Don't let the ugh in the title mislead you: this was a very fun 30-ish hours.
First, on my flight home, the x-ray guy checked my backpack, then looked again, then talked to the inspector woman. She opened a particular small pouch on my bag, glanced around, and immediately spotted my swiss army knife. I had forgotten to take it out. I'm amazed at the accuracy and speed with which the Fort Lauderdale airport people found it, and vaguely disturbed by the fact that it was in my bag on my flight down and the La Guardia people didn't give me a second glance.
After arriving home I learned it was my apartmentmate's birthday. I could try to track her and the party down if I wanted. I also was planning to meet some people again at the Bryant Park festival. I decided to go to the festival. On the way, I tried the burek place again. Still closed. So instead I went to a well recommended cheap hot dog joint: Gray's Papayas. 75 cent hot dogs. And they were good! I had two, and some tasty payapa. That's about all they serve but, like in-n-out, it works.
At Bryant Park I couldn't find the people I intended to find, and the one phone number I had wasn't being answered. (I think it's likely the guy I was calling actually went to my apartmentmate's party instead. :) ) The movie was the The Thin Man, which I'd already seen and liked. I found a spot at the far end of the park to watch the short and previews and intended to leave after that.
The cartoon short was too long. There was a better ending point in the middle of the short that they should've used. (This is just me trying to be opinionated. :) )
Oh oh, I forgot to mention in my first bryant park movie post one thing that made this event so cool. During the first movie, the MC announced the schedule for the night would be previews, the short, the hbo dancers, then the movie. The HBO dancers, I thought, what was that?
After the short, the crowd started cheering in time with the animation of a computer zoom-in on bryant park with the HBO logo showing. As the logo got settled in the park, the music got louder and people got up and started dancing. Random people all throughout in the crowd. It lasted for about a minute. Just like that. Phat.
It happened again this time. :)
I almost left then but got hooked by the movie. It's good. This is what I wrote the first time I saw it: "Old noir-style comedy. Quite good, both funny and mystery-wise. Like most old movies, tight writing, complex plot. Very much in the style of Clue, except made 50 years earlier. Hero drinks like a fish."
Tuesday I wandered off for lunch and found that the burek place was open. It was authentic: the clientele and the eastern european language they were speaking confirmed it. A burek, it turns out, is a large triangular flakey bread thing filled with something, in my case meat with quite a bit of flavor (onions? garlic? mushrooms?). I think I have a thing for bread-things filled with meat.
I also remarked to them that it was really confusing that since the metal sheet they use to close the restaurant looks so tight and durable and since there wasn't an hours sign posted outside of it when they were closed, it's really hard to tell that the restaurant still exists. I think they might have understood..
During my lunch break I also bought a digital camera! More on that in a future post.
Dinnerish I wandered off again, this time to a pakistani counter-buffet style restaurant. (They call these restaurants steam-table restaurants in NYC.) It wasn't quite what I expected -much more Indianish than I had thought- but in retrospect I realized what I was thinking of was Afghani, not Pakistani. This restaurant too was authentic. Everyone there looked as if they were from that part of the indian-subcontinent. The only languages I heard spoken by customers to each other were from that region. During part of my meal, some people near me knelt on a carpet and prayed toward Makkah. The food that I had was okay, with a reasonable resemblance of Indian.
On the way home, I spotted a sale at a clothing store, went in, found some nice stuff, and bought a few things. (Mostly cool socks. :) )
I was feeling good, like my day was on a roll. So I decided not to let the day end, read a brief section of my jazz guidebook, and headed out down to 55 Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. It was bar / jazzish club. Very cozy: I squeezed into a stool by the bar. Drank a vodka+lime and brooklyn lager. Respectable music. After the show, I hung around and listened. It seemed a number of the people in the bar were also artists, chatting about other gigs they'll play in nearby locations. I was also in the right corner to hear the bartender and some regulars chatting, and got involved in some conversation there about catching baseballs at games. And something else. I forget by now. But that was cool, chatting with random people at the bar at midnight. I should go to places like this more often. And most of these people were much older than me (and still up at midnight): more demonstrations that time is just different in NYC.
Sadly, Wednesday morning I woke up not feeling good. My stomach was just not happy. I blame food indigestion from the pakistani place combined with the fact that I had very little liquid that whole day -just some water around lunchtime- except for the two drinks at the bar. Of course, I always don't believe people when they blame their troubles on food issues after a night that involved drinking because it's almost always the drinking, so I probably shouldn't believe myself. We'll see if I actually believe myself by whether I go back to the restaurant.. But really it all comes down to drinking non-alcoholic fluids. I knew I should've and I remembered, but I was too lazy to get a glass of water. How stupid can I be?
Don't let the ugh in the title mislead you: this was a very fun 30-ish hours.
Posted by mark at Wednesday, June 30, 2004
My parents are retiring and deciding where to live and wanted my input. So we discussed various questions like what kind of place they wanted to live and how much they were willing to pay. As part of all this, I got to see my parents' finances and how they decided they probably had enough money to stop working. Planning like this requires estimating all sorts of expenses, including medical bills, and basing everything off life expectancy. It really made me sad thinking about that and staring at a spreadsheet that lists when my parents are likely to die.
Posted by mark at Tuesday, June 29, 2004
... are not really parking garages at all. They're mostly these funny car lifts, raising and lowering cars and holding one above another. Here is a picture of a three car lift; I've seen all the way up to four-car lifts. (Just thought I'd share.)
Be glad they don't have earthquakes on this coast.
Posted by mark at Monday, June 28, 2004
The first of two brief posts while I'm away consisting of NY remarks:
I saw a (black) woman while in Harlem who was walking down the street wishing every male she passed happy father's day (including me). And yes, it was father's day. At first I thought she was festive, then I realized she might be making a statement...
Posted by mark at Monday, June 28, 2004
As some of you know, I flew down on Friday to visit my parents. (I'll return to NY on Monday.) As most of you know, they're still homeless in the sense that they sold their house last July, put most of their stuff in storage (and with my help shipped my stuff to California), and started driving around the country looking for a place to live. They still haven't found it. Right now they're staying a nice condo owned by an aunt of mine in Florida. Meanwhile, that aunt is in New York trying to sell her house! Wow.
It's nice seeing my parents again. The last few times I saw them were during their driving-around stage or during their ack-we-have-to-move-out-of-this-house-in-three-weeks stage and during both of which they seemed stressed. But now they seem very relaxed and fairly comfortable.
They showed me a bit of Florida (Fort Lauderdale area) and the intercoastal waterways (which seem to be a nice waterway that runs all the way up the coast past New York, and which I never knew about). But most importantly, we revisited a place called the Rascal House for dinner. We had kreplach (a dumpling like soup), kishka, pastrami on rye, potato pancakes (with apple sauce and sour cream of course), whitefish (vaguely tuna fish-like) on bagel, and chopped liver on bagel. (For more details on any of them, search google.) (I think chipped liver really gets a bad rap; it's good.) All was very good. My mother calls this her "soul food."
Posted by mark at Friday, June 25, 2004
I wrote a post for this and hit post. But my connection died. And I hit reconnect and the computer rebooted. :( I will not rewrite this post; sorry. Relevant bullet points: Ojan & friends visiting; very cosmopolitan; me feeling not that entertaining; fairly good chinese; really really really good desserts. The post previously ended with: I took a card. I will be back.
