Monthly Archives: October 2012

(10) good things

(1) Kitty. It is the best coming home to this sweet little face every evening. She drives us crazy with her caterwauling at night, but that annoying trait is so easy to forget when you come home from work and Miss Ali is being a total cuddlebug.

(2) Fall-time baking. I had a weird urge to bake zucchini bread late last Thursday night. So I made a dozen muffins for Sean and I, and a loaf to give to my in-laws when they came to visit this past weekend. It was a better idea than I thought, because it saved them a trip out for breakfast that Sunday. With all that cinnamon-y goodness, what’s not to love?

(3) Autumnal colors. We went traipsing all over Manhattan with Sean’s parents, and we saw the occasional flash of gorgeous colors here and there. I stumbled across this golden beauty in Central Park.

(4) Actually taking a photo together. Fact: it’s hard to take a good photo of yourself, and it is awkward to ask someone you don’t know that well to do so for you when you’re out in public places. Fact: I am in love with this shot the MIL (a fancy new acronym I get to use!) took of us near the lake in Central Park. Of course, it would be during the time period when I had a near eye-infection and had to wear my glasses. But I still love it.

(5) Being a tourist in your own city. We went to parts of Manhattan we wouldn’t ordinarily go to, like Times Square (to see Wicked on Broadway, fulfilling 15-year-old Rebecca’s dream), the Financial District, and even the 9/11 Memorial — which was especially special. Here is good ol’ George Washington in front of Federal Hall National Memorial, on the site of where Washington took oath of office as the first president of the United States and the Bill of Rights was first introduced to Congress.

(6) The best pizza. We went to Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn for dinner on Sunday night, at the famous “under the Brooklyn Bridge” location. The wait was long, like always — as there was a line out the door, but we also poorly timed our visit so that they had to change out the coals in the brick oven before our pizza was put in. Oh, but it was so worth it! We got onions, black olives, Italian sausage, and pepperoni. With the fresh mozzarella and fresh basil? Ugh, perfection.

(7) City lights. You can’t see them when you don’t live in a high-rise apartment. I’m glad we don’t live in a high-rise apartment, but it was a real treat to see the Manhattan skyline post-pizza on Sunday night. We walked over to Brooklyn Bridge Park to get something sweet from The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory (peaches & cream for me!), and from there you have a spectacular view of Manhattan. Also, if you’re an English major, you’ll feel a little giddy reading over the engravings on the railings, which are from Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.” Trust me, I took a class entirely about Walt Whitman and Mark Twain my senior year. His poetry is magical. Did you know that Whitman was the editor of the daily newspaper The Brooklyn Eagle from 1846-48? Well, now you do!

OK, OK, I have to include a quote from Whitman’s Leaves of Grass in here now, just because. Because that book remains among the most beautiful I have ever read, OK?

O such for me! O an intense life! O full to repletion, and varied! […]/People, endless, streaming, with strong voices, passions, pageants;/Manhattan streets, with their powerful throbs, with the beating drums, as now;/The endless and noisy chorus, the rustle and clank of muskets, (even the sight of the wounded;)/Manhattan crowds, with their turbulent musical chorus — with varied chorus, and light of the sparkling eyes;/Manhattan faces and eyes forever for me.


(8) Sweet cards from friends. I got a number of lovely letters and cards for my birthday, but I was in no way expecting more pretty mail to come my way. This one is from Caitlin — who keeps finding ways into my blog postings out of sheer awesomeness — who was going to write me a Facebook message about an author she thought I’d enjoy, but instead took the time to mail me this darling teacup-themed note instead. I was delighted. Shortly after receiving this, I had to make my favorite Tazo Organic Apple Red tea. Too bad I don’t have something to drink it out of that is nearly that pretty!

(9) Concert season continues. We went to see Father John Misty at the Bowery Ballroom last night. He is a total weirdo, but he has an AH-MAZ-ING voice. Great show. I just couldn’t help but laugh at his hip-swinging moves and the ridiculous sequences of words expelling from his mouth. To be honest, I’m not sure where the craziness ended and the exaggerated stage presence began.

