New York City Diary

Words and pictures from my interesting life in New York.

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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Monday, October 31, 2005

Halloween in Brooklyn



Brooklyn is celebrating All Hallow's Eve tonight. The house in the photo above is located on Conselyea Street between Lorimer and Leonard Streets, which is an excellent block to see Christmas lights as well, when in season. Jenn and I were walking to Hana foods (not to be confused with the store I hate) to pick up burritos and a Tecate.

Since we're afraid of hooligans we're staying in tonight, eating burritos, and watching Globe Trekker at ten.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Explorers Club



Last night Jenn and I went to a very interesting event at the Explorers Club on East 70th Street. We were there to eat weird foods paired with wines, and listen to a lecture by a guy who has summited Everest seven times. I posted a brief overview of the event on Gridskipper, so click over and take a look. You might have to scroll down a bit, or else search for my name, as it is a blog, and entries move down as new entries are posted. But please do!

The photo above is of a weird food platter, and I ate most of it. The photo below is of me considering eating a tarantula, and then thinking better of it.



Here's a close-up of a North American Cricket, served with pepper jelly and cream cheese. It tasted kind of nutty.



And here's a close-up of the scorpion, served on endive with herb cheese. It was supposed to be paired with a Sauvignon Blanc, but I washed it down with Redwood Creek Pinot Noir, which did the trick. The scorpion was kind of hard to get down, because the exoskeleton was so chewy and bitter-tasting. The scorpion I ate was served slightly differently, on a toothpick with a small piece of miniature corn.



The lecture was excellent. Peter Athans, a.k.a. "Mr. Everest", narrated a very interesting slideshow about Everest and the people who live there. It was quite inspiring. And I've always wanted to visit the Explorer's Club, so it was nice to have the opportunity. Perhaps I'll be a member some day.

Here's a photo of a polar bear. I did not eat any polar bear.



And finally, here's a shot of one of the lounge areas. It looks like a comfy place to read the paper.



For more information on The Explorers Club and its work, click here.

Before I end this, since it's on my mind, I want to say that a good man passed away today. Tom Masland, a senior editor at Newsweek and colleague of Jenn's, died at the age of 55. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. You can read his obituary here. Tom did more than his part to have a positive impact on the world. We are lucky for the all-too-brief time he was with us.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Tameshiwari



There's a first time for everything, and on Friday night, for the first time in my life, I broke a board with my hand. In fact, I broke several. I was attending a special seminar at my dojo on "tameshiwari," the art of breaking. It was taught by Kaicho Nakamura, the head of our dojo and founder of our style, Seido Karate. That's his signature on the broken board pictured above.

Although I've had my black belt for over a year, I'd never done breaking before. It's not something that happens in the dojo on a regular basis, so I jumped at the opportunity to try it. I had reserved five boards for myself (two bucks a board) and soon wished I had gotten more.

The seminar began with Kaicho explaining to us why we break (a variety of reasons, from self confidence to a demonstration of the power of well-executed techniques). Then he went on to explain the mechanics of a good break. During the course of the lecture, Kaicho executed a couple of amazing breaks, culminating in a shin kick that shattered an extremely strong oak practice sword into two pieces.

When the floor was opened up into about ten breaking stations consisting of cinder blocks stacked upon each other, we assembled into groups around our respective breaking stations. I was the senior member of my group, so I had to go first.

I was pretty sure I could do it, but I was still a bit nervous as I set up the board on the cinder blocks. What if I couldn't? What if I broke my hand, or my wrist? I steadied myself in front of my board, lined up my technique, took a breath and executed a downward knife-hand strike (shuto sakotso uchi) that shattered the board cleanly in two. I did it!

It was an exciting moment, giving me a feeling of euphoria. My friends in the group gave me a round of applause. Then the rest of our group lined up their breaks, and we all encouraged each other. Everyone did very well. Boards were stacked, smashed, and cleaned up.

