27 May 2016

Word Salad: What Do You Call It?

Okay, two weeks is a long time to be absent from here, and I apologize. I admit that I've been devoting most of my free time (what there is of it) to catching up on some of the backlog of TV shows on my TiVo.

Anyway, at work we had a listing for a multi-function pocket knife, and the description of its various tools and features was a little garbled. "... knife, saw, double jagged, scissors, bottle opener, can opener, the screwdriver, file, the threading, scissors, red wine drill." The last one is my favorite—it can only be used for red wine?

15 May 2016

Back to New York, Part 3

(I'd planned on making this only two parts, but part 2 ran a little longer than I'd expected and I wanted to give this enough space.) Normally I wouldn't have much to say about the final morning of a trip like this; we'd pack up, get something to eat, and head home. But this time we had a destination, and we had to be there on time. We had tickets to the observatory at the new World Trade Center building. (Neither of us went to the top of the original, and I'll always regret not doing so.)

It's roughly a ten-minute walk from the hotel to the eastern edge of the WTC site, but the observatory entrance is on the west side of the new building, which is situated at the western edge of the site, so it took a few minutes longer to get over to it. Upon entering the building we were sent down an escalator to a security screening much like at an airport, then through a winding passageway, decorated with mementos and artifacts from the construction process, to the elevators.

As we ascended, the walls of the elevator showed a video projection representing the growth of New York City from its founding to the present day, in the space of about a minute. That's all it takes for the elevator to rise to the 102nd floor. We were ushered into a long, narrow room to watch another video, this one maybe three minutes long, hyping New York in general. Then the screens pulled away for a look outside. After a few moments they closed again, and we were briefly confused: was that it?

But then they sent us through another door and down another escalator, to where the staff hit us with a hard sell for rental of a tablet device ($15) that would provide additional information about what we'd be seeing through the windows. Ignoring them, we moved around a corner to where some other staff tried to get us to pose for and buy a photo in front of a green screen; we waved them off and finally went down one more floor to 100, to the observatory itself. (I'm sure some of you might be interested in these extras, but that's not us.)

We deliberately chose the first timed entry of the day (9 am) thinking it wouldn't be quite as crowded, and that was a good choice. We had room to move around and take plenty of pictures without having to jostle with others for window space. Here's a sample:
There's a gift shop, of course, and a cafe if you want to hang around and enjoy the view a while longer. We left after about half an hour, which was more than enough time to make our way around the entire floor. Some of the photos had glare or reflections on the glass, so I can see the value of going in the middle part of the day when the sun is higher. (You can also go at night, though that costs more.)
Leaving the building, we made our way around to the memorial area where the original buildings stood. Even if we hadn't gone to the observatory, we would have made time to visit the site for this. Hundreds of trees have been planted in rows, but of course the focal point is the two voids, which have been made into fountains, with metal panels around the edges bearing the names of the victims. It would be easy to spend a couple of hours there, just moving along the sides and reading all the names. The letters are cut out of the metal, and here and there a flower had been inserted through a name, surely left by a relative or friend. Seeing the empty spaces where those buildings stood was a deeply emotional experience, one I didn't wish to compromise by taking photos.

(For those of you who may be wondering, the 9/11 museum is separate from the observatory. We did not visit the museum; I would be willing, but I don't think the Mrs. has any inclination to do so.)

We returned to the hotel to gather our things and check out. We took a cab back to retrieve the car, which was fine (let's hear it for a lower crime rate and an older vehicle). Before leaving we had one more thing to do: a stop at the Doughnut Plant on the Lower East Side, a short drive from where we'd parked. Unfortunately, the guy ahead of me got the last peanut butter and blackberry jam doughnut, so I had to settle for chocolate.

11 May 2016

Back to New York, Part 2

Right, where were we? On Sunday morning of our weekend trip to New York, the Mrs. was tired from all the walking we'd been doing and wanted to get some extra sleep, so I got ready and left the room, not really knowing what I'd do but eager to get outside and enjoy a beautiful day. (We were fortunate to enjoy fantastic weather the whole time.) The hotel always has coffee available in the lobby (along with some sort of treat, like cookies or muffins) so I fixed a cup and went outside.

There is a patio-type area adjacent to the building that serves as a beer garden during warm weather. Being only April it wasn't yet operating, but the tables and benches were there, so I sat in the sun to absorb some vitamin D (with a hat on, of course) and drank my coffee. I saw a man walk by with a dog and watched them cross the street heading toward the East River, just a couple of short blocks away. I remembered reading that the city had constructed a path along the river's edge, so I got up and followed the man.

The path was full of activity, with bicyclists, joggers, and people walking dogs. I sat for a while watching people, got a smoothie from a guy in a little hut, took some photos, then walked north for a bit, to the site where South Street Seaport is being rebuilt (it was heavily damaged during Hurricane Sandy). At that point I decided to head back toward the hotel and started walking down Water Street. When I was almost back I remembered that Century 21 was about to open (11 on Sundays), so I turned west and headed in that direction.

C21 is like a TJ Maxx on steroids, but also a somewhat nicer store environment. The store adjacent to the World Trade Center site has been remodeled and expanded, and now covers six floors (plus an annex with shoes). It sort of reminds me of an old-time full-line department store, with a substantial housewares department on the basement level. They sell a lot of discounted designer clothing, and plenty of everyday stuff too. The store had just opened so it was nearly empty, and I spent most of an hour browsing. I got a text from the Mrs. saying she was up and getting ready, so I headed back over to the hotel and found her in the lobby getting coffee.