Watch this video of him on Letterman, just for kicks and giggles (also, this is what my husband has declared “The Song of the Year” … so that should entice you):

(10) Good reads. I finally read Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, after buying a $3 used copy from the library’s bookstore. I always thought it was written much longer ago than it was (1982). Despite the fact that this is 200% something Oprah would endorse — oh, wait, she was in the film version — it was genuinely excellent. Quickest synopsis: Two poor African-American sisters share their triumphs and trials via letters (“epistolary novel” is the fancy term), as one struggles with her fate as a child-bride in the South and the other as a coincidental missionary in Africa. The ending — no spoilers! — but it was like, “UGH, my heart is so happy right now!!!” So yeah. Definitely seeing this being studied in schools one day, whenever they get tired of talking about Huck Finn.

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Thoughts from places: Flushing, Queens

The Asia of America

One of my favorite authors, John Green, posts YouTube videos called “thoughts from places” every so often, in which he shares brief video clips of places like Amsterdam, Chicago, or Indianapolis, and narrates them with the most witty and poignant commentary. Here’s an example. I don’t think I can compete with his word skills, but I do have some thoughts from a place.

That place being Flushing, Queens. This past Sunday, Sean and I, along with two of his co-workers (one male and one female) and their significant others, embarked on a journey to the Near Far East. This was very exciting for me, as I tend to stay in Manhattan, with the occasional venture into Brooklyn and one sketchy detour to an authentic Mexican restaurant in the Bronx.

So we took the 7 train from Grand Central all the way to the end of the line — to the Main Street, Flushing stop. I’d yet to reach the end of a subway line, and this was an experience in and of itself. To reach the outskirts of what some would very well refer to as the “center of the _____ world” (insert “fashion,” “financial,” “publishing,” or other prominent New York City industry here).

Once we got out of the Grand Central tunnel, we were above ground for most of our nearly hour-long train ride. That was when I realized that even with its intimidating verticality, eternal bustle, and ceaseless noise, Manhattan is just a small island. New York City is HUGE. We zoomed along past the upper levels of brick buildings, colorfully graffitied, finally arriving at our destination. After a bunch of above-ground stations, the Main Street stop is back underground. You climb up the familiar gritty stairs of the MTA system, and you are in Asia.

Or something like it.

Everyone is dark-haired and speaking in a cacophony of foreign dialects. Some signs are in English, but not all. There’s a bubble tea place and a ramen place on practically every corner. I’d forgotten how humbling it is to be a complete minority.

A long, long time ago, I spent part of my first grade year living in Iwakuni, Japan, where my dad was stationed with the U.S. Marine Corps. My memories mainly consist of that which is most easily etched onto the mind of a 6-year-old: strawberry candies wrapped in playful Hello Kitty packaging; the enchantingly realistic plastic models of food in place of menu restaurants; the gilded patterns of origami paper, waiting to transform into any number of creatures. But one does not easily forget what it is like to be blonde-haired, blue-eyed, and fair-skinned in a sea of others.

It’s a good thing to experience, once in a while, I think — for those of us who are always in the overwhelming majority. It’s good to feel apart, alienated even, reminded of the fact that there are many worlds besides your own little world.

Once we started walking away from Main Street toward our final destination — Picnic Garden, a Korean barbecue buffet restaurant — it began to feel even less like New York City, and even more like a typical middle-class suburban neighborhood. There were houses and driveways (driveways!) and little patches of grassy yards with trees.

Picnic Garden was its own adventure. Basically, you pile plates with raw, marinated meat (there is also a selection of cooked rice and stir-fried veggies), and barbecue it yourself on a little grill built into a large table. You must use chopsticks — Picnic Garden doesn’t have anything else — and you must remember to use on pair of “cooking chopsticks” and one pair of “eating chopsticks.” Don’t get them confused. (Is there really any wonder why this place has a C sanitation rating? It’s like asking people to give themselves food poisoning.)

