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Monday, March 31, 2008

Two New Yorkers, Now Playing on Sundance

Soho Police Station
Photo by myself in Nolita, at Cleveland Place and Grand Street.

This neo-Baroque police station was renovated into a condominium building for the rich and famous. A few models and other well-known celebs are rumored to live here, but I've never seen anyone enter or leave the building.

For more about the Police Station, click here.


This afternoon I walked around Soho and the Lower East Side.

It was cold again and sunny. I'm slowly getting used to the buttons and dials on this camera, but right now I prefer my point-and-shoot, lol.

Speaking of creative pursuits, I can't say enough good things about the Sundance Channel. Lately I've been addicted to their Iconoclasts series, where two well-known people of different disciplines are paired. They essentially interview each other.

The other day I watched Quentin Tarentino and Fiona Apple. It was pretty incredible to listen to these two artists agree with each other about how neither of them can not do what they do, or do what they do poorly.

Today I saw another episode that I felt was even better. Isabella Rossellini is paired with Dean Kamen, an inventor. The segment is airing again this Wednesday night at midnight.

Rossellini is known for her extensive acting and modeling career. She also happens to train seeing eye dogs in her spare time and campaigns for animal conservation. Both Rossellini and Kamen are New Yorkers - Isabella seems to live on the Upper West Side, and is shown walking her dog in Central Park. Kamen grew up in Rockville Center, a small town in upstate New York.

Dean Kamen sounds pretty amazing. He has many medical inventions to his credit, including incredible wheelchairs that essentially walk people down stairs.

He invented the Segue, those big-wheeled vehicles you drive by leaning one way or the next. He's also invented devices aimed at saving the planet - one that produces electricity from cow dung, and one that extracts potable water from polluted water.

If you have a chance, do catch the show and hear him speak. You'll be inspired.

Here's the preview for the episode:


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Looking out at Manhattan

The View from Brooklyn
Photo by myself in Brooklyn Heights, on what's called the Brooklyn Promenade.

The view of lower Manhattan from the Brooklyn waterfront is pretty nice. Out of frame are the number of large historical houses along the water. Norman Mailer is rumored to have lived in the most beautiful one.


For some reason I decided to walk around Battery Park City and the Brooklyn promenade this afternoon to take some photos. I'm not sure why I decided on this plan, since it was about 45 degrees today, with a constant, brisk wind. It was even colder by the water.

Downtown was overrun with tourists milling about the narrow sidewalks. The viewing platform at the World Trade Center and the department store Century 21 were completely packed. Century 21 is known for offering designer clothing and accessories at discounted prices. Be prepared to root around and compete with crowds.

I stepped into Century 21 for a brief moment, then immediately regretted it and skedaddled. The crowds were overwhelming. I wouldn't recommend going on a weekend or during a normal hour.

Now I'm home, with the cat snuggled alongside me on the couch. My stomach is full of spaghetti bolognese. The chill is finally out of my bones.

Life is good.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Times Square, NYC

Times Square, NYC
Photo by myself in Times Square, at 42nd Street and 7th Avenue.

So many colors and sights collide at this corner. 42nd Street is crowded with tourists and commuters alike. Port Authority lies a block away, for subway riders and those bound out of town by bus.


It's been a very long week and I don't have much to write tonight. I'm just happy it's Friday. I'm looking forward to a restful weekend, getting a bunch of things done.

Woohoo! TGIF everyone!


Friday, March 28, 2008

Building for a Greener Environment

West 40th Street
Photo by myself on West 40th Street and Fifth Avenue.

The main branch of the stately New York Public Library is to the right. It's undergoing a slight makeover at the moment. Portions are shrouded by tarps, which bring to mind a Christo installation.

A row of recently constructed modern buildings recede to the distance. The furthest one with the spire is the New York Times building completed last year by noted Argentinian architect Cesar Pelli Italian architect Renzo Piano. (Thanks John, who commented below with the correction!)


In 2000, Fox and Fowle, a New York architecture firm, completed 4 Times Square, the Conde Nast building at Broadway and 42nd Street.

The building caused a buzz because it called itself 'green'. It was the first time I'd heard the term applied to buildings. Special care had been taken in the design of the curtain walls, so a minimal amount of energy would be necessary for heating and cooling. Recirculation of air was also a concern, to avoid unhealthy office spaces.

So much waste is created in the building process, that it's great to know that architects, contractors and clients want to reduce the impact of construction on the environment. The trouble is that many of the costs are higher up front, to provide a savings in energy later.

Architects and designers can be concerned about the environment, but it means nothing until the client is willing to pay for it. And then 'green' alternatives have to be available to choose from.

When buildings began relying on internal steel columns, it marked a huge change in design and aesthetics. The New York Public Library is load bearing masonry building and looks like it is. On the other end of the spectrum, modern high rises don't wish to pretend to be load bearing at all. Their steel and glass facades imply a separate internal skeleton.

Now with the focus on sustainability, I have to wonder how our time period will be viewed in the future. Will we be able to discern a 'green' building from a non-green building by sight? Will there be methods for buildings to code themselves as green, and hence brand themselves as a better, more responsible place to live or work?

Stay tuned.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Working Toward a Complaint Free World

Empire State Building
Photo by myself of the Empire State Building, from 5th Avenue and the 30's.

There's something really photogenic about this building that keeps me going back. It's hard to believe that it was built in a year and half, just before the Depression.


