Election Eve in NYC

NEWS, NYC, PHOTOGRAPHY

It’s Nov. 5 and New York City is glowing red, white and blue. On this chilly Election Eve, the city buzzes with excitement as people anticipate tomorrow’s close race between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. It’s uplifting to see so much color, light and energy in the city again after Hurricane Sandy took such a toll on New York residents and others from the area.Below are some shots taken tonight in Times Square and Rockefeller Plaza.

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“Manicure”

NYC, PHOTOGRAPHY

Captured over the summer from The High Line, this photo is one of my favorites. I love the surrealist nature of the billboard, which itself seems surreal against the the muted brown tones of the city, the grays of the clouds. And those floating fingers are just endlessly interesting.

From the pages of Cosmo to real life

LIFE, MISCELLANEOUS, NYC

One of the great things about being in New York is you never know what will happen, or who you’ll run into, on any given day.

The craziest things can happen and they make for the best stories.

Last Wednesday I had plans to meet a friend for pre-work coffee in the basement of Rockefeller Center. As I rushed down 6th Avenue, bordering on late for our 9 a.m. meeting, I received two somewhat puzzling texts from her.

With my wallet temporarily missing and my arms full with the contents of my bag, I didn’t immediately register what she meant.

Until I got to Rockefeller Center, walked downstairs, turned the corner and saw 50 of these guys sitting in tables. (And my friend Katherine, waiting at a table next to them.)

SOURCE: orbitcast.com

(Actually, this is the group from 2007, but it gives you the idea.)

Every single table in the entire seating area was taken up by hunky-looking guys in black T-shirts that said “Cosmo Bachelors 2012.” On the front of each T-shirt was the individual guy’s home state.  Each year, Cosmopolitan Magazine selects the most attractive single guys from every state in the U.S. and publishes short profiles on them in the November issue.

I couldn’t believe it. For 9 a.m. on a Thursday morning, being surrounded by these guys just seemed beyond ridiculous.

But it was indeed real. See? That’s me with Mr. Illinois and Mr. Massachusetts.

Oh, just me and two of the best-looking guys in the U.S.

Katherine and I were so giddy we barely wanted to leave the area to grab coffee. Needless to say, we didn’t do much catching up that morning, or need much caffeine.

Epilogue: it turns out the 50 bachelors were on The Today Show a little while later with Kathie Lee & Hoda. They played Truth or Dare and then helped the dynamic television duo carve pumpkins. (Yes, they assisted in the pumpkin-carving. True gents.) Watch this video clip of the segment, it’s pretty hilarious.

Brilliant August Sun

LIFE, PHOTOGRAPHY

Few things can shake the monotony of commuting, or the feeling that whether on a bus, train, subway or in a pack of people hustling at 8:50 a.m. towards Midtown, as a commuter you’re “one of many.”

It may seem obvious, but once you start commuting you become “a commuter.” Above all else. You’re one of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and in this city, millions. To strangers on the street outside the bus terminal, who see your suit before your face, “commuter” is your principal identity.

Each day I catch the bus, go to work, catch the bus, come home. Sometimes the rides are short and sweet and sometimes they’re long and painful — bumper-to-bumper traffic — filled with passengers either asleep from exhaustion or mumbling profanities under his or her breath.

That’s commuting. Sometimes you’re lucky, sometimes not. That’s just the way it is.

Coming home, I get off the bus at a stop on the edge of the highway. I walk about 50 yards in dusty dirt and grass before climbing the steps to an overpass that takes me across the road, and finally, to the parking lot where my car waits.

It’s repetitive. Wearisome. Crossing and re-crossing your tracks each day, you get that uncomfortable déjà vu feeling you know isn’t really déjà vu. Usually I rush up and over the steps, walking as fast as my worn out feet will allow, shamelessly showing off my endurance to fellow commuters.

But lately, as I’ve reached the height of the overpass, I’ve been greeted by this brilliant August sun — so rich and bold it makes me stop in my tracks.


Commuters in the single file line behind me don’t know why I stop. They don’t see the sun the way I do — they only see straight ahead. Doesn’t she have somewhere to be? What’s she doing? Why is she lingering up here? The stares are audible.

But they stare only briefly and then continue on, to the wide spectrum of people they have to meet, places they need to be. I lean against the crosslink fence, looking down at the traffic and then up again at the sun. The timing is perfect: 6:45 p.m. I check my phone. The sun sets at 7:44.

It’s not just the colors that strike me, but the intensity of the light, spreading through the sky, slowly but inevitably like water on a flat surface. A plane appears miniscule the moment it passes through the growing, dying light. Pine trees in the distance become charcoal-black silhouettes against the sun’s aggressive glare.

