Monday, June 30, 2008

Of Faeries and Caffeine

So this morning at work I was serving a British woman who wasn't fully awake yet. Obviously that's quite common where I work. Customers and baristas alike often have trouble getting their thoughts and words in order, as most of them are still in need of their morning caffeine fix. After a conversation that was a bit confusing, I finally had this customer's drink order.

In response to the confusion of the exchange, I thought she said something about the ferry.

"I'm sorry?" I said, assuming she was talking about riding a ferry to the City, perhaps from Staten Island. The sentence didn't seem altogether sensible.

More clearly she stated, "I'm away with the faeries in the morning."

...Ummm, yeah. It must be a British thing.

But to be quite honest with you, any woman speaking with a British accent commands my attention, especially a beautiful British woman, so I would gladly listen to her talk about imaginary winged people over coffee anytime she wants.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

THIRTINESS

July looms in front of me.

I will soon be thirty no longer. I really like being thirty. But in less than one week I will go from being "30" to being "in my thirties". In my mind there seems to be some distinction.

While I have my share of disappointments about my life and how I've used it, I am not all-together bothered by this new age. Maybe some. But I am also happy about how some things have gone. And getting older seems to lend some credibility to one, even if that is just in my mind and prideful. I always seem to be on the hunt for credibility and affirmation; often to a fault, I suppose....I know.

Thirty has been a very good year overall. I really like milestone years. Some people told me that 25 was a very difficult year for them. Personally, I found that 25 really agreed with me. In my mind, reaching the quarter-of-a-century mark was something to celebrate and a time to make positive changes and choices. 25 was a great year.

Back when I was a kid there was an award-winning television show called "thirtysomething" about a group of yuppy baby-boomers in Philadelphia. The characters were (obviously) in their thirties. But as I recall, those people had careers and mortgages and marriages and children....things which do not define my decade of thirtiness so far. And sometimes I look at pictures like the one above and think, "Is that what thirty-something people look like? And do I fit the bill? Hmmm."

Thirtiness.

I think I just coined that word. I like it.

QT, NYP and GG

Okay, so I know that in a former post I questioned whether I would write anymore about celebrities coming into the store, but I've had a couple of experiences I want to share.

First of all, Quentin Tarantino came into our store a couple of times today. If you're not familiar with this writer-director-actor, just know that his films are famous for containing "stylized violence". His work is certainly not for everyone, but I confess that Pulp Fiction is one of my guilty pleasures. "Zed's dead, baby. Zed's dead." Here's a short video clip I found that is not from a Q.T. film, but it cracked me up and may give you a feel for how his work is perceived:



I enjoyed having Mr. Tarantino in the store today. He was a very nice customer, despite the fact that his drink was delayed because no one wrote it down. He was waiting by the bar and when I asked him what drink he was waiting for, he was very polite and waited patiently while I made it for him. I would be glad to have him as a customer anytime. If you'd like to see an actual video of him, click here for a clip I found of him coming out of a SB store that's not in New York City.

And even though I am telling you where I saw him, I am not going to tell you what he had to drink. The man needs some privacy.

The second celebrity-related item I wanted to share with you is that two drinks I sold recently made it into the New York Post (which, in my opinion, is mostly just a big celebrity gossip paper). I was flipping through the Post during a break and saw a picture of one of our fairly regular customers and her daughter and I thought, "Huh, that looks like what they were wearing the other day. And those are the two drinks I sold them." Not that big of a deal, but I thought it was fun to see. Here's the clipping (edited for her daughter's privacy):

Oh, and one last thing. I'm about 85% sure that last week Gilbert Gottfried and I were walking across a street on the Lower East Side at the same time. Completely random celebrity sighting...and of all celebrities...well, it just made me laugh. My brother Jerry said that I would have known for sure it was him if I could have heard him say just one thing. I think Jerry is right. Remember the voice of the parrot Iago from Disney's Aladdin?

I read that Mr. Gottfried was born in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn rocks.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Red Door Theatre Company

Tonight I went to midtown to see the play "Proof". I really enjoyed the play, although I almost missed seeing it. I didn't buy a ticket in advance so I was put on the waiting list. Note to self: always check into pre-purchasing tickets. I was the last person to get in.

The Red Door Theatre Company, which my friend Kyleen works for, produced the show. The actors did a great job performing this Pulitzer Prize winning play. Afterwards I hung out and visited with Kyleen and a few others while things were torn down (it was the show's last night). I was reminded of my high school stagecraft class, which I enjoyed being a part of way-back-when (you know, in the mid-90's).

I volunteered to help them with their next production (they are a non-profit organization). This was a great opportunity to meet some new people, be exposed to the theatre community a bit and watch a good live performance.

