Staycation in Park Slope

Considering I had a long weekend trip just a few weekends ago, and I’m in the midst of planning a vacation with my mom for not too long from now, a four-day Labor Day staycation was clearly in order this weekend. I needed it. My apartment, which wasn’t looking bad but required a little cleaning and attention, also needed it. And so I had four days wherein I stayed so close to home that I didn’t take the subway and only took the bus once, after a particularly expensive drugstore visit.

???????????????????????????????A delicious and cheap brunch place where Mayor De Blasio has been known to hang out

I ran some errands, saw a couple friends for meals, did some trip planning, and got some reading time in. I also watched some TV and a movie, two things I haven’t done all that much of this summer. I even got up and went to the gym on Monday morning, a little later than I usually go because it was, after all, a holiday, and the streets were quiet besides a few dog walkers and cyclists. The gym was emptier than usual – I had the whole row of ellipticals to myself.

???????????????????????????????The Park Slope library, with random stoop sale outside it

During my errand outing in Park Slope, and when I was meeting up with my friends, I took a few photos of the neighborhood. It’s where I go for brunch and to buy shampoo and return library books (when the library is not closed for the holiday, oops). When friends visit who haven’t spent much time in NYC, they’re usually surprised by Brooklyn. It doesn’t look like the NYC they’ve seen on television or in movies.

DSC01850A pretty church

That’s one of the things I like about living here. Working in Manhattan is a lot of fun, but it’s nice to escape at the end of the day and on the weekends to a place that’s a little quieter. Even with Park Slope’s notoriety, I don’t think there are a ton of tourists wandering down 7th Avenue. I can handle the baby strollers, and there are usually enough cute dogs to more than balance out the small children.

???????????????????????????????Pretty houses

I meant to take more pictures of the commercial streets, but I got distracted by trees and pretty buildings. Next time I take a walk maybe I’ll get some more pictures of restaurants and stores, or even people.

Well, maybe.

???????????????????????????????A lovely weeping willow

What did you do with your long weekend, and what’s your favorite staycation activity?

PS The movie I was in has started showing in theaters, but I haven’t gone yet! If you see it, let me know if you spot me!

???????????????????????????????Another pretty church! This one has a used book sale every February.



Summer’s end

I can’t believe it’s almost September. This summer has absolutely flown for me. It started out strong with my trip to California and has continued to be great, though I’ve definitely spent too much time inside. It never got terribly hot here this summer, something which didn’t bother me at all! I’ve never been a fan of hot weather.

It’ll be time soon enough for me to tell you, again, how much I love fall, but for now I want to say that while I can see the days getting shorter I still love that it’s light in the mornings when I leave for the gym, and light when I get home. Walking out of my apartment some days lately it’s been just a little cool when there’s a breeze, but not cool enough to need a jacket. Today on the subway back to Brooklyn it was quiet – so quiet that I got a seat the whole way home. Everyone is leaving the city, or at least taking off of work, for one last summer weekend.

I don’t have any special plans yet, but I hope to spend at least part of the weekend in the park. I know how much I’ll miss this weather when it’s cold and slushy outside, but right now that seems like it happened so long ago that it’s almost not real. The summer’s flown by, but it’s also been summer forever.

How are you celebrating the end of summer, or the beginning of fall?

PS New post for FIPS here, and as you may have noticed, I’ve switched over to WordPress. If you follow me on a reader, update your links accordingly!



At the top of Central Park

I tend not to spend much time on weekends in Manhattan. It’s not that there aren’t great things to do in Manhattan – there are, and I’ve written about them. But when you spend a solid hour and a half commuting Monday through Friday, sometimes on the weekend, you need a break.

Cathedral of St. John the Divine

But this weekend I made the trek, and not just my normal trek to downtown, or to midtown for a show. I headed up to 110thStreet and Central Park West. My friend and I both had parties to go to that evening around 100th Street on the east side of the park, so we met up at a café near the northwest corner, got something to eat and drink, and had a nice chat. On my way to meet her I stopped to snap a few photos of St. John the Divine. Sometime I’ll go back and take some pictures of the interior, since when I was there seven years ago it was under renovation.