Wednesday morning I explored the East Village. It's actually a pretty small neighborhood but I like its style a lot. Lots of funky restaurants, jewish, ukrainian, moroccan, and a ton of indian on a street called curry hill. Lots of offbeat stores, most of which are too hip for me but still fun to be around and peer into. Some neat places I visited:
* Grace Church. Normally I wouldn't mention another church or historic townhouses or anything like that again, but this was cool for two reasons. One, as I passed they were about to start a pipe organ concert of Bach. I went inside and listened for a while. It's a nice majestic church, beautiful stained glass windows and all. I didn't like the concert much, probably due more to the pipe organ than Bach (but I can't be sure). It also had a striking spire. My guidebook said, "the marble spire replaced a wooden steeple in 1888 amid fears that it might prove too heavy for the church - and it has since developed a distinct lean." Indeed, now there is tons and tons of scaffolding around the whole thing making sure it doesn't lean further while trying to restore it..
* The Merchant House Museum. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday. What is this about me visiting museums when they happen to be closed?
* The cube (big metal thing) in Astor place that was the site of a prank that cracked me up when I read about it last year.
* Saw Tompkins Square, which was much much like Washington Square in the Village in many ways...
Okay, maybe it doesn't sound that great on "paper," but it really is!
After exploring I grabbed food in the nearby Katz's Delicatessen (a famous jewish deli) on the lower east side. A massive pastrami on rye (oh, so much meat, so warm and tender, soooo good) and some pickles and a black cherry soda later, I left a happy man.
Tuesday was soggy so I didn't want to go out to go to work. So I got to eat brunch (11am) and lunch (2pm) around my apartment. Brunch was again at the Bright Food Shop. This time I had the mexican "french toast." Let me say, this is what I hope for whenever I go out exploring to eat. Good food that I never would've thought possible and never would've had had I not chosen this place.
The Mexican French Toast is hard to describe. (That's why this post is late!) Here's a description I found: "And there's more interpretive Mexican-flavored morning fare to choose from, like a version of piloncillo-sweetened French toast made from whole-wheat tortillas, torn into strips and drizzled with a Mexican crema-and-maple syrup." It was good. Very sweet. Texture of the tortillas somewhat like soft thin pita chips (fried pita bread). The place is also cool because of its wide selection of unusual drinks, both juices and alcohols. Here's a long review that gives the flavor of the place.
Lunch was a cubano at a place called Manhattan's Heroes that a few chowhounds were excited about. The cubano was okay, nothing that special for a warm sandwich of cold-cuts. The cubano at Havana-Chelsea Cuban Restaurant I had a while ago was much better despite me eating it only luke-warm.
Anyone who really knows me knows my devotion to (Stanford) flicks. Each quarter a season pass would be money well spent. Well, I found (one of) Manhattan's equivalents.
Monday night was the first showing of weekly outdoor movies on Bryant Park, a park conveniently within two blocks of my office. I tried to recruit people to go, but in my traditional recruiting-people-to-movie-showings result I got very little response (despite distributing the invite to a wide distribution google-ny list). (I think New Yorkers have so many activities to do here; if I'd distributed this in mountain view -when the mountain view office was the same size- I'd have gotten many more responses.) Most of the responses I got were from mountain view people visiting new york. But one response I got was from a colleague of mine, David Alpert, who'd already organized a group of his friends to go. Which was great, because that meant he'd go down early and get a good place on the lawn (and he did; it was the best spot in the park!), and because this way I got to meet some more non-googlers. I've occasionally gone to events hosted by David in the past; his friends are all board/card gamers so waiting for the movie to start was fun. Played some set and a bit of bridge. And snacked on this wrap made with pita bread (not food stuffed in the pita, but the pita wrapped around chicken and peppers and the like).
The movie was American Graffiti, a George Lucas 60s nostalgia film. Feels like a post-college angst movie but actually is set around high school graduation. Didn't excite me that much.
Posted by mark at Wednesday, June 23, 2004
On Sunday, after wishing my dad a happy father's day and grabbing a bagel from Murray's, I took the subway waaay uptown. After a nice mile hike along the hudson along a bike path (I should rent a bike and circle manhattan!) through riverside park, I spotted my destination: an ultimate game seen previously advertised on craigslist. It was a pretty low-quality game (no stack, no stall even) but it was still lots of fun to get out in the sun and run around anyway. It's been a while. The day was nice, a little warm but nowhere near as humid as it was the week before so really quite pleasant. The people were friendly and gave me some advice of things to see in the area after we were done playing.
The area being washington heights, with fort george and inwood to the north (that's it: the island ends) and harlem to the south. I looked through my guidebook and decided there wasn't much north of me and the only thing north of me worth visiting was the cloisters which I decided to do another day so I started walking a long-zipzag in the generally southerly direction. (whew) First major stop was the Audubon Terrace with its:
* American Academic of Arts and Letters gallery. Free and small, pretty neat, with pieces from everyone they've honored (even Mark Twain and Steinbeck originals). The neatest stuff in my opinion was the architectural plans and models of buildings; one doesn't see that in my places.
* Hispanic Society of America. Museum of all things hispanic. Lots of religious iconography, and a surprising assortment of Roman artifacts, weapons, vases, and money.
* The American Numismatic Society. Closed Sunday. But worth mentioning because numismatic is such a fun word.
Then I wandered into north Harlem. It had a wide assortment of neighborhoods, some with abandoned lots, and others that looked like fancy nineteenth century townhouses, sometimes with only two blocks between them. At times, I was the only white person on the streets. (All others were hispanic or black.) At other times (and some of those first times), the only language I heard was spanish.
* In one of these historic districts there was the Hamilton Grange -Alexander Hamilton's old house- with neat documentaries and informational panels. Free tours (which were very fast because the house wasn't very big).
* I spent some time at a museum presenting black and african(-american) culture. It was interesting; analysis of the constitution, various movements, slavery and the slave trade, challenges and failures, discrimination, etc.; most interesting was from a very high-level view how similar it was to the jewish culture museum.
* City College is a neat gothic (?) campus. It was pretty empty when I visited, but it did have a campusy feel. I would've said find it was a bit surprising for Manhattan, but really I'm not surprised by much anymore.
By this point I was tired, thirsty, my feet hurt, and, having only eaten a bagel all day, famished. Half of Harlem had been explored and it was a good time to stop given dusk was soon approaching and I didn't know where I should or shouldn't be in harlem after dark.
Now comes the food section of this post. I took the train back to the Hell's Kitchen area where I'd previously spotted a Pakistani restaurant. I found it but it turned out to be an almost-fast-food-like counter place and I didn't want that. Then I looked for a soul food restaurant I heard recommended; sadly, it was closed. Hungrier and hungrier. But I wanted a good sit down place so I headed home to read my past research on restaurant recommendations. On the way home, I passed a Quiznos. A large traditional sounded sooooo good! But I held off, and kept my vow of not eating anything in new york that I could get in the bay area.
After home and research, I went out again. First to a burek place, which also turned out to be closed. It looked so closed, I'd be surprised if it's open anymore.. The backup destination this time was an Italian place called Trattoria Trecolori. It was nice, homey, brick walls. Somewhat elegant. I had the special, a fairly decent rigatoni with a white-winey/oily sauce and shrimp, and a glass of white wine. My only complaint here was that meal came so fast -which isn't that surprising given that it was the special and they were probably pre-preparing it- that it arrived 15 seconds after the bread and gave the whole impression that they were waiting to get rid of that dish they'd already made and also wanted me to leave fast. But after that everything felt relatively okay service-wise. I ate slow and tried to relax and rest my feet.
