Monday, September 21, 2009

RE: NYC + History Lesson = Island Fever!

Yes, after an unbelievably long post, there is more yet!

As you might have already noticed (if you've been paying attention), friendly reader Dick Lutz, editor and publisher of The Main Street WIRE, left a comment on my previous post regarding Roosevelt Island this past Sunday.

Apparently, there is indeed a tour for the Renwick Ruins, which you can schedule by calling 212-826-9056. Mr. Lutz invited me to check out the WIRE, which is the island's community newspaper, for updates on events and even an historical timeline! (Which has, by the way, some of the most amazing photos of the ruins itself, and all the historical fodder a fanatic loves to feast upon.)

Thanks to Mr. Lutz and the WIRE for my next great NYC adventure!

Speaking of adventures, I also visited Governor's Island this passed Sunday on a whim, and found myself in the middle of two festivals. Instead of my plan of leisurely exploring the island's abandoned nooks and crannies on my own, Ryan and I were exploring a mess of commandeered admiral's quarters crawling with yuppies and arty Dutch people.

One the one hand, it was amazing to get to see the interiors of these aged homes in all their peeling, crumbling, vintage-kitchen, sunbathed-window-paned glory. There was practically a fireplace in every room, and beautiful built in shelves and bookcases. They were like life-size dollhouses, with so many rooms to explore and hidden alcoves to peak our curiosity.

However, this was only a pleasant discovery when these valued pieces of history weren't being commandeered by self-important Dutch crazies, who went so far as to tape up the walls with multicolored tape and scraps of paper, scatter mounds of dirt and feathers on the hardwood floors, and basically turn the entire house into a Jodorowski film without recognition of its own ridiculous cliched decadence. It was as if every modern artist on the planet had vomited their psychedelic, Bohemian nightmares into every room.

I know what you're thinking.....I just don't get it! I don't appreciate what it means! Well, if you can tell me what a conglomeration of giant yarn in the middle of the floor truly signifies, then by all means, please enlighten me. Anybody that can justify the purpose of constructing a tassel manipulated by an expensive motorized robot to recreate a live human tickle session would earn my respect.

All things considered, I did find some of these exhibits interesting....some of them perhaps even meant something. Most of the gems were found in the Governor's Art Fair, which was held in a large abandoned apartment complex on the shore. While some lacked any inspirational or thought value, there were others that were amazing due to sheer atmospheric value. For instance:
  • A bare room: in the center, a lone upholstered chair sitting on a rumpled rug, facing a vintage television, flickering with images of an 8mm film.
  • Droning music filling a white and red stripe curtained off room, which creates an eerie pink glow; crumples of white paper are scattered around a small Japanese nurse who is leaning over the severed styrofoam head of a deer, its gelatinous pink tongue hanging out. She is hot gluing beads on its surface, and asks quietly if I would like to feed her from the baby milk bottle beside her. (Needless to say, I did. She was fasting.....who could say no?)
We then made our way to the free mini golf, which consisted of many handmade contraptions of pipes, wood and netting, reminiscent of the good ol' puts of yesteryear. Despite the fact that many were in disrepair due to the constant influx of destructive children, it still brought back those giddy thrills.

Nora wanted us to visit "The Dig," an excavation site that supposedly held the remnants of another abanadoned town from the 1950s. I'm always up for hidden history, so we paid the $5, donned a hard hat and orange vest, and ventured out into the sand filled wasteland. However, what struck us as odd was that all the "artifacts" had an odd manufactured look to them....

Once we reached the "water tower/pump" we realized that this not historical at all, but a hoax. A very, intitially convincing art installation hoax. This was more obvious when the young Dutch man working the grounds began to explain the story of the bird plague and snowglobe factory. While sitting in a wooden tower, set up inside to look like a more complicated version of mouse trap, he instructed us to push the disc below the floor with our feet to get the gears moving. "The ball is coming," he warned, and we, giggling at the bizarreness of the whole situation, cocked our eyes to hear its metal clink circling around the tin can.