 After we ate, we meandered into the park to make our way across and slightly south. I’d only ever seen this bit of Central Park from a bike, so it was neat to explore a little and see what the north end has to offer. It was definitely way less touristy than the southern end of the park, which is in itself a recommendation.
There’s a lake, and a swimming pool, and some really gorgeous little gardens. Some of the buildings we could spot along the east border of the park were pretty too. We passed a man in a tux, hands in his pockets and blowing bubble gum, and then a wedding party, out for photos. We assumed the man wasn’t the groom…

 We got turned around a little as we left the park because some streets dead-end at the train line up there, but eventually we both made it to our parties. It was a really lovely outing, made better by the fact that despite some threatening rain clouds, we didn’t get wet.
 This doesn’t count as my “getting lost” outing (I really need to do that soon) since my friend knew where we were, but it was great to wander through an area of the city that I hadn’t explored before. Are there any parts of Central Park, or any other park, that you’ve stumbled upon and loved?


Walking the High Line

I can’t believe I haven’t written about the High Line before. It’s been five years since I first walked it with friends, when I was an intern, and fell in love with it. But if I’m being honest, the reason I haven’t written about it is that I’m not sure I’ve walked it since I started writing this blog. I know, it’s crazy – how can a place be one of my favorites in New York if I haven’t been there in a year? But the High Line is pretty far west, and not the easiest place to get to by public transit. I walked there last night from my office and it took me about half an hour – only ten minutes longer than the subway option would have taken me.

But it’s worth the hassle it can be to get there, because this above ground subway line-turned-park is gorgeous. The buildings that surround it are interesting, and the contrast between the green trees and plants and the buildings is the perfect level for an urban park. It reminds me a little of Bryant Park, except the focus of the High Line is walking.

I went last night with a friend and we walked along the whole length, and much of the way back, stopping along the way for a gelato and a drink. There were people sitting at benches and on the grass all along the High Line, but there was also the steady stream of people strolling. We strolled, and talked, and I took these pictures to remember what a beautiful summer night out can look like.

I love the spot where you can turn around and see the Statue of Liberty in the distance, tiny but present, and the spot nearby where you can sit at a window overlooking the street and watch the traffic in front of you.
Part of the path was wet, maybe from irrigation for the plants, and kids and adults were cooling off their feet.

If you’re interested in the history of the High Line (or, you know, how to get there), you can read more about it here. If you want to read a beautiful children’s book about places like the High Line, pick up a copy of The Curious Garden by Peter Brown.

Lazy writing, or, forgetting the details

Sometimes I write these posts in a bit of a hurry. Life is busy, time gets away from me, and it’s the night I’m supposed to post and I have nothing written yet. When I first started the blog (almost a year ago!), I had a few entries in the bank, which was an excellent plan. I also had a list of topics I might someday write about. The bank is now empty, and while there are a few items still on the list, mostly I come up with new topics on the spot. Often, now, they’re timely: I write about something I just did or just heard about.

But when rushing to get something written, sometimes I summarize instead of really taking time to show what an experience was like. So, without further ado, five details that got left out of recent blog posts!
1.       The Empire State Building. On my recent trip up the Empire State Building, I found that while we didn’t stand around waiting in line for very long, it did take some time to get to the top. This was partly because, in order to accommodate the lines that are usually there, there are some hallways you have to walk through. Some of these hallways have rope barricades that zigzag back and forth. These are surely very practical when there are a bunch of people, but for us they were like low hurdles: after zigzagging a couple times, we just started hopping over them. On the way out, we had almost made it the elevators when someone told us we couldn’t go that way – and pointed us to the gift shop instead. Of course. They did have a pretty neat 4D puzzle of NYC there, though!
2.       Summer Streets. (Coming up this Saturday, 8/9, and next, 8/16) When I went to Summer Streets a couple years ago, my roommate ended up on rollerblades because the bike line was too long. What I didn’t mention was how we procured those rollerblades. Around Astor Place, she hopped on the subway to make her way up to 42nd where we thought there was a skate rental. I biked up to meet her there and along the way happened upon the skate rental, somewhere in the 30s. I guessed (wrongly) at her rollerblade size, checked out a pair, hung them over my handlebars, and met her up at 42nd. It’d been years since she rollerbladed, but she gamely put on the too-large blades and whizzed down the dark Park Ave tunnel ramp at Grand Central – and didn’t get hurt!
3.       Freestyle Love Supreme. Early on in the show, the beatboxer set up the beat in an unusual way. While beatboxing, he started miming out… something. What he was doing, we couldn’t quite tell. At one point he seemed to be pulling a heart out of a body (or maybe he was putting one in?), and then a helicopter came by, and then he seemed to have a soundboard that he was messing with. I honestly have no idea what was supposed to be happening, but the noises and gestures he was making were funny, so we all laughed, despite being confused.
4.       King Lear in Central Park. Lear’s fool was wonderful. He was so angry when Cordelia was sent away, and he chastises the king but also supports him. There was so much thought behind every line of his and every action, and my heart broke a little for him, watching him watch his king fall apart. The show runs till August 17, so if tragedy is up your alley, check it out!
5.       Getting lost in NYC. Easiest way to get lost: Let someone else navigate. If I’ve decided that I’m not making the directional decisions and I stop paying attention to where I am, it’s a lot easier for me to get turned around. I once walked around Prospect Park with a friend, before I’d spent much time there, and when we found ourselves back where we’d started I realized my sense of direction had utterly failed me – but I still had a lovely walk.