Posted by mark at Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Saturday was devoted to the annual US puzzle championship. As most of you know, I like puzzles. These puzzles are mostly deductive reasoning puzzles, constraint satisfaction in particular. I've competed in this for the last four or so years; I usually do pretty respectably, somewhere around 100th in the US. (One year I did as well as well as 31st! :) Of course, this isn't anywhere near as good as my friend Wei-Hwa who usually triples my score, winning the competition and then going on to lead the US puzzle team to victory in the international competition (and get first or second in that individually as well). That's pretty insane.
In any case, this year I think I did about as well as usual. I didn't actually get to practice beforehand and I felt as if I answered less than previous years but still felt I was making good progress. Maybe the questions were harder? I doubt it, because usually after one of these 2.5 hour competitions I spend a number more hours just to see how much better I'd do if I had more time. In these cases, I can usually get closer to Wei-Hwa's score, solving 3/4rds of the problems, in two days or so. But this time I finished almost all the problems during the rest of the day. So maybe it was easier? Oh well, it matters little. It was fun. If you are interested, download it and give it shot and tell me what you think of the whole thing. And remember, no computers, calculators, none of that stuff.
Before the competition I explored the west side of my neighborhood (Chelsea). Not that eventful. I saw Chelsea Piers, a really really large sports and entertainment complex built on four piers (and some space inland). Think about that. Covers well over the size of four SF-size piers. They have equipment for any sport you can imagine, from bowling to trapeze. Most of the west side and north-west side is old warehouses and storage places. Fairly run-down. It used to be called Hell's Kitchen and maybe still is.
Incidentally, for brunch before the competition, I looked for a moroccan restaurant I heard about from chowhounders. But I never found it. Instead, I went in a restaurant/juice bar called Amazonia because the special sounded neat: carrot juice, gazpacho, and a chickpea wrap. Okay. I don't think I'll go back again; the place didn't seem very clean and I'm not a bit fan or grocery-store bought paper plates and bowls. I was also surprised to learn it was actually on my list of food places to go -maybe I shouldn't trust chowhounders so much- but then, maybe it only made my list because of the smoothies?
After the competition, I got good directions and the actual street address of the moroccan place. But still couldn't find it. Bah! Instead I found a burrito place that had a special that sounded fancy, red onions and such, and had high hopes it'd be like Cancun (in Berkeley, not the one SF: that one is also good, but they're quite different). Sadly, it turned out to be just an average burrito place.
Posted by mark at Monday, June 21, 2004
I got up earlier than usual Friday and grabbed another blueberry muffin at the same place as the last time I explored Greenwich. (Despite all my philosophies regarding exploration and trying new things (NY, food, life, ...), sometimes you can simply stick with what works. :)
Then, off to the east side of Greenwich Village. This side was certainly less exciting than the last one. I saw some fancy architecture, found a museum (Forbes) that should've been open (according to the sign) but wasn't, and a famous art gallery (Salmagundi) that was only open to the public during very limited hours (not then). I was struck not just here but everywhere throughout Manhattan how many nice churches there are just stuck in the middle of a block; three beautiful churches hidden within a few block radius spurred this thought. (Sorry, couldn't find good pictures online of them.)
Most of the area in east Greenwich was residential and unexciting. One sentence of my guidebook's description of Washington Park was right on: "A few drug dealers frequent the park, but it is safe by day." Indeed. Twice as I was walking by people they muttered under their breath, "smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke, you, smoke, want, smoke, smoke, you, want."
Most of this whole area was so unexciting, I thought, maybe it's just me, maybe I've just become immune to the architecture and variety of the buildings. But then I had to cross Broadway, and Broadway in Greenwich is a stunning array of architectures, metal facades, etc. Then I realized it wasn't me; it was just that part of Greenwich.
And that was my Friday morning.
Posted by mark at Sunday, June 20, 2004
I haven't posted anything today and I suppose I should, lest I fall behind again.
Thursday lunch I returned to the dingy Cuban restaurant near my apartment. Despite the fact that it only had six tables and a counter, it was hard to get attention and get a menu. I think it's because I wasn't Cuban. (Almost everyone there was. It's also amazing to see the wide variations in skin color from people with Cuban ancestry.) I got a really good thin (strip?) steak with lots of grilled onions on top. And a bad salad (that did have some beats) and some orange (!) saffron rice and black beans. But the steak was cooked excellently, still juicy and everything. Then I waited around to pay, and waited, and waited. Seemed like people didn't want me there (no attention) but didn't want me to leave (no attention)! Eventually I walked to the cash register by the room and stood there and a little later the waitress came over with my bill. One dollar tip. Maybe there should be some rule that says if you don't get the bill within x minutes of eating (or even anyone checking in on you or taking your plate away), you should be allowed to leave without paying.
I'd hoped to play ultimate (for the first time in New York) Thursday night. Sadly, they were predicting thunderstorms. Since I was already planning on leaving earlyish, I left earlyish and explored a bit in a area that had a high subway density (so if it started raining then I could get home easily). I didn't get very far into midtown -but did manage to see briefly a Dido concert in a park two blocks from my office, and walked down the diamond street that has probably 60 diamond and jewelry dealers on it (I know because I counted the stores on one side `cause I knew no one would believe be on that large a number of stores)- before it started to rain.
Heading home, I ordered the fried green tomato sandwich at The Tomato Restaurant (discussed in a previous post). The sandwich was pretty good; the fried green tomato was tempura-ish, but was a tomato and in a sandwich. Not that surprising. :) The bad service involved here was it took ages to get the menu (even the greeter at the door noticed I didn't have a menu and it had been a while before my waiter showed his face). Ever since reading Kitchen Confidential I've been noticing more of what times are good and bad for restaurants and how tasks are divided at various places I eat. At first, given all this and all the discussion of the difficulties of the dinner rush (usually called the pre-theater rush in the book because it is mostly set in Manhattan) and the fact that when I was seated the restaurant was really busy, I ascribed this service with the fact that waiter had too much to do. But at the end of my meal, the restaurant was half-empty and still my waiter took forever to notice I was done and check on me. (I know because I finished a chapter of the book then.)
Posted by mark at Friday, June 18, 2004
Wednesday morning I worked a bit from home then "snuck out" (easy because I was home :) to explore Greenwich Village. The exploration started off with me walking south from my place in Chelsea to Greenwich Village: it's that close / Manhattan is that small! At the edge of Greenwich Village, I spotted a bakery and got a muffin. And it was good. Much better than the one on Monday, and definitely an omen (that this time exploring would be fun).
Greenwich Village probably has the largest homosexual community of any neighborhood in New York. At least that's what I would've said yesterday (Wednesday), but today I noticed all the ads in Chelsea about "Are you good enough to be Mr. Gay?" (for a television show or something). And Chelsea does have more shops with rainbow in the name. I think Chelsea is the younger / up and coming gay neighborhood and Greenwich is old used-to-be-up-and-coming neighborhood.
An interesting effect of this is that there are lot of statues and memorials to the homosexual (liberation? rights? anti-discrimination?) movement. Apparently even gay bars were illegal in the 60s (how do they make that illegal?) but police were routinely paid off to look the other way. A police raid at one point in 1969 turned into a riot and started the gay-rights movement, at least in New York. One pair of statues in a park near the center of Greenwich is something Stanford students would recognize. After all, there are only two sets of these statues in the world (according to a nearby plaque), the other statues being at Stanford. (Sorry about the pictures; these are the only two I could find.)
