New York/New Jersey Trip: Day 6 (or, Moma, Turkish, and night-time wandering)

It's another day, another bagel, another type of cream cheese, and another train ride to Manhattan. It was Thursday and the weather was certainly more pleasant than the frigid Monday I spent in Princeton, a fact I appreciated in the evening when I was up and out late.

The daytime was devoted to (finally) visiting the Museum of Modern Art. I have many pictures from my Moma wandering that accompany this narrative. Some pieces mentioned in the narrative have no pictures, and some pictures aren't discussed in this blog entry. (There are also a few pictures there from the rest of the day's activities.)

Moma had everything I could imagine. Some things I thought were cool enough to write down:
* Furniture, design, and the like.
* Architecture, including a neat exhibit of lots of ghetty houses. Also had a large display with many photographs of one particular house from countless angles. I didn't really understand the point of it.
* Jackson Pollock.
* Roy Lichtenstein.
* Mondrian (they had lots!).
* Calder.
* Recent art that I don't normally consider "modern" like van Gogh and Picasso and Monet. I was struck by how large Monet's Water Lilies painting is (each panel is 6' by 13').
* Matisse.
* Miro.
* Derain.
* Seurat.
* Cubism in general.
* Malevich's Women with Water Pails.
* Leger's Propellers.
* Carlo Carra's Funeral of the Anarchist Galli.
* Umberto Boccioni's Dynamism of a Soccer Player.
* Kadinsky.
* A special exhibit of photographs from around the world. Three in this exhibit really stood out for me: one by Stuart Klipper of a swell, and two of women with poems in farsi written on their face or hands. (Too bad no pictures of photographs were allowed.)
* A special exhibit on Munch with dozens of paintings made over his lifetime. The exhibit and his painting The Kiss in particular made me realize he is a more diverse artist than I thought.
* A special exhibit on architecture (mostly public buildings) in Spain with many miniature 3-d models. Many buildings were very impressive. (Too bad no pictures were allowed.)
* Two cafes and a fine-dining restaurant overlooking the sculpture garden. I'm not surprised Moma has a high-end restaurant; it helps woo wealthy donators.

An odd observation: every attendant I saw in Moma was male. How unusual... I wonder why that is.

After exploring Moma until closing, I met up with Seth for evening activities. As we walked south, we caught up, talked about future plans (such as what are we going to do with our lives), and debated where to eat. All similarly important. ;)

Eventually we decided on and found ourselves at the Turkish Kitchen. The decor, very red and with dim lighting (so dim we remarked we should've brought flashlights to help us read the menus), made me think it was a place intended for dates.

While Seth and I perused the menu, debated what to order, and examined what people around us ordered, one person at the neighboring table interjected and offered us advice and a free taste of his stuffed grape leaves. (They were pretty good, and we ended up ordering something similar.) This was something that happens rarely or never on the west coast, and brought us to discussing how New Yorkers are more well practiced interacting with new people on short notice, as there are so many people the average New Yorker runs into on a daily basis.

We were generally pleased with everything we ordered at the Turkish Kitchen. One appetizer, "icli kofte," ground lamb and spices in bulghur patties (a la bulghur falafel), was quite good but a bit oily and needed yogurt. (Meat stuffed in nearly anything is good, and this was no different.) Our other appetizer was grilled eggplant with (garlic) yogurt. The dish seemed authentic but it had too much yogurt (which we put to good use with the first appetizer).

As for entreess, the (boneless! how cool is that) cornish hen stuffed with rice (with pine nuts, dill, etc.) was very good. Each -the hen and the rice- was good by itself (appropriately tasty and moist) and worked well together. This came with a zucchini pancake much like a potato pancake that was also quite good. Our other entree was "etli lahana dolmasi," cabbage stuffed with ground beef and rice and herbs and served with yogurt. In essence, a pretty good dish like dolmas except made with cabbage instead of grape leaves.

After dinner and a quick stop at Seth's apartment to deposit my stuff, we headed to Brooklyn to a neighborhood Seth wanted to show me called Williamsburg. It's a recently revitalizing district just across the east river from Manhattan. The part we explored first was an industrial area with many brick warehouses and the like, the insides of which have been turned into hip bars and restaurants. The contrast between the exterior and the insides is a bit shocking at first. Although the area is still slightly sketchy off the main streets, a visible police presence on many corners made us feel comfortable. We looked around so I could get the flavor; we didn't go into any of the many bars or clubs. From what I could tell, I liked the crowd: on this Thursday evening the crowds were small but good -- what looked like interesting people, although of the type that are too hip for me.

One run-down end of the neighborhood had a tremendous view over the East River to Manhattan. Seth told me stories about the debates about building housing in the area and the restriction on builders regarding affordability and low-income housing. Throughout the evening while talking about our futures and where we (especially he) planned to live, we talked much about real estate prices and cost of living and especially how local ordinances and building restrictions are a significant cause of high housing prices. This evocative example and the negotiations between New York City and the builders further intensified this discussion. Where is the trade-off between revitalization and gentrification?

Before heading back to Manhattan, we stopped by a local good frozen yogurt chain called Tasti D-Lite. We chatted with the guy behind the counter, who apparently lived in Manhattan and commuted to Brooklyn to work. How odd. This conversation is another data point proving New Yorkers are friendly.

We exited the subway in the meat packing district, an area I never really explored while I lived in the city yet not far from where I lived. The meat packing district is an area with many clubs and bars, some without any visible signage. We wandered around a bit, observing many hip (and expensive) restaurants and some clubs and bars with lines of snazzily dressed people waiting for the bouncer's approval to enter. It reminds me of elementary school sports -- oooh, pick me, pick me! At one hotel with a rooftop bar, Seth approached two pretty German tourists and talked them into escorting us past the bouncer to get us in the building. Pretty slick, especially since neither of us were dressed well enough.

After snapping a few photos from the roof, we left the bar since it was packed and we were out of place wearing walking-around in seedy neighborhood clothes (which we wore for Williamsburg). Then we proceeded to spend two hours (or so) on a meandering walk through the village to cross Manhattan.

Near the end of the walk, we were in the East Village and two girls yelled out of a car and asked where to get good sushi. Some other guys on the street answered, but this is another example that New Yorkers are just more comfortable interacting and dealing with new people than many others. I can't imagine that happening at such a late hour in San Francisco. As another contrast with nearly everywhere in the world, Seth remarked the appropriate question for New York City was not "is there a sushi place open this late" but rather "which sushi place open this late is the best"?

Around 2:30am we had returned to the vicinity of Seth's place near Union Square and he wanted to show me his favorite 24-hour diner, Veselka. Veselka is a Polish restaurant (that serves a large quantity of traditional diner fare too). We stuck with small items from the Polish side of the menu. The blintzes we ordered, filled with farmer's cheese, were terrific, light and tasty! The peirogies, in contrast, were sad. We ordered them fried (expecting pan-fried), but the outside texture (and uniformity of it) made us think they were deep fried?! And they were luke-warm too. The place was fairly crowded and service was slow to the point of being bad (e.g., we had trouble getting the check).

After such a long day, we then called it a night.

1 comment:

mark said...

This article observes that Williamsburg feels much like the Mission district in San Francisco, a sentiment with which I agree (judging from the little time I spent in Williamsburg).