Going forward I hope to be a little less lazy and a little more detail-oriented with these posts, but I’m making no promises! Any posts or stories you’d like a few more details about?

Summer Streets of NYC

If the rain holds off this weekend, there is something all the New Yorkers reading this should check out on Saturday: Summer Streets. If you’re out of town, or it does rain, don’t worry — you’ll get another shot next the follow two Saturdays, 8/9 and 8/16.

Summer Streets is an event in Manhattan each summer where a long stretch of road is closed to car traffic for the morning, from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m., from the Brooklyn Bridge all the way up to Central Park. The route is almost seven miles long, and if you go to check it out, you can walk, run, bike, scoot, rollerblade, or basically use any non-motorized form of transportation to travel through the city.

I did it two summers ago with my friend and we had a blast. I rode my bike, and we picked up a free roller blade rental for her because the bike rental line was too long. I don’t usually bike in Manhattan — too much of a scaredy-cat — but having the opportunity to do so and not share the road with cars is so much fun! I got to do that when I did the Five Boro ride, and Summer Streets is a great way to get the same experience without having to ride quite so many miles.

It doesn’t hurt that there are rest stops along the way with food, free samples, workshops, crafts, music, a zip line and climbing wall — and all of it is free! Even if you aren’t a cyclist or skater, just walking along a street without cars is a novel experience in the middle of Manhattan, so I highly recommend it!

Has anyone else been to Summer Streets? And more importantly, who wants to check it out with me one Saturday?

Hot summer (garbage) days

It was garbage day in my neighborhood and I thought something that I’ve thought every summer garbage day that I’ve lived in New York: This city is kind of gross.

Growing up in the suburbs, our garbage was always encased in those heavy-duty giant bins that we (well, my dad) rolled out to the curb on garbage day. Sometimes, if we had a lot of garbage that week, we might have a smaller plastic bin like the ones my landlord has. But as far as I remember, no one in the suburbs puts their trash out just in a bag.

Here in New York, though, I sometimes put trash out in just a bag, and so do a lot of other people. Mostly I do it if it’s late the night before trash day, or early on trash morning, if my landlord hasn’t put the can out. I don’t want to risk my trash sitting in the can for a week, and I don’t know that he’d want me to pull the can out myself. I fully admit that I am part of the problem.

The problem of course is this: On hot garbage days, the streets of New York stink. Stink as in hold my breath as I walk by because I really don’t want to smell your rotting food or whatever else you’ve thrown out that smells bad in the heat. And since we New Yorkers do a lot of walking, and garbage day is different all over the city, often from block to block, sometimes every day is garbage day.

But on the bright side, garbage isn’t the only thing people put on the side of the street. In Park Slope, at least, people often put out furniture they don’t want anymore, or books, or all the other stuff you might sell at a stoop sale, the NYC version of a tag sale. I’ve scored a beat-up but serviceable end table and a copy of Quiet by Susan Cain (highly recommended) by the side of the road.

