Sunday, August 22, 2010

Summer Streets, 2010

View of Park Ave. Tunnel at 42 Street
What would Manhattan become if the Department of Transportation (DOT) shut down one of the main arteries of the city for pedestrian and cyclist use? Would this bustling city become a serene, happy place? Or would it reek of inefficiency by backing up traffic on alternative streets and limit all moment on and off the island to trains? 

Park Ave. and 60 Street
 Saturday, I hopped on my bike, borrowed from my friend JB, to find out. NYC's DOT, along with a variety of sponsors, temporarily close Park Avenue and connecting streets from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park to all vehicles and open it up to people on three consecutive Saturdays in August (in 2010 it was August 7, 14, and 21).

My ride through Central Park, to access Park Ave. was structured and seamless, easing into the weekend bike traffic to make the clockwise loop. I crossed over at 72 Street to join my friend Skye for a Summer Streets bike ride. We rode south on the wide avenue, which was sectioned into walking/running and cycling lanes. We came across a few stray rollerbladers that looked confused about which lane to take, but it was pretty cut-and-dry for most of the crowd.

View of the Dumpster Pools and Grand Central

The road rolled out beneath us, as we passed strollers, joggers, tourists and sidewalk vendors. The street felt roomy, although the streetlights (limited to every 3-4 streets) served as a reminder of the urban landscape we are a part of.

Some of the sponsors, which consistent of primarily health and fitness related companies, were even conducting free exercise classes in their booths.

The biggest treat came when Park Ave. narrowed into 2 lanes and we entered the tunnel that snakes around Grand Central Terminal. A peaceful quietness settled in and we all relished in the opportunity to take in the scene.

 Once we exited the tunnel the energy of the city picked up and we slowed down to avoid other cyclists and pedestrians. Just past 40 Street a set of 2 pools stood, created from new city dumpsters. Temporary platforms surrounded the dumpsters, which were painted bright red and covered with kids, pool toys, sunbathers and a lifeguard. The creativity of the pools made for a good photo opportunity and turn-around spot.

Skye and I took a leisure ride back to Harlem, taking a few minutes to stop for photos. Although, I must admit there were much better photos captured during the run of Summer Streets. I’m looking forward to ridding the entire length of Park Ave. next year. This year, we had another event to dash off to – all the way out at Brighton Beach. 

Flag in Park Ave. and 42 Street Tunnel

Park Ave. and 39 Street

Thursday, August 19, 2010

NYC Staples: La Colombiana

La Colombiana in Central Park

There are a wide variety of  NYC "staples," from types of food to fashion, and from types of people to modes of transportation.   So, depending on what interests you most, you can usually find the most sensational version of it somewhere in this town. 

I've always been interested in people.  I know that sounds way to general and even a bit ridiculous, but as a social creature, I love talking to, reading about, or watching unique people.  

La Colombiana in Central Park
So, it's not a big surprise that one of my favorite NYC staples is an older guy with a multicolored bread who walks around NYC in long dresses toting his equally multicolored poodle in a baby carriage.  From what I've read he's Colombian and is regularly refereed to as La Colombiana.  Although I've never had a chance to speak with him, since he's normally posing for photos or speaking with his dog (or occasionally parrot) when I see him.  But, I can tell that he's made NYC his own - with fans from Jackson Heights to the East Village - and is more comfortable in his own skin, and city, than half of SOHO.  You simply have to love him for pulling that off, even if he's not your type.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

PS1's Pole Dancing Installation and Warm Up Music Series

PS1's Open Courtyard and 2010 Installation

This year, I didn't race out the door to visit PS1 in Queens for their summer warm up series and urban landscape design contest as I've done in years past.  I'm not exactly sure what turned me off.  I've never minded a cross-borough trek and often use any excuse to check out a unique neighborhood.  The line up of DJ's even looked good -  at least the few names I recognized on the list.

I think it was my nervous anticipation that this year wouldn't provide the "wow" factor I seek from the annual installation and music series.  I heard the this year's winner of the Young Architect's Program, that created the urban landscape in MOMA's PS1 courtyard had a great concept but didn't execute the job well.

The Entrance 

I finally snapped to my senses yesterday and headed out to the great land of Queens for a bit of art, music and people watching.  More than anything else, my annual visit to this rare exhibit reminds me of what's so amazing about living in NYC.  The show draws a mix of crowds including the "beautiful people" (which I have to place in quotes since this group seems to have named themselves), architects, artists, club goers, tourists, and urban families.  It's a strange mix to say the least.

