New York City Diary

Words and pictures from my interesting life in New York.

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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Friday, September 30, 2005

Birthday Booty



My birthday was great. I received birthday wishes from near and far, I spoke to my family and friends on the phone, and Jenn took me out to a fantastic dinner at Bozu.

Also, she bought me the camera pictured above, as well as a beautiful shirt. I'll start using the camera (5.1 megapixel) to post photos on this site as soon as I set it up to work on this computer.

Thank you again to Jenn and everyone. Hope to see you all soon. It's not at all a drag getting older with such good people in my corner.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

My Birthday



On September 29, 1970, 35 years ago today, my mom and dad welcomed a new baby into the world, and that baby was me. When they took me home from Washington D.C.'s Columbia Hospital for Women and put me in the playpen with my sister, Michelle, (then two years old) she immediately tried to kill me.

We've patched things up since then, and now I can happily say I've got the greatest family a guy could ask for.

I'm probably not alone in feeling a little nostalgic and melancholy on my birthday. It's always a time for reflecting on where you've been and where you're going. I had expected things to be a little bit different by the time I hit the half-way point to 70: I'd be a millionaire, famous author, astronaut, etc. There's much I haven't accomplished, but also much that I have.

The most rewarding way for me to look at it is to measure my life by the people who surround me. My wife, Jenn, my excellent family and great friends. I almost don't deserve such wonderful people in my life, but they motivate me to be a better person every day. So I'd like to say thank you to all of them. All of you. Thank you!

As the cast of RENT sings so eloquently, measure your life in love. (Link)

I took the above photo of myself in our garden this morning. This is what I look like at age 35.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Carnegie Hall



For months, Carnegie Hall has had scaffolding up around it as it underwent a renovation. Now the workers are taking the scaffolding down to reveal a clean and reinvigorated Carnegie Hall. Here is a link with more information.

Carnegie Hall is located in Manhattan at 57th Street and Seventh Avenue. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? It's easy, just take the N, R, Q, or W train to 57th. No problem!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Atlantic City



It's Monday night and raining in New York. The temperature is mild and comfortable. I worked today, and after work I went to two karate classes, a general class and a kumite (free fighting) class. Both were excellent. Now I'm home.

Blogger seems to have fixed the bugs in the photo program, so finally, at 11:10 p.m., I can tell you the tale of our crazy trip to Atlantic City this past weekend. Deep breath, here goes . . .

Victor and Jenn's Atlantic City Weekend

Our friends Marty and Carolynne, who live in Long Island, New York, were in the resort town of Atlantic City, New Jersey to run a booth at a knitting industry trade show called Stitches 2005. Carolynne owns a yarn store in Long Island and also sells patterns for knitted children's sweaters and related items, and Marty was helping her run the booth and generally being a good sport about everything.

Due to a number of events in Atlantic City that weekend (including a Vladimir Klitschko - Samuel Peter boxing match, which Klitschko won), hotel rooms were scarce, and Marty and Carolynne ended up having to rent a "penthouse suite" in a Marriott Residence Inn in a nearby town called Somers Point.

Since their hotel suite was paid for and had two beds on two floors, they invited us to come down for a weekend on the seaside. Jenn and I happily agreed.

They had arrived by car on Wednesday evening. Since Jenn and I had to work, we took the bus down on Friday night. I felt like a dodo because despite all the research I did on the four different bus lines that go from New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal to Atlantic City, I ended up making the dumbest choice of all of them. To make a long story short, although we arrived fifteen minutes early for our New Jersey Transit bus from Gate 319, it filled to capacity (including standing room) right in front of us. As in, the doors closed in our faces. And the next bus wasn't for more than two hours.

I felt like a dope. Jenn was very good humored about it. There were pigeons inside the bus terminal. I walked to NJ Transit and tried to refund our tickets to take a different bus line (Academy Bus runs buses every half hour) but no dice.

Finally, at 8:45 p.m., we got our bus to Atlantic City. The bus was so overly air-conditioned that Jenn had to use a pair of my shorts as a blanket. All of our other clothing was in our big bags in the belly of the bus. She stuck her arms in the shorts to stay warm. She might be embarassed but what the heck, here's a picture. I think she looks cute using my shorts as a poncho.