The day ended at 6pm in the center of the admiral's row, where the New Island festival was still in full swing. There was an annoying chef duo making noise on their pot-and-pan instruments, beer flowing from every tap, lots of delicious looking food (which we now, thanks to the hoax, had no money to spend on), and a cow walking the grounds. We decided our fill of hijinks had been had for the day.

In Manhattan, a city of islands, there is never a dull moment.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My Historical NYC Obsessions

I'll be the first to admit that I am a very strange girl, mostly due to my odd fetishes and obsessions with certain items and subjects. I have always been very serious about the things I am curious about; most of them to seem to have a theme.

I have a strong connection to history: events, people and places from the past. I love learning about those times and trying to recreate those moments in the present using the sensory experience of visiting these places, viewing artifacts, and forming a picture in my mind with the support of imagined atmospheres. Just as Paul Zucker states in Fascination of Decay (1968), ruins can be " expression of an eerie romantic mood ... a palpable documentation of a period in the past..."

When I traveled to Europe for the first time, it was the pinnacle of excitement for me to finally visit all these ancient places I'd learned about in school, but never had the chance to fully experience. Now that I am back in NY, I realize I can still have that same euphoria here. Though much younger, the city still has a past and history unlike any other place in the world. It still has the ability to surprise and entice me, even after all the years of being so very close to it. There is so much I don't know, and I'm eager to keep discovering more.

Governor's Island
It was really love at first sight. Much of this had to do with the fact that upon my first visit via ferry, I was greeted by ghostly 20s microphone sounds amidst of sea of bustling flappers. However, the island itself has much more to explore, most of which I haven't even ventured upon quite yet (that will be a September 27th endeavor, when the Jazz Age Lawn Party is revived for the 2nd time this year!)

Apparently, there's a free mini golf course, a beach, a HUGE picnic area where concerts are sometimes held, bike rentals and, last but not least, the abandoned buildings of Coast Guard families, and a history dating back to the Revolutionary War.

Meant as a fort to protect NYC during the war against the British (it didn't work very well, unfortunately), and the site of a major sea battle during the Civil War involving America's 1st submarine ships, there is definitely a palpable sense of historical mystery here. (I unfortunately missed the last Civil war re-enactment day - blast!) Last time I went, I managed to find time to wander around its cylindrical old prison, where creepy, decrepit rooms lay behind dirty glass panes. It was tempting to trespass, to find out what might lurk within those crumbling walls.

The homes of the high ranking officials are still intact, but also (unfortunately) closed off. All the more enticing for my hunger for the past! While most of the rooms look pretty bare, who knows what one could find! The last inhabitants were there in the 80s, but the eeriness is still there. The most intimidating of all the buildings would be the hospital, which already yields such morbid curiosity...

Curiouser and Curiouser Reference Sites

Roosevelt [Blackwell's] Island
I've been there about three times, and each time my admiration for Roosevelt Island grows. The third was via the Sky Tram, which suspended us high over the East River and Queensboro Bridge, where the view of the island is most spectacular and the weightlessness scarily exhilarating.

The Northern half of the island is like the perfect residential suburb: a main street with quaint mom-and-pop stores, modern apartment complexes with frosted windows and tiny astro-turf yards closed off by cherrywood fences, and a community garden with neatly tended squares of herbs and swing seats. There is a tiny, old church, circa 1800s, in the center of the complexes which lies untouched amongst its sleek surroundings.

After retreating into a moment of rekindled childhood on a small playground and swing set, we sat down for some food at the Riverwalk Bar & Grill, where we were waited on by our oddly Southern-accented waitress, who constantly apologized for having not stopped by to chat 'cause it was "so darn busy!" Nevertheless, my puled pork sandwich was more than satisfactory, and for awhile it seemed I was back in a nicer part of New Jersey.

All along the edge of the island is a cement path with greenery and trees that overlooks either the east side of Manhattan or the odd industrial banks of Queens. At dusk, the skyline looks like a matte painting lit from behind, sitting oddly at the very level of the river water, while streetlights reflect on the water lapping against the coastal rocks. My desire to live there was so strong, I thought my heart would burst out my chest, it was so perfect!