Did anyone catch last weekend's CBS Morning News? There was a segment with Bill Geist about a church-based organization called A Complaint Free World in Kansas City that is helping people stop complaining.

I can't find the quote online, but Bill said that if New Yorkers stopped complaining, they'd have nothing to talk about. Apparently he thinks all we New Yorkers do is kvetch all day.

Hm. Possibly. Many of us aren't afraid of voicing the truth. And life can be far from ideal when you're living and commuting on top of other people all the time.

At A Complaint Free World, Reverend Will Bowen offers a challenge where a person stops complaining for 21 days. The theory is that if you stop uttering complaints, your brain will stop producing the complaints. The person then finds him or herself in a state of happiness, or at least, mute acceptance.

During the program, Geist went to a restaurant and remarked that his waitress was taking a long time to fill his order. Apparently the no-complaint way to handle the situation would be to sit and wait for one's food to come. Eventually.

Hello, isn't it more stressful to sit and wait while suppressing one's whiny thoughts? And you're losing an opportunity to bond with your fellow sufferers if you kept your mouth shut.

However, there is something to not complaining. When my mom kvetches about her anxieties, I readily feel antsy and begin to squirm. And so I apologize heartily to my dear readers for my previous worrying posts about bloodhounds hurling through space, potential camera snatchers and crime.

New York, despite all my whiny declarations, is a wonderful place to be.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Tulips are Blooming

Bryant Park
Photo by myself in Bryant Park, at 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue.

Though it's still chilly, the tulips are abloom. It's Spring. Hooray!


It's still rather cold in New York these days. Just walking on the sunny side of the street makes a difference. I just can't wait 'til I can wear my flip flops!

Mark left tonight for Argentina, for work. To celebrate, we ate a couple meals without red meat before his departure.

While he's gone I have some loose plans: walk around and become more familiar with my new camera, tidy up the house, go to the gym, spend some quality time with people and the cat.

Argentina is one hour ahead of New York, but it takes eleven hours to get there. Hm. And it's warm there now. I see nothing but positives in his situation, except for the long plane ride.

Anyhow, it's officially Spring, isn't it? Happy Spring, everyone!


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Sky is Falling

Central Park West
Photo by myself high above Central Park. You can see the bold Art Deco details of the 'Century Building', built in 1931, to the left.

Yet another photo from an apartment on Central Park West. The Upper East Side lies across the park in the distance.


I had to open one of the windows of the apartment a crack to take the above photo. There were strong winds outside and I had visions of me, my camera and anything else flying out and hitting someone on the head below. I have since promised myself not to open the window again.

Call me paranoid, but there have been a number of accidents in New York in recent memory. Last weekend, A crane collapsed in mid-construction on East 50th Street, killing seven people. In December 2007, an architect was seriously injured in a construction accident near Ground Zero, when seven tons of steel fell onto an on-site trailer.

In the same month, two window washers fell 47 stories at an Upper East Side apartment building. They were brothers, and one of them miraculously survived. Before that, in late 2006, a small plane carrying a Yankees pitcher crashed into an apartment tower, also on the Upper East Side.

When I first moved to New York, there weren't so many accidents, but there was definitely the awareness of danger. I recall hearing an experienced architect say how all the buildings that have deep overhangs are inspected, but only by sight. The pedestrian in me was not reassured by this piece of news.

What if the building had hairline cracks not discernible to the human eye? Suddenly I developed a fear of falling cornices. And not only that, I had a general distrust of all scaffolding, which is fruitless because so much of New York is under construction at any given time. Often both sides of the street have something going on, which means there is no safety to be found.

I am reminded of a story of an acquaintance who left his bloodhound in the care of a neighbor. The neighbor left a window open, and the bloodhound jumped out the window. Another neighbor on a lower floor had turned at the precise time to see the bloodhound sail through the air. (Fortunately the bloodhound was fine. He was a puppy and he was saved by his soft, pudgy physique).

Usually, I don't think about such dangers, but once in a while I do. You can't let such fears interfere with daily living. It's all too easy to become paranoid about air conditioners and bricks and bloodhounds falling from the sky.

For more about visual inspections of New York building facades, click here.
For other aerial views of Central Park, click here and here.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Down and Out in Soho

Spring Street, NYC
Photo by myself on Spring Street in Soho.

Soho boasts a mix of quirky expensive boutiques and beautiful old architecture. Throw the homeless into the mix and you've got high contrast.


Mark and I tried out the new camera today, braving the frigid winds to stand along the Williamsburg waterfront. The trouble is, the view there was rather unspectacular, so I have nothing respectable to show.

I did take a nice photo of my cat Dida, however. She can be photogenic sometimes, and here she is, looking to squeeze onto the sofa.

I have to say the camera is pretty great. I can't imagine taking really bad shots with it. Except for the pictures of the waterfront, that is.


I don't have much else to write tonight for whatever reason, so I'll leave it at that.

Happy Monday, everyone!


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Welcome to Bensonhurst

Russian Candies
Photo by myself in a Russian supermarket in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.


This morning Mark and I drove Clive, a Mini Cooper, out to Bensonhurst to mend his front windshield.

A couple weeks ago, we'd driven down the BQE (Brooklyn Queens Expressway) when a big piece of gravel dinged us, cracking the glass. Clive had to have his windshield replaced.

If you've never driven on the BQE, please don't start. It is riddled with potholes and uneven terrain. There are concrete dividers marking the median, which shifts constantly since they're 'repairing' the road. Mark will frequently drive and curse at the roads and drivers because it's downright dangerous.