For my subsequent breaks, I broke one board with a right downward forefist (seiken) strike, and then I tried a break with a downward knife-hand strike using my left hand just to see if I could do it on my weak side (I could). With my two final boards, I stacked them together (without spacers) and did another knife-hand strike with my right hand. They shattered, and I felt really good about it. What a rush!

Don't think it didn't hurt, because it did, but the endorphins made the pain a bit of an afterthought. I can't say I recommend you all go out and try to break boards (or wooden swords, or concrete blocks, or blocks of ice) but I certainly enjoyed it.

Some people broke as many as six boards. I saw my friend Ash on the subway platform after the seminar, and his right hand was very swollen from a particularly tough break.

So the tameshiwari seminar was on Friday night. On Saturday morning I went to a special judo seminar, taught by Kaicho's friend, a judo master named Shihan Matsumura. That was excellent as well. The only experience with ground fighting I really have was from being an untalented second-string wrestler in high school, so I was glad to pick up some tips for grappling.

After Shihan Matsumura taught us some basic techniques for falling and rolling, we paired up with partners and did a few excercises: different types of takedowns, choke holds, arm bars, and even a judo flip. Some people had the benefit of a soft mat, but my partner and I practiced on the hard floor. After it was all over I was kind of sore (still am). It was great fun, though. I like judo. There's nothing like having someone try to choke you to put you in the moment.

Today, instead of going to the dojo, I took a two-mile jog on the track near our house. The weather was brisk, but the sun came out while I was running, which helped me along.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Bodega



This photo, which I took last Sunday, is the perfect answer to the question "What does a bodega look like?" This, friends, is a bodega. It's located in Williamsburg on Metropolitan Avenue and Havemeyer Street.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

A Windy Afternoon in Red Hook, Brooklyn



I just finished eating a slice of Key Lime Pie, and then another one, and they were delicious. The pie was so creamy it was almost silky in texture and it had the perfect balance of sweetness and tartness. It was made with real Key Limes and even had an authentic handmade crust. It was fantastic. And it came from Red Hook, Brooklyn.

The pie was the ostensible reason for our day trip to Red Hook today (Sunday), but in general Jenn and I were both antsy and needed to get out of the house and have a new experience somewhere. At a few minutes after 1:00 p.m. we walked from our apartment to the bus stop at Manhattan Avenue and Driggs Avenue.

Here's a picture of the sign at the bus stop, with the blue sky in the background. The weather in New York today was brisk and very windy, with a bright blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds.



The bus stop is located across from Enid's, a hipster bar and brunch place. We've been to Enid's a couple of times. I like it.



The bus arrived at 1:35 p.m. and we got on.



Like most New Yorkers, we take the subway far more frequently than the bus, so the bus is a nice change every now and then. You get to travel above ground and see where you are going. In this case we were going pretty much due south from Greenpoint, through Williamsburg and past the Brooklyn Navy Yard area, through Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights, and Cobble Hill on our way to Red Hook.

Here's a view from the back of the bus.



Red Hook is a very interesting New York neighborhood and one I like a lot. It has a long history as a very working-class dock and shipping area. It used to be humming all the time with laborers loading and unloading ships and brawling outside wharfside bars. This was back in the era when cargo was loaded and unloaded from ships using big rope nets full of cargo, guided by cranes or just rope-and-pulley systems.

Now the global shipping industry uses a standard "container" system, and Elizabeth, New Jersey was first to build deep-water ports and the infrastructure to handle containerized shipping, so that's where most of the cargo for the New York area comes in now.

The result of this shift is that the neighborhood that once set the scene for the classic 1954 Brando film "On the Waterfront," and, on a more sinister note, where gangster Al Capone first cut his teeth, fell into very tough times and became a ghetto. In the past decade or so, however, Red Hook has undergone a renaissance.