But as with most seemingly perfect places, there was something off about the entire island, which made it all the more alluring to me. Besides a newly built hospital (for amputees, no less), the Southern end of the island was completely gated off. A "No Trespassing" sign was waiting for us when we made our way down; but I knew from previous research that the journey didn't really end there.

If you happen to drive along the east side of the FDR, it is very apparent that a monumentally large and striking building lies there, always illuminated by upward shining spotlights, which only add to its menacing appearance. This is the site of the late 1800s smallpox hospital; in fact the only one of its kind in New York City at the time. Abandoned in the 1950s, it is mostly in ruins, almost collapsing in 2007, which ultimately lead to its closing off from the public view. However, despite it's condition, the "Renwick Ruin" has been saved by the city and rendered an Historical Landmark for its unique Gothic revival style architecture. As the their website states, "it is a romantic and picturesque ruin, evoking memories of the past."

I must admit I am quite bewitched by this place, despite the fact that I have never been within 20 feet of it or seen it up close. I can only imagine what it must feel like to walk the grounds around that ghostly place and breathe in the odors of the same aging walls of its long forgotten patients.

Also important to note is the little-known fact that Roosevelt Island was also the site of the New York Lunatic Asylum. Nelly Bly and Charles Dickens both visited here in the late 1800s and reported on its harsh and inadequate conditions. Since then, the area has been turned into an apartment complex, but rumors of possible hauntings have been reported. A prison was also on the island at one point as well, holding such famous guests as Mae West, Billy Holliday, and Boss Tweed.

The island itself was the setting for the 2005 horror/thriller movie, Dark Water, with Jennifer Connelly:
Screenwriter Rafael Yglesias said about the island’s ghostly aura: “Someone once said to me that when you’re driving on East River Drive in the rain and the fog and you look over at Roosevelt Island, it almost looks as though it’s a way station between this world and the next.” (NY Times, 2007)
Curiouser and Curiouser Reference Sites

Brooklyn Heights: 3 Pierrepont Place
I confess, I don't know much about this area, but upon a recent excursion to the Brooklyn Book Fest, I was pleasantly surprised by this area's charm. The architecture of the apartment buildings and store front (which are not merely store fronts for the likes of New York's many common banks - they are in fact beautifully ornate facades of a greater, younger city) are quite breathtaking. They are in no way decrepit, and the quiet residents seem very respectful of the historical opulence in which they live.

Ryan and I dined in a small burger place that had a unique quaintness about it. It was far from being "yuppie," but admittedly Brooklyn Heights has an air of snobbery about it that would most likely become distressingly annoying to live within if one was not of the money-possessing type (ie, me.) It struck me as quite similar to Red Bank, NJ, as it has that same Main Street flavor. HOWEVER, everyone seems mostly down-to-earth and friendly, and the neighborhood itself is proud in a sophisticated way. You won't cower from condescension, as you feel almost as if you're on vacation in a picturesque town: you are taken by its easygoing nature, the kind neighbors and the elaborate atmosphere, and while you enjoy yourself and breathe in all that is has to offer, you ultimately realize you would never be able to live in such a paradise.

That being said, while walking towards the Montague Promendade that overlooks the southern tip of Manhattan and NY Harbor, I saw the apartment of my dreams (there are a growing list of these...) The building at 3 Pierrepont Place is actually a mansion, though I didn't know it at the time. I tend to assume that any house or apartment I see could possibly be within my price range/grasp if only one day I could scrape up enough to live there; but inevitably, these places usually turn out to be historical landmarks in which very prominent people once lived, and that cost more 100 years ago than I could afford even now. Still one can dream....

I immediately looked this sucker up the next day, hoping to dig up some clues as to who it belonged to (and how I could get my hands, or at least eyes on it), so hungry I was to know every detail about it. Also, was it haunted? It certainly looked that way, as it was dark and towering, and had small ornate little windows the evoked the same mood as Suspiria.

It was constructed in 1857 and is described as one "of the largest surviving Italiante style mansions in New York City." It was built for wealthy tea merchant A. A. Low, to watch his China Clippers as they worked in the South Street docks below. There is a beautiful gated garden behind that overlooks the view of the NYC skyline, but as far as who lays claim to it now, I've not a clue....

