New York City Diary

Words and pictures from my interesting life in New York.

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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Day Trip To Dia:Beacon

It is Sunday afternoon and I am at home in Brooklyn. Today Jenn and I took a day trip to Beacon, New York to go to a museum of contemporary art called Dia:Beacon. Here's a picture of me standing by the sign.

We have wanted to visit this museum for a long time, and today was finally the day. We woke up early and took an 8:51 a.m. Metro North train out of Grand Central Station. After a scenic ride up the Hudson River Valley we arrived in the town of Beacon, New York at 10:21 a.m. The weather was hot and sunny.

The museum opened at 11:00 a.m. and I have this thing about getting to museums early. The way I see it, even museums you are really excited about visiting tend to wear you down and make you tired very quickly. Therefore, it's a good idea to go early in the day to have your best energy and mental acuity. That way you'll appreciate and enjoy it more, and you'll also get back home at a reasonable hour so you can do something else with your afternoon if you want to. This is especially important on Sundays.

So Jenn and I walked from the Beacon train station to the museum, arriving at about 10:35 a.m. We looked around the outside of the museum and then waited in the coffee shop, which had opened at 10:30 a.m. It wasn't long before they opened the doors to the main gallery.

Dia:Beacon Riggio Galleries (that's the full name) houses the Dia Art Foundation's permanent collection and also hosts exhibitions. The current big name exhibition (or the one I've heard of, anyway) is an Andy Warhol show called Dia's Andy: Through the Lens of Patronage.

The first thing you can easily say about Dia:Beacon is that it's huge. It's a former printing factory and the gallery takes up 300,000 square feet. It's beautifully designed and has lots of excellent natural light. That enables Dia to present works of art that are physically gigantic.

There is no photography allowed inside the galleries, so I'm afraid I can't post any photos of specific works of art, but the Dia websites I've linked to above are very comprehensive and have at least one photo of each artist's work, so check them out if you're curious.

There are a few standout pieces that I can mention, however. Now, it's probably kind of cliche and typical to pick this as one of my favorites, but Richard Serra's Torqued Ellipses are wonderful.

It's a weird feeling walking inside them, like they could fall on you at any moment, but also the diverging angles and constant curvature gives you a strange perspective. Jenn and I walked through every one of them. The ones that have a second or third curved ellipse inside the first are the best.

There's so much art in Dia:Beacon that it's intimidating for me to even begin to write about any individual piece. We loved the Warhols, we loved John Chamberlain's auto body sculptures, we loved Louise Bourgeois's spider, and Dan Flavin's light sculptures.

The museum is so huge it took us nearly two hours of constant walking (at a brisk pace for a museum) to see it all. We easily could have stayed all day, but we were getting hungry and tired, so we freshened up and bid farewell to Dia:Beacon. It was about 12:45 p.m.

The plan was to walk along Main Street in Beacon and find a spot for lunch and maybe a beer, but sadly, the town of Beacon was a bit of a disappointment.

From our basic web researching we were expecting a nicely kept up, quaint Hudson River town, and many of the buildings and houses are quite pretty. But there were really very few choices for decent places to grab a snack, and no proper restaurants. There are a couple of galleries, (literally, like two galleries) and a tea shop and a sandwich shop.

And the town kept getting dodgier the farther along Main street we walked. Many shops and offices were abandoned, with boarded-up windows. A few people were hanging around on the sidewalk, killing time, drinking and smoking. Jenn and I decided to take the 1:50 p.m. train back to the city. Before we left, I took this picture of the clock on Main Street.

It was getting hot and we still hadn't eaten, so it was a quiet walk back to the train. There was a very rudimentary snack stand on the platform, so we got water and Snapple and a packet of cheese and crackers and a blueberry cereal bar to tide us over until we were home.

The train arrived on time and we got on and it felt good to rest our legs in air conditioned comfort. I was especially weary because I had a rough kumite class yesterday, and I was both sore and bruised.

I took this picture of Bannerman Castle from the train. And I didn't know it was named Bannerman Castle until I just now looked it up. I googled Hudson River Island Castle, it took like five seconds to find it.

We arrived in Grand Central Station and Jenn took this picture of me.

Then we took the 6 train to Union Square, where we hopped an L shuttle train to First Avenue and got bagels from David's. Yes, we were craving those David's bagels. Then we came home to Brooklyn and ate the bagels and showered and now we're catching up on things, blogging and such. It's 6:30 p.m.

Bottom line on the day: the town it's located in isn't much, but Dia:Beacon is great, and I definitely recommend taking a trip to check it out. We bought "package" tickets at Grand Central that included round trip train fare and museum admission for $27 each, a savings of a couple of bucks and some hassle.