Once you get over the fact that there are a lot of bloodied plates sitting around you as well as a selection of squid and chicken gizzards, carefully picked out by a Vietnamese member of our group (and long-time resident of Flushing), it’s actually quite heavenly. The meat is so tender and flavorful! I personally recommend the short ribs. Mmmm.

Picnic Garden! More aptly named, “Meat Garden,” in my opinion.

Also, just for the record, they do come around and change out your grill several times, help cut up particularly large flanks of meat, and clear plates quickly. It’s not totally self-service.

Because you pay a flat-price for all-you-can-eat, the meal lasted us nearly three hours. I don’t think I ate as much as I thought I would or the others did because I can only eat so much meat. I ended up switching to chilled orange slices pretty early in the game. But when we left, I was very aware of the fact that my clothes and my hair smelt unmistakably of Korean barbecue.

I mean, I ate a lot more than I usually do, but you should have seen some of the Asian families dining around us. Impressive!

We made a pit stop on the way back to the subway at Quickly, a cheap bubble tea spot. Sean and I wanted to try two different flavors (I wanted coconut, and he wanted peach), but they have this deal where you can get the large tea for the same price as the medium — the only two sizes they offer, by the way. We knew there was NO WAY after eating all that Korean barbecue we could make it through a large tea, even if we shared it. The girl at the cash register seemed very confused by our refusal of their “free upgrade,” and kept pushing it on us. I looked around the restaurant and EVERYONE had a large. Those Asians, I tell you. Olympic-worthy appetites.

I got the medium, as did Sean. We noticed that we were the only orders that got announced in English and not Mandarin first. It’s because they knew. They knew the outsiders could not handle that much milky tea and tapioca pearls. (What are tapioca pearls by the way? Do I even want to know?)

After another long subway ride to Manhattan and an additional transfer to the uptown 6 train, we were back on the Upper East Side. With The Gap; our Fairway supermarket fully stocked with organic, kosher, all-natural and gluten-free goods; the uniformed doormen who spray the sidewalk free of cigarette butts and dead leaves. You know, all the stereotypical makings of all-American, streamlined, have-it-your-way New York City.

It was hard to believe Flushing, that place of more prominently Asian culture than even famed Chinatown, too, was part of this all-American city. Just a train ride away.

This, I think, is the glorious thing about New York. You can be home, or you can be in a whole new world in what feels like an instant, just by emerging from the depths of the subway system. It’s like a microcosm of the whole world: with rivers and beaches and woods and urban jungle, and high-rise condominiums, prewar brownstones, and suburban houses; grimy bars and majestic cathedrals and corporate multiplexes, and all the many types of people who drift between these various places.

I love that traveling by subway is not only efficient, it also adds an element of surprise to any journey. You descend into its stuffy and sometimes smelly depths, find your small person-sized place among the train’s crowd, feel the jostle of the train rumbling its way through the city’s underbelly. It stops, the door glides open, the crowds pour forth onto the station platform like a much-awaited exhalation of breath. And as if floating on that sigh of eagerness, you float dream-like up the steps and emerge into the sunlight again, blinking in your new surroundings. You never know what awaits you.

Thank you, Flushing, for reminding what it is to truly observe and wonder, explore and discover. I intend to keep on drifting.

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Books, books, books (40 of ’em)

My favorite bookstore I’ve ever been to (and I’ve been to a lot in my 23 years). The Elliott Bay Book Co. in Seattle. All those slips of paper are handwritten, very detailed suggestions from the staff! A truly anti-corporate, intellectual haven for bookworms.

As of late Thursday night, when I completed F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned, I officially reached my goal of reading 40 books in the year 2012! This was very exciting because it was the first New Year’s Resolution I’ve ever made and been able to successfully complete. It’s also the first full calendar year in which I have not been a student, so perhaps it was little more feasible in this manner.