It's a good thing for me that a woman was running late and missed the show (though bad for her). Otherwise I would have missed out on a very good experience.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Day at the Lake

video

Greg, Jolene, Melinda, Peter, Amy and I took the New Jersey Transit to Tuxedo, New York this morning, then hiked three miles on small mountains (or hills?) to a lake, which had a rope swing that Greg and Jolene discovered last year during a three-day excursion into the wilderness. Prepping myself to jump or swing in the first few times reminded me of jumping off of 15- and 30-foot bluffs on the Current River in Missouri...only this was much lower.

We spent almost all afternoon there. It was a beautiful day in beautiful country. The trees on the hike were tall, grass and ferns covered the ground beneath them, and we passed wetlands and walked through tall flowered bushes as we made our way to the lake. On our hike out we saw many chipmunks and a few deer as well. This was my first official trip "upstate" since my move here and I couldn't have been more pleased with the experience.

I enjoy living in a place where train travel is normal. We took the subway to Penn Station, then a short train ride to the Secaucus transfer, followed by another 30 to 45 minute train ride up to Tuxedo. The train makes stops at small, picturesque depots with outdoor platforms as it passes through small towns in New Jersey and New York state. All one has to do as a passenger is find a seat and wait for one's stop. It's convenient and easy. Tuxedo was one of those small towns with a deli and convenience store across from the depot, a post office next door and a tavern/restaurant down the street. We enjoyed cold drinks and french fries there as we waited for our train to arrive. The train fare was only $16 roundtrip and we were home right before dark.

Here's one last video of Greg...

video

Friday, June 20, 2008

The End of Good Things? (or There Goes the Neighborhood)


Do you ever feel like you always seem to just catch the tail-end of good things? I think I’ve always felt that way a little. Like when there’s a group of single people living in the same city who always take trips together and play pranks on one another and hang out all the time…then you move to that town and start hanging out with that crowd, just as they all seem to be getting married or changing jobs or moving and going their separate ways. Or perhaps you start a new job and really enjoy your co-workers, and then they begin to transfer away from you or leave the company and the dynamics become very different. Or your parents and aunts and uncles tell you that you can play Uno with them when you're a teenager, but after you and your cousins become teenagers, the adults stop playing Uno.

That’s how I’m feeling tonight about Red Hook, Brooklyn.

I had heard of Red Hook, but all I knew was that you have to take a bus to get into the neighborhood (this was pre-bike) and they have an affordable supermarket that carries organic food. This evening I ventured into Red Hook to listen to the group KaiserCartel play at Baked, which is, as the name suggests, a bakery and coffee shop. I first heard of this group through my friend Sue’s blog and I really liked the video I saw and their music was very pleasant, and this was my one chance to catch them live before they go on tour this summer. First I will say that I really enjoyed the coffee at Baked. And the lemon tart was delicious. I could taste the influence of granola in the crust.

Here's a quote I found from JoesPub.com about KaiserCartel: "Eclectic, infectious music" are the words Benjamin Cartel uses to describe KaiserCartel’s low-tech, song-driven style. "We want people to feel like a fly on the wall in our living room." says Courtney Kaiser. KaiserCartel’s earthy blend of folk-rock and pop will make you laugh, cry, sing along, and want to hold hands with the stranger next to you. Warm up by the fire with KaiserCartel.


The venue was small, but very fine. Courtney Kaiser has a gorgeous voice, and Benjamin Cartel’s voice is excellent as well, and the two blend together beautifully. They didn’t use any sound equipment at Baked, and they didn’t need to. The instruments they use in their tunes include guitar, percussion, xylophone and I believe a milk frother, among others. Listening to their music, you might not realize there are just two musicians playing. It sounds like more, so it’s fun to watch them create their songs live.

Their whole style is unique and warm. They seemed to have many friends at the show tonight, who also brought along children, and it was nice to see them enthusiastically greet one another and kindly interact. There was a warmth between Courtney and Benjamin, as well. During the last song, a lovely mellow tune, they began walking around the coffee shop, Courtney singing and Benjamin playing guitar, and beginning with a little baby in the audience, Courtney looked at each one of the audience members as she sang. I felt like there was love in the room and it was good. After the concert I spoke to them briefly while purchasing a CD, and they were kind and took time to speak with me and others. I highly recommend you check out their music and see what you think. The video posted above is very creative and one of the best music videos I've seen.

So back to Red Hook… Kaiser and Cartel reside in Red Hook and I had the impression that perhaps many of the audience members were residents of the neighborhood, as well. Maybe that’s part of the reason the interaction of people at the concert was so pleasant. The area had little shops here and there. It seemed fairly quiet and off the beaten path, without huge buildings or bustling traffic. I really liked the feel of it.