As for the art (and the space) I'm sure I'll remember it for a long time. Yes, like much modern art, it was "weird," but it was also meaningful, powerful, and, in some cases, beautiful.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Bagels and More

Yesterday was Friday and Jenn and I were both able to leave work at 6:00 p.m. We met on the corner of 57th and Broadway and, after a pit stop at the bank, we went into the subway on 55th Street to head back to Brooklyn. We got into the first car of the downtown train so I could shoot photos (and video) through the front window. The above picture is of the subway tunnel between 50th Street and Times Square. You can see it better if you click on it.

I turned around and took this picture of Jenn as she was looking out the front window. On the newer trains (such as the L train, pictured in my earlier entry) it's more difficult to see out the front window because the driver's cockpit area goes all the way across the nose of the train, but you can still do it on the older ones. Little kids put their foreheads against the glass for the best view.

I call this photo on the right Light at the End of the Tunnel. Below it is a photo I call Entering 34th Street/Herald Square. In the evening lots of people get out of the subway at the downtown end of the Herald Square station to walk to Penn Station and take commuter trains back to New Jersey, although they could also be going to Madison Square Garden to watch a Knicks game or something. These photos are also a bit dark so click for a better look.

We got home and had a quiet Friday evening together. We didn't go out and do anything crazy. Friday evening is a good time to relax. We were in bed by 11:00 p.m.

This morning I got up and made my regular pilgrimage to David's Bagels on First Avenue at 14th Street in Manhattan. Why would I go all the way into Manhattan to get bagels when I live in Brooklyn? Because: A. David's Bagels are awesome; and B. On the L train it barely takes ten minutes to get there from Lorimer Street in Brooklyn.

Today, however, there was construction on the L line, and to get into Manhattan you had to take one train to Bedford Avenue and then take a "shuttle train" into Manhattan. A shuttle train just runs back and forth on one track, leaving the other track open for maintenance work.

This is a picture of the onion bagel bin at David's Bagels. The onion is far and away my favorite bagel.

I was feeling a little self conscious shooting people at such close range so I just fired off this one and a few more and put the camera away. This is the front counter area and one of the bagel guys on the right. Those are muffins in the foreground.

I paid for my bagel and went down to the subway station. Here's a picture of a work train that was on the opposite track. It's usually bad news when you see a work train but in this case I didn't have to wait too long for a subway back to Brooklyn.

I came home, picking up the laundry on the way. Jenn had gone out to New Jersey to visit her mom. I ate my bagel and then went back out to pick up Jenn's dry cleaning and buy a case of seltzer from Beverage World on Meeker (great prices). Now I'm going to do some cleaning and writing until it's time to go to kumite class. The weather today is overcast and warm, but not unbearably humid. I've got the windows open and the fan on.

Tonight we might go to Spuyten Duvyil bar and tomorrow we are planning to go to Dia:Beacon. Check back for the latest photos and discussion.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Visitor Number 5,000 is Jenn!

This blog has just hosted its 5,000th unique visitor since I started counting them a couple of months ago. And number 5,000 was . . . my wife, Jenn! Thank you, dear! (And thank you, StatCounter.)

Thank you to everybody who reads this site, especially people who leave comments. Commenters are good people. It's nice to know people are reading. I enjoy hearing from you.

If you want me to photograph anything in particular in New York, let me know by posting a comment. At my earliest convenience, I'll shoot it and post it and write a little bit about it. And if you know anybody who might enjoy this site, by all means share the URL. Thanks again.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Times Square

I left work at about 6:10 p.m. I had some time to kill before my 7:15 p.m. karate class so I took the subway two stops from 57th Street to 42nd Street Times Square. I went to Times Square to take a few pictures for this blog.

I took this one shortly after I got out of the subway. It's facing north in the center of Times Square.

This photo probably doesn't need much of an explanation. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you baggy-suited Spiderman pulling a suitcase and dangling a Polaroid camera.

This one is also taken facing uptown. The top neon sign in the center used to be the iconic Suntory whisky sign. It was my favorite Times Square neon sign.

Times Square is a mixture of New Yorkers and tourists on weekdays. On weekends I would say it's mostly tourists. Personally, I avoid midtown if I can. I generally only go there to work. When Jenn and I go out it's typically in downtown Manhattan (below 14th Street) or in our home borough of Brooklyn. Anyway, here's a random pedestrian shot. Of course I took it because of the large man in the yellow shirt.

I also like this picture because of the bearded guy on the left.

I walked from Times Square to Bryant Park and took this shot on the way.