Bensonhurst is 20 minutes away from where I live in Park Slope, Brooklyn. It's best known for a period in 1989 when a racially motivated murder provoked riots and protests. I think to most New Yorkers, the name connotes strife and danger. Mark and I found it to be quite benign, with large avenues and freestanding houses. Everything had an old timey look to it and it was hard to believe we were in New York.

According to Wikipedia, a motley bunch of well known people grew up in Bensonhurst, including Scott Baio, Carl Sagan, Harvey Fierstein, Elliot Gould, Larry King and Marisa Tomei.

The neighborhood has large populations of Russians, Italians and Hasidim. Mark and I ventured into a huge supermarket with many Russian items. The sheer amount of sausages in one aisle and Russian beer in another was amazing. There was a separate caviar counter. There was a aisle full of chocolates and candies, wrapped in colorful and cryptic paper.

We could have walked out with armfuls of sausages, but Mark and I are trying to cut down on our red meat. We opted instead for a whopping bag of mixed candies, gathered from the open bins. Yum!


Saturday, March 22, 2008

The View from on High

View from Central Park West
Photo by myself high above Central Park. You can see the gilded entrance to the park at the corner of 59th Street and Central Park West.

The high rise to the right was a renovation by architect Philip Johnson. Johnson took an existing building and replaced its drab exterior with windows tinted a dark shade of bronze. It was simple and brilliant move that completely changed the character of the building.


The week sped by in a good way. I can't believe it's Friday. My first week at my new job went very well but it's left me feeling tired.

Mark and I will chill out this weekend, doing errands and fiddling with my new camera. I recently purchased a digital SLR, and it is complicated. You can't just take it out of the box and use it. There will be a huge learning curve and reading of manuals.

I'll be back tomorrow hopefully with something new to say. In the meantime, I'm sharing a photo from above Central Park. I'm working on a project for a apartment renovation and this is the view from the window.

I must confess I have a slight fear of heights, but I wouldn't mind watching the change of seasons from here.

For another aerial photo, click here.


Friday, March 21, 2008

There's a Moon Out Tonight

Herald Square
Photo by myself in Herald Square at 34th Street and Broadway.

This area is especially hectic, loaded with tourists and shoppers. Macy's is just out of view on the right. Commuters using the subway and the Long Island Railroad flood the sidewalks during rush hour.

The kiosk in the middle ground bears the logo of 'witchcraft, one of Tom Colicchio's restaurants in the Flatiron District, known for its sandwich fare. There are 'witchcraft kiosks as well in Tribeca and Bryant Park.


After work today and a happy hour with old coworkers, Mark and I traveled home for dinner.

En route, we mulled things over. 'I'm annoyed and I don't know why,' I said. It was nice to see old faces (well, not that old. I just left the my old office a couple weeks ago), and chit chat over drinks.

Still for whatever reason, I wasn't feeling right. 'It's the full moon,' Mark said. 'I feel antsy too, and I swear every time there's a full moon, I feel like this.'

'Oh? Like what?'

'This, this,' he said. 'Yknow, not right.'

According to Wikipedia though, there is no correlation between the full moon and peoples' behavior. Still it seemed that today, more people were walking haphazardly and aggressively on the streets than usual.

I'll just blame it on the stars.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Wednesday Portraits - Central Park Nature News

Photo by myself of a dog on the sidewalk.

This beautiful creature ignored me completely. He was too busy waiting for his master to return.


At first glance, Nature and the big city don't seem compatible.

About a month ago, Mark and I stopped at a red light in Park Slope, Brooklyn. There, perched on the traffic light was a red tailed hawk. It was enormous, but Mark and I were probably the only ones who noticed, since most people are too busy looking ahead at the traffic, pedestrians, street life and all else. The hawks feed on the city's huge pigeon population and can be seen sometimes circling high above the skyline.

For my sometimes Wednesday Portrait series, I'm showcasing a site that posts regularly about our animal friends. Marie Winn, at Marie Winn's Central Park Nature News, writes daily about the real natives of New York.

Red tail hawks also make their homes in Central Park. Pale Male made celebrity status when his nest was threatened at its location on Fifth Avenue. The fancy co-op building wished to remove his nest, causing protests from the birding community that were broadcast on the the evening news.

Pale Male and his present mate are still going strong. Marie's blog reports on his brood almost daily. She also posts about the harbor seals that visit the west side of Manhattan, rare bird species spotted by avid New York birdwatchers and anything else that's wild and newsworthy.

It's nice to know that nature is thriving alongside us. Enjoy!

Wednesday Portraits is an ongoing, not so regular installment on this site, featuring other New York blogs.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Architecture, a Glorifed Profession

Madison Square Park
Photo by myself outside Tabla at Madison Square Park.

The modern Indian menu at this restaurant draws a crowd, especially for drinks outdoors in the warmer months. Sample their signature tamarind margaritas and kumquat mohitos.


I think people have the tendency to romanticize architecture and design because they're not too sure what it means.

I don't blame them. It's a complicated profession and we have a great PR department.

I've run into many people who say they love architecture and how cool it would be to be an architect. I'm a licensed architect in New York, by the way, so I can call myself an 'architect'. Legally, if you're not licensed, meaning if you haven't passed all seven exams, you can't call yourself one.

Having a license means that you can stamp drawings for a building and apply for a permit with the Building Department. You're taking legal responsibility and you can be sued! Some folks work for years doing fine architectural work, but never become licensed for whatever reason. They might not want to take all the exams or they don't see themselves doing work on their own.