Curiouser and Curiouser Reference Sites

    Housing Works Used Book Cafe
    "Why, this is not an historic place!", you may exclaim. Well, not really, no, but it certainly has many books of historical value, and an interior reminiscent of an old, dusty library (ala Disney's Beauty and the Beast), with beautiful winding stairs and faded bookcases.

    As you may not already know, but you should, about me, I love old books. Not only am I enamored by the romance of writing itself, but also the texture of delicate, yellowed pages and the crisp way in which they turn; the stale and old odors of those same aging pages and the crumbling leather binding. If I could turn this into a perfume, I would, and call it "Eau de Livre."

    Housing Works offers quality used books (donated by friendly neighbors) for very friendly prices. The $1 book shelves are my first stop, and I usually find something odd or interesting amidst the usual cookbooks and obscure theater volumes. One great find (on my 1st visit, no less) was a original facsimile manuscript of Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass. It was written entirely in his handwriting and also included a real photo of the actual Alice, for which the story was written.

    Most recently, Ryan found Volume 6 of Akira (now out of print, and $60), for only $15, and I, a publishing of a wealthy uncle's letters to his nephew in late 1800s NY, complete with his original sketches of a then Manhattan countryside.

    Curiouser and Curiouser Reference Sites

      Coney Island
      It still haunts me to this day, even though most of it has been overrun by modern installations and carnies; to think that this place was once the biggest resort on the east coast. People from all over would flock to its shores for a glimpse of Luna Park and its sparklingly-lit splendor in the night sky, or for the many oddities of Dreamland.

      Most of what I knew about Coney Island came from my grandma, as she and her family used to visit the public pools and beaches back in the 20s and 30s. Steeplechase was the place to be, and when I visited one day with my aunt and uncle, I stood in front of its original location. All that was left was the renowned parachute drop (which can be seen from NJ), a rusty and decrepit metal skeleton of a roller coaster, and yards of long, blowing weeds. It was the eeriest feeling I'd ever had - a ghostly memory of laughter through the ocean breeze - but instantly I knew I would never forget it.

      A few years ago, I got my hands on a Ric Burns documentary about the island, and my curiosity was rekindled. I had never known that the other two parks had even existed, and I was awed by the antiquated photos and footage they had found. At Dreamland, there were rides like "The Last Day of Pompeii," which recreated its destruction.

      Both parks suffered fires, once in 1911 and again in 1944. I could go on forever about how wonderful these parks were, and what amazing sights they had (Disney ain't got nothin' on them). But see below for a great site with even greater photos, which does the job for me.

      Curiouser and Curiouser Reference Sites

        Prospect Park
        Another memory inherited fro my grandmother, this used to be the stomping grounds of the Varone family back in the 20s and 30 when all 5 children were living in Park Slope. They played baseball in the parade grounds, and listened to live music at the bandstand (which still stands, actually) on Tuesdays.

        Now that I live close by, I can visit the park a lot, and I never cease to be amazed at its size and tranquility. The grounds are green and airy; one can hardly tell it's in the middle of Brooklyn. There are also other perks:
        • Prospect Park Zoo
        • Litchfield Villa, mansion in the romantic Italian style (circa 1857)
        • Audobon Center, resembling a Southern-style home on the bayou
        • Lefferts farmhouse, which has been preserved from its early 1700-1800 roots
        • Botanical Gardens, home of the Sakura Blossom Festival every spring
        • Brooklyn Museum, which has the largest and most robust Egyptian collection in the country
        Besides the historical value of the locations above, there are also remnants of the park's past scattered throughout; some stone fences and cornices still remain, and help retain its stately, Victorian style. Walking through, you sometimes feel as if you can hark back to a time when gentleman and ladies strolled the dirt paths with parasols and canes.

        Curiouser and Curiouser Reference Sites

          NYU Bobst Library
          Let me make perfectly clear that I HATE this building. However, I find it fit to include on my list of obsessions, as the anger and annoyance it induces in me is also somewhat of an obsession itself. As an NYU student, I had to visit here quite often. I absolutely love libraries, but this place rubs me the wrong way. To me, it is an absolute waste of architecture and space, an eye-sore, and a most depressing place for the joy of reading . It is 12 stories of fluorescent gloom, and the scene of 2 NYU students' deaths, after plummeting from the now-closed off balconies. Since most of my visits here consisted of research for papers, exam crunching and writer's block, I'm sure it only added to my glum outlook on Bobst.

