Monday, November 23, 2009

Brooklyn Bridge Park

I have a feeling that the Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is still under construction, is going to be my favorite park in New York City, someday. Maybe. It will be difficult to dethrone the jewel of Manhattan, Central Park, as my favorite park.

Based on the current project plan, and how much I enjoy what's already available to the public, it could happen, I suppose. At the very least, I think it will probably be on par with Central Park, for me. The section between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges is really quite lovely. I love the way the park is on the water, right by the East River.

It's really quite a nice view from almost any vantage point within the park. I look forward to the day the park is complete.

Hopefully by then, I'll be able to visit whenever I want!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Girl, Uninterrupted

It was a much welcomed clear and cool day when we decided to visit the newly opened Highline Park that day. This, of course, was after two consecutive days of seemingly endless drizzle; the kind of barely visible, light rainfall that isn't heavy enough to keep the natives from venturing out, but not light enough to enjoy any kind of outdoor activity or even walk around uninhibited, without an umbrella.

The streets were still bustling with people during those last two days, but most of them seemed to have only left shelter to take care of some chore that needed attention: perhaps to buy a gallon of milk, maybe a prescription to pick up at Duane Reade, or perhaps, a commitment they simply couldn't get out of.

However, this lovely day had arrived not a moment too soon.

It all started as we exited the Washington Square Hotel just in time to witness the sky opening up in mid-blossom; the clouds were in the midst of dispersing to the east, like pieces of strewn-out marshmallows or white cotton candy, blowing in the wind and perpetually morphing like mysterious shape-shifting spirits as they disappeared into the cobalt blue ether.

Our fears that inclement weather might persist for the duration of our stay were finally allayed.

"Let's go get some breakfast and coffee at Caffe Reggio" I said, yawning and rubbing the sleepy haze from my eyes.

"It's only a block from here" I added, before he could respond--as if to add incentive for him to concur.

"Alright, that works. I definitely need to eat before we do anything."

I looked in his direction and nodded in that primitive, non-verbal language of men, conveying agreement in my facial gesture as we shuffled toward the cafe on the uneven pavement alongside the red-bricked townhomes on MacDougal Street. About thirty feet away to our left, were a diverse group of people in their little corner of Washington Square Park, either playing chess or observing one of the intensely deliberate chess matches taking place at that particular moment.

We crossed the street to have a quick look. On the surface, the scene was relatively subdued, but there was a quiet intensity on men's faces that permeated the air in this section of the southwest corner.

Ah, men playing a gentleman's game of chess. What a nice change of pace from the trash-talking bravado which typically follows every successful move that's played in video games, or even dominos. This is not a scene I would ever see at home. With this in mind, I observed the moment with reverence as we continued walking past the park.

"How refreshing," I thought. The thinking man's game, where fate always favors substance over style.

New York City is full of things, big and small, much of which I rarely get to see back home in su-bore-bia--and this was one of them. Hell, even the uneventfulness of walking past Provincetown Playhouse, then looking to your left for oncoming traffic once you reach 3rd Street is a life-affirming thrill, compared to my daily life in the so-called Sunshine State.

For the record, the term Sunshine State is a marketing slogan of half-truth; and you know what they say about half-truths don't you? Be careful of which half you're getting. The full marketing truth would look something like: The 'Sometimes Sunshine but Mostly Just Hot and Humid 99% of the Time' State. But that wouldn't entice tourists to visit, and it certainly wouldn't fit on a license plate.

In any case, I digress.

Just past 3rd Street, we approached the now very recognizable green exterior of Caffe Reggio across the street to our right, when I began to notice the increasing uniqueness of the cast of characters walking up and down MacDougal Street. This instinctively prompted me to reach for my camera to capture the moment. As I fumbled with the focus and composition of the shot, I haphazardly snapped a few shots to capture the essence of life in little bohemia as it was happening, un-posed and un-rehearsed.