Anyhow on my first day at work yesterday, I jumped in to help a swamped coworker prep for a client meeting. Dan had already drawn the upper and lower floor plans for a large, three-bedroom house in Palm Beach. He had exterior elevations sketched out by hand on translucent paper (what we call 'trace', or glorified tracing paper. It's also called 'bumwad', meaning the equivalent of toilet paper or stuff that's pretty disposable).

While Dan reviewed the plans in detail, I started drawing the sketched elevations in the computer. I referenced books on historical buildings at the same time, drawing details and adjusting proportions as best I could to convey the idea.

The project is a tricky one, since we're taking over the project from another office. The windows have already been fabricated and the house is in mid-construction. So there I was, referencing history books and the technical drawings for the windows at the same time. I was stitching together the real and ideal into our vision of what the house could be.

Dan started drawing another elevation of the house, borrowing elements from my drawing. This is one of the benefits of working on a networked computer system - you can borrow from other drawings pretty easily, which is something you couldn't do so well in the old days, drawing by hand. I left at a normal time last night (it was my first day, after all), while Dan stayed into the wee hours.

This morning we finalized the drawings and put a nice presentation together for the client. It was essentially one full day's hard work, but you'd never know it.

Eventually, all the details will have to be figured out. The drawings will be labored over and dimensioned and revised many times. The initial idealized sketch can take a moment. A presentation can be whipped up within in a day or a fortnight to sell the idea to the client.

Then the real work begins.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

How to Get From Here to There

Inside the Met
Photo by myself in the lobby of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, at 82nd and Fifth Avenue.

There are several entrances off the elegant main lobby into the museum. You can linger in this large, active space without purchasing a ticket.


Happy Saint Patrick's Day everyone! And thanks to all for the kind wishes for the new job. It went off without a hitch, thank goodness. Phew!

Everyone is very friendly at the new place, and I forsee an easy transition. There were the usual New York questions, namely what trains do you take in the morning. Honestly, one's commute is so often the common denominator among people. The subway is this city's melting pot, the equalizer and every other metaphor that unites disparate entities.

I can live in Brooklyn and you can live in the Bronx. We can come from vastly different demographics but share the same opinion about the Number 3 train. The only time the subway fails to bond people of course, is when someone doesn't take the train. This does happen, by the way. There are plenty of folks who can't bear to go below ground.

One of my friends lived an hour north of the city. Dale developed anxiety attacks while riding the subway, though her experience on September 11th was benign. On that day she was unable to return home, so she stayed at a friend's house.

Later, Dale's sensitive nature made her long daily commute impossible. She developed anxiety attacks and couldn't bear the train ride underground. Fortunately, her job was such that she could work from home.

I haven't talked to Dale in a while and I should get in touch. Most likely, one of the first topics of conversation will be the commute.


Monday, March 17, 2008

The Totem Pole of Creativity

Red Hook Container Loaders
Photo by myself in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

The Port Authority maintains piers for container ships delivering cargo. The silhouettes of loading cranes against the barren landscape are striking.


Last night Mark and I went to a Brooklyn housewarming for an old friend/acquaintance that I hadn't seen in many months. She's a photographer, so most of her guests were creative - photographers, graphic designers, stylists and copywriters.

The party turned out to be fun without being at all pretentious. Mark and I were so glad we went, since we nearly wound up vegetating on the sofa after a heavy dinner.

I've noticed that even among creative people, many wish they were in more creative fields. My dad was trained as an engineer and always wished he were an architect. As an architect, I wish I were a graphic designer or photographer. Graphic designers I know wish they were painters. And on and on.

The grass is always greener, isn't it.

I wish I had a something wise to say that summed it all up, but I don't. It'd be something about risks and fear, security and boredom.

I hope to figure it out someday.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Spring is in the Air

Bryant Park in Early Spring
Photo by myself at Bryant Park, at 42nd Street and 6th Avenue.

Despite looking bleak in the winter and early spring, this park is extremely popular in the warmer months. Business people from surrounding office buildings take lunch on the lawn. Free movies, mostly classics, play in the summer on a large screen. Get there early to claim a spot!


New York felt like Spring today. Mark and I have been driving between Greenpoint and Park Slope, schlepping more of his stuff to my place, since he's moving in. We've been going through closets, tossing old belongings and relocating artwork on the wall.

While in Greenpoint today, we saw a lot of young people walking about enjoying the weather. The neighborhood has dramatically changed since the time Mark first moved there, three years ago. Nary a soul was on the sidewalk before, whereas now, there are groups of hipster-ish twenty-somethings roaming around in search of brunch.

It's an urban cycle that is continually happening in New York, despite fears of the real estate bubble - Manhattan becomes a more expensive place to live, and the ripple effect pushes outwards into the outer boroughs. The younger people and artists relocate to sleepy neighborhoods. Restaurants adopt new canopies, 99 cent stores shut down, families are displaced, condo buildings are going up.

Several years ago, Fort Greene and Park Slope, Brooklyn were undergoing major change. Real estate prices in Park Slope have nearly tripled over a few years. Now it's Greenpoint, Long Island City and the entire Brooklyn waterfront. In a few years, the Brooklyn cityscape will look very different.

So between the schlepping and the hipsters and the new job and Spring, it's been a time of change. Change is good, Mark reminds me. But change isn't easy for everyone.