          It did serve as the subject of one paper for our writing class in Freshman year. Though our theme was an art piece that particularly "moved" us, I chose the library as one that moved me to hatred. (I believe I described its outward appearance to be like that of a "wet cardboard box.") Further research on the library led me to discover that in order to make room for its construction, an entire row of 1800s row houses overlooking the park had been torn down, one of which had once housed such literary greats as Edgar Allen Poe.

          How ironic.
          ..instead of bounding eagerly through comforting walls, my stride halted at the sight of a despondent and muted hollow space. I stood gaping upwards in bewilderment at a vast atrium that climbed twelve long levels towards a distant ceiling, the constant sounds of elevator dings, fingers typing, the rustling of winter coats and taps of heels on tile floor, all echoing silently into an empty void. (March 2005)
          It was also the setting for my first (and I think best) 16mm short film, about a young girl (my sister) who gets lost in the creepy stairways. That same day, my mother and other sister nearly avoided being killed by a car that had lost control and crashed straight into Washington Square Park. Coincidence? I think not.

          You can view the film, in all its B&W glory, here.

          Curiouser and Curiouser Reference Sites
            Museum of Natural History
            I remember visiting for the first time when I was young, at the grand opening of the new dinosaur wing. It was 80 degrees out, the AC was broken, and it was so crowded you could hardly move. But I had never seen so many huge dino bones in my life. And after the craze of "Jurassic Park," it was every child's dream. Even today, it hasn't lost it's touch; although recently we've discovered that not only was dinosaur extinction proven to be the aftermath of a giant meteor, but as Sam Neil himself predicted, they are in fact the ancestors of birds (as made evident by my last visit, in which the velociraptor displays had inherited feather. Yes, feathers. Fashionable indeed.)

            Victorian Homes: Kensington/Flatbush/Ditmas Park
            When I first moved into Kensington, I walked along Beverly Road and was in awe of what I found: a tiny neighborhood of absolutely gorgeous Victorian homes. And, per my obsession with lovely homes, I proceeded to research them to fuel my hopes of having my own. Though my dreams were dashed after learning of their million dollar value, I still have a great love for their architecture, and the quiet beauty of its hidden and adorable grounds. What makes them so beautiful are the sweeping porches, round towers, columns and timbers, and stained glass windows. They are like fairytale homes from another time and far away place.

            I still have much to explore, including Mary Pickford's japanese tudor, and the rumored home of Vincent Price nearby. Most of them were constructed in 1920, which only adds to my curiosity of who lived in them, and if they might still be around....

            Curiouser and Curiouser Reference Sites

              Monday, July 13, 2009

              The Low Points of the High Line

              I know I'm going to get a lot of crap for this (as if anyone actually reads my blog), but the High Line is probably the biggest tourist trap I have ever seen. I can't knock it too much, since it is free. However, I don't think it's a coincidence that it's located at the center of the meatpacking district - home to some of the priciest and most commercial brands in yuppie Manhattan. Also, it's sponsored by Target - who also gives us Free 1st Saturdays at many museums. But what with their branded hats and t-shirt wearing minions directing traffic to the park, and the pamphlets crying out their alleged use of rainforest wood, one has to wonder about their true intentions...

              And yes, there was traffic. Like, Disneyworld-cue-lines-in-the-hot-sun-traffic. Just for a chance to ascend the old elevated freight train platform for a 15 min stroll from 12th to 20th. Because when I go to parks, waiting on long lines amidst a crowd of Manhattan-ites yapping about their latest fashion purchases and brunch dates, and gasping profoundly at the decidedly "modern" artistic design of ugly, minimalistic Ikea-like wood paneling is exactly the kind of natural escape from daily life I need. Here are just some of the highlights, categorized by Pros & Cons, of the new High Line Park:**

              ~ PROS ~

              The Dreamland band. Look familiar?