After Tom's River (the stop before Atlantic City) the bus driver made it a little warmer and we had a pretty comfortable ride to the Atlantic City Bus Terminal. Once we got there and unloaded our bags we had to wait a few minutes for Marty and Carolynne to arrive to pick us up. It was windy and Jenn was cold. The bus station was filled with scumbags, people muttering to themselves, shouting threats to nobody in particular. Finally Marty and Carolynne picked us up and we drove directly to Somers Point to relax at the Residence Inn. It was around midnight when we got there.

The suite was very generic but nice. It had the typical hotel room art hanging on the walls: blurry pictures of flowers, or a blurry picture of the seashore. Sort of Impressionist, but not quite.

That evening we all just chatted a bit and then went to sleep. The next morning (Saturday morning) Marty took Carolynne to the knitting convention in Atlantic City and then came back to pick us up. We slept late.

First we made use of the hotel's fitness room, which was very small.



We then got cleaned up and piled into the Infiniti and headed first to Margate, and then to Atlantic City. On the way, I took some photos of the Jersey Shore on the second full day of Autumn, 2005. There was a bike race going on for some reason.



Here's Marty and me. I'm on the left. Jenn's in the back seat.



Here are some more bike racers.



This is a picture of Jenn.



This was our first glimpse of the ocean. The weather was overcast in the morning, but then it cleared up and was beautiful.



As I mentioned in my previous posting, my one goal on this trip to Atlantic City was to visit Lucy the Margate Elephant. I was relentless in my insistence that we go visit Lucy, so Marty drove us to the town of Margate, and there she was, in all her glory.



We bought tickets for Lucy, but the next tour wasn't for another twenty minutes, and Marty needed to hurry up and get to the yarn convention. The elephant people told us that we could use the tickets for a tour the following day (Sunday), so we jetted to the convention center. At least I had gazed upon the great elephant, and would return the next day.

We went to the convention center and donned our guest passes to the knitting convention. Mine looked like this and I felt like a badass wearing it.



We dropped by Carolynne's booth and checked out her merchandise. She has beautiful yarns and patterns for the coolest little kids clothes. If you are into knitting sweaters and related items for children you should check out her designs. I can put you in touch.

Jenn and I were anxious to go see Atlantic City, so we bid Marty and Carolynne good day and split for the strip. I have been to Atlantic City a few times before, and Jenn has been once. We both think it's a pretty corny place, but worthy of the occasional ironic weekend. So it was with a large grain of salt that we sallied forth to do the Atlantic City thing.

Our first stop was a Subway sub shop to get some sustenance for the journey. Then we hit the outlet stores. H&M, Coach, Calvin Klein, Banana Republic, Kenneth Cole, and Polo Ralph Lauren, among others. Jenn wanted to shop, and I wanted to be a nice husband who comes along and carries bags. We did exactly that. And I got three pairs of CK boxers for thirty bucks. The weather was sunny and warm and we felt good, like we were on vacation, which we sort of were.

All the outlet shops were on Michigan Avenue, and we walked down Michigan straight to the casino area on the strip. The first casino we saw was Bally's, but in an effort to stave off the soul-sucking force that is a casino floor, we bypassed Bally's and went to the boardwalk, where we gazed at the ocean and watched the people pushing those rickshaw-type carts. There was a zig-zaggy wooden path to the beach, and we stopped at a scenic corner and hung out. Jenn talked to her mom on the phone for a few minutes and I snapped some photos. We were feeling irie.

Check out Neil Diamond in this shot.



Here's Bally's, Caesar's, and Trump.



Here's the ocean. I can't help but hear the Led Zeppelin riff in my head when I write ocean.



Here's an artsy shot of nature in harmony with man. Or something.



We walked along the boardwalk for a while and then went into Caesar's. I wanted to take pictures of the casino floor, but the security guard said no. This was to be a harbinger of the security troubles we would later have at the knitting convention. Here is a picture of Caesar Augustus in the hotel lobby.



Jenn took this one. Hail Caesar!



Here are two goddesses.