I often watched people leave for new jobs with a bit of envy, but now that I'm on the other end, I realize what it's like: a period of 'what if', that moment before the light changes from day to dusk, the hush of the audience just before the movie begins.

For more on the gentrification of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, click here.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Keeping Your Dogs in a Row

Man and Multiple Shih Tzus
Photo by myself on the Upper East Side.

These six Shih Tzus had such incredible discipline, lining up at their owner's command.


My last post was fueled by several glasses of wine and a lovely night out. Tonight, I find myself with nothing to write about.

So I'm posting another photo from my walk around the Upper East Side the other day. You meet all types on the street, man and beast. These folks posed for photographs on the sidewalk before trotting off.


Friday, March 14, 2008

East (Side) Versus West (Side)

David at The Met
Photo by myself at the Metropolitan Museum of Art at Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street.

World reknown for its permanent as well as visiting exhibits, The Met needs no introduction. You can find everything here including paintings, sculpture, mummies, designer clothing, furniture and musical instruments.


I did something today that I haven't done in years. I went to the Upper East Side.

Ahem. Pardon me, Upper East Siders. Though I now live in Brooklyn, I lived on the Upper West Side for ten years. I am a diehard West Sider. Fairway, Broadway, the 1/9 train, these landmarks are my blood. Madison Avenue, the Museum Mile and the 6 train are foreign to me.

Outside The Met

For those who don't know these divisions, the East Side is known for 'old money', housed in stately limestone buildings along Fifth and Park Avenues. Madison Avenue is the Beverly Hills of New York, lined with boutiques and flagship stores that few can afford. Many of the established museums are located along Fifth Avenue (the Met, the Guggenheim, the Cooper Hewitt).

The West Side, on the other hand, is considerably smaller in size. Historically, musicians and artists lived on there. Where the East Side is known for grand limestone facades and the large modern high rises of the 80's, the West Side is known for brownstones along the sidestreets and beautiful brick apartment buildings along West End Avenue.

No divide is so simple, however, and I'm generalizing in a massive way. (I am also completely neglecting the entire downtown area, but never mind).

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The rivalry between East and West is generally good-hearted. Kramer joked about the East Side on Seinfeld all the time. The real Jerry Seinfeld supposedly lived for a time on West 81st Street.

Anyhow, yes. I went to the Met today. I walked around the outside and the insides and my visit was mind boggling. My mind was simply boggled. I could return next week and the following weeks and not tire of the place.

The painted gallery spaces, the tremendous front lobby, the fashion exhibit downstairs. I have to ask myself, why have I stayed away so long? Can I blame it all on the East Side?

No, I cannot. It is my own sad laziness.

Metropolitan Museum

At the Met

For more on the Upper East Side, click here.
For more on the Upper West Side, click here.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

My First Run-In with the NYPD

East 42nd Street
Photo by myself in front of Grand Central on East 42nd Street.

Cabs, buses, hurried office workers and sauntering tourists make this a busy area. The raised, bridge-like structure of Pershing Square is out of frame to the left. Its steel rivets are mirrored by the canopy at Grand Central. The glamorous lighting and details draw me here.


I went back to my old office today to wrap up some last minute things. I dealt with billing issues, passing off my projects and cleaning my desk. I tried getting in and out as quickly as possible, but it took a few hours.

I wound up carting off a couple big bags of stuff: old drawings, business cards, books, shoes. I was surprised I could carry it all.

Here's where the story gets interesting. I was stopped for my very first time at the subway station and searched by the NYPD!! (This beats all racial profiling speculations because I am female and I do not look Middle Eastern).

'Ma'am, can you come over here? This officer needs to look through your bags.'

I was hailed to the side, where a tallish dark-haired policeman gestured for me to put my bags on the table.

'Can you open the bags Ma'am, so I can see inside?' he said.

'Oh sure,' I said. 'I just left my job, by the way. I'm just bringing some stuff home.'

'Oh yeah? You start your new job yet?'

'No, next week.'

'Better pay?'

'Yeah sure, a little.' I felt embarrassed.

'That's wonderful. I'm happy for you,' he said. 'You have a good day, now!'

I was tickled pink by the boys in blue.

Related posts: Bridge and Tunnel


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Reinventing Oneself From Head to Toe

Ollie's on Broadway
Photo by myself at Ollie's, a Chinese restaurant on Broadway and 67th Street.

They have a good selection of noodles, soups and other dishes at this popular restaurant chain.


Some of the coworkers from my old office have been envious of me. 'You can reinvent yourself at the new place,' they said. 'Just go in there and do whatever you want. They don't know you there.'

I guess that's part of what the mini-makeover is about: self-invention. You have a vision of yourself that you'd like others to share, and you put it out there. Simple as that. The concept is very modern and American. The Great Gatsby probably had the first makeover.

Of course, there's a limit to how much control you have of your image. I have to imagine that Governor Eliot Spitzer wants to change his identity and relocate, just about now. I posted about him earlier but took it down because all the news was making me ill.

For those who don't know, Spitzer is the Governor of New York. He was also a tough Attorney General, and was exposed a couple days ago for using a prostitution service. He is all over the news, over and over again. His public apology on Monday, with his poor wife by his side has been replayed to death. I can only imagine that the trashy magazine circuit is next.

No matter what I do, I can't escape the fact that I'm 5'-3 1/2", that I have a distinctive giggle, or that my desk quickly becomes an organized chaos. Likewise, Eliot Spitzer can dye his hair, change his shirts from white to pink, and start wearing jeans and tennis shoes. Whatever he does, he can't escape himself.