It’s been a wonderful journey with all those different reads, a lot of which were used volumes I collected in interesting places, from the famed Elliott Bay Book Co. on our honeymoon in Seattle to Book Thug Nation in Brooklyn.

Even though I am more of a word-person, I do enjoy a few fun figures here and there. So using my handy-dandy Goodreads account, where I fastidiously document my reading progress each day, I compiled a few statistics on my reading thus far this year:

Total number of books read: 40

Total number of pages read: 12,951

Number of nonfiction books: 8

Number of library books: 16

Number of Kindle ebooks: 9 (3 of which were also library books)

I’m hoping to get close to 50 by the time 2013 rolls around, which shouldn’t be too hard, since I intentionally take the bus to and from work most days to get in about 30-minutes of reading time each way, and I also read during my lunch hour. And in the evenings. And sometimes in the mornings before the bus, too.

I should really find some other hobbies.

In case you are wondering, Read No. 41 is Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser, and Read No. 42 is The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth by Thomas Jefferson (duh). My reading interests are highly eclectic.

Here are some different top reading picks from this year! (**Links to Amazon pages are at the end of descriptions because WordPress won’t let me italicize the book titles and link them as urls. Boo, technology.)

Fave carefree summer read/chick lit:

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Don’t be fooled by the somewhat raunchy name: this book is adorable. After my friend Caitlin suggested I read it several times, I finally caved into picking up a YA title NOT written by John Green, and I’m so glad I did. This is a must-read for fellow francophiles. Basically, the main character Anna is sent to boarding school in Paris, which she is not happy about (I know, right?!?!), and then she meets this guy Etienne St. Clair, and France doesn’t seem so bad after all. Yes, it was as predictable as any rom-com, but this book managed to have a lot of personality. Our female protagonist was down-to-earth and hilarious (a lot of chick lit “heroines” are airheaded, boy-crazy bimbos), and I dare any young lady under the age of 25 to not fall in love with Etienne. Prepare for your heart to bubble over with gushy happiness. Seriously, I haven’t been so happy to read fluff since I finished Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries in middle school. (buy it)

Fave contemporary novel:

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Kate Morton arrived in my life at just the right time — as I began my obsession with Downton Abbey and my infatuation with the whole early 20th century, in general. I also greatly enjoyed her book The House at Riverton and have The Distant Hours on my bookshelf waiting for me, but The Forgotten Garden would be my instant recommendation among her titles. There is so much to love in this book: history, mystery, scandal, intrigues, romance, and fairy tales. To summarize this book very briefly: a young Australian woman travels to Cornwall, England to visit an old country manor and uncover her grandmother’s mysterious past. It is a fantastic, twisting multigenerational tale. It’s a book that will keep you up late into the night, turning its pages with fervor, eager to discover its secrets. But pssst…pretty much all of the characters are women, so this might not be a first-pick for dudes. (buy it)

Fave classic novel:

The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I wanted to dive into Fitzgerald again because The Great Gatsby film is coming out this next spring (and I am SO SO SO excited … watch the trailer, and get excited, too!), and although Gatsby is great, it’s a little too junior year of high school, you know? The Beautiful and Damned is incredibly depressing and tragic, don’t get me wrong, but it is also exquisitely written. There is a reason the author is considered one of America’s greatest writers, and he’s certainly no one-hit wonder. As somewhat of a moral tale for the Jazz Age, Beautiful and Damned tells of Anthony Patch and Gloria Gilbert, a young Manhattan couple who watch their love and happiness squander as their wealth dries up. It tells of speakeasies and drunken revelries in a time of Prohibition, and that should be metaphorical enough for you to understand what kind of people our protagonists are. If I had to summarize this book in one quote from the novel, it would be: “Wine gave a sort of gallantry to their own failure.” A must-read for my fellow English major types. (buy it)