The whole village has a, well, villagish even slightly English-architecture feel. I especially liked the Jefferson Market Courthouse, though it had some construction around it when I was there. And there are lots of little grassy nooks with very english-looking townhouses.
There was an famous bar I heard of with an unlabeled entrance called Chumley's. I spotted the entrance, but decided not to look around inside given that it was 11:30am, an odd time for a visit to a bar.
Also, another neat sight: there is a 9 and 1/2 foot wide townhouse at 75 1/2 Bedford. Look at the third picture on the first row and compare it to the size of the car!
Incidentally, Gay Street in Greenwich Village has nothing to do with homosexuality. (You can find its real history on google, if you care.)
You may notice that I pretty much caught up on my blog. That's because last week and through this Monday were really busy, and I decided to take it easier this week. So I have less to write about and pretty much am caught up.
Posted by mark at Thursday, June 17, 2004
Hah, a brief(ish) post for once! Monday -despite the muffin- turned out to have good food after all. By happenstance, a friend of mine had stopped by his hotel in the evening and noticed the Taste of Times Square was happening. I had always planned on going to this but forgot it was so soon. It's good he noticed and told me!
The Taste of Times Square is an event where lots of restaurants in the area sell small samples of their food. Much like a great similar festival in Seattle I went to in 1999. It was two blocks long. This may not sound like much, but these were east-west blocks so that is probably close to half a mile.
I tried to remember the names of all the places I tried food from but failed. Here's what I ate, however:
* Hush Puppies (from the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co) - mmmmm, it's been too long since I've had these. (2 tickets)
* A good chicken-filled pastry (I forget the name but very much like what you can get at the Hong Kong Bakery in Mountain View. (2 tickets)
* A bacon-wrapped shrimp with bbq sauce. Scary. Ick. (2 tickets)
* Naan and chicken (masala, if I remember correctly). I thought of this as my main entree. It was good, and spicy. (3 tickets)
Right around this time the booths started closing. (Well, some were actually closed and/or sold out before I got there, but the whole fair was starting to close.) I was the last person they allowed in line to get more tickets. At this point, lots of booths were cutting their "prices" (tickets) to get rid of their items (especially those with perishable goods). I finished this trip off by getting:
* A flakey pastry filled with cream and topped with fruit (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries). This was an expensive item -four tickets- and they weren't cutting their prices. Probably because they knew it looked so well done that they'd just sell out at the end. (Note: if you know the name of this item, please tell me!)
* A crab cake, cut from 3 to 2 tickets when a friend got some earlier and cut to one by the time I got a piece now. :)
* And finally a chocolate eclair for one ticket, at the very end when this was only booth open, the chocolate was melting, and they just had to go.
Posted by mark at Wednesday, June 16, 2004
For reference, the second post in this series will be titled, "Monday Part II: Good Food and Even Better Food"
Monday I decided to explore the south street seaport. I didn't make it there during my long explorations of the civic center in the same district on Saturday and I wanted to finish up that area. I grabbed a sad-looking muffin at the deli where I bought panini the prior weekend.
After getting off the train downtown (to walk to the seaport), I opened my bag and took a bite of the muffin. It was awful. Like the stuff used in (white) cakes but stale. I cut my losses and threw it away. (!)
The first part of the Seaport I visited smelled, unsurprisingly, of fish. There is apparently a very bustling market there for restaurants buying fish right off of the ships (and refrigerated trucks) before dawn. Needless to say, I didn't see it as it was nowhere near dawn; I just smell the remnants thereof.
There is also a mall on one pier that was very very empty. (Actually the whole district looked fairly empty and run-down.) The food court in the upper level had lots of fast food restaurants and practically no customers, and it appeared so competitive for the few people that wandered through, various places were giving out free samples. The whole mall had the stench of death (as in, no one would make a profit there, not as in the smell of fish). But maybe I just hit it at a bad time; maybe it fills up with businessmen looking for a quick bite to eat while overlooking the east river?
Incidentally, the east river is much less pretty than the one on the west side (the hudson). I'm not sure why...
The south street seaport museum was scattered over a number of blocks of the historic district with lots of revolutionary-era architecture, and a few old ships. I kept peeking but nothing looked exciting enough to make it worthwhile to buy a ticket and explore more. Except possibly the small workshop where one guy makes ships in a bottle. But I peered through the window for a while and felt like I got my fill; I didn't have the energy to buy a ticket to the museum just to go in and be the only visitor this poor guy has had all day.
It being monday, there were some other museums that were closed (police museum, fraunces tavern/museum, which was famous was being a stop George Washington sometimes drank at) but nothing that looked like it merited returning just to see.
Only two things made this whole journey not an entire loss. One was an electrical substation that had a big mural on the side that was painted to make it look like a row of townhouses, windows and all, in order to fit in better with the neighborhood around it. Very cool. (I can't find a picture of it on the web; sorry.) The other was the Vietnam Veterans Plaza. At the risk of sounding callous, this was a memorial very much like any other vietnam memorial you've been to (names, quotes on walls, etc.). But it had one unusual feature. They had a fountain that, through some trick of water pumping speed and fountain shape design (I don't know if it was intentional or not), sounded quite a bit like the sound of lots of machine gun fire and helicopter blades.
This means I've officially explored (in the tourist fashion for sights, not in the bar/restaurant fashion) about a third (or a little more) of Manhattan, covering entirely all the districts south of houston (soho, lower east side, tribeca, civic center, downtown, wall street, chinatown, little italy, jewish quarter, and the south street seaport). (The only place I wanted to return to in that whole district to explore more was the New York Stock Exchange but apparently that's been closed indefinitely since 9/11.)
Posted by mark at Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Since Wesley flies back to Mountain View on Tuesday and wanted to do the Met before he left, that's what we did. The Met was amazing. It was not that the quality of the art and artifacts there was better than elsewhere -that's not true-, but the sheer amount of stuff was incredible. Giant display cases filled with teeny tiny medallions and scarabs, all neatly arranged. Some rooms had paintings hanging on the wall over twenty feet high.. just simply running out of wall space. They didn't have one Stradivarius; they had three. They didn't have one Monet; they had three rooms full of them. Wesley tried to capture some pictures that showed the sheer magnitude of it all; I'll post a link here (in the comments) when he does (if I remember).
The most interesting thing I saw there was scrolls from the egyptian book of the dead. In the true met style, they ran them horizontally in two rows down the side of a 30+ foot room. And underneath they translated various parts: spells for breathing underwater, spells you do for yourself after you are dead to prevent your body from decomposing, spells for protection against poisonous bites, spells for fertility, etc. Various ones of these were carved on the inside of tombs just for insurance that if the dead man forgets the ones he needs, he can look them up.
Before heading to the Met, I convinced Wesley to stop by a bbq festival for lunch. There were only seven companies participating so it was smaller than I had hoped. As we walked down the block, we saw some counters had lines of ~100 people! (That was for a restaurant that specializes in ribs.) One line was extremely short (6 people) and a few were fairly short (~40). We settled on a shorter one that still served something we wanted (beef brisket) and got it and ate it and it was quite good. I'd call it great tasting if only the portion was bigger (as if that makes any sense). Still hungry, but in a hurry to go to the Met, I went back and got in the shortest line.
And they were serving pig snout. Yes, snout. Standing in line (very briefly) was quite a bonding experience. Some people got in line, saw the words on the sign, and left. Others got in, asked, "what do you mean by snout," and got a gesture that symbolizes the nose like area. Some of these left. Others gulped and stayed in line. One said, "why not, you only live once." Or, "I'll give it a shot."