Eventually, Spitzer will be remembered for the good stuff he did. But not for a while.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tibetans of the World, Unite

Free Tibet Rally
Photo by myself at a Free Tibet rally on Monday in Union Square.

Tibetans and supporters convened in Union Square Monday afternoon to protest the 2008 Olympics in China. The rally coincided with rallies in other cities around the world.


My plans for the week before the new job are humble: a mini-makeover (my self-induced attempt at looking more 'professional', putting to use all the knowledge gleaned from Tim Gunn and What Not to Wear), seeing a movie with an old friend, visiting a few museums, trying new recipes and organizing the apartment.

Hopefully, the new camera will arrive this week. Regardless, I am excited to walk around the city and take pictures. It won't be a glamorous week off, but it'll be a good, restful one, which is exactly what I need.

If anyone has requests for picture taking, please post them! I'm always open to suggestions. There's a whole list in my head of places I haven't seen in ages - Battery Park City, South Street Seaport, Riverside Park, the Met, Central Park, the Brooklyn Promenade...the list is endless.

Today after seeing the dentist, I walked from the East 40s to Bryant Park. Then I walked the 30 blocks down Fifth Avenue to Union Square. On the way, I stopped at my favorite Indian dive for a delicious late lunch. It sounds far on paper, but it's really a nice, reasonable walk.

There was a political rally in full swing in Union Square. Pro-Tibetans were protesting the 2008 Olympics that are being held in China. I'm not too great with estimating numbers, but it seemed like a couple hundred people were there, waving bright flags.

A couple demonstrators spoke into a microphone from a small stage. Their words about ending political oppression were moving. When the speakers alluded to demonstrations going on today in other parts of the world, I admit I got a little verklempt. It was cool to think that the Dalai Lama was protesting the same issues in India.

The world seemed at once large and small.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Confronting Reality on TV

Fifth Avenue
Photo by myself on Fifth Avenue. You can see the Empire State Building in the background.

What I love about New York is that since we're on such intimate terms with some of the buildings, there are times when you can't tell when a photograph is taken.


Tonight we noticed the commercial for the new season of Top Chef, which starts this Wednesday. Interesting that Bravo is timing its reality shows - Project Runway just ended last week, so there's no time to detox.

Switching the channel, Mark and I watched a commercial for Make Me a Supermodel. Then we switched to Ultimate Recipe Showdown on the Food Channel. Oh please.

Finally we stumbled on the absolute last straw, That's Amore, yet another reality show where a gaggle of silly, underdressed women wearing too much makeup compete for the attentions of some silly dude.

I have to wonder how they get these contestants? Is there a psychological term for what happens to people on tv shows? Does every woman succumb to social pressure and just fall in love with the guy, no matter who he is?

Mark then switched to the National Geographic Channel, which was playing a documentary on global warming. Glassy-eyed and slumped on the sofa, we turned off the tv.

It was Sunday night after all. There was only so much we could take.


Sunday, March 9, 2008

Recovering From Friday Night

Subway Platform
Photo by myself on the L train platform at Union Square.

Usually you find people banging on plastic bins. This guy must get help lugging his drum set up and down several flights of stairs.


Mark went to a goodbye party Friday night. A friend of his is leaving the city for the West Coast, yet another artist in search of space to raise his young family.

I had my going away party on Friday, too. So both of us spent today recovering with headaches. The two of us sat on the couch most of the day with the cat, while the wind whistled outside.

Saturday afternoon we watched a documentary on Sundance called Combover, about, yes, what could be called a hairstyle for guys.

Mark and I found it quite a good movie - well produced and funny.

Film maker Chris Marino traverses many states on the search for the ultimate combover. He provides the history of the hairstyle and its variants: the side part and the part along the back of the head. There are interviews with a psychologist, a wig maker and a hair surgeon. There's a thwarted attempt to interview The Donald.

The movie is still playing for a couple weeks on Sundance. Catch it while you can.

Here's the movie trailer:


Saturday, March 8, 2008

On Living In The Sticks, In Brooklyn

St Patrick's Cathedral
Photo of the back side of St Patrick's Cathedral on 51st Street and Madison Avenue.

This little gem of a building lies amidst modern high rises. You can see the top of Rockefeller Center in the background. According to Wikipedia, the original site for the building cost $11,000 in 1810. My, how things have changed.


Tonight after drinks celebrating my last day at the office, I encountered a grim reality about living in the sticks (meaning off the island, in Brooklyn). After transferring from one train, I stood on the platform waiting for another for at least thirty minutes. Oh dear.

Gradually, passengers disembarked from other trains, and the platform started looking like a downtown loft party. People stood shlumped in jeans, slightly tipsy and very damp. It was raining moderately in the aboveground world.

My departure today was bittersweet. Everyone was wonderful and there was a great turnout at a swanky bar near the office, where the HR guy picked up the tab. There were hugs and laughter and promises to keep in touch.

When I lived on the Upper West Side, I never waited more than ten minutes for a train. The outer boroughs are another story altogether. Trains thin out after rush hour and on the weekends. Spotting a cab is generally rare. In recent years it's been better, but it's not like Manhattan, where cabs have to duke it out for a fare.

When I first moved to Brooklyn eighteen months ago, I braced myself for a complete life change. Even though Mark lived in Brooklyn, I didn't know what to expect. I felt like I was saying goodbye to civilization.