During the concert, both of the musicians wore black armbands labeled “Red Hook” because they were in mourning. You see, Ikea opened a store in Red Hook this week, about half-a-mile from Baked, and it seems inevitable that things will change (or have already begun changing) somehow in Red Hook. Ikea is a very large home furnishings store from Europe with trendy styles at affordable prices. The store is huge and you have to wind your way through two floors of maze-like displays and merchandising to get through to the exit. Surprisingly, the nearest Ikea before Red Hook was either in Jersey or on Long Island. This is the first to open that is actually in New York City.


I confess that I do like some of what Ikea has to offer, but it is a little saddening to see a monstrous building like that go into a neighborhood like Red Hook. Part of the sadness of this lies in the fact that new development and most likely other large corporate stores will begin growing in the area. I want to get to know Red Hook as it is. It seems inevitable that gentrification (which, in general, I have mixed feelings about) will occur. The MTA has even adjusted the bus route to go past Ikea. I don't know all of the specifics of what has happened, is happening or what will happen, but I am sharing what understanding I have.

Perhaps the changes to Red Hook won’t be drastic. Perhaps much of the neighborhood will remain unchanged and undisturbed. Perhaps. I certainly hope that is the case. After all, I just discovered the neighborhood, and I don't just want to catch the tail-end of a good thing.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Riding in the Rain

I rode my bike in the rain for the first time today. It wasn't too bad, except that squinting to keep the rain out of my eyes was annoying and made seeing clearly a little difficult. The rain didn't end up lasting that long, and it wasn't a hard rain, so all-in-all it went just fine.

I did have to stop once today and tighten my handlebars. This is the second time they have come loose. The first time was while I was on the Manhattan Bridge last week. Trying to balance on a bike when your handle bars are wobbling forward and backward is not an easy or fun thing to do. I would say intimidating and frustrating are better descriptives. It did provide a chance for me to talk with fellow bikers, however. There are a few points on the biking side of the bridge where you can pull off to the side out of the bike lanes. I pulled over and tried to use my house keys as allen wrenches...not the best substitute. When that wasn't working, I just stopped a few bikers as they went by to find out if they had the right tool. One man had some tools, but none of them fit the screws on my handlebars. All three I spoke with were kind. I love bike-comradery.

Thankfully Recycle-A-Bicycle has a shop located in DUMBO on the Brooklyn side of the Bridge. When I got off the bridge I stopped by the shop and invested in a great little multi-use tool for my bike. It stays in my bag when I'm out and about now. The employee I spoke with was kind enough to offer to tighten the screws for me, but I decided that I should go ahead and purchase the tool. I am happy with that decision.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Bed-Stuy Brothers

This is a picture of me and Jason.
We live in the same house.
Sometimes when we are walking in the neighborhood, people mistake us for brothers.
Jason may be taller, but I'm older (by a whole month).
All of my siblings have names that start with "J".

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

People and Pleasant Don't Always Go Together

I want to be an optimist. I want the world to be a happy place - one big party. I want us all to "just get along". I'd like to say this desire is because I have some amazing sense of justice and want what is best for everyone

Sometimes I have a sense of justice.

Sometimes I want what's best for others.

The truth is that so often the crap in this world just wears me out. I get tired of hearing about it. I get tired of thinking about it. I get tired of feeling conviction and/or guilt for not doing something about it. I get tired of feeling conviction and/or guilt for not caring [enough]. I often don't want to stand for justice. I just want to be left alone to live my life and enjoy myself and not be bothered by the troubles of this world that don't have easy answers.

I started this blog on the advice of my Aunt Alice, "so my aunts and uncles will know what's going on, and I won't have to call them." (Don't worry, dear aunts and uncles, I will still call you.) It was a great suggestion. I have found that I really enjoy blogging about things I see and do. I really like promoting New York City. It's a fantastic place to live and most certainly has been a blessing to me. So I will continue sharing the joys of living in the City. I want this blog to a positive and optimistic creative outlet.

But tonight I thought I would also write about some of the unpleasant aspects of living in the City. There are, after all, bad things here. People are people, and when they get together, it isn't always pleasant business, is it?

The other night one of my friends was jumped by ten or fifteen guys. She is a college student who is here for a summer internship. The attackers weren't successful in robbing her, and from what I understand, the police said she did everything she should have done to protect herself. She did get some cuts and bruises. Let me tell you, that incident really frustrated me. I haven't found the correct words to vocalize exactly what it is I'm feeling about it. I guess anger and frustration are the closest words I've found. I just think, "Why would they do that? Who are these punks..." and then the language in my head goes downhill from there. This new friend is one of the nicest, most positive people I've met; just a great person. Why in the world...?