Oh, how was the snout you ask? Crunchy. Yes, crunchy. This rather disturbed me. The bbq sauce it was covered in was quite good so I finished it. (Well, I also finished it just to say I did it.) But this'll probably be one of those items I don't eat again. (By the way, it wasn't that recognizable as a snout. But I do think Wesley got a picture of me eating it so you may get to see.)
After the Met, we headed down to get (discount, last-minute) tickets for Forbidden Broadway. It was a good show; the best way to describe it is simply: The Capitol Steps takes on Broadway. Some memorable songs: Good Riddance Les Mes -- apparently until Les Mes closed (very recently) the song that was at this place in the show was to the tune of "One Day More" (from Les Mes): "Ten More Years." A song in the style of Phantom of Opera that involved if the performer has mucus or is off key, just turn on the reverb. (If you've seen Phantom, you can guess why this cracked me up.) Another great song was about ruining times square and making it look like Vegas. (So true.) There were also good songs making fun of the Disneyfication of Broadway (they own three theaters); making fun of the fact that any show involving puppets makes it big; fiddler on the roof being horribly directed involving actors that look irish, including women that show a lot of skin, and making the kaddish look like upper-class sipping margueritas, with the title of "Direction" (set to tune of "Tradition" from fiddler); and a beautiful classic song "They'll Be No Leading Lady Tonight" commenting on the fact that you never know if the main performers you've come there to see are actually performing until after you've sat down. Kudos if you can tell what the tune to this song is simply given the title.
Oh, I almost forgot! We grabbed dinner at a place Wesley heard recommended a number of times with the oh-so-exciting name of John's Pizza. Was really really good. Cooked in a brick oven. The cheese -the quality and feel of the mozzarella- positively made the pizza.
Finally, the day ended meeting some other googlers (and a few non-googlers) in a bar down in the east village called d.b.a. (It can stand for a number of different things; I don't think there is an official expansion of the acronym.) The only notable thing about the bar is their amazingly extensive liquor and beer lists. We talked about the topics one normally covers in bar, gossiping about recent dates and possible future set-ups.
Posted by mark at Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Warning: another long post. Note: comments are fun. Say something in response to something (if you feel so moved, as hopefully you will).
Saturday was a "me" day. Just me exploring, and exploring, and exploring.
I started off by venturing to a restaurant I heard a chowhound recommend called the Bright Food Shop supposedly close to my place. And boy was it close! It was on a corner of the nearest intersection to me! I'd walked by it so many times because it was hard to see in and what I could see gave the impression of a cheap restaurant with a counter and greasy short-order cook. But I ate there; it was definitely -how do I say it?- unpretentious in its decor. It turned out to be mostly a mexican-brunch style place, and was a bit more expensive than you'd expect. I had huevos rancheros, which were culinarily unexciting but unusual enough for me to be happy with the meal. I spent the whole meal thinking that the counter waitress really was exactly like a friend of a friend back in San Francisco, but I couldn't even remember the name of the person I thought she was like.
Then off to Tribeca (= triangle below canal street). The first thing of note with which I was confronted was a tall imposing windowless building. I managed to track down a picture (scroll down to 33 Thomas at Church Street). I guessed at the time it was a prison (but in downtown manhattan!), especially given the street it was on was subtitled something like Justice Row. According to the description, my guess wasn't too far off.
While walking to the hudson and up the shoreline, I noticed some more interesting places and things: minigolf, trapeze school (I watched some people practicing), a series of batting machines with one primary ball-throwing machine (the way it collected the balls from everything and fed them back again was pretty neat), a kayaking and sailing school, and lots of bikers and bladers. But by far coolest thing was in the sky. Five planes flew in parallel, alternatively emitting smoke or not. At first glance, I thought, morse code! But then I realized they were just drawing words. They spelled out HEINEKEN twice but not quite correctly -- it was mirrored as if desired to be read from above rather than below. Then they spell out "BEST DIAMOND VALUES," again twice, but these could be read correctly. Neat skywriters.
I stopped briefly in the fire fighters museum, which had lots of old fire trucks and equipment from the pre-truck days. They call each piece of equipment like that an "apparatus." Also neat: did you know that in the old days fire fighters were commercial groups? The first group to get to the fire and put it out would be paid by whatever insurance company insured that building against fire.
Then I explored Soho (= south of houston (north of canal)). It had an amazing vibrant arts district, blocks and blocks of artists selling good quality originals on the street. I saw some stunning 4 foot by 2 foot color photographs of waves crashing, some paintings with significant depth (> 0.5cm) simply made by so many layers of paint, and a truck with a ladder on it on which were balanced almost a dozen life-size and life-like metal (aluminum?) statues of men relaxing, sitting on the ladder, and talking to each other.
I shopped in Soho for a while. (How cool is that? That simple fact makes me hip.) Then I wandered into the civic center district. Lots of fancy building (mostly for governmental especially justice department offices), the most stunning of which was the municipal building. And another park with free wifi. (Maybe I should bring my laptop on my explorations and blog as I go?)
Finally, I hopped a train to the Brooklyn Museum to watch a film (and a short) at the Brooklyn International Film Festival. The Brooklyn Museum, at least the outside and the architecture, were stunning, on par with the nicest museums of manhattan. (I didn't get to see the exhibits because the museum itself had already closed.) The short I saw isn't worth mentioning (hehe), but the main feature, A Silent Love, definitely is. It is a touching drama (not gritty suspense drama, but drama nonetheless) about a Canadian who meets a Mexican woman on the internet and they marry (i.e., mail order bride). But he begins to fall for her mother. Themes of loneliness and stages in life abound. The director was there to talk about the film, a nice bonus which is always interesting.
Sorry for the lack of pictures. I've been thinking about buying a digital camera. If you want to encourage me to do so, post a comment (or mail me). (Yeah, like anyone will do that after most of you ignored my last request for comments.)
Friday night Wesley and I hunted for entertainment.
We first tried a Japanese/sushi restaurant in Times Square: Haru. The food was decent. The decor was nice, with bamboo blinds dividing various parts of the restaurant, and a (as it should be) an open sushi bar so you could watch the chefs make the food.
We then went to Hayden Planetarium and saw a show of light & music called Sonic Vision Basically it involved watching cool effects presented on the hemisphere above you while listening to music of varying quality. Visually it was great, especially near the beginning; after that more of the visuals were spherically symmetric so I think some part of my mind shouted "that is too easy to make: even if it looks somewhat neat or presents something interesting you can't respect it that much." Aurally it started off sucking -mostly bad hard rock songs- but then they played some U2 and then later more U2, Coldplay, and Moby, so it didn't end up being sub-par music all the way through.
We walked around the upper west side a bit looking for something to do. The area was happening. We found an old-school malt shop with a (small, inexperienced) jazz band. But the shop was cute!
Then we wandered down to Times Square looking for more stuff to do. Times Square, as always, was packed. We watched people for a while while contemplating the fact that late at night in any city generally your only options are alcohol or food. Well, at least that was what I was contemplating. I can't speak for him. (I guess NYC is a little different because some funny guy we were watching kept giving out tickets to a comedy show starting at 12:30 or 1:30am. He was fun to watch; he has his shpeal to attract passers-by down cold and it was good and got their attention. Or I suppose we could've followed one of the flyers people kept handing out and head to an adult show.) Eventually we got a round of drinks and called it a night.