I’ve arrived home right at that wonderful, extended dusk period so characteristic of late summer. The colors I think of when I think of August — deep pinks, reds, yellows and greys — all of those colors are here.

I’ve got one month. By Wednesday, September 26, the sun will have completely set by the time the bus doors creak open and I exit into suburbia. And until December 21, I’ll be riding that bus into an increasing shade of darkness.

I keep leaning against the railing until the next round of commuters starts moving up and over the overpass.

I’ve got one month, and less time each day.

I shuffle down the stairs, get in my car. I feel good. Relaxed. Like I have something, know something, that separates me from the masses of people moving in and out of the city each day. Like for a moment, I stepped off the beat we’re all so devoted to, and didn’t lose a thing.

I’m tempted to keep watching the sun as I drive, but instead let it soak into my skin, spill through the slits of the open windows.

Pozie poems: moving poetry, inspiring messages

CREATIVE WRITING, DESIGN, POEMS

moving poetry made with loving hands and minds in NYC

Hard economic times typically spur dismal messages by struggling artists, but the artists behind Pozie poems want to set optimism in motion.

The idea for these brightly-colored mobile poems was born out of the 2008 financial crisis, founders Rion and Kay Merryweather said.

“The mood was very somber in NYC and we knew we had to do something to help,” said the husband and wife team.

Words like “bold,” “confident,” “enjoy” and “love” are painted on colorful wooden boards and linked together to create inspiring messages that change slightly as the mobiles move. At about $30, these Pozie poems make beautiful, simple and creative gifts or conversation pieces. And the top part is a chalkboard for you to write whatever word (words) you want!

You can purchase and view Pozie poems here on Etsy.

Blue Bottle coffee: ‘so good it’s almost beer’

COFFEE, FOOD & DRINK, LIFE, NYC

It’s a warm, breezy afternoon in summer and my grandpa and I are strolling along New York City’s High Line park.

We’ve walked about 15 blocks when we come across some vendors selling art and a few scattered food carts. One is Blue Bottle Coffee, a California-based organic coffee brand that also has a few shops in Manhattan and Brooklyn.  You probably shouldn’t judge a coffee shop by its barista, but the guy behind the cart has that scruffy, indie look that makes me think he takes his coffee seriously.

“Let’s try it out,” Papa says. “I’ve heard it’s good.”

Of course, I’m not going to object. It smells amazing. I wonder though, realistically, how anyone has time for Blue Bottle.

There is no line when Papa and I order our Three Africans Blend drip coffees, but it takes almost five minutes to make them. Not exactly conducive to New Yorkers on the move, but I guess when you’re strolling on the High Line you’re supposed to be relaxed.

With our coffee slowly dripping through the filter, it’s awkward not to make small talk. The barista starts telling us how the Blue Bottle brand has a “cult-like” following in San Francisco, but is just beginning to catch on in New York City.

“In San Francisco,” he says, “Where people only have to be at work at ten, ten-ish, they’ll wait on line forever for a cup. It’s different here.”

Honestly, I can’t imagine people having the patience for that in New York. After all, a cup of coffee is a cup of coffee, even if it’s a really really good cup of coffee.

But we have plenty of time today, and  by this point I’m pretty sold by the scent of the coffee grounds, picked up and swirled around by the High Line breeze.

We finally get our coffee and sit down at a little table in the sun near 15th street. It’s about 75 degrees — if it were any warmer drinking hot coffee might not be enjoyable, but it’s perfect in this weather.

Papa takes a sip first.

“It almost tastes like beer it’s so good,” he says says, smiling.

I start laughing. My Irish grandfather loves his beer. I actually know what he means though — the coffee is so thick and rich-tasting, it’s almost filling.

I take a sip.

“Wow, this is good.”

Now I have to rationalize the high price.

“Starbucks lattes are like $3.75,” I say. “I mean, $2.90 for a cup? It’s still not as bad as being a latte person.”

We talk and talk about how delicious this coffee is. One of the best things about loving coffee is talking about how great your cup of coffee is with another coffee-lover who is genuinely enjoying his or her cup.

“I think this is one of the best cups of coffee I’ve ever had,” Papa says.

“Really?! The best you’ve ever had?”

 I’m thinking this is a pretty big deal for him to say, after a lifetime of drinking the stuff.

“Well, not the best, but close.”

Papa has never been a gourmet coffee drinker, preferring a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts black or the dark roast from Wawa. His all-time favorite — a 7-Eleven blend — was tragically discontinued a few years ago, and he’s been searching for a replacement ever since. He would never willingly step foot in a Starbucks; he thinks their coffee has too much of a burnt taste, which I agree with even though I buy it all the time.