Fave YA novel:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I don’t care how old you are, if you only read one book in the next year, let this be the one. I might be a little biased, since I have loved all of Green’s books and discovered him while still a “young adult” in high school, thanks to the YouTube videos he makes for/with his younger brother, Hank. But really, guys. I cannot tell you enough how ridiculously good this book is! It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me do that weird thing where you laugh while crying. In short, it made me feel ALL OF THE THINGS. Based on John Green’s own experiences as a youth pastor at a children’s hospital and his friendship with a teen fan dealing with terminal cancer, TFiOS tells of 16-year-old Hazel, a three-year stage-IV cancer survivor who meets Augustus Waters, a fellow teen cancer survivor, at — where else? — a support group for teens with cancer. As Amazon.com writes, “The two are kindred spirits, sharing an irreverent sense of humor and immense charm, and watching them fall in love even as they face universal questions of the human condition–How will I be remembered? Does my life, and will my death, have meaning?–has a raw honesty that is deeply moving.” OK, think I need to read this one another time, so I can experience that simultaneous laughing-crying sensation again. (buy it)

Fave nonfiction pick:

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain

Umm, if you know me, were you expecting anything else? Smitten by Bourdain’s commentary on his TV show, No Reservations, I decided to check out the book that catapulted him into fame. I was not disappointed. Bourdain writes about his experiences as a chef, exploring the mysterious world of how food is made and the eclectic characters who prepare it, with raw honesty and great wit. Highly recommended to any foodie or frequent viewer of the Food Network (OK, so those are kind of the same person). If you learn nothing else, it’s probably that you don’t have what it takes to make it in a professional kitchen. I’ll stick to being a diner. (buy it)

Happy reading! Please leave book suggestions for the remainder of 2012/2013 in the comments section!

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Smorgasburg: How to be a foodie (for a day)

Fancy-pants grilled (gruyere) cheese from Milk Truck.

This past Saturday, as part of a weekend of birthday festivities, Sean and I went to check out a cool event called Smorgasburg in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In addition to being a play off of one of my favorite words of all-time, “smorgasbord,” Smorgasburg is made of yummy-ness and fun. The New York Times called it “the Woodstock of eating.” Needless to say, I was pretty pumped.

Smorgasburg takes place every Saturday afternoon, in rain or shine, in the summer months through mid-November along the East River, nestled up next to East River State Park. Basically, this is a collection of food tents–most of which typically operate as either food trucks or brick-and-mortar dining establishments. And you can walk around and eat all kinds of food! Most of it is street fare, from gourmet takes on American classics like the grilled cheese sandwich or pigs-in-a-blanket to the more refined, like artisanal soy milk and vegan kale chips.

I think it’s something that visitors to NYC would love because you get to sample all kinds of great food you can’t find in any ol’ town (or fancy-schmancy adult versions of the foods you grew up with), and you get to enjoy a lovely view of the Manhattan skyline across the river.

 

Smorgasburg, as seen by birds, not me.

Here’s a few quick tips for any locals or out-of-towners heading to Smorgasburg for the first time:

  1. Bring cash! And an ample amount of it, too. Because it’s all the vendors will take. And you WILL eat more than you know you should.
  2. Bring a friend (or two! or three!)! This way you can try many different things. Order the smallest size of everything, and split it. This is definitely the sort of place where you’ll want to taste all the things and will be very sad if you fill up on just one — albeit very yummy — item.

    You really can’t beat this view for your culinary adventures.

  3. Bring a blanket to sit on. We didn’t do this, but I wish we did. There’s a grassy area next to the lot of tents, where people quickly took up all of the benches to enjoy their Smorgasburg purchases. A wise person would think ahead and bring a towel or picnic blanket. Go ahead and make it the most gourmet/artisanal/hipster picnic of your life. (Unless you’re one of those people I’ve seen in Central Park before, consuming “picnic lunches” consisting entirely of Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods purchases. P.S. If you’re one of those people, can we be friends? And can you invite me to one of your picnics, pretty please?)
  4. When you first arrive, stake out the “lay of the land” (“lay of the land” is one of Sean’s favorite phrases). Walk up and down all the rows so you’re not tempted to just spring for the first booth you see. And trust me, you will. Go where your nose, taste buds, and stomach lead you.
  5. Throw ideas about meal conventions out the window. When we arrived, we got a toasted coconut donut from the Dough stand, even though it was nearly noon. Then after eating our way through the lunch foods of the world, we finished off with gourmet s’mores from S’more Bakery. On second thought, throw your ideas about “nutrition” and “balanced meals” out the window, too. At least for this one special, magical time. It is a fair of sorts, OK?
  6. A pleasant surprise!