It turned out to be a reasonably good night, and since the activities were date-type activities, it would've been nicer if Wesley happened to be, well, a cute girl I liked. :)
On Wednesday, after a bit of misadventures (shock at price, lack of cash) managed to by half-price same-day tickets to The Producers. (Half price was still $50+.) Many of you may recall the Mel Brooks film and the classic song Springtime for Hitler. Well, the broadway show was an accurate, equally entertaining, musical (with high production values) based closely off the film. I went with a googler friend of mine (that I first met because he played in a Game I ran in Washington state (Mythos)) and some of his friends. Decent drinks and food at the times square brewery afterwards, then a nice walk home alone after midnight. (It was a nice night for a walk and NY is much safer than Berkeley. :)
It's insane how there are SO MANY theaters in the broadway/times square area and how they can fill almost all of them every single night. So many people, my god!
Thursday I grabbed take-out Cuban sandwich at a chowhound recommended place a few blocks from my apartment. Pretty decent. I plan on going back and eating there when the food is still warm instead of taking it and walking it across town before eating. Then it should be yummy.
This morning is overslept (the alarm in my room in the apartment is broken so I wrote a program on my computer to act as an alarm which was working fine but last night my volume was too low for it to wake me up) (take a breath) and then decided to skip out of work on the morning and go exploring. I finished off most of downtown: wall street, trinity church, federal reserve bank (with exhibits about monetary flow and, interestingly, counterfeiting), federal hall historic monument (with the bill of rights, supposed to be open but had a note that said ring the bell but no one answered the door!), battery park (not as nice as the shoreline along battery park city, but has lots more memorials and locals selling artwork (mostly to tourists going to ellis island or the statue of liberty)) and bowling green (with free wifi). The NY stock exchange was closed today (Reagan remembrance day) and had a one block radius around it roped off with lots of police; don't know why but doubt the two events are related. I'll have to go back. The neatest thing I saw today, which I suppose shouldn't be the last item in this paragraph, was umbrellas at Battery Park. A large field in Battery Park was covered with lots and lots and lots of umbrellas with butterflies painted on them. It was quite a sight. Sorry I don't have a picture; the closest I could find online is the pictures of that exhibit, Beyond Metamorphosis, but I don't think that first picture does justice to its scope.
Oh yeah, and one more neat fact: Castle Clinton (in Battery Park, at the tip of Manhattan) used to be on a small island. But landfill filled in all the land from Manhattan to the fort -it was a military fort- in the 1800s. Almost all of Battery Park is now built on this land. Looking at old pictures of this transition is neat.
Posted by mark at Friday, June 11, 2004
Or, why I shouldn't have ordered that soft-shelled crab on Monday.
I'm about a third of the way through Kitchen Confidential (which I started last week). It's a good book by a chef about the restaurant industry, about the culinary school, about the people that actually make your food (immigrants and the down and out), about food and food suppliers and freshness, about how the chefs and employees relate to the customers, about how to cook a fancy dinner at home, about advice for judging restaurants, and assortment of other topics. Written with a storytelling feel, it's an easy and fairly interesting read. Don't expect the density or call-to-action-ness of Fast Food Nation; this is a much more personal memoir-ish tale.
Posted by mark at Friday, June 11, 2004
The local good bagel shop has the following sign. I can't figure out which of the two nearly opposite meanings is correct. The first word is WIFI, black on white. Below that is FREE in white on black. Below that again in black on white is ZONE.
Also, why do bagel shops look at me funny when I ask for something *toasted*? "We don't do that here." I know people like cream cheese but cream cheese day after day (even if they have a dozen flavers) gets boring, and if you are ordering with butter, toasted is better than not.
While happily eating my bagel on the way to work this morning, I was doing the standard New York thing of crossing a street even if the pedestrian sign says don't walk. Just look to see if cars are coming (which is really easy because most streets are one way) then walk. At one intersection I waited for a taxicab to pass and then started crossing. I was two steps into the crosswalk when a police car does a quick right turn in front of me two feet from me and turns on its lights. I was thinking, darn, am I going to be the first new yorker I've ever seen arrested for jaywalking? But then the police car continued down the street *whew* and I also simultaneously realized my crossing was actually at no physical risk because the cop didn't have the right to turn right. In New York City turns on reds are illegal. I wonder if the cops arrested me for jaywalking, could I have said, well, you did an illegal turn even before I significantly departed the curb, so there! :P
Posts will cease -I swear- until more people comment on the feedback post.
Posted by mark at Wednesday, June 09, 2004
I am a New Yorker. I was walking home 10:30ish and gave a confused couple directions.
Oh, and real new york weather has returned. Today was warm, highs in 80s and fairly humid. I was comfortable in a t-shirt and shorts on the way home.
Another reason I'm a new yorker is that I spent a lot of time this morning (Tuesday) exploring the area around the old world trade towers. The old area is fenced off for construction (of the memorial). I went to a church nearby that had a very moving memorial to 9/11. The church was used as one of the major bases of operation of the rescue effort. The world financial center also had a small memorial and information about the rebuilding effort, but the significance was diluted by the nearby presence of various stores (like a Banana Republic in sight).
I also visited the jewish museum. It had a very well done series of exhibits about the history and culture and religion of the jewish people, before, during, and after the holocaust. Made me feel again back in touch with some of my heritage. It also had an exhibit about the jews in the US military during world war two, and a tiny exhibit about jews in the south that is only worth mentioning because of expression they used to promote the exhibit: Shalom Y'all. :)
Would've been a depressing excursion (couldn't do more because I had to go into work) except the day was beautiful and I got to walk along battery park in the south-west corner of manhattan. Very green, right along the river, with tremendous views and nice breeze.
Oh, and if you haven't replied to my previous post yet, do so!
Posted by mark at Tuesday, June 08, 2004
By now I've been running this blog from New York for a week. I'd like some feedback on how this going. Are my posts too long? Too detailed? Not detailed enough in some parts and too detailed in others? Should the writing be better? Does the UI irritate you? Should the content be more exciting? ;)
(By the way, my impression is that I've been using this blog as a diary. Writing down mostly everything (but leaving enough out that I have cool things to talk about later with people) because otherwise it wouldn't be documented anywhere. I'm not sure if I want to do this because my posts feel too long and pointless. Maybe I should just choose the one main event I did and discuss it. And yes, I'd prefer more exciting content. :) I think I will play around with the style a bit in coming weeks, but I would like input on what you'd like to see.)
Feel free to comment anonymously if you'd like.
Posted by mark at Tuesday, June 08, 2004
Sunday I explored the area around the old lower-class district in the city. Lots of tenements, merging into a small immigrant jewish neighborhood, a large chinatown district, and a tiny tiny but very cool little Italy that seems to be shrinking as chinatown invades. It was funky: cross a street, move from chinatown to italy, turn a corner, back in chinatown. cross the next block and you're back in italy. From this trip now I know where to get the best knishes, corned beef on rye, or pastrami in New York. But I didn't actually eat there yet, I noshed all day on things I picked up in Chinatown. And pickles.
Coolest things: (1) watching people (and watching people watch people) play Shogi in a park (chinese chess). (2) See places were famous gang wars and gang ambushes took place, including a street with a nasty turn known as bloody angle (based upon the number of gangsters killed there by each other). (3) I tried to go to a place called the wall of democracy (in chinatown) that has postings of lots of articles on the situation in china. But I couldn't find it. It looked like the building that all the postings were on the wall of was being renovated and they took them down. This almost merited the title of this entry: Capitalism Defeats Democracy or Symbol of Democracy Disposed of by Capitalism.