I lost 75 cents on a slot machine in one throw. That's the gambler's life, I guess. Jenn spent one quarter and received two in return, doubling her money. Yet, she couldn't quit while she was ahead. She lost those two quarters, and then one more. Bet with your head, not over it, people.

On Saturday night, Marty, Carolynne, Jenn, and I went to dinner at a restaurant in Somers Point called the Crab Shack. We had a lovely dinner, but we were all so tired when we got back to the hotel suite that we faded out very quickly. We didn't even stay up past midnight on our big party weekend at the shore. That's okay, we were bushed and were very glad to get the sleep.

The next day (Sunday) Marty again took Carolynne to the convention center and then came to get us. We packed our stuff, checked out of the hotel, and went straight to Lucy.



Here is Lucy's head.



And here is Lucy's ass. Like I'm the first person to take this photo.



Here are the stairs that go up Lucy's back rear leg.



You climb them . . .



Until you get to the main room inside Lucy.



Lucy the Elephant is an example of Zoomorphic architecture. I can't get into exactly what that is, but if you are interested click this link and this link.

The inside of Lucy's belly is painted a color called Gastric Pink, to resemble the actual insides of an elephant. Here's a view out of Lucy's right eye.



And another sweet view of the inside of Lucy's belly.



Then we climbed the stairs to the top of Lucy, five stories above Margate.



Lucy was built in 1881. (The Brooklyn Bridge was completed in 1883.) When sailors nearing the coast saw Lucy on the shore they swore off their rum rations for a week, so they say. Here we are.



This is a picture of Atlantic City, as zoomed in on from the top of a big wooden elephant.



From Lucy, Marty, Jenn and I again went to the convention center. I took this picture of Carolynne in her booth.



And here's a shot of some of the yarn she sells. Yes, of course I think yarn is kind of funny. The word "yarn" is kind of giggle inducing. But you have to admit, this is beautiful yarn.



After that, once again Jenn and I hit the strip while Marty and Carolynne worked the booth. We walked on the street (Pacific Avenue) instead of the boardwalk and saw many derelict buildings among the casinos. Here's one example.



And another.



We walked to the Tropicana, because I wanted to see what The Quarter looked like. The Quarter is The Tropicana's homage to its original casino in Havana.

Here's the quarter.



And another view.



We were wandering around, looking for a decent place to eat a late lunch.



We ended up going to a sandwich shop. Amazingly, on the way to the sandwich shop, I bumped into a coworker of mine from Esquire, Dragos Lemnei, who works in the art department. He was at the casino playing poker, and winning. It sure is a small world sometimes.

We had to get back to the convention center. We walked along the boardwalk to get back to Michigan Avenue. Here's Jenn with the old Ritz behind her.



Bad Boys (and Girls) of Yarn

When we got back to the convention center and found Carolynne's booth, we started helping her take a few things to the car. It was 3:30 p.m. and the convention ran until 4:00 p.m. but we were just taking a few extra items. Carolynne still had all her inventory to sell.

Nonetheless, it was against the rules. And we were busted.

As Marty, Jenn, and I carried things through the aisles to the exit, Yarn Security, in the form of a curly-haired young man, informed us that we "can't break down yet" and we were in violation of the rules. Marty explained to the guy that we were still in business, just schlepping a few things. The curly haired guy followed us to the main entrance, where we were accosted again. We proceeded to the car.

Then Marty's cell phone rang. It was Carolynne. She'd just been read the riot act by the yarn bulls. They said "get the rest of your stuff and get out." They said "security will be here in five minutes." Jenn watched the car as Marty and I rushed back to the convention center.

Sure enough, we'd crossed the line like Jim Morrison. We had gone too far. They yarn people like to have a full roster of vendors right to the last minute, even though many other vendors had already packed up. Carolynne postulated that they want to make extra money from their shipping center because the UPS station had closed at 3:00 p.m. In any case, we are not welcome back at the Knitting Expo.

Oops.

We had a pleasant drive back to the city.

Today I went to work, and, as I mentioned in the beginning, I went to karate after work. On the way into the subway I was stopped for my very first NYPD bag search. The cop was impressed when he saw my boxing gloves.

"Golden Gloves," he asked?