This was one of the few shots that didn't completely suck. Most of them were blurry since I didn't have time to adjust the settings and capture everyone walking. The guy on the bottom right and the guy on the top left were particularly interesting characters.

A few photos later, we went ahead and walked inside to size the place up. Upon entering, we stopped to look around. To my right was a man with a shaggy, full head of dark hair--each strand seemed to be quite busy, desperately reaching for the sky in every direction as he read his newspaper. Beside him was a middle-aged woman wearing a traditional Muslim hijab working on her laptop.

I smiled, thinking to myself, "Wow, what a scene. This is so New York City." Upon being noticed, we were greeted warmly by several friendly faces; but as welcoming as it was inside, the cool, brisk air outside was too pleasant to pass up.

"You want to sit outside?"

"Absolutely. It's so nice out right now!"

I let the hostess know that we'd be sitting outside for lunch, then took another glance at the cozy bohemian interior to take it all in, before turning and walking outside. We sat in the maroon-colored cushion seats at the mini bistro-style table just stage-right of the front door, then I immediately ordered a double espresso before the waitress went back inside. Once we ordered and the food arrived, it was quite a scene.

If anyone were watching us, it would have been clear that we were both ravenously hungry by way we were eating--and I use the term 'eating' loosely--gorging would probably be more accurate, considering the way we were basically swallowing the food whole after barely chewing.

Yes, I'm a heathen, fine. But still, despite the unfavorable impact to our digestive systems, this 'power lunch' worked to our advantage. Afterall, we did have places to go and things to see. Plus, considering that neither me nor my friend were going to wake up to an alarm clock while on vacation, we had already started our exploration late, around 10:30ish in the morning. Needless to say, we wrapped up lunch fairly quickly since we were needlessly burning daylight hours by sitting there.

Before moving on, however, I decided to take a few more shots from across the street.

For this shot, I noticed a slender, mid-twenty-something fellow with lilly white skin and dark hair hanging around. He was wearing slim-fitted blue jeans with Chuck Taylor All-Star Converse sneakers, and a khaki satchel made of cloth diagonally across his torso, with the bag hanging on the opposite hip.

What stood out most though, was the 1950s style hat that he was wearing along with those Blues Brothers style Ray-Ban type of sunglasses.

Despite being heavily immersed in a conversation on his cell phone, he seemed to want his photo taken, as he walked in circles directly in front of me. I had been standing there there snapping photos before he arrived, so I know he saw me taking photos.

Then I noticed he was standing still, almost deliberately in the first shot I took as well. Looks like I had an 'Attention Whore' on my hands. Not that I mind though. I found his style sort of uniquely charming in a nerdy kind of way. What's interesting to me is that as I posted this, I just noticed for the first time that our waitress was actually in the shot, picking up our plates.

It's easier to see in the full sized photo. I think if you click it, the photo pops up at full size, but I'm not sure.

Anyway, before moving on, here's our little attention whore again, 'coincidentally' lingering in the area I was shooting. Ha!

Our next stop was the Highline Park, a few blocks west.

Now, I usually just 'wing it' when I walk to places in NYC. I feel very comfortable in terms of knowing where I am at all times. But, my friend was a little nervous, and he kept asking me if I was sure I knew where I was going.

"Pfft...dude, this is my shit man."

"Screw Mickey Rourke, son...I'm the friggin pope of Greenwich Village now!"

Funny how that works: half of the time, I don't even know where I am in my own home town, and I've been there nearly all my life. However, in NYC, I'm like a caught fish that's just been released back into the water. In my natural habitat, free and unfettered.

In any case, since this is a blog post and not a book, I feel compelled to shorten what could be a much longer story.

That said, I confidently navigated our path through many interesting scenes and classic New York moments, which included some poor bastard dropping his cell phone into a puddle upon exiting a taxi then freaking out, and a model shoot on some corner deep in the west Village, where the old cobblestone streets are ubiquitous.