Last night my new apartment-mate arrived. He'll be staying for a week. We went out drinking with some other googlers to a place in greenwich village. It was fun getting to know them, though they're all just visiting (like me) and will be gone in a week or two (unlike me). The drinks were cheap (at least the ones on special) but weak.
Fried soft shelled crabs are good. :) (dinner tonight at a place that appeared to be called "Hong Kong Noodles Sushi")
Today was sunnier and more humid than before. Perhaps real New York weather is returning?
Posted by mark at Monday, June 07, 2004
I spent Saturday exploring a large swath of the ritzy upper east side: 5th Avenue, Park Avenue, Madison Avenue, Lexington Avenue, ... from 59th to 88th. Lots of fancy galleries/stores selling artwork, jewelry, and clothes. Eight hours on my feet.
For breakfast/lunch I had good potato knish (can't find those on the west coast!) and a good panini sandwich made from roast beef, cheese, onions, spinach, and various other minor toppings. I hadn't seen this before: it looks like a very thin (pressed) grilled sandwich. In my case, the bread was pita.
In the upper east side I saw a number of fancy architecture and nice buildings in assorted styles. Notably, I went to a small museum, the Society of Illustrators. Two rooms. It was amazing what kind of things people can draw! Lots of illustrations of various famous people. Okay, I'm not feeling very verbal right now, so I'll make my descriptions short or non-existent. Let me just say Bryson probably would've liked one of the rooms, all pictures by various artists that involved frogs. A frog pilot. The dancing figures picture from Matisse but with frogs. The New Yorker logo but as a frog.
Also notably, I was going to visit the Seventh Regiment Armory. Basically, it is a fortress like old building with a colonial inside that used to be a national guard station. But the main drill area inside was being used temporarily for the SOFA 2004 exhibit. (SOFA = Sculpture Objects and Functional Art) It was stunning the objects people can make with glass, metal, wood, and clay. I was really impressed by some pieces by Stephen Knapp. Basically, he used lots of pieces of glass (prisms, lens) attached to a white surface to make some amazing light patterns. I don't think those pictures on the web do him justice.
Other amazing things there: embedding a flower made of different colors of colored glass in a large glass block; something that looked like a quilt but was made out of basswood (a soft wood) and silk dye; a piece of glass art that Edison would like, around 3 by 5 feet, decorated with swiggly silver lines and some pairs of lines were connected by little pieces of what looked like colored glass, from which little slinky pieces that glowed at the end sprouted. When you looked closely, you realize the whole thing is a circuit! The swiggly silver were the plus or ground lines. The little things that looked like glass were actually semi-translucent chips. The slinky tubes were optical fibers.
Also notably, I spent some time at the Frisk Collection. Fairly nice. Had some nice Turners. I was impressed that for the portable audio devices they gave us for the audio tour they asked what language we wanted. By the time I was done with this I was all museumed out. So I skipped the Asian Society museum. Then I read about the American Art museum and decided it was so cool I had energy again. But it just closing so I didn't pay to go in. All this without even making it to Museum Mile.
Other neat observations: the french embassy cultural services building was designed to look like it was from the italian (!) renaissance; there is a private residence directly on the corner of the block across the street from the Met[ropolitan museum of art] (!); I wandered by to see Trinity Church and happened to notice an open door. Wandering in, I found I could hear a bluesy Sinatra-era concert. (The program on the desk by the door revealed it started a while ago, so no one was manning the door anymore.) I listened for a while before getting scared away.
After spending so much money on museums and previous dinners (why can't museums be free like in DC?) I went to a inexpensive chinese noodle-type place for dinner (Chinam 28). Had a nice three meat dish with string beans, mushrooms, onions, and yellow squash (I think). During dinner, I had a Tsing Tao, a weak Chinese pilsner that reminded me of bud. (Ah, the joy of popping an imported label on items to make them more tempting. I hear bud is popular in Thailand.)
Current rant: This could be because I've been flipping though various dining alone/dining solo books at bookstores, but Chinam 28 is the first place I've seen that really doesn't know how to treat single customers. Anytime during dinner that my beer glass was getting low they'd come over and pour from my bottle into it. I can this myself. Anytime that a dish (e.g., rice) was empty, they'd come over and take it away instantly. Anytime I tried to pause during dinner to read a bit, they'd come over and ask if everything was okay. It felt like they wanted to hurry me out. But the place had space and there was no need. Then after dinner, they didn't bring the check at all for ages while I was reading. I had to close my book and look bored for a while before they came by. They should just bring it at some point, and I'd pay it when I was ready. There is no need for me to have to be bored in order to get my check. But the place was good; I'd eat there again.
Posted by mark at Saturday, June 05, 2004
This is going to be another long post...
These last two days have been neat. Thursday the NY office has a TGIAF. A is for almost. It is much more a party than the TGIF in Mountain View. Some 40s, jello shots, ... Met some more Google people. Then I wandered a different way toward home and ended up eating at a chinese restaurant across the street from Empire State building. Called Hunan. Sounded good and the menu looked good and inexpensive. But I must've been hallucinating. The restaurant was more expensive than I remembered from the menu, didn't have a nice decor, and only had some white people in it, and tourists at that. The food of okay, Jing Jing quality. Then another brief bookstore trip, hung with my apartment-mate who left today. (I get a new one on Monday.)
In happier news, I searched and searched and am confident I know every pickup game in Manhattan (4/week, with one that is attempting to start for the first time this weekend, and 2 ones that sound good in brooklyn).
Friday I found a truly New York place for breakfast. Brooklyn Bagels. Very efficient. Sliced, smears, sandwiches on demand, fast, fast fast. Employees are terse. I had a good (sadly untoasted) sundried tomato bagel with butter. And what a wide selection of fresh fruit. (But fresh fruit is really easy to find in NYC in general!)
After the bagel, I stopped by a fairly large independent bookstore I got a recommendation for and bought some New York guides that I'd been eyeing at Barnes and Noble. Yay for supporting independent bookstores!
Google's lunch on Friday was pretty unexciting.
I hung around late on Friday (today) while reading some guidebooks. An engineer at google with style (Tom, who wears old-style swinger suit-like things) whom I just met happened to come by to ask an engineering question and ended up referring me to some mailing lists he knows (and one he runs) that list unusual/weird events in the NYC area.
Now, we are coming to the reason for the title of the post. I was reading one guidebook with the intention of going to a jazz club tonight. But I couldn't find any that was inexpensive, of a size that I could get into on a friday night, and a style that'd I'd comfortable with while wearing the jeans I'd worn today. So then I got settled on just finding a good place to eat. But I hadn't yet bought the eclectic gourmet guide that I wanted to get me restaurant recommendations. So then my plan became to stop by a nearby Barnes and Noble that was likely to be open, flip through it, and find some good place to eat. But when I made it to the B&N (a different one than before), I found it was just closing -- it had a different schedule than the one I had previously visited. So now I was without jazz and without food recommendations. I kept wandering north. Ran into Saint Patrick's Cathedral. Stunning. Then I kept walking, looking for decent food.