"No, karate," I replied.

"I train with some of your colleagues," I added, which is true.

I fought well in kumite class.

Bring it on, yarn thugs.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

First Day of Autumn 2005



Happy first day of Autumn. Here's a picture of my dinner. This pizza roll with pepperoni and ham came from Sal's Pizza on Lorimer Street and cost two bucks. I got two of them and ate them while flipping between Survivor Guatemala and the Yankees - Orioles game. The Yanks are currently up 5-1, which pleases me.

It is Thursday night and I can't write much because I've got to pack for our trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey this weekend. After work tomorrow we will be taking a bus from New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal, arriving in Atlantic City at around 9:30 p.m.

Our friends Marty and Carolynne have a large hotel suite (a two-floor "penthouse suite") and generously invited us to take the other room. They're in Atlantic City to run a booth at a trade show called Knitting Universe: Stitches East 2005. Carolynne is a yarn dealer and owns a yarn store in Long Island. I'm about to learn a lot about yarn and knitting.

We don't have to work the booth or anything but I'm sure we'll stop by to lend them our support. Otherwise we'll enjoy ourselves in Atlantic City, walking on the boardwalk, dropping nickels into the slots, and visiting Lucy the Margate Elephant. Personally I am most excited about Lucy.

Of course I'll be bringing my camera and will post a full report on our trip when we return to "the city" so stay tuned. Please note that my next posting won't be until Sunday night at the earliest, because a blogging man needs some R&R every now and then.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Buena Vista



The weather was beautiful on this last day of summer so during my lunch break I took a short stroll through Central Park. It's nice to work near the park.

The street that defines the southern end of the vertical rectangle that is Central Park is called, appropriately, Central Park South. The apartment buildings on Central Park South that overlook Central Park are among the most expensive in the city. I zoomed in and shot this picture of some very fancy apartments about twenty stories above Central Park South. I like the colorful tiles, although they must be pretty treacherous to clean. Probably they hire people to clean them.

This is a view of the park with a few pigeons and a squirrel (not a rat) in the foreground.



I walked out of the park at Seventh Avenue. I've always liked the big archways in this building pictured below.



I noticed there were people on the terrace. Normally I don't see anybody up there but today somebody was having a smoke break. I zoomed in.



I headed back west and took this shot of people hanging out at Columbus Circle.



Tonight after work I went to black belt class and assisted in the ongoing black belt promotion (test). In the early part of the evening there was a children's group that we helped with. They were very good. When they finished the adult group came in, all wearing blindfolds from training with our blind program, which included being led through the streets of New York in complete darkness. I had to do it myself and remember it well.

It's Thursday night, and I've got to go to bed, but first I need to figure out what we need to bring with us on our trip to Atlantic City this weekend for the yarn convention. I'll explain later.

Last Day of Summer 2005



Today is the last full day of summer in 2005. I hope you enjoyed your summer. I did. The photo above captures the morning light over Brooklyn from my back window, as filtered through the screen. I snapped it at around 9:00 a.m. today along with the photo below, from my front window. The autumnal equinox is at 6:23 p.m. tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Panda Face Cookies Part III



Here's the latest in our continuing series of Japanese Panda Face Cookie Cartoons. As always, I'm asking for your help in translating these for me. In the past Miki has been very generous in providing translation. A little help, please?

I'll take a stab at this one, but I'd like to know exactly what they are saying.

First of all, I think you should read the panels starting with the top right, then bottom right, then top left, then bottom left. (Click to enlarge the photo so you can read see the script more clearly.)

1. Pandas arrive at the Saku Panda Cinema.

2. Cinema Janitor Panda sees trouble ahead.

3. Saku Pandas enjoy movie.

4. Cinema Janitor Panda is unhappy because he has to clean chocolate off movie seats.

Having seen a number of these comics before, I have noticed a trend toward chocolate melting jokes but they could throw a curve at any time.

You can see the previous panda cartoons here and here.

Vertical Campus



I didn't have to work yesterday because we just closed our November issue, and there is a bit of a lull before the big crunch on our December issue. As I am wont to do, I used my day off to get a haircut, go to a daytime karate class, and run some errands.