Then, in what seemed like a New York minute, we were there. Voila! I had managed to find the southern entrance to the park. I'm not really sure why it's considered a park, per se, but it's a nice enough stretch of benches with nice botanical decor. The views are certainly quite nice in certain spots. Perhaps I'll get into them in detail in another post, or perhaps I'll just let the photos speak for themselves here:

That's New Jersey over the Hudson River in the background...

A couple taking a self-portrait in front of some very colorful garden of flowers...

The first thing I remember seeing after walking up the stairway entrance was that girl sitting on a bench, listening to music, and probably spending some much needed alone-time at the park (the first photo at the top of this post).

I also remember the Asian man with the blue hat in the same photo asking me to take his picture using his camera. I happily obliged.

There are so many little things that happen in every moment; and if you're paying attention, these captured moments in time are life, captured in a freeze-frame photograph. This is something that I often remind myself of. A life lived is really only life in this very moment, right now.

What happened yesterday has been written and is now just a collection of memories and unchangeable moments that have gone by. Tomorrow is mystery filled with hopes and dreams that may or may not come to fruition. The only thing we really have is right now.

But like many people, I sometimes get caught up in the daily grind, and certainly miss out on plenty of things that are happening in the moment. Clearly, I'm far from perfect myself; but it's sad that many people never really pay attention to the little things, and all the while life is passing them by. Which is a damn shame; because in many ways, life is often all about the little things.

I think of all the places I've been, the little things jump out at me most when I'm in NYC. And that's because this is the place where my heart is. There are so many friendly people, so many opportunities to interact, and so many things to see and do in NYC that it seems impossible to for me to ever get enough.

But you can find those things anywhere really. My preference just happens to be in the northeast region of America.

I've often heard it said that home is where the heart is. Does your heart feel at home where you live now?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

First Things First

I took this photo with my iPhone last September. I think it was after leaving a small cafe on Grove Street in the West Village. This sign wasn't in the same area as the cafe, but I know it was somewhere in the Village area.

In fact, I remember the sign, but since I don't exactly remember taking the photo, it occurred to me that I must have subconsciously taken the photo for future reference. I will definitely need help finding an affordable apartment if I move when I move, so this Blue Star group will probably be getting a call from me at some point.

My resume is updated, so step one is complete. The next hurdle is convincing my girlfriend to move there too.

I've already had some conversations with her about it, and at one point I even compromised with her so she'd stay open to the idea of moving there -- by agreeing to staying open to the idea of moving to Chicago (her fam is from there) or even Denver (I'm sure it's great there, but good lord, I hope not) for her sake.

But, when I sense that the time is right, I'm going to have to ask her to think about NYC exclusively. At least for the immediate future. What makes it tough to sell, though, is that I can't explain exactly why it's so important for me to live in NYC. It's just something I need to do. At least for a while, so I know once and for all whether or not this longing is a just a phase that I need to go through, or if it's a long-term personal need.

It's feels like a 'destiny' thing, or something like it.

She seems to be warming up to it, but I can never count on full acceptance/closure on the issue with her. Like many of the women in my life, she changes her mind about sixty times every minute; which makes it tough to bring plans to a solid commitment/agreement on where we're moving to.

But, this should not come as much of a shock to me. Indecision, fear of change/the unknown, and the fickle nature of others have always been a barrier for me to overcome. Again, this will not be easy.

It's 2:38 AM on a Tuesday, and I'm still stressing about all these obstacles in front of me! I guess it's time to cue up the iPod and try to decompress a little. Relaxing with a glass of wine would be nice, but I guess you can't have everything.

I mean, where would you put it all...

Monday, November 16, 2009

In a New York State of Mind

I've recently made the decision to go forward and try to relocate to New York City.

This may not come as much of a shock to those of you who keep up with this blog, but it is the first time I've made a commitment to myself to actually do it. I'm both unbelievably excited and completely terrified about this decision. I will not be able to afford living in a place like this below, but wow, would I just love to call this little place home:

I'm not getting any younger, and I'm tired of feeling like too many years have gone by hating where I live. I'm tired of feeling regret for not at least trying to do something about this perpetual longing of mine to live in New York City.