In actuality, not much changed except my train route. I still feel psychologically close to the city, though I often don't feel like going in. I miss the Upper West Side, but I visit often. I feel I could stay out relatively late in The City and still get home without too much trouble.

It just takes a little longer than it used to.


Friday, March 7, 2008

Reflections Apres Happy Hour

Coffee Shop
Photo by myself in front of Coffee Shop in Union Square, a popular restaurant/bar. I am entranced by the neon sign and have been trying to take a semi-decent photo of it for months.

It's a small traffic nightmare there with sidewalk, bike lane, cobblestone street and open market square alongside one another. The boundaries are blurry, and it's a wonder there aren't more accidents.


I had drinks out with a work friend tonight in honor of my new job. We were toasting it up and she was telling me about her single life.

It's funny how easily people fall into cliches. As the attached person I wanted her to find her good guy. I was expected to provide answers (I couldn't). And I listened to her romantic adventures with firemen with unabashed awe.

At the end of the night, we parted ways. 'Do you need to get to the L? Are you okay?'

I said, 'I know you think that Brooklyn is just one enormous mass. That's okay, haha,' and gave her a hug and a kiss goodbye.

Meaning that there's more than one train that goes to Brooklyn, and it's easy for Manhattanites to be oblivious. The L train is known for its Bedford Avenue stop in Williamsburg, the first stop outside of Manhattan. Williamsburg has been the hip-ish area of the last few years. I don't live anywhere near there.

The story ends with me, getting out at my station and seeing four policemen cuffing two lanky guys. Great. There were police cars parked to the side, their lights swirling.

There was something poetic about hearing my friend's romantic entanglements with New York's 'Bravest' (the FDNY) and then finding New York's 'Finest' (the NYPD) at my doorstep. Does that make me feel safer?

Hm. Not exactly.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

On Seeing The World Through A Different Lens

NYC Coffee Cart
Photo by myself of a coffee cart on Fifth Avenue.

Like many cities, there are carts for lots of things here - shwarma, crepes, bagels, waffles, hot dogs, pretzels and soup. You don't have to have a storefront, just a spot on the curb.


I'm all excited about my new camera.

I don't have it yet, though I've just gotten the lens. I've been looking online for the last several weeks, mostly on ebay, for a Canon 40D digital SLR.

Weighing 1 1/2 lbs with the battery, this will be a big change from the camera I have now, which is not an SLR. The 40D won't be so portable for impromptu candids on the subway, but who knows. Hopefully I'll figure something out.

I feel very indulgent and nervous about this purchase. It's a lot of money to go toward a frivolous object. And I can't drop this thing, ever. I can be quite the flake, so this fact is upsetting.

My current G5 has been batted around a bit. I carry it all the time, without a case in my flimsy purse. It's been dropped at least once. I screamed inside when it happened.

I have to also wonder whether the new camera will provoke me to look at the world differently. It's exciting.

Hopefully soon.


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

On Six-Word Memoirs, In Print

The View from Brooklyn
Photo by myself from the Pulaski Bridge, which spans between Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Long Island City. You can see the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building in the distance.

From this vantage point, Manhattan looks really, really close. Notice the new towers along the Long Island City coast (several orange towers and the one in mid-construction). This area is rumored to become the next Battery Park City, situated near the water. It's only one stop along the 7 train to the Grand Central station on 42nd Street.


There was an interesting blurb in last week's New Yorker Talk of the Town section on really, really short memoirs. I mean short, as in six words.

Apparently, an online magazine called Smith held a contest for submissions - describe your life in a pithy six-word phrase. The contest was a success, harvesting more than 500 submissions daily.

There was 'Fix a Toilet, Get Paid Crap,' by a plumber. And there was 'Divorced! Thank God for Internet personals.' There was a book culled from the best submissions, entitled 'Not Quite What I Was Planning', and a book party to promote the book.

Cute idea. I guess I'd be 'New York Lover, Snap-Happy Architect'. Or 'Often in Lotus Position, Riding Shotgun', in reference to my journeys with Mark and his car Clive, a Mini Cooper. Or perhaps my life would be 'Single Female with Cats No Longer', or how about 'Addicted Blogger. Takes Photos. Posts Daily'.

I notice these days that we've become horribly impatient people. For instance, has anyone watched Wheel of Fortune lately? I hadn't seen it in forever, until the other day. The format of Wheel is changed to add more variety to the game, in case you can't tolerate the old 'spin-and-choose-letters-one-at-a-time-to-solve-the-phrase' formula. Now you first guess the phrase as the letters are randomly revealed, for a few warm up rounds before the regular games start.

I don't know why I take the Wheel of Fortune game format to mean the end of patience in our culture, but I do. We want everything quickly. We want everything now. Pronto.

And so it was a refreshing change of pace to walk across the Pulaski Bridge yesterday, hand in hand. Getting from here to there wasn't just about jumping in the car and roaring over. Instead we took one step at a time. We enjoyed the journey and took some photos along the way.

'Brooklynites Unite. Take Time. Smell Roses.'

Post your pithy memoir!


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

On Looking Like a Tourist on Holiday

Grand Central Terminal
One of my favorite public spaces in New York has to be the main room at Grand Central. Passengers headed toward upstate New York and Connecticut wait for their trains here.

With large windows letting in daylight and majestic stairways on either end, the space makes a dramatic first impression. Never mind the blue ceiling painted with constellations overhead. A couple fancy restaurants raised up from the main floor make for a fun dining experience.


Today Mark and I had the day off. We walked across the Pulaski bridge to Long Island City, then ventured up to Midtown for a delicious lunch and some errands.

