Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Biking Brooklyn, a trip aborted

It was in the 40's today in New York, a veritable heat wave compared to the weather we've been having lately. I know the Cleveland folks who read this got it worse, a whole lot worse. As folks without a car, we're outside in it a whole lot more, so I feel justified in my complaining. Anyways, to celebrate the warm weather, I decided to make a bike trip out to Coney Island. This would mark my second trip out there and, this time, I decided to take an alternative route, one that follows the coast of the island. Unfortunately, my trip was not meant to be. A little more than halfway to Coney Island, the path became covered in snow. I hadn't thought about the fact that, though the weather was warm, it hadn't had time to melt all of the snow, especially for a trail that receives very little traffic and a steady breeze off of the water. I tried to trudge through it, but after walking my bike for about 20 minutes straight, with no end in sight, I decided to give it up. Though the trip was shortened, I did have the chance to snap some more Brooklyn pictures for you folks. I hope you enjoy!

Okay, this picture was actually taken towards the end of my trip, but I thought it would make a good introduction.

This is actually the first picture I took. It's the entrance to Greenwood Cemetary, an impossibly huge cemetary close to our apartment.

After a pretty much unnamed deadland (though some call it "South Slope") that extends the length of the cemetary, I entered into Sunset Park. If it weren't for its distance to my work, this would be an excellent area for us to move to. The residential streets are quiet and full of nice houses and the neighborhood is family oriented and safe. Plus, at least in this section, it's largely hispanic, so there would always be a good taqueria within walking distance.

Next up is Bay Ridge, a nice neighborhood, if not more than a little akin to suburbia in feel. Some streets, including the one pictured here, reminded me of an even more crowded Lakewood. Suprisingly quiet for Brooklyn.

Before I could get on the actual path, I had to take the pedestrian bridge across the highway. I got some vertigo crossing this, especially when I got towards the end and there was nothing but a waist-high railing keeping me from falling into the water.

No trip of mine would be complete without a picture of a bridge and here it is! In this case, it's the Verrazano Bridge, a spectacular structure which connects Brooklyn to Staten Island. Fortunately or not, it's completely inaccessible by bike (cyclists have to take a Ferry from Lower Manhattan).

Finally, here's the reason I had to turn around. What's worst is that I could see the rides at Coney Island from here. It was just too far away to keep trudging on. Ah well, maybe next time!


Thursday, February 01, 2007

It's strange, everytime I leave the Lower East Side (Manhattan), I'm in a unbelievably great mood.

One of the reasons is that few places feel more like "New York" to me. Times Square? That's not New York. That's some hideously gaudy, tourist-trap of an area painted over a den of strip clubs and XXX theaters. To me, nowhere in Midtown is New York, anymore than you are your job. It's just where New York works. The Lower East Side represents New York now. Gourmet food shops lay in the shadow of the housing projects, the same market has both an area which smells like dirt and rotten fruit and another which smells like stinky cheese and kids trying to look like gangsters walk with young fashionistas. It's possible to pay $2,000/month for an apartment where someone might have once O.D'ed. It's that odd dicotomy that, to me, defines New York now.

Then again, maybe it's because two of my favorite places to visit are there. First up, there's Saxelby Cheesemongers. In many of Anthony Bourdain's books, he talks about the places chef's go to eat. Saxelby's is the place where I go to get my cheese geek on. One would think I'd be heading back to my old workplace, Murray's. After all, at a stock of over 250 cheeses, there's plenty to geek out over. But, it's too much! Too much uniforms and waiting in line and constant rotation of staff. It's nice to go somewhere and see just about 40 cheeses (if that), laid out nicely, with the same person behind the counter everytime, someone who knows each cheese as well as you know your friends. Plus, there's always something new, something I find myself unable to leave without and I like that.

As it that weren't fatty enough, the other place is a donut shop! Not just any donut joint though, this is the Donut Plant. Just a few blocks away from Saxelby's, the Donut Plant makes donuts so impossibly good that, at $2.00 each, you feel like you're getting a deal. This time, I picked up not only a Blackout cake donut (imagine if they made a flourless chocolate cake in donut form!) and a Tres Leches donut, which provoked the, honest to god, reaction of "rolling my eyes back in utter extasy", that usually is only reserved for cheese. While I was at the Donut Plant, I got to experience a bit of scene, as well. Apparently, a newspaper had called the store looking for it's opinion on part of the neighborhood being renamed LoHo (a very common thing in Manhattan). He was infuriated.

"Loho, what is that? It's the LOWER EAST SIDE! Why change the name? You know why they want to change the name? Rich people! You name it LoHo and charge more for the rent. Rich peope love it! I didn't always live here. I grew up in India. There, I'd read books about New York and, in those books, they talk about the Lower East Side. Now I work here! Noho! It's all for rich people!"

a customer ask for Chai, then complains that they don't make it with soy milk

"With *soy milk*?! That is not chai! That is some hideous American tea! We make this chai here and we make it right, with milk! Chai with soy milk! You know, Chai needs some basic components: first, it must have at least five ingredients, in order to be called Chai. Then, it must have milk. Chai with soy milk is.not.chai."

Sometimes, I can't help but love this city.