And loh, in a side street I spotted a lot more restaurants than usually appear on a side street. One said Brazilian and I thought, hmmm, sounds good. And so I walked down the street. And looked at the menu. And it looked good. Then I noticed the place next to it was also Brazilian/Portuguese. And I knew these were authentic because I heard people speaking Portuguese. And looked down the street, an Italian restaurant, Chinese, subway, McDonald's, pub, and two more Brazilian restaurants! So I looked at those too, and decided on one of the Brazilian restaurants (Via Brasil). Why? Because it sounded good: both food and aurally -- it had a good jazz trio (Bossa Nova style) playing inside. The decor had style. The wait staff was really attentive. I had an appetizer which was fish as in fish-and-chips but more tender, less batter, and served with a red pepper sauce. My entree was "a Stew made W. Dende Oil, Green Herbs, Onions, Tomatoes and Coconut Milk served W. Rice and Pirao ( Yucca Flour Puree)" with shrimp. It was good. It was served in three separate parts, the stew, the pirao, and the rice for me to mix for myself. The stew itself had a zing to it but when mixed it was relatively mild. Very reminiscent of jambalaya. I gave a 25% tip because the staff was so nice and I was so pleased with the jazz.
As I left that street I noticed it (51st) also had a street sign labeled "Little Brazil Street". Then I wandered through large stretches of broadway and times square on the way home. The lights.. the excitement.. the crowds.. My god the crowds. Like Las Vegas but more packed, higher class, and less tacky.
What's the point? Had I not chilled late at work, I wouldn't have found how to find the weird stuff happening in New York. Had I not stayed late and talked about this, I would've left earlier and hit Barnes and Noble before it closed. Had I hit Barnes and Noble before it closed, I would've turned around and found a recommended restaurant on the way home. Instead I walked in the opposite direction, found some beautiful sights, a great restaurant (and district), and got the jazz for which I was searching. Fate.
P.S. The Thai restaurant I tried at the beginning of my trip was "Regional Thai Taste Restaurant."
Posted by mark at Friday, June 04, 2004
Walking down 7th, I passed Mustang Sally's (bar-restaurant-grill) and about two blocks later passed Mustang Harry's.
I passed a graduation (!) (near penn station).
Overalls can look good on women, but not with fanny packs.
I haven't seen any funky dyed hair yet. And I walked by a lot of people.
Posted by mark at Thursday, June 03, 2004
What I ate recently: okay pizza (lunch ordered in); dinner see below.
This morning I got up and walked to work. It was probably a bit over a mile but felt very short since there was so much to see. I bought a good croissant at a bakery on the way. Someone else with a very New York accent ordered two pounds of donuts (among other things). I passed a number of better looking bakeries later, in Midtown, which I plan to try. Oh, and the USPS has a very big fancy looking building.
At work, after getting my computer set up, we had an engineering offsite. :) So I get to see all the other engineers (and meet some, and re-met a few that I met before when they were in Mountain View). Went climbing then bowling and drinking at a giant sports park built on a pier! (Didn't climb very well because I wasn't dressed appropriately; didn't bowl that well (just average) because of the alcohol (so I claim).)
For dinner I wandered around (again past an absurd number of pizza parlors, and quite a number of restaurant-bars for which it's hard to know how good the food is (one I specifically avoided because I heard the sounds of meatloaf coming out)) and eventually found a restaurant not far from my apartment called The Tomato Restaurant. It was another restaurant-bar, but the name intrigued me and the diners to drinkers ratio was high.
The Tomato Restaurant was mostly a red-sauce (hence the name) style Italian restaurant. The interior was burgundy and with the upper-walls a white-brick-green-vine theme gave it a vaguely earthy theme. Not earthy-granola but earthy-secluded-glade. The walls had many large black-and-white photographs of people eating pasta. The lighting was provided by large orangish-red globes (again reminiscent of the namesake).
I had some decent garlic bread (flavorful but crustier than I prefer) and a good fussili with chicken and sausage pasta dish with a tomato-basil sauce. Exactly what I was in the mood for. Next time, however, I'll get something which sounded more interesting (but I wasn't in the mood for): a fried green tomato sandwich.
Browsed a bookstore after dinner. Still trying to decide how to meet (non-google) people here; maybe talking to them a bookstore might work. Seems a little sketchy.. (Didn't browse for that reason, by the way. Browsed for books.) Every time I was in an elevator today people talked to me: that didn't happen much in california. Cool.
I don't think this post frequency is sustainable.
I noticed that the time on my last post was wrong (because my time zone was still set to pacific time). I changed my settings to fix it and all future posts, but it means all the old posts I made from California now are off by three hours. Apparently I cannot set it so it displays the time zone in the post-time-and-date field or mark particular posts as made in a different time zone. I suppose I could go an manually change all the times for all the west coast posts but that seems silly. I wonder how many people have run into this blogger issue before..
Since a blog supposed to reflect the person that writes it, I think it means I should occasionally write down some the random observations I make (at least those I make and am close enough to a computer and remember long enough to walk to the computer and post). (This is, of course, only a small fraction of them...)
One of the trash cans in our kitchenette says in pretty big letters:
"PLEASE NOTE: RECEPTACLE BASE AND LID SOLD SEPARATELY"
Why do I need to know this?! (I suppose if I was thinking, wow, google has nice trash containers in the kitchenette, but I don't want one with a lid, and I hate buying something and not using all of it, but now I know that they're sold separately I can go out and buy one!)
Recently ate: <see below>
I suppose if this were a real blog, I'd write about all the neat things that happened recently. But I'll skip that since the point of the blog is to document my life in NY. (All the previous posts have been was practice.) Suffice it to say that I had a productive cool shopping trip to the Castro during which I got some good fashion advice; Jodie is cool for letting me crash with her for a while while I'm homeless (actually, she'd be cool anyway); the Roxie is showing a fairly interesting movie about the national scrabble championships called Word Wars (in the style of Spellbound but a bit scarier because the characters here are older); I recently started Myst; being checked out by gay men in the Castro is a funky feeling.
Now, to the good stuff: I'm in NEW YORK! Freaken` cool. The apartment I'm in is pretty nice. A two-story (on floors four and five) two-bedroom. I'll take pictures sometime. It's pretty, and it has a wireless router. Sad but funny that I think that's one of the more important things to mention. Looks like I have an apartment-mate, but I haven't met him yet.
After I arrived there was brief downpour with some thunder. How's that for instantly proving that I'm not on the east coast anymore? I think this is portentous (in a good way) because I always miss thunderstorms on the west coast. And then there was a new episode of The Simpsons on! The odds of that happening to me are near zero. Another omen. And right when it finished, the rain stopped, I put on my swanky new shoes and went exploring.
The area around my apartment (Chelsea) feels like the mission but much less sketchy. I walked a wide circle during which I noticed countless pizza places and quite a number of well-populated second floor exercise rooms while looking for a good place to eat. Despite being hungry (having not eaten all day), I was being picky: I wanted my first meal in NY to be something special.
I finally decided to eat at a Thai restaurant near the end of my loop only two blocks Manhattan distance from my apartment. (If you were an AI person, you'd find that funny. :) Actually most of the really promising restaurants I saw were close to my apartment! Yay!
This restaurant was a good choice. The decor was an attractive red-tint. Probably fifteen tables, some outside on the sidewalk. I sat just inside by the sidewalk and ordered Pannang Duck and a drink called a Mango Caress that was mostly mango and rum and quite tasty and pretty strong. The duck was tender and juicy, served beautifully on a stylish colorful crate-and-barrel-style plate, with pineapple and scallops on top. It was great! I didn't realize the restaurant had music until suddenly one song -Roxette's She's Got The Look- impinged on my consciousness. It's a catchy 80's song that isn't played that often and this instantly raised my view of the restaurant's style. I people-watched for a while, attempted to count the taxi to other vehicles ratio (about 3:1 on the street I was sitting at), then went home and posted this.
Sorry for the long post. Now is also the time to take bets about whether all my future blog posts will be restaurant reviews.
Posted by mark at Tuesday, June 01, 2004