              Balloons, fashioned into deep sea creatures.
              Some with nice legs. (They were dancing, by the way. Just imagine seeing this from afar, and tell me what you would think.)

              These guys.

              Free lemonade!

              I thought the most interesting was the scenery OUTSIDE of the park; the juxtaposition of old, decrepit New York and it's antiquated brick buildings, with the new, sleek, ultra-modern glass paneled metropolis (which, in my opinion, is infinitely boring and a mar on the entire classic skyline.) There were a few interesting ones, a mix of the two worlds, but I can definitely say that old New York had much more character.

              You can't convince me that these buildings are NOT made of legos.
              Straight out of middle-aged Europe, this is one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture I have laid eyes on. Wikipedia describes it as "The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church and its college-like close, sometimes called "Chelsea Square", a city block of tree-shaded lawns between 9th and 10th Avenues and between West 20th and West 21st Streets. The campus is ringed by more than a dozen brick and brownstone buildings in Gothic Revival style."
              And it shall be mine. One day.

              Probably the only time worth visiting the High Line - at night.

              ~ CONS ~

              Oh my, what beautiful.........weeds.
              (Ryan didn't see how this was any different from Ohio, where railroad tracks, weeds, and others signs of deteriorated industry overgrown by vegetation are quite common. It seems most New Yorkers, however, have no sense of anything outside their perfect, metropolitan world, and thus, totally bought this rusty little piece of forgotten history as "a work of art." Go figure.)

              Wow, I'm really glad we have such a great view from up here - of Armani ads.
              (Cause I really need to see the grabbing of a crotch up close.)

              If alcohol weren't banned in public parks, you know they'd be drinking cosmopolitans.

              Just some of the overheard sophisticated topics of interest:
              - Shoes
              - Wimbledon, and how many tickets one could score
              - the Silver Ghost car, and how it is "obviously the most beautiful car ever"
              - Antioxidant Gummy Bears (they're, like, SOO good!)
              Look, I don't want to be a Scrooge here; anything that brings family and friends together, from all cultures and religions, to share in a relaxing day side-by-side with something close to a celebration of art and nature, is all good in my book. Perhaps I'm just being a whiny, middle class, ex-NYU student who's lifestyle isn't quite as metropolitan as most native New Yorkers'. Or maybe, just maybe, I'd like to see a little bit of integrity in this city for once. We're not stupid, after all.....or are we?

              The best moment of the day is a short conversation we had with a little old woman. "It's amazing to see what's happened to this neighborhood over the years. I think it look much better in the old days."

              I hear ya, sister.

              Go here for some photos of the High Line the way it used to be....and as it should be.

              **Alas, I was too underwhelmed to take my own pictures. (In the future, I should learn to use the energy of my angry aversion to events like these to fuel my desire to document such experiences. Much like I have in words.) The photos shows are from the Flickr account of "Friends of the High Line," a group I am obviously not a part of.

              Monday, June 15, 2009

              A Swell, Swingin' Time

              June 5th was a day for traveling back in time, to the glory days of the Roaring Twenties. Ryan and a few friends joined me on a ferry trip across NY Harbour to Governor's Island, an old coast guard community that had since been abandoned.

              It's back with lots of activities though, and tours through its many historical landmarks. I was amazed at how beautiful the island was; there were colonial homes surrounded by plush green grass. Towering trees that created an ethereal canopy of dappled rays of sun, and a path along the coast overlooking the NY skyline and Lady Liberty herself.

              In one of the canopied clearings, there was a great lawn where the old timey "Dreamland Band" played merry tunes, which drifted eerily out of speakers and a microphone straight from the '20s, like the voice of a ghostly folly. It was so surreal, entering this grassy, heavenly-lit utopia of women in swaying dresses, fine lace and Japanese parasols, swinging happily with their dapper gentleman, who looked stately in their summer suits and hats.

              I was of course, dressed for the occasion, as it seems both my look and personality are strangely akin to the flappers of the '20s. Perhaps I am stuck in the wrong era (or is it evidence of a past life?) Nevertheless, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to embody the swell, modern-minded gal of our country's earliest history. I draped myself in grandma's pearls, a frilly smock, and cloche hat, and hit the dance floor with Agathe.