How do you avoid stinky garbage days in your neighborhood? And have you found anything worth salvaging by the side of the road lately?

Summertime in Bryant Park

I love parks – I write about them enough, don’t I? – but Bryant Park is a very special kind of park. As my friend said on Friday when we ate our pizza there before seeing a show, in Bryant Park you are still very much in the city. It’s ringed with tall buildings that you can see above the tree line, and it’s filled with people at all times, people who are sitting and reading or sunbathing or talking or doing yoga or doing nothing. There’s food to eat and a carousel to ride and an outdoor bar and ping pong tables and a library space – and space to just be, even in the midst of hundreds of other people. It’s only been that way for a little over twenty years, after a renovation that turned it from an unsafe space to a celebrated public asset – with public bathrooms worth raving about.

I’ve waxed poetic about Bryant Park before, I know. And if you’ve been reading this blog since the beginning, or have ever talked to me about Bryant Park, you’ll have heard at least a bit of this story. So, sorry. But every time I go to Bryant Park, especially in the summer, I flash back to a summer night in July, a few years ago, when I came to NYC for an interview. It wasn’t for the job I ended up taking, but it was in my industry, and it had gone well. I’d met some friends for happy hour and the three of us had wandered over to Bryant Park afterward.

Summer nights are long in New York. The sun doesn’t set till about 8:30. That night years ago in Bryant Park, the light that was left before the sun went down, along with the streetlights and lights from nearby buildings – Times Square, after all, is very close – cast strange and lovely blue-tinted patterns across the pavement as I sat with two friends at a table under the trees. I looked around at the park, at the shadows, at my friends, and at the city around us, and thought, “Okay. I can do this.” A month or so later I moved to New York and I’ve been here ever since.


There’s a movie series, and like last summer I imagine there will even be dancing lessons, but what defines Bryant Park is that it’s a gathering place, whether you’re alone or with others. If you need time with nature, go get lost in Prospect Park. If you need to be reminded of how beautiful New York is in the summer, head to Bryant Park.

Free Saturday at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

My dad came to visit this weekend and on Saturday morning we knew we needed to spend time outside. It was a gorgeous day, in the upper seventies, and after brunch at a diner we wandered over to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Famous for its cherry blossom festival each spring, the Botanic Garden is located in the northeast part of Prospect Park, near the Brooklyn Museum and the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. When we got there, we made a lovely discovery: admission is free on Saturday mornings between 10 am and 12 pm.

We wandered into the park and found ourselves in the native flora section, where some of the bushes smelled like the ones we had in our old backyard. There were wide paths and narrow ones, and while we could hear traffic and catch an occasional glimpse of it, this little bit of woods could have almost been a trail in a park upstate. At the head of one of the narrow paths we came across a young couple and their tiny twin toddlers. One of the girls was walking sturdily along until she saw us, at which point she hid behind her mother’s leg.

We emerged out of the flora paths and passed a pond, complete with turtles and lily pads, then walked into the rose garden, my favorite part of the Botanic Garden. I took picture after picture, trying to capture the vibrant colors. There was a couple who looked to be taking engagement photos, and a little later a woman asked me to take a photo of her in front of the roses.

Alongside the rose garden was a beautiful lawn that I think was the esplanade where the cherry blossoms would have been in early spring. Families were sprawled out on the grass, and while you’re not supposed to bring food into the garden, it looked like a perfect place for a picnic – or at least for a quiet afternoon with a book.

Our last stops were the Japanese Tea Garden and the Shakespeare Garden. The pool of water the Japanese Tea Garden sat on was lovely, but the flowers in the Shakespeare Garden were lovelier. There’s also something especially neat about a garden populated with flowers and plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. I went to a Shakespeare Garden in Golden Gate Park a few weeks ago, and while it was bigger, more like one of the private courtyards at the end of the movie Notting Hill, it didn’t have quite the impact that this smaller garden, packed with flowers, did.

There are other times when the Botanic Garden is free, so check out the website to plan your visit! Has anyone else spent any time there? What’s the best season to go?

