Street Finds: Brooklyn Christmas edition

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IMG_65855th Ave, South Park Slope and 7th Ave., Park Slope

Here’s the best thing about these little gems: I found them both on the same day. Also note the carolers in the background of the first photo. I suspect that casual observers will like the first photo best; a bike in wrapping paper is undeniably festive. But the second find is full of nuance that perhaps only New Yorkers will fully appreciate.

The second photo begs so many questions:

  1. Is this for real? As in, did someone actually lock up their tree stand so it wouldn’t be stolen while they ran errands?
  2. Did it originally contain a tree? There is a tiny tree stump that you can barely make out in this photo. Locked bikes with parts missing (I call them cannibalized bikes, although clearly other bikes aren’t doing the damage) are a common site in New York. A bike without a front wheel, a bike without handlebars, only handlebars. That’s how this reads to me: A cannibalized Christmas tree.
  3. If this is a joke, who is the genius who understood all of the above and installed this little piece of art?
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NYC anniversary: Four years

July42013_3IMG_5954photoDSC_0123AugustBlogDSC_0034IMG_1309Today is the fourth anniversary of my arrival in New York City. As Jeff pointed out, it’s like we’ve done a whole undergrad degree in NYC. Or a presidential term. So in that spirit, I’ve been asking myself, what have I learned? What have I accomplished? Is the world (or at least my world) a better place? An incomplete list, in no particular order:

  • I made some friends, and I found them in places as unexpected as my own building and a gingerbread building session in a bar.
  • I told three stories live at The Moth, one of them a StorySlam winner and one at a GrandSlam championship.
  • I’ve made decent progress studying to become a certified NYC tour guide. I could talk your ear off about the significance of DeWitt Clinton’s street grid and the Battle of Brooklyn (which, contrary to popular belief, has nothing to do with long brunch lines).
  • I’ve fallen in love with New York City’s randomness and it’s commissioned and “uncommissioned” public art. I’ve chronicled dozens of Street Finds, although many of them are still on my camera, waiting to be shared.
  • I got a new job advocating for young farmers on a national level.
  • I’ve written more than half a dozen stories for Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn, but my first story is probably still my favorite.
  • We’ve explored our new corner of the country: Lancaster County, Pennsylvania; Bar Harbor, Maine; the Hudson Valley; Fire Island; Boston; the Berkshires; and New Jersey.
  • We’ve seen and even met a few celebrities, most thrillingly Sir. Patrick Stewart, but also Tina Fey, Steve Buscemi, and others.
  • I’ve been to Governor’s Island, Staten Island and Roosevelt Island. But thankfully not Rikers Island.
  • I rode a bike for the first time as an adult and rowed a boat in the Harlem River.
  • I carried a Christmas tree home on a bus.
  • I’ve been to every stop on the F.
  • We’ve been to the MoMA, the Met, the Museum of Natural History, and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.
  • We made room for overnight guests on at least a dozen occasions.
  • I’ve bought local fish and learned how to cook it. I know what a ramp is, how a sour cherry differs from a regular cherry (it’s sour) and who sells the best apples.
  • I’ve been to one Broadways show (and got to go behind stage after), but I’ve also seen Shakespeare performed on the street and enjoyed a fire breather, a burlesque performance and a brass band from the comfort of my own block.

I’m not sure what I expected from New York City. It was and remains both an unknowable place and the most infamous, legendary, iconic city of all time. I’ve never stopped feeling grateful. Okay, maybe there was that one time, when it was cold. But I still think it’s worth it.

Happy fortune teller

IMG_5866IMG_5868Last Saturday I took a long walk through the Village that included a stroll through Washington Square Park. I sat for a while on the side of the fountain, watching children run through the spray while hipsters—books (and e-books) in hand —cooled their feet and a Rottweiler bathed languidly against a backdrop of the arch and the Empire State Building. This, I thought, is Manhattan in the summer.

On my way out of the park, I passed a nondescript, brown dog standing inside a semi-circle of chalk labeled, “Happy Fortune Teller.” At the other end of the leash was a young woman in a long, flowing skirt with a sack slumped at her feet. I slowed down. I stopped and stared. Then I started walking again, passing under the shadow of the arch and out of the park.

Then I doubled back. If there was even a chance that that dog might read my fortune, I couldn’t live with myself if I passed it up. A dog telling fortunes—that’s everything I stand for. Lest you think I jumped to a ridiculous conclusion, I would like you to know that I had already passed several bands, a professional bubble-blower and a sand artist. A dog fortune teller seemed totally in context.