Moving Through the Installation

In the simplest of terms, PS1's Young Architect's Program winner creates a temporary outdoor "shelter" that incorporates a beach theme, water, shade and "green" elements.  The installation is staged in the courtyard of the city's first public school (now a MOMA property).and leads visitors towards an open square and stage, which hosts the summer "warm up series" featuring some of the city's top DJ's on Saturday's from 2-6 pm.  I provided a lot more detail on how the projects are selected and built in my 2009 PS! blog entry (,

The Explanation of Pole Dancing

This year's project was themed around pole dancing.  As I entered the space I saw hundreds of long narrow white poles holding up a huge off-white net, reminiscent of a goalies soccer net, about 20' about the gravel and sand covered ground.  The closer I looked the more sense it made.  The net bowed down in sections between the poles to reveal a concrete style swimming pool, hammocks or abscess where visitors could toss balls up onto the net.  But, then I read about how all the elements of the installation were meant to work together, and my confusion returned.

Visitors were encouraged to swing the poles (no, not like a stripper) to move the net and work with other guests to coordinate a social media type of experience.  This coordination was intended to work through an iPhone App my friend Skye and I both downloaded.

The Pole Swinging Attempt

Once we downloaded the iPhone App as instructed, and swung on the poles (as Skye kindly shows us in this photo) we realized we weren't making much of a difference on the "pole dancing map."  The App was also supposed to allow us to build pieces of digital artwork and music together, but we never got it to work.  After several failed attempts we ventured off to see the rest of the installation and grab a beer.

Ball Caught in the Net
Misters in Action

The entire courtyard was littered with exercise style balls which everyone used as the primary seating.  The colors helped the space a bit, but it still lacked enough color to be called summer themed.  The netting didn't provide any shade and except for a couple spots where overhead misters bathed the crowd, there wasn't enough water in the installation to keep me cool.  I realize I'm a VERY white girl, but I saw others fanning themselves as well so it couldn't have been just me.

Who Doesn't Love Touchable Art?
We moved along to the stage and danced to the DJ for a couple hours were we took the photos below.  As you'll see the exercise balls turned into beach balls as the party turned into a dance club.  The production of it all still leaves me in awe after each visit and I'll continue to applaud MOMA's support of young architects, artists and proving NYorkers with a unique summer experience.  Although it wasn't my favorite Young Architect's Program installation my incredible friends, the beautiful weather and good music made for an amazing Saturday afternoon.

Check out past years installations here.  My personal favorite is Liquid Skye by Ball-Nogues in 2007.  And yours?
The View from the Stage

The View from the Stage

The Exercise Balls, Catching Air Above the Crowd

Friday, August 13, 2010

Movie Review: Hot Tub Time Machine

What’s better than catching a movie on TBS (or in this case, from a friend’s DVD collection) that you swore you’d never see, have NO expectations for, and end up loving?  Hot Tub Time Machine, which is a wry comedy with no ulterior motive, aside from making you unexpectedly spit soda out of your nose, is full of vulgar one-liners and classic 80’s references.

The plot, which of course involves a time machine in a hot tub, is so silly and predictable that you'd never think the movie would work.  But, once you accept the ridiculous premise of the movie and let it go, it's easy to relax and just start laughing.  Thanks largely in part of the performances of the three leading characters; the script pulls you in and you forget about all the half-ass films that have attempted to master this type of comedy in the past (usually failing miserably).  If you have any of your humor left from when you were 12-years old, or nostalgia for the 80's you'll find humor in this flick.

My personal favorite one-liners include:

Adam (commenting on young Nick's haircut): "You look like Kid 'n Play."
Nick: "That's actually two people."

Dr. Jeff (asking Adam and Nick about Lou): "You are his friends, right?"
[Awkward silence]
Nick: "It's like that friend who's an asshole, but he's our asshole."

[Nick has just called his future wife on the phone in 1986 and screamed at her about an affair she will have in 2010.]
Adam: "Were you just yellin' at your nine-year-old wife?"
Nick: "...Yes."

Lou: It's the fucking 80's guys. Let's do what we want to do. Free Love! 
Jacob: That was the 60's dipshit. 
Adam: We had like Reagan and AIDS. Get the fuck outta here, okay. Do the right thing, Violator! 

Jacob: I'm kinda right in the middle of a thing right now, but can I text you later? 
Girl at Club: Can you what? 
Jacob: Are you online at all? 
Girl at Club: I have no idea what you're talking about. 
Jacob: How do I get a hold of you? 
Girl at Club: You come find me. 
Jacob: That sounds... exhausting...

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Honestly, my dear blog, sometimes I have trouble keeping up with you.  You provide me with such a wonderful outlet to release my thoughts, jot down my adventures, and re-read my stories but you are constantly begging for attention.  On certain days, which can stretch out for weeks on end, I just don't have the time to update you and give you the love you so obviously deserve.  I apologize for my mistreatment of your pages, and overzealous postings when I play catch up.  I still love you and know you deserve the best. 

So, my sweet, loving blog, I will provide you with my summer's stories this week.  Sharing the thrilling moments, and eclectic cultural experiences till you're dazzled and amazed.  The only present I can offer you is the one you so obviously need. 