I got my hair cut at a barbershop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on Union Avenue. I spoke a few words of rudimentary Russian to my barber, who was from Tashkent, Uzbekistan. He was impressed at my Russian language skills and told me that I speak better Russian than he does English.

That's not true. I fool people into thinking that because I have very good pronunciation, but my vocabulary and diction is actually quite poor. He's a better English speaker than I am a speaker of Russian. Anyway, I gave him $15 for a $9 haircut because I liked him and I liked the Russian folk music that he was playing on the stereo. Also the haircut is good. Ironically, my former barbershop on 23rd Street in Manhattan (which I have now shunned because they were jerks) was also staffed by Uzbek barbers (not to be confused with Berbers of Northwest Africa).

I headed into Manhattan and took a 1:30 p.m. black belt class, which was excellent. One of our fellow black belts, a woman in her mid-thirties who I won't name to respect her privacy, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She had to take time off of her karate training to undergo chemotherapy.

She took yesterday's black belt class, her first class since completing her chemotherapy. She had lost all her hair and was completely bald. When the class began our teacher made an announcement welcoming her back, and we all gave her a very warm and sustained round of applause, and told her how happy we were to see her back at the dojo. I saw her wipe a tear from her eye. After class I made sure to say hi and to wish her well. I'm proud to be involved in a dojo that is so supportive of its members. Her fight against cancer is a perfect example of the essence of the karate we study. Fall down seven times, get up eight.

After karate, I walked across town to the Baruch College campus. I earned an MBA in International Business from Baruch in 2001, after several years of night classes after work. Baruch is part of the excellent City University of New York, and is one of the biggest business schools in the world, as well as one of the most highly rated when cost is a factor.

I was there to renew my alumni ID card so I can have access to the library, and I also wanted to pick up a course catalog for the Continuing Education program. I am thinking about taking a class. I miss being in school. The photo above is of Baruch's newest building, which is called the Vertical Campus. It's a really cool-looking building, I think.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Water Taxi Redux



It's Sunday evening. Jenn and I are relaxing at home after another fun afternoon at Water Taxi Beach. This time we actually arrived at Water Taxi Beach by Water Taxi.

I felt like we cheated last time because we took the G train to get there and walked home, so we made up for it today and arrived by sea, as it were. Anyway I had some free Water Taxi tickets that the kind folks at New York Water Taxi sent to me in appreciation of the nice review I published last month, along with the mention on Gridskipper. I promise my blogging integrity isn't compromised a bit.



Since I covered the topic of Water Taxi Beach pretty thoroughly last time (some might say too thoroughly) I will focus today on the actual boat ride to get there.

Since we were taking the Water Taxi purely for our own amusement, we decided to pick it up at Pier 84, which is located at West 44th Street. That way we would have the longest boat ride, all the way around lower Manhattan.

The weather was beautiful: sunny and warm, with a light breeze and low humidity. After a late breakfast at David's Bagels, Jenn and I took the subway to Times Square, weaved and dodged our way through the ambling tourist throngs, and arrived at the dock with nary a minute to spare before our 1:33 p.m. departure.

We went straight to the upper deck and took our front-row seats as the boat was shoving off. Those Water Taxis have strong engines, because once he pulled away from the dock and poured on the juice it was really hard to stand up without grabbing a handrail. Of course I tried to take as many pictures as I could.

Here's a cute picture of Jenn with her hair flowing in the breeze. I should give her credit for coming up with the Water Taxi Beach idea in the first place, back in August. She pointed out the review and suggested we check it out, and the rest is history. It turned out to be a fine idea. She's good like that.

We were enjoying the boat ride from the start. Much like Rashomon, it's good to see things from different perspectives. New York as seen from the water looks different than when you're in the middle of it. The boat made several stops on the way to Water Taxi Beach, which is at Hunters Point in Queens. This is a photo of a bar/restaurant on a pier where the Frying Pan is docked.

I like this photo of the now-derelict Pier 57 because of the almost imperceptible Art Deco styling of its facade. The chrome that wraps around it, softening the corners, makes me think of the more obvious Art Deco buildings like Rockefeller Center or parts of Miami Beach, or the cocktail lounge in the Queen Mary. I'm no architecture expert but the design of this pier looks like Art Deco to me and Art Deco is cool.