It was a beautiful, warmish day. We're never ever in Midtown, so as we walked, I looked very much like a tourist. I usually keep below 14th Street, or at least below the 20's. Looking up at the skyscrapers all around made me dizzy.

I've gotten over looking like a tourist. In my early years as a New Yorker, I feared being mistaken as one and I took particular pride when people asked me for directions.

Fortunately I've gotten over my snobbery. It's fine if people think I'm a visitor, standing in the middle of the street, gawking and taking photos.

While walking down Second Avenue this afternoon, Mark said that he can't see New York the way tourists do. He grew up in Long Island after all, and is on intimate terms with just about every block here. This is where he used to hang out with buddies after work, that's where his grandfather used to bring him when he was a kid.

I try to suspend what my brain knows and remembers, and experience the city just through my eyeballs. The camera only helps distance you from the scene.


Monday, March 3, 2008

The Arts - Live and on Videotape

Old School Subway
Photo by myself in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The skeletons of some old school above-ground trains live in a park along the water.


For photography lovers who live in the US and have cable, turn on The Sundance Channel this month.

Films featuring Henri Cartier-Bresson, Helmut Newton, Robert Maplethorpe and William Eggleston, among others, will be shown.

I have a renewed interest in the Sundance Channel. Today Mark and I saw part of a show on Jeff Koons. He was interviewed by Tom Ford, the fashion designer, who walked through Koons' huge studio. Multiple painting and sculpture projects were underway.

Incidentally, Mark and I planned on touring Koons' studio last October through the New Yorker Festival. The event was sold out before it even went on sale. Very upsetting. I was on Ticketmaster the moment the tickets were available, and I'd like to know whether any non-media people actually made it in.

Many New Yorkers say they live here because of the arts, however, most admit that they rarely attend arty events. They love the having the opportunity to go if they had the sudden inspiration to do so.

I have to admit that I'm one of those (lame, slacker) people. It's sad. Mark and I drive past the revolving sign outside BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) all the time.

'We should go,' I say.


'Look, they're playing The Kite Runner.'


Friday Mark and I were all set to go to MoMA. Admission is free after 4pm, and they have what looks like a cool design exhibit going on.

But one thing led to another and our plans changed. We wound up on the couch with Playstation 3, losing to twelve-year-olds online.

Anyway, this is will be my belated New Year's resolution, to stop being one of the lame-o people. Why not experience art that's right here, instead of only living next door to it? On the list besides MoMA and BAM are the inspiring ICP (International Center of Photography) and the Brooklyn Museum.

It's time to get up off the couch, shake off winter and carpe diem, already!

For a Times article on the Sundance films, click here.

Related posts: For Your Viewing Pleasure.


Sunday, March 2, 2008

On a Public Mugging Or, A Gimmick Gone Wrong

Cash Tomato Melee on Broadway
Photo by myself at Shoemania, at 14th Street and Broadway.


Mark and I both had a day off yesterday, so we went to Shoemania just off Union Square.

Shoemania has a dizzying number of shoes and full height glass doors that open out to Broadway. When we arrived, there was a large crowd on the sidewalk and some guys taking photographs with professional cameras. Some people in the crowd looked sketchy. A few were dressed in red jackets and caps. I assumed it was a political rally, since Union Square is often the site for such things.

As we browsed for shoes, the crowd outside became antsier, moving up the sidewalk and down again. Every time a downtown bus stopped on the corner, more guys in red stepped out and the crowd surged. I heard someone say that the people in the crowd 'wanted their money' and so I assumed it was a labor strike.

Suddenly there was some shouting and commotion. It was nerve wracking, even though there were more than enough shoe salesmen and security guards around. People in red shouted on bullhorns. Then the crowd broke up and surged north to Union Square.

It turns out that we'd witnessed a silly publicity stunt by a website called Cash Tomato. It was February 29, and at 2:29 employees dressed in red were planning to handing out free money - bags containing twenty-nine dollars cash and tomatoes.

What the company didn't figure was that the crowd would attack the tomato-bearers and make off with all the cash, about four thousand dollars total. Someone was basically mugged in full daylight in front of a whole crowd of witnesses.

I'd never heard of Cash Tomato before, which turns out to be less successful version of You Tube. My guess is that most of the crowd hadn't heard of the site either, except that there was free money involved.

News of the giveaway must have spread by word of mouth among those that needed the money. Some just wanted it more than others.


Saturday, March 1, 2008

The View from Red Hook, Brooklyn

Red Hook Pier
Photo by myself of a pier in Red Hook, Brooklyn. If you squint you can see the silhouette of the Statue of Liberty.


Happy March! Woohoo!

The other day when Mark and I drove back from Red Hook, Brooklyn, we passed a park. A modern pier like the ones in Riverside Park reached out into the water. There were old warehouses to either side. If you squinted, the Statue of Liberty was visible in the distance.

'Do you want to take a picture?' He and Clive, his car, waited at the bend in the road while I hopped out into the cold and ran down the pier.

Lately it's been very cold in New York. I miss the warmer months, when I didn't have to pop out of the car for a picture. I could just roll down the window without worrying.

Most of my recent photos have been taken indoors. Restaurant interiors, the subway car, the subway platform. Any place away from the wind.

'It's a lot of pictures of the subway,' I worried.

'That's okay. People want to see it. That's New York,' Mark said. 'Some people never, ever stand so close to another person.'

Lucky them!