    Don’t be afraid to try things you think you wouldn’t like. I tried a free sample of those kale chips. They were OK. I also tried fried chicken with a cheddar waffle in maple-vinegar sauce and LOVED it. I never understood the “chicken & waffles” establishments in the South, but now I totally do. It’s two comfort foods together. Fortunately, we did not get a Southern-style portion of this fried goodness.

  7. Give into the pretentiousness. Be a foodie for a day! Yes, we paid as much for one panini-pressed grilled cheese as it would probably cost to buy a whole loaf of sandwich bread and pack of Kraft Singles (in any state other than NY, at least), but you know what? It was about 10x yummier than Wonderbread and a Kraft Single. And I also plan on repeating the experience zero more times. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, not a habit.
  8. Take the East River Ferry back to Manhattan! For $4 a person, you get to go on a decently long boat ride while looking at the skyscrapers of Manhattan on one side and the hodgepodge of Brooklyn on the other. Plus, the subway ride under the river always makes my ears pop.
  9. Before you leave, absolutely get a donut from Dough. Best. Donuts. Ever. I heard the blood orange is a favorite, but Sean has something against citrus-y desserts. So YOU should totally get the blood orange donut, and tell me how it is!

Interesting graffiti on the walk through Brooklyn to the ferry port.

It was a very enjoyable afternoon, sans a somewhat sticky situation involving my s’more (see what I did there? “Sticky situation?” I crack myself up). Smorgasburg is definitely a once-a-year or so venture because the cost of all that artisanal, gourmet food can make it add up a lot quicker than other casual lunches.

But it is a great idea for those of us who love to eat yet are indecisive about what we want to eat! You’re presented with so many appetizing options, you can’t help but want to try them all. Which brings me to my last and final Smorgasburg tip:

10. Don’t let your eyes be bigger than your stomach! I’m still working on that one.

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Walking adventures in upper Manhattan

So as I curl up with a steaming hot mug of Organic Apple Red tea (caffeine-free, guys, don’t worry!), it truly is beginning to feel like fall here. I still haven’t unpacked my sweaters, but it is definitely jeans-and-a-cardigan weather, which don’t you know, is the best kind of weather! To embrace the crisp fresh air before it turns frigid, Sean and I embarked on a fun meandering throughout upper Manhattan this past Saturday. We did have a final destination, but you know what they say about the journey being the best part.

We began by fueling up with brunch at The Mansion Restaurant, one of those classic little diners with a novel-like menu. I ordered “The York Ave,” because I had to wonder what one of my cross-streets tastes like, which is apparently two eggs and ham with cheddar on toast with a side of home-fries. After eating our way through a feast of breakfast-foods, we walked over to The Met, where we scored free admission thanks to Sean’s place of employment. Fun fact: The admission prices listed at the museum are only SUGGESTED donations, so you can technically give $1 and get in. You might receive a dirty look from one of the volunteers, but you can’t deny people their art, OK?

You aren’t allowed to take pictures in this exhibit, like I said, so this is borrowed from the Internet. (source)

At the museum, we mainly checked out a newer modern photography exhibit (a.k.a. How to Do Awesome Things with Photoshop) and the newest “Regarding Warhol” exhibit, which featured pieces by both Warhol and a number of artists directly influenced by him. This particular gallery was super-packed of people who can’t read “no photography” signs, but it was also a super-cool exhibit. I mean, the last room featured Warhol’s psychedelic cow-covered wallpaper design and helium-filled “silver clouds” (shiny rectangular balloons) floating around to The Velvet Underground. Um, hello? Can we talk about how awesome that is?