"Much Ado About Nothing" in Central Park

I’ve been to see a Public Theater production twice, and both times involved an element of luck. The first time was two years ago, when a friend of mine won a Twitter contest through her intimate knowledge of musical theater history and quick Twitter skills, and I was lucky enough to be her plus one to see “Into the Woods”.

The second time was last Friday.

I’d just been to see “Macbeth” at the Park Avenue Armory, and in my post I mentioned that I wanted to see the Shakespeare in the Park production of “Much Ado About Nothing” soon, as a palate cleanser. My friend who went to “Macbeth” with me felt the same way and suggested we try to get standby tickets on Friday since it was still early in the show’s run. She planned to take a half day at work and would be able to get in line early.

But on Friday, things weren’t looking good. It was pouring rain as I left for work and the weather report promised a thunderstorm right when the show was supposed to begin at 8 p.m. My friend had more work to do than anticipated, we didn’t win tickets through the online lottery, and neither we nor the other friends who wanted to come with us felt like standing in line in the rain. So we came up with an alternate plan: meet at the theater after work and see what the line looked like.

We walked up to the Box Office around 5:15, and there was no line. Literally, there were no people standing outside. It wasn’t raining, but the sky was beginning to look threatening, which might be why there were still tickets left at the box office. They were single seats, all near each other, and we took the tickets and went to find food, still a bit shocked that we’d gotten tickets without having to stand in line at all.

The sky looked increasingly ominous, so after picking up some plastic ponchos at Duane Reade, we picked a restaurant at random and found ourselves eating at a bistro called Sugar and Plumm. It was expensive, as most sit-down places on the Upper West Side near the Natural History Museum seem to be, and frankly a little weird. It was candy-themed – you could buy chocolates and pastries to go, or order sweets like crepes and waffles off the menu all day, and there were candy mosaics on the walls – and as time went on, we saw a fair number of parents with small children. There was also a cocktails menu, which seemed like a weird choice for a place catering to young families – or maybe a perfect choice?

Anyway, it started to rain as soon as we sat down, full on pouring rain that quickly became a thunderstorm. By the time we headed back to Central Park at 7:30, the rain had let up slightly, though it rained harder as we got to the theater and stood under an overhang, waiting to go in. Sometime after 8 p.m. they let us in and we hovered near our seats, hoping to get some together. There were plenty of empty rows, and soon the ushers told the audience that we could move down and fill in empty seats if we wanted to. We chose seats ten rows or fewer from the stage, and center, and settled down to enjoy my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays.

The actors came out, talking and singing in Italian, as the prerecorded message about the history of Shakespeare in the Park was played (their reactions to hearing voices from on high were priceless), and as things got started we realized it was no longer raining. It stayed dry for the rest of the night.

The actors spoke the first line or two of the play in Italian (a little surreal for me, as I mostly understood them) before switching to English, and then put on a simply wonderful production. Lily Rabe as Beatrice’s voice was a little husky and sharp – I couldn’t tell if she always spoke that way, was putting it on for the character, or was actually sick, but it bothered me for a while and then I grew used to it. Her chemistry with Hamish Linklater’s Benedick, a floppy-haired, heavily bearded, goofy thinks-he’s-a-lady’s-man charmer, was great, and they really brought out both the humor of the play and the more serious side.

I liked Claudio, which rarely happens and which made his eventual betrayal of Hero that much more frustrating, and I disliked Don Pedro – which was great! So often he’s played as this affable prince who has everyone’s best interests at heart, and to see him played as more conscious of his status, and less trustworthy (Claudio’s fear that Pedro has woo’d Hero for himself seems almost plausible, especially given Benedick’s reading of the situation, which is usually played more tongue-in-cheek than it is here).

The set was beautiful but simple (see photo!) and the staging similarly straightforward, letting the words and story, as put across by these fabulous actors, be the clear focus of the production. I loved every minute of it – unsurprising, since it ismy favorite, but when you’re as attached to something as I am to “Much Ado”, there’s always the fear that a production will make a hash of it. Not this one – I highly recommend it, and I’m hoping to go again soon!

Have you been to see any productions in the park? Do you have tips or tricks for getting tickets?

PS I’m now crossposting these to Tumblr at (as well as reblogging other  people’s interesting NYC-related posts). Have a Tumblr? Follow me! 🙂