We had a brief conversation about brunch, and decided we needed our Junior's fix. Sometimes (depending on where you are and where you want to go, and what day it is) a cab ride is easier and quicker than taking the subway, and 20 minutes later we were being seated in a booth. After eating we took the subway back to Manhattan, heading for the Cooper Hewitt Museum, but first we decided to stop in Union Square and visit the Strand Bookstore. The Mrs. got a case for her work iPhone, and I got a book on the history of pop music.

We continued uptown to the museum, and later had a very pleasant dinner with relatives at Maya, a Mexican restaurant on the Upper East Side. They take the food a little more seriously than what's typical at many Mexican places, but still offer crowd-pleasing fare like tacos (mine had smoked brisket, pickled onions, and avocado).

After dinner we went over to 2nd Avenue to get a bus back downtown (that particular route stops right outside the front door of our hotel). When we got to the bus stop a bus was there, but all the passengers were getting off because the bus had been involved in a minor accident with a truck. When the next bus arrived a few minutes later, the driver waved everyone onto the bus without collecting fares. (This provided some balance to an incident earlier in the day when we were going back into the subway at Union Square. The entrance had no regular fare gates, just the vertical kind with the metal prongs. The gates took money off our Metrocards but wouldn't allow us through. Thanks, MTA!)

05 May 2016

Forms of Communication

As I have mentioned previously, my longtime friend Just Bud Fox is on tumblr, but I'm not. I don't fully understand how tumblr users communicate with each other, but they often "quote" each other's posts in order to reply to or comment on them publicly.

In response to another user's comment, "Remember the ‘90s, when getting email was fun?" JBF responded:
Come grow old with me? Some Assembly Required and I have been friends since 1985. Of that time, we lived in the same place for less than two years in the aggregate. We used to write big long letters and have periodic two hour phone calls. Then email took over. More contacts. Less content. Lately, we mostly text. We are aging through technology together. Gracefully, I hope.
I hope so, too. It feels a little weird to have known someone for that long, but also gratifying.

04 May 2016

Car Stuff: Basic Black

I saw the '72 Grand Prix again yesterday, parked in the same spot where I found it in January (which is making me wonder if its owner happens to live nearby). It was wearing its new coat of paint, so now we know what color its owner decided on:
I'll admit I was hoping for something more interesting than black, but I also have to be honest and say that huge 1970s cars tend to look good in black. The lack of its original vinyl roof or any other exterior ornamentation is giving it a sinister look (probably what the owner was going for) and making me think of that terrible '70s movie The Car.

02 May 2016

Back to New York, Part 1

When I mentioned going to New York a couple of weekends ago, I may have indicated that I would be writing something about it. So let's not let it get any further into the past before that happens...

It had been four years since I'd visited, and almost that long since the Mrs. and I had been there together, but that one was only an overnighter. After a visit in July of 2011, we'd concluded that we did not really need or want to spend time there again in the depths of summer. The Mrs. gets a day off for the Massachusetts holiday Patriots Day (commemorating the start of the Revolutionary War), so we decided to plan around that.

We drove down on Friday, making it out of the house around 8:30 am and getting onto the highway not long after, following a coffee stop. The ability to monitor traffic conditions and construction activity via smartphone app makes a big difference in car travel; we were able to avoid the seemingly perpetual construction on 95 southbound in Connecticut by switching over to the Merritt Parkway, which roughly parallels 95 a bit further inland.

Normally we go to whichever hotel we're staying at and check in so we can unload and leave our luggage, then we go and find a spot to leave the car. This can depend on where we are staying, but generally the Village and the East Village have worked out pretty well for us; we've also parked in Brooklyn. Street cleaning takes place either on Mondays and Thursdays or Tuesdays and Fridays, and often varies from one side of a street to the other, so signs must be checked carefully.

This time we had plans to meet up with a friend who was already on her way into the city from New Jersey, so the Mrs. wanted to find parking first. We wasted some time because I had her get off FDR Drive too soon, but after we got ourselves into the back and forth of the one-way streets in the East Village, we found an open space on Avenue C a few blocks from Houston St. We took our bags and walked down to Houston, where we got a cab to our hotel.

We've been to the original Bubby's in Tribeca a number of times, but they have opened a new location adjacent to the High Line elevated park and the new Whitney Museum, which was our Friday evening destination, so that's where we ate dinner Friday. Bubby's serves up comfort food and many varieties of pie. The Whitney is a multistory white box facing the Hudson River, with some of the upper floors turned at an angle. It has less character than the previous building on Madison Avenue, but I think it's trying to take a back seat to the artwork on display.

On Saturday we ventured to Staten Island via the ferry to see a former coworker of the Mrs. I'd thought she was going to meet up with us in Manhattan, but the Mrs. wanted the experience of riding the ferry and seeing what the island was like. (The answer to that is: New Jersey, because geographically it ought to be part of that state.) It also looks like a lot of the Boston area, which isn't that surprising. So, been there done that, probably don't need to go back.

We returned to Manhattan and headed for Midtown to do some shopping. Going to Uniqlo isn't as much of a big deal as it was back in 2007 when we first visited the Soho store (they've been offering online shopping in the US for several years and now have stores in Boston and the surrounding suburbs), but the gigantic 5th Avenue store is still something to behold and experience. Muji, another Japanese store, has several stores in Manhattan now, and the one across from the public library is also much larger than the original Soho store. It's deceptive from the street, because most of the space is on the lower level.

After satisfying our shopping urges, we hopped a bus and rode down to the East Village for dinner at Veselka, which has become one of our favorite spots. Open since the mid-1950s, Veselka is like a really good diner/neighborhood place that also happens to serve Eastern European favorites like pierogi and potato pancakes, because it was started by Ukranian immigrants. It's open all night and is lively and fun. Despite its proximity to NYU and Cooper Union, it doesn't seem to draw a large student crowd, but perhaps they don't show up until the wee hours.

After that we retreated to our hotel, and I'll resume with my Sunday morning activities...