Things like that happen to people. Muggings happen. Other bad things occur here. And tragedies don't always manifest themselves in such blatant ways. For example, one of my first posts after moving to NYC was about an anti-human trafficking rally I attended in Union Square. This problem is present here in our city and nation, not just in other countries. When I think of human trafficking, I tend to imagine dark, seedy alleyways in slum neighborhoods. I'm certain that is the appearance it takes on in some cases. But it also happens in clean neighborhoods, with people who blend in nicely to their pretty surroundings.

I saw a situation once in our store that just didn't seem right to me. Something about the two people who were together seemed off, and I believe it very well could have been a case of one person taking advantage of the vulnerability and pain and neediness of another. But I certainly wouldn't have batted an eye in passing either one of those people on the street.

So why am I writing such a dark post on my blog that, overall, I intend to be light and fun? Because something unhappy and wrong happened and it is something that is real and serious and another aspect of life here in New York. It is not my intention to cause people to worry. I don't want someone wondering if they should even visit New York City. If you are able to, you should visit. It's a wonderful city! I highly regard and recommend it! But the City is also a case-study for the brokenness that exists in the world.

And to be fair, crime happens everywhere, whether you live out in the "sticks", in the "big city" or anywhere in between. (I recently heard about a fatal shooting that occurred near our family farm in Kansas. Crazy!) After moving to New York, I came to the conclusion that a city is a city is a city. You have the same basic elements and events and types of people in whatever city you are in. It's just that in New York, those things often seem bigger and more obvious.

This is all I have to say about these things tonight.

And aunts and uncles, please rest assured that I do take precautions and try to remain wise and vigilant when out and about. :-)

Friday, June 6, 2008

For The Love of My Sunglasses

This was posted on a bulletin board at work this week.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Tour de Brooklyn

May is Bike Month NYC. On Sunday, May 25th I participated in the 4th Annual Tour de Brooklyn, a free 18-mile non-competitive bike ride through Brooklyn. It was my second day as a bike-owner and a great way to break in my new ride. Here I am sporting my spiffy new bike helmet.The ride began under the Brooklyn Bridge, which just turned 125 years old! Here's a picture of the pre-race crowd. You can see the Manhattan Bridge in the background.
The ride had just over 2,000 participants. It was exciting to be a part of something with that many people all excited about the same activity. We stopped from time-to-time on the road, which was a little annoying at times. I don't know if the stops were meant to keep the bikers closer together or to wait for traffic to be blocked. Some of the motorists along the way were not happy to wait at intersections for 2,000 bikers to pass by. Neither were some of the pedestrians. But there were many people cheering and having a good time as they watched. Many of them wanted to know why we were biking. We also had a mandatory food and water stop along the way. We also rode through the Brooklyn Navy Yards. The picture below was taken during one of our stops. If this picture were bigger, you would be able to see the crowd of bikers stretching over the hill in the background.
Transportation Alternatives sponsored the Tour. I mentioned this organization in a previous post as a group that I am excited about. TA's mission is "to reclaim New York City's streets from the automobile, and to advocate for bicycling, walking and public transit as the best transportation alternatives." Unlike many (or most) other cities, New York is ideal for these alternate forms of transit and I am happy to be able to participate in them. However, as a new biker on the streets, I am beginning to more fully understand some of the obstacles bikers and walkers are faced with. (I'll mention some of these in a future post.) I am glad to have TA as an advocate.

If you're planning to be in Brooklyn on June 7th of next year, let me know and I'll find a rental bike for you! The Tour de Brooklyn is a great way to see different areas of the borough and I'd be glad for new fellow riders!

Monday, June 2, 2008

FDNY

This past Friday night we had a bit of excitement on our block when multiple emergency vehicles, including at least two or three fire engines, were called out. I wandered down the street and saw the firetrucks with their ladders extended towards one of the brownstones. One ladder went to the roof and the other to a window. I took some pictures, but they are a little fuzzy.
There were quite a few neighbors out watching, so people were talking and trying to figure out what exactly was going on. It was about 11:00 or 11:30 p.m. We could smell something burning in the air, but we didn't see any flames and no one saw the firefighters using the water hoses. They had apparently broken in some windows. I have not heard any more about what happened, but from what I can gather, no one was injured. The next day they had plywood covering the windows.
You can see from the pictures how brownstones are connected, so a fire could be bad for more than one house.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Marking Time

I have lived in New York City for three months to the day... 1/4-of-a-year.

I am very happy with the move.