              Later, Ryan and I attempted the waltz (which I must say, wasn't half bad!) I'll admit rather romantically that this was almost fairytale in nature, swaying with my beau to the tune of a swooning clarinet, apart from the time we stepped on eachother's feet and snickered to ourselved in olde "News on the March" announcer voices.

              Those who weren't dancing as if they were simply plucked from the era itself, were content to lounge on blankets in the grass, picking on picnic food and chattering amongst one another. It was like a real, moving exhibit of a Seurat painting.

              A white tent sold summer cocktails of St. Germains and champagne, the suspendered bartenders using long, slender carafes to carefully mix the bubbling beverages. In turn, each patron was given a recipe card with scandalous 1920's risque photograph of a curvacious flapper in her under linens, either coquettishly posing or armed with a horse whip. Oh, how scandalous!

              Unfortunately, we didn't have much time to explore, but what little I saw has enticed me to visit again very soon!

              Wednesday, May 6, 2009

              Cinco de Mayo, Korean Style

              In the ultimate culture clash, Ryan was treated to a Cinco de Mayo birthday at a Korean BBQ restaurant called "Kun Jip." Recommended by a friend, we'd been waiting for a chance to sample the Korean fare. We were not prepared.

              They took our orders while we waited on line. We sat down at a tiny table, where loads of dishes were immediately placed in front of us:

              • Chile/Pepper flavored pears (maybe? we never found out)
              • Kimchi (also known as soggy red cabbage, spicy as balls)
              • String Beans with Sesame (at last, something familar!)
              • Bitter Bean Sprouts guessed it...chile
              • Something silvery, scaly, and too fishy looking for either of us to eat
              • Something brown and also ugly looking
              • Purple - yes purple - Rice
              Before we could even sip our Sapporo's, some lettuce leaves appeared with some kind of stringy vegetable salad in a yummy, sugary sauce.

              Then came the wonking BBQ cooker, which was so large we had to move plates on top of one another to fit. Then the meat. Oh what wonderful meats....beef brisket, prok strips and....ox tongue??? Oh well what the hey...

              The pot sizzled and spewed grease, while a little pot of stew was placed nearby. We couldn't really figure out what it was, only that there was some tofu floating in the red sauce, with a clam sticking out as if had tried to squeal a final "Help" before it was boiled. It tasted alright at first sip, until the chile flecks started to reach the throat, and you couldn't keep from coughing or choking from the hotness. In another bowl, some eggs....that tasted like bacon (I'm presuming it was miso.)

              The meat was delicious. And y'all know I love my meat. We wrapped it in the lettuce with the shredded stuff as grease squeezed out. Delectable.

              And to top it all off, a little cup of Cinnamon-Ginger Tea. It was cold, and it was sugary. We were about ready to leave when an incredibly loud, staticy Korean voice blared over a speaker, and began singing a very catchy pop tune. A beautifully ornate cheesecake went by, with Koreans clapping all around us. The table nextdoor were celebrating their own birthday......Knew I should have told them it was Ryan's!

              Don't Rain on my Cherry Blossom Parade....

              After waiting in excited anticipation for this year's promisingly beautiful Cherry Blossom festival, Sakura Matsuri, in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, my little anime face of joy broke into streams of exaggerated tears from my excessively large eyes. Sunday was full of rain. Lots of rain. Cold and drab, and all around miserable. The festival still went on, but mostly under large tents and people holding umbrellas covered with sad pink petals; flowers soggy by an unseasonally chilly shower.

              However, I was suprised that it didn't seem to stop anyone from attending, as the panels and performances were still packed with people from all over the five boroughs. And of course, there wasn't corner of the dripping gardens where one couldn't see a some cosplaying kid (even the college ages looked pubescent) strolling by in a huge Naruto robe with a much-too-realistic stick/sword/bomb/ninja cross, donning a huge, spiky white wig.

