New York/New Jersey Trip: Day 7 (or, the Brooklyn Museum, Sri Lankan, and a gas leak)

These pictures document my adventures for the day, especially the Brooklyn Museum.

Having stayed up late on Thursday night, I slept in on Friday and got up around 10:30am. Since I'd hoped to meet Bryson and Catherine in the evening, I spent an hour thinking about places to eat and things to do and generally brainstorming and gave them some choices. Once that was out of the way, I headed out for breakfast/lunch and, after a brief internal debate, then was off to the Brooklyn Museum. (My internal debate was because I was somewhat tempted to see Flushing (in Queens) and because I was encouraged the previous night to look around some neighborhoods in Astoria (also in Queens). But the grandeur and size of the Brooklyn Museum -from what I remember from seeing the outside of it when I lived in New York- won out.)

But lunch was a first priority. Since I had known I was meeting Seth on Thursday and Seth was watching his weight, I had previously compiled a list of healthy and vegetarian restaurants in Manhattan that had good reviews. So for lunch I chose a nearby place from the list and went to Rainbow Falafel. Rainbow Falafel took a lot of hunting -- it's literally a hole in the wall. Literally. It's a market that serves food items and is well under a hundred square feet. My falafel was decent but nothing special (and quite messy, making it hard to eat and walk).

While eating, I hiked a bit to grab pictures of Veselka and The Turkish Kitchen, places I'd eaten yesterday but had thought I'd forgotten to photograph. (Apparently I did take a shaky dark picture of Veselka the previous night. If I'd remembered, I might've skipped this extra walking and instead went to the museum earlier.)

Then I went subway hunting, trying to remember where a subway stop was. Eventually I found one, but the fact that I had to wander a bit definitely embarrassed me.

And then I was further embarrassed when I got off the subway at the wrong station. I had remembered the Brooklyn Museum was right at the Prospect Park stop in Brooklyn. Indeed it was, but at a different Prospect Park stop on a different subway line. Rather than take the subway back (infrequent, given how few subways run through these stations) and transfer, I hiked the twenty-five minutes through a shoddy neighborhoods and alongside a sketchy side of the park and found my way to the museum. En route I passed the Brooklyn Public Library, which came in handy later.

Yup, that's a lot of walking today and yesterday. Remind me to wear more comfortable pants next time.

The Brooklyn Museum was definitely a cool way to spend an afternoon. It's an impressive five-story building (see the pictures). I was initially also impressed as I wandered through the first exhibit, Arts of the Americas, and noticed most plaques and signs had been translated into spanish. However, I soon found this property was limited to this exhibit. (I wonder now why they didn't translate other exhibits that have large numbers of speakers of that language nearby, like the Chinese exhibits.)

Many of the exhibits I wandered through at first only marginally interested me, like african art, pacific art (in general), chinese art, korean art, japanese art, indian and southeast asian art, and islamic art. In the process of viewing this series of international art, I found a special exhibit by Antonie-Louis Barye that pretty much consisted of many sculptures of animals killing other animals. Well done sculptures, and an unusual obsession.

The Brooklyn Museum has an impressively large series of exhibits on Egypt. I stayed in this section for quite a while and read a lot of signs because I find the mythology, the pharaohs (and how they fit in with the mythology), the pyramids (and how they fit in with the politics and the mythology), and the hieroglyphs (both as a reflection of language and thought as well as how they relate to the religion) neat. I took a few pictures, including one of a sign with a striking story of politics and religion.

Soon after, I found the small collection of European paintings. They all hung around a large court used for entertaining high-profile guests. (The museum knows what its wealthy patrons most appreciate!)

On the next floor I found a large selection of American artwork and was quite surprised to see how much of it I enjoyed. (I snapped a number of pictures.) I guess I like much of the Hudson River school of painting.

Then I was even more surprised to find a Rodin sculpture exhibit, very much like the one at Stanford. There were only twelve casts made of each sculpture and now I've seen two of the "originals" of many sculpture! Also amusing, the Rodin gallery was named for the Cantors, the same couple that sponsored the Stanford art museum.

Every museum has a permanent exhibit that is traditional but seemingly out of place. In this case, it was a small series of rooms decorated to "19th century decorative arts," basically showcasing furniture and other strategies in interior design. The windows blocking entry to the rooms were so clean I almost walked into one!

Nearby I found an exhibit on glass and glass working. Since I've been thinking of learning it, I read and learned and took some more pictures.