After we grew weary from all those political statements and bright colors, we meandered out to the Rooftop Garden, which I’d yet to visit. It was more of a Rooftop where you could buy overpriced drinks, but you could see over the treetops of Central Park and a bit of the sweeping city skyline and a gloriously cloudy sky. Also, I inhaled some of the freshest air I’ve inhaled in a while. You don’t know fresh air until you’ve learned what fresh air is NOT by walking by some rotting garbage on the streets here.

A cloudy Saturday that made way for a beautifully sunny Sunday. (Haha…”sunny Sunday.”)

After a quick pit stop at a pretzel stand to become properly caffeinated with Diet Coke, we walked aaaaalll the way across Central Park, by way of one of the cross-streets because the actual park was closed for a concert. Boo. And kept going aaaalll the way to Riverside Park, alongside the Hudson River. Along the way, as we went through the Upper West Side, I saw some lovely brownstones that reminded me of You’ve Got Mail, and also a lot of dogs. Always dogs, everywhere.

A sailboat on the Hudson, don’t you know.

I’d never been to Riverside Park before, but it is nice. A little noisy because there is a highway next to it, but you can smell the clean, salty river water and see New Jersey on the opposite coast. Not that New Jersey is especially beautiful in that area, but it’s nice to be reminded of life beyond this compact island.

The more elevated portion of the park had a few trees with leaves that were beginning to turn colors, and some leaves had already fallen and it smelled like AUTUMN! There were dogs running around being happy, bikers biking around and being happy, little kids on scooters scooting around and being happy, and walkers (like us) walking around and being happy.

This is Sean. He walks a lot faster than me (I have short legs/short everything), so this is frequently what I see as I walk around the city, haha.

Once we made it pretty far into the “upper” portion of the Upper West Side, we decided to go on the world’s shortest tour of Columbia University, a.k.a. “walk across Columbia’s campus to get to our real destination.” I’ve never visited an Ivy League campus before, so that was exciting. Nothing quite says “fall” like school, right?

P.S. Their campus is full of old, gorgeous buildings.

Here is a reenactment of our reactions to Columbia’s campus:

“It’s…it’s so…so beautiful.”

“Yeah, but these undergrads have to be the most spoiled kids on earth.”

“Hello, my name is Columbia, and I am gorgeous.”

“Yeah? Yeah! Columbia sucks.”

“It sucks!”

*both secretly wishing we’d gone to Columbia instead of a public university on scholarship*

More pretty Ivy League buildings.

Theeeen we cut through Morningside Park (we had to go to ALL of the parks, OK?), where we heard what sounded like a Gospel Revival. “Can I hear all my Harlem people say ‘AMEN!’?” “AMEN!!!” Oh, and we also enjoyed the park’s wildlife, like this pretty little tuxedo kitty.

“Meow! Didn’t you know city parks are my natural habitat?”

And then, FINALLY we emerged in west Harlem, a mere couple of blocks from our final destination: Zoma. Cue my first encounter with Ethiopian food (and Ethiopian “honey wine”). Ugh. So good! And what a wonderful excuse to eat with your hands! (After washing them, of course, after all that city-nature-exploring.) You basically take this mysteriously spongy flat bread and rip it apart into bite-size pieces and shovel all sorts of curried and spiced meats and veggies onto the bread and shove it in your mouth. WITH YOUR HANDS.

Feast of Kings. Or Ethiopians. Whatever.

This seems like as an appropriate a time as any to promote my friend Bernard’s blog, as he is currently serving with the Peace Corps in — where else? — Ethiopia! I hope he gets to eat like this often. I doubt it, but one can only hope.

So there you have it: one Saturday’s random explorations! I believe the best way to discover New York is to wander around its streets aimlessly. You never know what you’ll discover.

Disclaimer: We totally took the subway and then an MTA bus home. One can have only so many Manhattan walking adventures in one day.

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