I'll get better my friend and will treat you as my least for this week.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Veggie Me!

I have several friends who are vegetarians; hopefully some of you are reading this right now. All of them happen to be very healthy happy people, not that my carnivorous friends aren’t a happy bunch, but it’s a generalization I’m comfortable making. So, in the constant pursuit of a happy healthy me I took a look at my regular diet and tried to figure out where I could cut out the meat. Little did I know what a big task I was setting myself up for…

This post will have to be a running entry, as I’m still in the process of “vegging out” my diet but I have found a few good resources during my research. At first, I didn’t realize how often I ordered, or added meat to my daily lunches and dinners. It’s an easy fix to add more protein and flavor to a lot of my recipes. But, with meat comes fat, calories and that really stuffed feeling that makes you want to lie down and not move for the next 24 hours. So, how can I add more veggies into my weekly meals without feeling half full from a flavorless meal once I walk away from the table?

So far, I’ve been researching and creating summertime veggie recipes from several stellar cookbooks. Already, I’ve replaced my favorite sandwich (Roast Beef) with an amazing veggie sandwich (Moroccan Carrot and Goat Cheese with Green Olive Tapenade – recipe below). I've also found several new ways around turning to chicken, my old best friend, to provide flavor in my salads, pastas and sandwiches. And, I’ve ultimately narrowed down my “meat intake” to several times a week instead of a couple times a day.

Ok, so I’m not going to stop going to my favorite meaty restaurants like This Little Piggy for the city’s most delectable roast beef sandwich, or Porchetta for the most amazing roasted pork known to man or even the Spotted Pig for a blue cheese burger from heaven, but I am going to pay attention to how much meat I eat each week, and how the aftermath of these meals affect my body.

Do you have any veggie recipes that tickle your flavor buds and make you feel like a million bucks? Please send them along!

Moroccan Carrot and Goat Cheese Sandwiches with Green Olive Tapenade
Gourmet | August 2002
Yield: Makes 6 sandwiches
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 4 1/2 hours

For carrots
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 lb medium carrots (8)

For tapenade
1 1/4 cups green olives (6 to 7 oz) such as Cerignola or picholine, pitted
3 tablespoons drained bottled capers, rinsed
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 flat anchovy fillet, chopped
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

For sandwiches
12 slices good-quality pumpernickel sandwich bread
6 oz soft mild goat cheese (3/4 cup) at room temperature

Special equipment: an adjustable-blade slicer

Prepare carrots:
Whisk together sugar, lemon juice, spices, salt, and oil in a large bowl until sugar is dissolved.
Halve carrots crosswise on a long diagonal, then, starting from diagonal ends, cut into 1/16-inch-thick slices using slicer. Cook carrots in a 4- to 5-quart pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 45 seconds. Drain well in a colander and immediately toss with dressing. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, then marinate, covered and chilled, at least 4 hours.

Make tapenade and assemble sandwiches:
Pulse olives with capers, parsley, anchovy, zest, lemon juice, and pepper in a food processor until coarsely chopped, then scrape down side of bowl with a rubber spatula. Pulsing motor, add oil in a slow stream and continue to pulse until mixture is finely chopped (do not pulse to a paste).
Spread tapenade on 6 slices of bread and goat cheese on remaining 6 slices, then make sandwiches with carrots.

Cooks' notes:
·Carrots can marinate up to 2 days.
· Tapenade can be made 1 week ahead and chilled, covered.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Book Review: Girl in Translation

Girl in TranslationGirl in Translation by Jean Kwok

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This novel is a beautiful rendition of the bumpy road to the American Dream, which the author tells through the eyes of a youthful narrator who recounts the hardships she and her mother incurred in their struggles to survive as an immigrant family in the US.

The story and writing style is truly compelling and intelligent, and left me craving more each time I placed my bookmark between the book's crisp pages (did I mention how much I love hard back books?). But, what the author covered in this story of strife she left out in mystery. I never had the desperate hope that the main characters would ever “make it” in America, which seemed to be a given from the first chapter.

Although the story seems like an accurate description of an Asian American immigrant family, the author’s debut novel fails to offer details about some of the hardships and celebrations I expect took place during the course of their integration into American culture and life. For example, the youthful narrator Kim spends every day after school working at the sweatshop, but never discusses how sleepy or burnt out she is in class – something that would surely happen to a young girl - no matter how high her IQ.

Kim is a good-hearted character who arrives in the States at 11-years old from Hong Kong with her ailing mother. Her aunt, who was easy to despise, is the only family she and her mother have in the country and are left to fend for themselves as the aunt sets out obstacle after obstacle for the family to work around.

The author also offers humor in her writing style, which had me laughing about how many “skirts” items cost for weeks after I finished the book. Overall, this was a good read and a solid recommendation for anyone looking for a compelling read.

View all my reviews >>