“Does this dog tell fortunes?” I asked the young woman, feeling stupid but so hopeful.

“No, we just had the bad luck of standing in this spot,” she said. I thought it was good luck, but I didn’t argue.

It turned out, the dog, Scarlett, was having a big day of her own. She was in Manhattan for the very first time, and feeling nervous about it, which is why I didn’t ask to take her picture. She was on her way to her parent’s wedding , in the company of her friendly human escort.

So a dog didn’t read my fortune, but:

  1. It is amazing how easy it is to make a small connection with other people in this city.
  2. Somewhere, there’s a person offering happy fortunes, and that should give us all hope.

Street finds: Where churros go to die

IMG_46847th Ave and 22nd St, Brooklyn

I haven’t taken many photos that sum up my immediate neighborhood better than this one. I have never bought a churro from any of the street vendors who sell them from carts near the school and the playground (and in subway stations all over the city), but I really want to. I have always wondered where they are baked and how safe they are. Here’s a little story about the people who sell them.

 

Lately

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Aside from moving, here’s what’s been going on around here the past few weeks:

1) A couple weekends ago, Jeff had to take pictures at a poetry event on Governor’s Island, a strange former military base that is just a 10-minute ferry ride from Brooklyn or Manhattan. Most of the buildings and houses are still there but now empty and surrounded by rolling lawns and big trees, so it feels like stepping into a small, sleepy town or a college campus.

2) Edible Manhattan sent me to the Berkshires for a travel piece, and I came home Goggling real-estate. Jeff couldn’t go, so I posted on Facebook asking for a companion and ended up spending two slightly awkward nights in the bridal suite of a B&B with the lovely Lea, a friend of Jeff’s who I had previously met on only one occasion. By day, we talked non-stop, ate lots of local cheese and met amazing people, like the woman who just launched this CSA farm on the site of Herman Melville’s former home, Arrowhead.

3) I finally told my Moth GrandSLAM story! It went really well, and I had a great time even though I didn’t win (my score was a respectable 9.0) Ignore my forced smile—I was happy but dreading the awkward, on-stage small talk that I knew would follow the curtain call.

4) On our way home from Manhattan one Friday eventing, Tobia and I caught the last half of a production of Romeo and Juliet that was being staged on 5th Ave. Even though we caught the death scenes instead of the love scenes, I left feeling like the high rent and the hassle of the city are all worth it for moments like this.

The F (mostly) underground

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Our adventure last week on the F was mostly about seeing what was on street level since we usually spend so much time below ground, but we also visited stations that we had never been to at all, and we encounter a lot of interesting spaces, so we tried to document the stations themselves as well as the view up above. We started strong, pulling out our little signs at ever stop, but as we grew tired and rush hour closed in around us, we slacked a little. Plus, all of the above-ground stops in Brooklyn look similar.

I’m a huge fan of subway art. I can’t help but appreciate the fact that even simple bands of colored tile took time to build and required decisions that could have just as easily been rubber-stamped into uniformity. And the real art − it just makes me love New York City so hard. Art in public places is just such a decent thing to do.Plus, many of the subway art projects are full of history and whimsy, two of my favorite things. The MTA has a website and even an app dedicated to art throughout their system, but I have purposely avoided it because I much prefer to stumble upon things and be amazing in the middle of a boring day. I did consult the website briefly today, however, and realized that we missed seeing some great work at a few of the stations we visited. Oh well – next time.

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Notes:

  • Queens, what the heck is going on with your cavernous subway stations? You will never fill that space. It isn’t even walkway space, it is just there. I really want an answer to this. Why?
  • We only encountered three or four escalators, but we relished them. Elevators = time sucks.
  • I love the underground shops, especially at Jackson Heights. I like the fact that flower shops are a popular underground choice — apparently people still like to arrive at their destination with a nice bouquet.
  • I think the hallway at 7th Ave. might be infinite.

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  • Least impressive art: The strange circles at Kew Gardens. I don’t think they are even listed on MTA’s website. I would like to believe that this is some form of really boring community improvement project or graffiti.
  • Most impressive art (that we saw): Delancey. I have never seen the cherry trees on the opposite platform up close, but I love them, and seeing them gives me a visceral desire to hold these little cherries in my hand again.
  • Most icky station award goes to Lexington Ave, of all places, thanks to a construction project.

 

You can see all of our underground photos below. Click on any of them to open a slideshow.