Brant Park is quite nice. They show outdoor movies there in the summertime. Years ago I saw Casablanca there. When the Nazi officers are asking Rick if he could imagine German troops invading New York, and Rick replies "there are certain neighbhorhoods in New York I wouldn't recommend you invade" the audience went wild, hooting and hollaring. Anyway, here's Bryant Park, with the back of the New York Public Library in the background.

Here's a close-up of the top of the Chrysler Building, possibly the most beautiful building in New York, although I might choose the Woolworth Building downtown, in which I worked, for a short time.

I then took the subway down to 23rd Street to go to the dojo for a 7:15 p.m. Senior Kata class. On my way into the dojo I took these pictures. I feel bad for poor Mister Softee.

The people in this photo look more like New Yorkers than in the Times Square photos.

Karate was excellent as always, a good workout for body and mind. On the way out of the dojo, recalling the previous evening, I took out my camera to make a comparison shot of the sunset. Here it is.

The I took the L train home to Brooklyn. This is the L train pulling into Sixth Avenue.

When I got back to Brooklyn, I went to Family Garden for some beef and broccoli.

This is my artistic photo of stoplights, headlights, and brake lights. I shot it while I was waiting for my food.

And here is more of the same but with downtown Manhattan in the distance. If this were pre-911 you would have been able to see the World Trade Center in this photo. Sigh.

This is the last picture. After I took this I picked up my food and came home.

Now I'm home and waiting for Jenn to get home from a James Beard food event. I hope she brought me some leftovers!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Indigo Sunset

Indigo Sunset, 23rd and Sixth, NYC, Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I wasn't going to post a picture today. I wasn't even going to take any pictures today, but this sunset caught my eye as I was leaving the dojo at about 8:30 p.m.

I was planning to head straight to the subway. It was a great black belt class but I was tired and very much focused on getting home to Brooklyn as soon as possible. Once I walked out the door to 23rd Street, however, this beautiful indigo-colored sunset caught my eye.

I stopped in a semi-quiet place on the corner (there's a ton of pedestrian traffic in that area day and night) and fished my camera out of my bag. I turned it on and snapped four practice shots looking east on 23rd Street.

I then waited for the walk light to cross 23rd and walked half-way across the street, where I stood and quickly snapped eight photos looking west into the sunset.

Then I took the subway back to Brooklyn, grabbed a slice at Sal's (I do love that Sal's Pizza), came home and gave Jenn a kiss.

After a quick, cold shower (it was still sweltering hot outside) I uploaded the photos onto the computer. Jenn and I agreed this was the best one.

New York City will often surprise you with spectacular sunsets. You always see them when you look west on the numbered streets, while the avenues are shaded.

Usually they're either cotton candy pink or Creamsicle orange. Tonight's purple (or indigo or violet; what do you think?) sunset was unusual. And beautiful. Stop-in-your-tracks beautiful. The picture probably doesn't do it justice. It was much bigger than that.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

What New York City Looks Like, Part 1

I've been carrying my camera around for the last couple of days and it has really helped me see things in New York City that I otherwise might not have paid much attention to. I took 109 pictures today. I promise I won't post them all. Here are a few highlights.

At around 1:30 p.m. I met Jenn on the sidewalk in front of her office. There were about ten Falun Gong protestors there, acting out Chinese torture techniques and handing out fliers. They had people in makeshift stocks and cages and shackles, but I've seen it all before.

I wanted Jenn to sign a birthday card for my mom so I could put it in the post. Jenn had plans to meet her mother at Starbucks on 59th Street, so I walked with her and said hi to Pat and then continued to the post office, where I dropped my mom's card in the mail slot. I have always liked post offices but that's for another time.

I headed back east on 59th and took some pictures of a Mister Softee truck. I heard the sound of tapping on glass and realized I was standing right in front of Starbucks where Jenn and her mom were sitting. This picture shows Jenn's mom on the left, Jenn on the right, and the Mister Softee truck in the reflection. I did not purchase a Mister Softee ice cream cone, but I do like them very much.

It would have been nice to have a cool treat because it was 94 degrees Fahrenheit (like 34 Celcius) but I hadn't had lunch yet, and my stomach wants me to eat foods in the correct order. So I walked into the Time Warner Center, one of New York's newest skyscrapers. It's located on Columbus Circle, although I think they give themselves a Central Park West address. To me the two addresses sound equal in stature.

The first four levels of the Time Warner Center are a public shopping mall with high-end stores. In the basement there's a huge Whole Foods Market, which is the place to go for the moderately-priced-but-healthy business lunch in the area. I usually don't go there because I'm too cheap, I prefer my four-dollar turkey sandwich from the Korean deli (JY Deli on Eighth Avenue and 56th Street) to an eight-dollar tossed salad, but I will admit that Whole Foods has good stuff.