Okay, here's a quiz. Look at the picture below and guess what it is.



It appears to be a barge with grass and trees on it. And the grass and trees appear to be beautifully manicured and sculptured. Even the earth they grow from is carved into pleasing hills and dales.

I think I would have come up with it on my own, but Jenn said it first: It's Robert Smithson's latest work: Floating Island. You might know Smithson from some of his other environmental artwork, such as Spiral Jetty in the Great Salt Lake. Jenn and I were familiar with Smithson's work from our recent (and excellent) trip to Dia:Beacon. My Dia review can be found here.

Robert Smithson died in 1973, and this work is based on drawings and plans he prepared before he died.

Here's a view of Floating Island that gives it a little more context. Yes, it is a barge with dirt and trees on it, and yes, it is being towed around Manhattan by a tugboat. Why? Because it is art. Art exists for its own sake. I think it's cool. Jenn and I were both excited that we saw it, because, while we had both heard about it and knew it was coming to New York, we were completely not expecting to see it during our Water Taxi ride to the beach.



The tall building in the background (as well as the Colgate Clock in the previous picture) are located in Jersey City, New Jersey. Jersey City has come a long way since I've lived in New York. Five years ago the skyline of Jersey City looked nothing like it does now, with its gleaming new buildings.

No blog entry about a boat trip through New York Harbor would be complete without the picture below. Lady Liberty is beautiful and it's always a thrill to be on a boat that sails past her. And Emma Lazarus's poem is beautiful as well. I think the term "tempest-tossed" is one of the most descriptive and evocative terms for immigrants I've ever heard.



And now, my friends, here is a photo of Ellis Island.



And here is a somewhat interesting angle of Battery Park. Yes, I must say that to this day, I do notice the voids where the Twin Towers used to stand. For weeks or even months after I would still expect to see them in the skyline. How does something like that just disappear? My mind is still trying to comprehend it. I mean, I get it, but brother, I just don't get it.



Here's another view of Jersey City, with some of our co-passengers as well. This is pretty much what our seating area looked like. We had everything we needed. And as I write this, I can still feel the motion of the ocean in my body. We were on the water for over an hour and I still have my sea legs.



As I mentioned earlier, we boarded the boat at Pier 84 at West 44th Street. The Water Taxi made stops at Pier 63 (West 23rd Street, Chelsea Piers), West Village, North Cove (World Financial Center), Pier A (Battery Park), Pier 11 (Wall Street and South Street Seaport), Fulton Ferry Landing in Brooklyn, East 34th Street in Manhattan, and finally to Hunters Point in Long Island City, where Water Taxi Beach is located. I gave the camera to Jenn and she took this nice photo of the tall-masted ships at South Street Seaport.



I took a bunch of photos of the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg Bridges, and I'll spare you the lot of them, but here's a nice photo of the Brooklyn tower of the Brooklyn Bridge.



This is a photo of the near-derelict Domino Sugar plant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, framed by the Williamsburg Bridge. This is our neighborhood, although we are several blocks away from the East River.



This next photo is of Grand Ferry Park, also in Williamsburg. Sometimes I ride my bike here when I want to look at the water. The park is located at the end of Grand Street in Brooklyn. There used to be a ferry boat that ran back and forth across the East river from Grand Street in Brooklyn to Grand Street in Manhattan, as if it was all one street and there was no river.



You're right, it's not much of a park. But Brooklyn doesn't have nearly as much public waterfront access as it ought to, and here is one of the few spots where a regular New Yorker can sit and gaze at the sunlight or moonlight reflecting on the water.

I dig this next photo. Brooklyn at its finest. These factories are all abandoned, but there are plans to build luxury apartment towers.



And here's the Circle Line going past Long Island City.



Here we are on final approach to Water Taxi Beach. It doesn't look like much from this photo but trust me, it's totally cool.



Here's Jenn getting preparing to disembark at the beach.



And here we are.



We spent about three very pleasant hours enjoying the beach.



When it was time to go home, we walked to the G train. We were home in no time. It was a lovely day.