Home is where the heart is, and mine has long been in NYC.

Despite the fact that I don't currently live there, I am, without a doubt in my mind, a New Yorker. Granted, I would definitely feel completely at home and content living in Boston, or anywhere in the New England area, really. The truth is, I really love those places too.

I'm actually quite torn between the two; but the edge goes to NYC right now because the company I work for is based there -- so in order to keep my seniority and leverage my experience and knowledge of the company, it just makes sense to try and stay with them in the short term.

I figure if I can spend at least a few years there, maybe finish school there, decide what direction I want my career to go, and simply enjoy life in NYC to the fullest before I (hopefully) begin a family someday. If the day comes where I'm lucky enough to finally start a family, then I think that would be the right time for me to move to Massachusetts or even New Hampshire.

That, to me, would be perfect.

I think it's going to take a while to find a job in NYC, due to the current job market; but for the first time ever, I'm really serious about it. I just hope I don't lose my nerve or get discouraged.

It will not be easy, by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm finally going to go for it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


People who know me well often tell me that I should have become a psychologist. Despite the many head scratches and peculiar looks that this statement may bring to some people, it may explain why I find this piece utterly fascinating:

10 Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature

I 'm still processing the information, so I can't say whether or not if I fully buy into all of it, but it is a very interesting read, I think.

While I'm on the topic of mental health, here's a statement I read today that I thought was on the money, from a healthy perspective:

"Problems do not go away. They must be worked through or else they remain, forever a barrier to the growth and development of the spirit." - M. Scott Peck

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Day At the Lake

This past weekend, I decided to try out my new Camera at a park close to my apartment. There's a lake that's surrounded by trees and undeveloped land, which is home to many creatures.

Above is one of the photos I was able to capture.

See all the creatures I encountered in this collection.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Badabing Baby!

This is a gorgeous little restaurant located on Waverly Place just across from the Washington Square Hotel in Greenwich Village, Manhattan.

See the larger version here, it's much better.

Oh, do I love Italian food! Mario Batali's Babbo was everything I thought it could be. This establishment is not only very handsome on the outside, the contents created inside are also quite delicious! I look forward to going back. Mmm, my mouth is watering just writing about it!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mom, That Guy from That Movie Is Staring At Me

So, I went to the local mall today for lunch. It was a pretty routine lunch break, really. I'm not feeling well, so I walked a little slower than normal today when I walked back to my car after lunch. Rhetorically speaking, I kick and scream, I cuss and gnash my teeth.

Well, the kicking and screaming part is rhetorical, but I actually did cuss a bit. I do this, while the boring, responsible adult inside of me imposes its will on my impulsive side and forces me to go back. Just the thought of having to return to work while feeling sick is a struggle.

Anyway, as I fight this epic internal battle, I notice someone in my peripheral vision staring at me, and thought, "What the hell is he looking at..."

I keep walking. Well, it's more like slowly sloging along, really. I trudge along a few more feet, trying to ignore it, but there he is.

Just standing there.


"What the hell is that guy's problem." I start getting very annoyed. I'm in no mood to deal with jackasses today.

"This is a provocation that will not go unchallenged!" I say to myself. So I come to a complete stop, look over to my right, and there he remains. Totally still. Staring at me with his beady little eyes, as if to mock me. I was totally prepared to tell this guy off, but now I'm both slightly amused and a little creeped out.

It was a life-size cardboard figure of what's-his-name from that movie, "Twilight," placed by the door of an FYE music store. You know, the really pale white teenage vampire dude. Well, card-board figure or not, I still didn't like him staring at me.