Here's a picture of the brand-new Columbus Circle pedestrian park, the area in the center of the traffic circle. It was completely torn up for what seemed like such a long time, but they recently completed it and I think it's darn nice. Of course, for real elbow room, Central Park is just off to the left.

To take this picture I took the escalators to the highest shopping mall level that gives you a nice lookout through the huge windows.

From where I was standing, I could look down and see some of those Whole Foods business lunch people munching on their dumplings and whatnot. Here's a look, although you only get a small glimpse into a very large organic grocery store.

Satisfied with my photographs, I left Time Warner and walked into the new Columbus Circle pedestrian area. As I was going in that direction I bumped into one of our editors and said hello. He must have been on his lunch break as well.

We briefly talked about the Huntington Hartford building, which is pictured below. Do you think it's too ugly to preserve?

We said goodbye and he went back to the office while I continued my NYC photo safari. On the right is a photo of the new Time Warner building. The shopping center is the glass atrium area between the two towers. I had been standing on the fourth floor of the atrium just below where this picture ends.

I then sat on the edge of a fountain and tried very hard to squeeze in both Time Warner towers, the Columbus statue, and Trump Tower into this photo. What do you think?

Here's a picture of the new fountain, a hippo party truck, and the southwest corner entrance to Central Park. This is where we entered the park to see The Gates by Christo. Anyway, I was getting hot and hungry, so I walked down Eighth Avenue to my deli.

On the way to the deli I took this picture of the Hearst Tower, currently under construction. I think it looks pretty cool.

Then I went to the deli and bought my sandwich. Here's a blurry picture of the JY Deli.

I walked back to the office and shot this as I was crossing 57th Street.

Fast-forward to 6:30 p.m. I finished up at work and took the subway home to Brooklyn. Jenn was going to visit her friend in Bay Ridge, so I'm on my own until she gets home.

This is a picture of my bodega, with the fish monger on the right. It's everything a Brooklyn bodega should be, and everything a Brooklyn fish monger should be.

And here's a picture of a girl talking on her cell phone and deciding what beer to purchase.

I made my purchase (okay, I bought beer) and the proprietor, my friend Richie, accidentally gave me change for a $20 when I had only given him a $10. I gave Richie back the extra change and he was very thankful. He told me how one time a guy accidentally dropped $200 at the counter and left, and Richie found the guy and gave the money back to him. The guy had little kids and was very much a working-class guy so he was really grateful. I told Richie that guys like him and me sleep well at night. He agreed and shook my hand. It's true.

I like this building on my street. To me it looks like something from an Edward Hopper painting.

Finally, here's a picture of the apartment building, nearly completed, that's right across the street from the Edward Hopper building. It's an example of how Williamsburg, Brooklyn is really moving up in the New York City real estate world. Modern-looking buildings like this are going up all around us.

I put the camera away and came home. It was a really hot day, so the first thing I did was open all the windows, turn on the fans, and take a cold shower. It was the shower of champions, a sweet piece of shower victory.

Now it's 9:21 p.m. and I need to think about dinner. No more photos for now, but I hope you've enjoyed seeing what one small part of New York looks like. I look forward to posting some downtown photos soon. Jenn called, she's on her way home.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Evening Rundown

It's 9:45 p.m. on Monday and I've been home for about an hour.

Since I'm still trying to figure out the best ways to post photos, I appreciate your patience as I upload a few. The layout may be screwy or unexciting.

I shot this picture of Marty right as I met up with him on the corner. He said he had been singing to himself but I couldn't hear what song because the traffic on 57th and Broadway was so loud.

We took the 1/9 train from 59th Street to Christopher Street in Greenwich Village.

Here's a picture I shot as we were getting out at Christopher Street.

Seth lives on Grove Street, home of several famous old cabaret nightclubs.

This one is called Marie's Crisis Cafe.

And this one is Arthur's Tavern.

We stopped by Strawberry Fields grocery store on the way and picked up a six pack of Saranac Adirondack Amber.

We got to Seth's place and greeted Seth and his cat Max.

Max is a very nice cat, playful and well-mannered.

Here's the view from Seth's apartment window.

We all had a chat and a beer, but neither Marty nor I could stay long, so we left at around 8:15 p.m.

Here's a street scene.

And another cabaret scene.

I like this picture of a jazz man on the subway platform at 14th Street and Seventh Avenue.

I said goodbye to Marty at 14th Street and went to the L train, where I took this photo of a guy in a hat boarding the train.

Here's what the subway crowd looked like.

I got home to Brooklyn and bought two slices of pizza from Sal's.

Then I came home and gave Jenn a kiss and ate my pizza. Now we're watching Globe Trekker China. It's great.