Needless to say, I’m pretty happy about his newfound love for the trendy Blue Bottle.

We continue walking along the High Line, savoring our Three Africans Blend for the next 15 minutes until the coffee’s the same temperature as the outside air. It still tastes good.

That night I arrive home to an email from Papa, informing me of Blue Bottle’s dangerous new Rockefeller Center location.

“How can any one be able to save money working near a Blue Bottle coffee kiosk?” he writes. “There ought to be a law against this type of temptation.”

When it rains it hails … in August??

NEWS

Video taken where my Grandpa lives in New Hyde Park, Long Island. He’s lived there for almost fifty years, and in the NYC area his entire life, and has never seen anything like this before…

Hail the size of golf balls hit parts of Long Island and Queens Monday, denting cars, shattering windshields, and pummeling the roofs of homes. The Long Island Railroad experienced severe delays due to a lightning strike, but no one was injured.

Residents were largely at a loss for words to describe the storm. “Shocking,” “wild,” and “incredible,” seemed most adequate.

Not a beach day, to say the least.

Writer’s Block

CREATIVE WRITING, NYC

Taken on FDR Drive on my way to Brooklyn!

Like I said, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my next longer piece of fiction. This is always the hardest part, coming up with an idea. “It’s not about what you write– it’s how you write it” might be a writer’s anthem, but still, there’s definitely merit in writing that presents a fresh, new idea.

How do you make an old story fresh, or a new story relatable? How do you avoid writing what hundreds of people have already written?

One thing I know for sure is that I want to write in the vignette style. Some of my favorite works of fiction are written this way– Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies and Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street. I love how vignettes allow for multiple perspectives on a common theme, and let the writer flip through time effortlessly. There’s also something poetic about a series of vignettes, because each one is pretty brief. Sometimes a never-ending chunk of text, no matter how amazing the writing, is exhausting. Vignettes let the reader and writer breathe.

I’m a fan.

But what to write about?

Right now I’m at that stage when ideas are still forming; for a moment they’re immensely exciting and I can’t wait to put pen to paper. Then the feeling fades. What was I thinking?  I can’t write about that. Whoosh. Off to the trash.

When I was younger, I always saw fiction as a total escape from my  suburban life, a chance to travel outside the bubble. I wrote about things I had no experience with: flappers from the 1920s, a drug-abusing mother, children with mental disabilities, a quirky New York City coffee shop. I want my new work to fall closer to home. I’ve found that good fiction writing always involves opening up somewhat. Fiction doesn’t have to be based on your life, but on some level it has to be based on your experiences.

Much of my family history lies in Brooklyn, N.Y. My grandfather (mother’s father) grew up in an Irish tenement in Brooklyn in the 1930s and 40s. My father grew up in Brooklyn Heights in a Jewish neighborhood in the 50s and 60s. People usually think of Brooklyn through its context with Manhattan, but for those who grow up there, Brooklyn is its own entity, harboring a history and character independent of “The City.”

When I think of Brooklyn I think of rising housing prices, veganism, the Brooklyn Bridge, trendy bars, artists’ studios, and hipsters. The Brooklyn I see is totally different from my father and grandfather’s Brooklyns. My story would be set only partly in Brooklyn, and would not be focused on history, but it would be interesting to somehow show the area’s development through the lense of a modern-day 20-something-year-old.

Sparknotes of a book that’s not written:

Vignettes/Flashbacks. Brooklyn. Manhattan. Midwest. Social Networking. Newspapers. 9/11.

I’ll elaborate on the other themes in a later post. Vague, I know, but let’s see where this takes me…

Waiting in Hoboken

CREATIVE WRITING, NYC

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my next work of fiction, going through old stories and poems for inspiration. I stumbled across this poem in my files, and it seems appropriate since the ten year anniversary of 9/11 is approaching.  After 9/11 my family and I went to Hoboken to see the Tribute in Light  and I remember feeling emptier after going than I had before– I wondered how people found comfort in lights that could be switched on and off in a second. Back then, I couldn’t understand the point of a tribute that only drew attention to what was lost, and the eeriness of those blue-light towers has always resonated with me.

Waiting in Hoboken

Dusty nighttime,

two blue columns

from another world

pierce the sky and draw

long, swaying paths

in the charcoal water.

a woman gasps

well isn’t that extraordinary

I feel

so close I could swim,

I feel

as long as these

blue lights can float

atop the river,

I can follow them back

to the

get on defense!

call of my soccer coach

and the

dog-walking hey kiddo!

of my next door neighbor,

escape the debris,

and I hear their voices

scuttling cross the Hudson.

it’s a school night, let’s go

say good-bye

to the river

home

the towers have fallen,

and no one speaks

my language.