              There were a few cutely dressed girls in Gothic Lolita attire; one had platforms that rose three inches. Many giggling geishas still scuttled along the wet path in their patterned dresses; however, somewhat less pleasant were those 30-40 year old women with their robes open for all to see their overly large, hanging bosoms.

              We did get to see some nice Bonsai, as well as eat some overly priced hot dogs (still cheaper than the Japanese food). It was only after that we realized it was raining into the hot dog pot, cherry blossom petals floating on top.

              But even though it was a bit of a bust, I still got to spend time with family, and that was most important. Why apart from the yelling and bickering and teasing, it might be considered pleasant. Sisters Lili and Ceri had stayed over with Mom and Kristabel (Ceri's best friend and practically mom's adopted daughter) that night with me, ogled over my apartment (minus the occasional roach) and bought me groceries (mom's always worry that you never eat.) Ryan came along for the festival as well, and joined us for dinner at Wendy's. The Strombergs: always keepin' it classy.

              Wednesday, April 29, 2009

              Curious Events @ "Limits of Control"

              Yesterday, Ryan and I, two aspiring filmmakers with only a dream in their pockets (the rest was just lint and old buttons) had a chance glimpse into the crazy, exciting world of Jim Jarmusch, and the people around him. Here are just some of the highlights from that night (more about the premier on my film blog):

              Jim Jarmusch....
              • Walking down Houston with an entourage of people, including Ryan and I.
              Hanging out with Bill Murray....
              • Who decided to wear a red visor and criss-cross striped pajama pants to the swanky Shang after-party.....apparently the hair part of the visor...?
              • He asks if Ryan and I are friends. We say we are dating. He looks at him, then at me. Mr. Murray, as he leans in: "You must be an animal!"
              • Some Tribeca girl who doesn't have a clue switches on her itty-bitty recorder and starts asking great questions like ,"What did it feel like to wear a tupee? Have you ever worn one before? Why was there an American flag pin on your suit?" He patronizes, but kindly, in his Murray way. At one point, he pretends to smack her in the ass, good-naturedly.
              • I say "So Jim says you didn't improvise the scene in the movie at all." He says, "Improvising is really just when you forget your lines."

              • Ryan talks to Bill about his new zombie movie. He also mentions that this party is "atypical...I don't even know what street I'm on right now."
              Tilda Swinton.....
              • Hugs Bill Murray. They chat. We stand in awe.
              Gael Garcia Bernal....
              • Yes, he is still just as good looking in person.
              • He and his girlfriend are probably the cutest couple ever.
              Paz de la Huerta.....
              • Meows at Jim Jarmusch to get his attention when I finally get to talk to him. Strangely cute.
              Amos Poe.......
              • "I knew [Paz] before she had an ass!"
              • "You're a Jewish Italian," among other Jew-ish jokes about me.
              • Champagne (in a mini bottle!)
              • Vodka and Coke
              • Another Vodka and Coke
              • Vodka and Red Bull (BLEHH, but it didn't matter at that point)
              • Curry Puff (what was in that shit?)
              • Jerk Chicken
              • Artichoke Salad
              • Fried Rice
              • Homeade Cole Slaw
              • Shrimp Puff (wanted more! where shrimp puff man go?)
              • Mini Cookies and Muffins!
              Sadly, I didn't want to be "THAT GIRL" who took photos all night, so I just soaked it in with my mind. I think it's gonna be hard to forget this one though.

              Pillow Fight NYC 2009 (et al..)

              We came. We saw. We conquered. [With pillows.]

              (Time Out NY Video Still)

              Followed by a weekend of.....

              Earth Day Party @ Surah and Nora's Apartment (flowers and vodka, oh my!)

              Dancing @ Pianos bar

              Checking out the Bob Ross party --> LAME (we took some photo booth pictures, in which all of them featured Phil's face and our cut off heads)

              Cupcakes and Conversation at Cake Shop

              Thee Oh-Sees Concert (which was really awesome, except for that fucking annoyingly grating saxophone, which felt as if you were stuck amidst the loud honking of a traffic mob for an exceedingly long, breathless time.)

              Agathe's Last Day in NYC! (we sat outside of Cafe Dante like the Europeans, sipping espresso and reflecting on good times.)

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