Now it's considered an art community, and the area by the water is dotted with workspaces and gallery spaces for artists, and every spring there is a big art festival there. New restaurants, shops, and bars are opening up in the area as well. It's nice to see this revival, because Red Hook is unspoiled in so many respects. Walking on certain cobblestoned streets you can really get the feeling of being back in time, to the era of rough and tumble Brooklyn longshoremen.



I like this silhouette of a derelict building and a big hanging hook.



Here's a farm.

As you can probably guess, this wasn't much of a farm. There were a few rows of crops growing, but I couldn't tell what they were. I'm not sure how much farming actually gets done within the five boroughs but I imagine it's not too much. I like the idea of it, though. The country in the city. Maybe it will catch on some day. I read a story in The Times recently about a winery in Manhattan.

As we walked down Beard Street we noticed this funky graffiti.



Here's Jenn standing in front of some street art.



And here's me doing same.



There was a photo crew shooting a male model leaning against a fire hydrant or something. I didn't pay it too much attention. However I liked the look of this (non-model) guy on the left.



We walked down the street toward the piers and this was our first decent view of the water. The pier on the right is where many of the artists have studio space.



I wanted to walk along the water for a while, so we walked to the end of the pier. It was so windy that at times it was difficult to walk without getting pushed around.



Red Hook has amazing views, not only of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, but all across New York Harbor to New Jersey, Staten Island, and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

Here's lower Manhattan.



Here's Lady Liberty in the distance.



And here's a look back at Red Hook.



We hung out at the end of the pier for a few minutes and then, with pie on the brain, we headed back. I shot this photo of a sunken boat along the way. I read somewhere that police divers train on this wreck.



And here are more abandoned industrial structures from the former Revere Sugar Factory.



And here's a quick look at Sunny's Wonderful Bar, also known as Balzano's. It's so great that it deserves its own entry. For the time being I'll leave you with these two excellent links.



We had to walk through a new waterfront park. It's still a work in progress, but there are benches and flowers and there's a pier leading to a barge that will one day house a waterfront museum. Jenn took this excellent seagull photo.



Here's everything you need to know about the park. Click to enlarge.



From there we had one goal in mind:



First we bought a small pie and ate it while enjoying the view from the pie shop. To "polarize" this photo I held the right lens of my sunglasses over the camera lens.



There are a couple of Jack Russell terriers that belong to the shop and they were playing and sometimes fighting with each other. Here's one culprit.



Okay, about the Key Lime Pie shop. It's called Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pies, and we enjoyed our first pie so much we bought a large pie (ten inches) to take home. Jenn and I are both fans of Key Lime Pies, and we agreed that this was the best damn Key Lime Pie in recent memory, possibly ever.

Steve owns this pie truck. It is a 1953 Flathead Ford.



Jenn and I sat on a bench facing the harbor and enjoyed the sunshine for a few minutes. The sound of the waves lapping on the beach to our left was very soothing.



I zoomed in on this "Fast Ferry" kicking up a bunch of spray into the wind. That's Staten Island (Shaolin) in the background.



We took our pie and started walking back to the bus stop. On the way I spotted this amphibious bus parked in the lot by the pier.



It was cool to see it because I just recently read a story in The Times about a company that wants to start an amphibious bus tour in New York City. This bus belongs to that tour company, Big Apple Ducks.

We made it to the (non-amphibious) bus stop and waited for about fifteen minutes.



When the bus finally arrived (about ten minutes after its scheduled time) the driver wouldn't take any money or allow anybody to dip their Metrocards into the reader. I surmised that since he was late, and we were the very first stop on the Red Hook to Long Island City route, he didn't want a time stamp that showed how late he was. So to save his own ass, he deprived the MTA of about $20 in fares. Whatever. This "free ride" was meaningless to us, as we have unlimited ride Metrocards.

We had a mostly uneventful ride back to Williamsburg except for one sketchy bum who snuck on the bus from the back door and ate Popeye's Fried Chicken wings and then started hurling obscenities and racial epithets (he was black) at anyone in earshot. Fortunately, he got off after a few stops.

