clear, this was the view from our beach picnic area.

The picnic tables (I counted 24 of them) were situated in the south end of the beach, and six of the tables had umbrellas (a seventh umbrella was added later). Our umbrella had an advertisement for Caffe Miscela D'Oro. It's not quite a Campari umbrella, or even a Cinzano umbrella, but it did nicely. Here's a picture of our umbrella from the underside, with the Empire State Building in the backround.

We were hungry, so I went to the Bar/Snack Stand (Harry's LIC at Water Taxi Beach) and bought two turkey dogs for Jenn (which was one more than she wanted) and a cheeseburger, beef frank, and Coca-Cola for myself. We ate and enjoyed our breakfast while feeling the warm breeze and enjoying the view. The food was excellent. Next time I'll try the elk burger.

More and more people started arriving as the Water Taxis came and went. Here's a picture of one of the first Water Taxis we saw pulling into the slip. By the way, it's four bucks each way between Long Island City (LIC for short) and East 34th Street in Manhattan.

The music selection was also quite good. Here are a few sample artists we heard that set the scene nicely: David Bowie (Starman and others), Creedence (Suzie Q), The Smiths, The Beatles, Sean Paul, LL Cool J, Rolling Stones (Fade to Black), Big Pun, Slick Rick/Doug E. Fresh, Stevie Wonder, Seal, Lou Reed (or Velvet Underground, whichever did Wild Side), The Clash, and many others.

There were all types of people there, from Brooklyn Hipsters to elderly Italians, to a trio of young beer-drinking Sri Lankan women, to a Hasidic guy who was dressed very warmly, to the volleyball-playing studs (and not quite studs) to, well, just about everybody you see in New York was represented on the beach.

Here are some of our neighbors.

Jenn took in the sun while I hid under the umbrella and read the paper. Pretty soon it was time to get a beer. The bar has an amazing selection and very low prices, considering the location. As they say, drinks are "priced with respect." You can get a draft beer for four bucks, a 24-ounce Pabst Blue Ribbon "Tall Boy" for two bucks (you heard me right, two bucks), and big, delicious margaritas and daquiris for eight bucks.

Here's a photo of the bar.

And here's a decent shot of the north half of the beach area (note the United Nations building across the river).

Here's a shot of the south half of the beach area, where we were sitting.

Here's one of many cute pictures of Jenn.

And here's me doing the Pee-Wee Herman on a bench.

We stayed at the beach for almost five hours, reading the newspaper, drinking beers, taking swims in the mist, people watching, and just relaxing. Here is a picture of our server, who was very nice.

And here is the other beach server, who is wearing New York City beach attire. He seemed like a good person as well.

This photo is entitled Ketchup, Mustard, Empire State Building

I drank a beer so fine it won a blue ribbon in a certain beer competition in 1894.

Here's the water taxi cruising in with more beach bums. The sunlight reflected on the water like a million diamonds.

Finally we packed our things, visited the surprisingly clean porta potties, and hit the road. Here's one last beach picture.

I said "give me Blue Steel." Seriously, I am a lucky guy.

We decided to walk home, across the Pulaski Bridge to Greenpoint. It was hot, but I almost don't believe it was this hot.

Here's the entrance to the Queens Midtown Tunnel. Can you believe it costs $4.50? That's fifty cents more than the ferry costs, and I bet the ferry is a lot more fun.

Finally, here's a shot of Newtown Creek, which separates Brooklyn and Queens. You can just see the creek open up into the East River in this photo.

When we got home we had planned to quickly shower and then go out for Belgians and a cheese and charcuterie plate at Spuyten Duyvil. However, we didn't realize how tired we were after all that sun and fun, so we relaxed, watched Entourage, and went to bed.

Here's the bottom line: get to Water Taxi Beach as soon as you can. We had a great time during the day, but it looks like the nighttime scene is happening as well. Make plans! Go!