I might have to knock him over next time I pass the music store. Stupid life-sized cardboard thingie.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bohemian Oasis

This is a little embarrassing to admit, but I had no idea what falafel was before I tried it at Mamoun's Falafel in Greenwich Village this year (see black arrow in photo above). I knew it was a type of food with origins in the Middle East, but that's about it. I've never been a fan of chickpea byproducts, but it tasted much better to me than the only other chickpea byproduct I know, hummus.

But I wasn't really there for the falafel. I was there to have an espresso at Caffe Reggio, the little green establishment directly next door.

Now, I had heard a lot of things about the place. Words like beatnik and bohemian were always thrown around and finding their way into people descriptions of the place. From what I had read, it’s the city's oldest coffee house, serving up java since 1927. Apparently, many iconic figures have patronized the place, such as: Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac, Joseph Brodsky, and William Burroughs to name a few.

I'd read much of this stuff from online reviews of the place, which often point out that it "has harbored bohemians for decades, most notably beat generation poets like Kerouac and Corso." That's pretty much all that my ears, and my curiosity, needed for both to perk up, pay attention, and put it on my To-Do List. And when I finally made it there, it was exactly what I thought it would be.

I went inside to check the place out, at first. It's a cozy little place with an old-world feel to it. The staff were genuinely nice, and as expected, the patrons were quite a diverse group of people. But, as inviting as the inside was, it was a cool, breezy day -- so I sat outside at the table just stage-right of the door (the one with the red seat in front of the green door--see photo above, or large version, here).

I was actually somewhat surprised that I enjoyed the food as much as I enjoyed their double espresso. I will definitely return next time I'm in the neighborhood.

In case you're wondering, it's less than a minute south of Washington Square Park on MacDougal Street, if you ever want to check it out.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A.D.D. Boy

Where to start. This will be random. You've been warned!

I'm sitting in my living room smoking a stogie, drinking a 2005 Clos Du Bois Cabernet, listening to Ray Lamontagne's Gossip in the Grain. Some quick props to my friend Kelly in Chicago for sending me the cd a while back. It's the perfect music for this moment.

So here's something exciting (for me). I actually sold one of my photographs (the one above) on! It's the first photo of mine that someone actually spent their hard-earned money on. Whoever this person is, I wish I could personally thank them. I doubt they have any idea how much it made my day--actually, it made my week, to be completely honest. I've been on cloud 9 for days.

Speaking of photography, even though money is tight these days, I managed to snag a Nikon D300 for $600. Granted it was just the body, but hey, it retails at about $2500, so it was a great deal.

The up-side is that it was $600.

The down-side is that it was $600.

I actually had other plans for that money, but I just went for it. If I were more practical and responsible, I wouldn't have spent the money on that. But, I did, and that's that. I went out and spent more money on a battery and memory card too.

My bank account is pissed, let me tell you.

But, I do really love photography, and enjoy the photos I've taken over the years with my 'beginner' Nikon D40x camera. Now I can actually do much more, since this camera is pretty much super bad-ass. My photos going forward will have higher quality resolution, which I'm exited about.

When it comes to my photos, I'm a perfectionist. I immediately see imperfections in image quality and get pretty peeved when a great shot is less than it could have been, so having the D300 is gonna kick major ass.

So yeah, wow this is good wine.

In the spirit of full disclosure, as is my modus operandi, I must admit that I'm a frequent contributor to Clos Du Bois' profit margin these days; I've been buying their wine a lot more often than other brands lately.

Oh. Em. Gee.

Their Briarcrest wine is TO DIE FOR, if you're a Cabernet person.

So yeah, kickass wine notwithstanding, back to what I was going to say. If I can get focused, I'll be working on my updating my resume after this post. Actually, I should be doing that now instead of screwing off doing things that are fun. Guess I'll have to get on that in a minute.

But anyway, I'm in a much better mood than when I started this post. Could be the wine. I know what your thinking, but I'm still on my first glass. Which means I need to get serious and pay more attention. To my wine, I mean. Duh, right?!

Oh yeah...I need to pay attention to that, and my resume (Aw, hell).

Right. Off I go...