I shot this photo of a Satmar guy from the bus window.



We got out of the bus at Grand Street and walked up Metropolitan Avenue to go home. We were hungry and thinking about what to do for dinner. In a beautiful move, our landlady Blanche left us some excellent Italian food, solving that problem.

After dinner we had pie, and it was good. It was so good.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Mykonos



Here's a cat I envy. This is a true Greek cat taking a nap that I photographed on the island of Mykonos, Greece during our honeymoon a year ago.

If you are wondering where today's images are, let me tell you that I am having some photo issues that will be resolved soon. In the meantime, be like the cat (and root for the Yankees!).

[Update: The Yankees blew it. Thanks for nothing, cat!]

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Football



It's Sunday night. Jenn is in New Jersey visiting her mom and I'm holding down the fort in Brooklyn. The weather is much cooler today than it has been for the past couple of days.

Today I went for a run in McCarren Park. The park has a brand new track and soccer field. The track is made of a modern, springy material that's really easy on your joints even if you don't have good running shoes. It's a pleasure to run on that track now. The soccer field is covered with Astroturf, which is a big improvement over the crabgrass and loose dirt that teams played on before.

Even when the field was in poor condition soccer teams comprised of people of various nationalities would play games there. Today while I was running I watched a "football" match between Ireland and Poland. In the photo above the Irish players are wearing the green-and-white striped shirts, while the Polish players are wearing blue and white.

The Irish players had great accents. I heard one guy repeatedly encouraging his teammates by saying "Come on, lads!"

The two teams seemed very evenly matched, and while I did not stay until the end, I saw each team score one goal apiece.

I ran a few laps, maybe two miles in total, and then came home to tidy up the house and read the newspaper. Later in the afternoon I went into Manhattan to deposit a check. Now I'm back at home and half watching the Yankees-Angels playoff game.

The weekend was fun. Last night Penelope and Mike came over for a visit and we had a very nice time. Here's another soccer photo.

[Update: Yankees win! This development pleases me.]

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Escape



The picture above is of sunset in Santorini, Greece. Click to escape. I took it on our honeymoon in July 2004. I'd like to grab Jenn and go back there right now. New York is great, I love it, but we haven't had a decent vacation for a while, and I'm starting to get a little buggy.

A few minutes before I left work this evening news broke of a new, specific terrorist threat on the New York subways. Supposedly there's a plan to bomb the subways in a manner similar to the recent London attacks. The mayor held a news conference but said there was nothing any of us could do. Go about your business, he said.

Okay.

So I left the office at about 6:30 p.m. and took the subway from 57th Street to head to the dojo, like usual. I expected an NYPD bag search but there was no bag searching table at all. There was, however, an extra police presence on the street, with emergency vehicles flying around, sirens blaring.

Karate was excellent, and I feel much better for taking it. My urban anxiety was assuaged.

Now I'm home but I'm really tired. Normally I only post very recent photos,but tonight I'm posting photos that are over a year old because a) I haven't taken any new photos; and b) the above view was in my thoughts today anyway, so it has a certain timeliness.

These are the Lions of Delos, and here's a link that explains them better than I ever could.

Technical Difficulties

Please stay tuned as I work out a few bugs in the machine. Darn bugs!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Still Green



We are already two weeks into Autumn, and I was curious if the leaves on the trees were starting to change colors yet, so during lunch I took a walk through the southwest corner of Central Park to find out. I took these photos with my new camera.

I only had a few minutes to spare because things at work are pretty busy, but the weather was beautiful so I was having a pleasant walk. The sun was out and the temperature was in the high 70s. Here's another tree, still green.



I think this picture of the statue at the Columbus Circle entrace to Central Park shows how good my new camera is. Five megapixels firing on all cylinders!



It's Tuesday night and I'm at home. Jenn is on the phone next to me doing a radio interview on the subject of Avian Flu. She's doing a very good job.