Running out of time, I wandered through the modern art section -it exists, but it's no Moma- and then the visible storage. Visible storage was a lot of glass cubes (temperature controlled) comparatively tightly packed with objects of all types. Labels on each cube listed its contents. You're on your own to spot the object you want within each cube. But it's neat to see this traditionally hidden side of the museum.

Finally, the last (special) exhibit I made it to was William Wegman. It included a lot of odd pieces in various media, much of it involving dogs. He loves dogs. I managed to find one cute video (available online) that was playing on a display there.

With the museum closed, I headed back to the public library, found a computer, and researched our dinner destination for the night. It's a habit I have, getting some idea of what people proclaim is good. Mostly it just make me feel less anxious of choosing what to eat and happier that I gave a restaurant a fair shake. After a bit of research on some review sites, I had a good idea of what people thought. The funny thing about this is the friends I was meeting for dinner did exactly the same thing! :)

Two subways rides and a long walk later -I'd planned to transfer a third time to get closer, but I missed that transfer station by accident of getting on an express train (I think the accident balanced out the increased speed of the express train)- I arrived on time to meet Bryson and Catherine at our dinner destination. From my nominations, they chose a place in the east village called Sigiri. It's the only Sri Lankan restaurant in Manhattan. (There used to be three but the other two closed in the last few years. Apparently Staten Island is where the community lives; it has a number of Sri Lankan restaurants.)

Sigiri was pretty good, although we weren't excited by the appetizers. We started with the appetizer sampler. It contained two-types of fried spring rolls (vegetable and fish, both like those produced by a mediocre Chinese restaurant), accompanied by an overly sweet chile dipping sauce, and along with a fine lentil cake and an interesting fried fish ball. The ball was like falafel in texture but made from a mix of fish and (apparently) potatoes.

Our entrees were focused around something called a hopper, a bowl-shaped pancake -yes, it was naturally curved- much in flavor like Indian dosi. To assemble a meal, take a hopper and fill it with another entree -in our case chicken lamprais-, perhaps add some of the good fried-to-soft-and-brown onions, and wrap it up and eat it like a burrito. The chicken lamprais, a combination of rice, chicken, fish, and hard-boiled egg wrapped in a banana leaf and baked, was tasty and worked well in its role as the filler. The dish was uniformly flavorful throughout, even the rice. Incidentally, one hopper was served with a fried egg inside, and its gooeyness and yolk added a nice undertone and helped meld the hopper to the filling.

We also decided we had to try the (pork) black curry. While the meat was low-quality, the earthiness and depth of the flavor made us still like the dish. We ate it over rice.

Incidentally, I tried a mango-based mixed drink -they called it a cordial- which was nice and not too sweet like most fruit drinks. Bryson had a good and fragrant ginger tea.

With the entrees foremost in our mind, Bryson concluded, "It was good. I enjoyed that." And Bryson and Catherine discussed how they'd order different hoppers (especially more hoppers with egg) and fillings next time they made it there.

Bryson had made reservations for us at a comedy club. So after dinner, another subway ride later we were walking down 23rd in the direction we thought the comedy club was. I claimed we must be going in the correct direction since I lived not too far away during my time in NYC and I recognized places. But when we reached the next avenue, we found out I was wrong and quickly walked the other direction. *sigh* I was too quick to try to reclaim this area of NYC as my home and show off to my friends. Happily, this error didn't make us late.

In fact, it couldn't have made us late. As we walked up the street toward the comedy club we noticed a fire truck nearby. We didn't give it much thought until we were in line at the comedy club, around the corner from the fire truck. Then we saw firemen with gas masks leave from the door we were waiting to go in. And someone came out and announced there was a gas leak in the building -the whole city block- and that the show would be delayed or canceled depending on how long the firemen take to investigate and/or fix it.

We waited around for a little while, gave up, and decided to hunt for dessert. After some failures of Google SMS (it can't do category searches like desserts near an address, only category searches for a city (as far as I could tell)), we wandered around and up 7th Avenue and eventually chose The Bread Factory Cafe near Penn Station. Besides a selection of pretty desserts, it serves a wide assortment of items salads, sandwiches, pizza, pasta, ... (but not at this time of night). We tried desserts -a cheesecake and a chocolate mousse (on top of a soggy rum cake)-, both of which could only be described as fine.

A train back to Metuchen, and thus concluded my last full day on the east coast for this vacation.

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