Thursday, April 30, 2009

No animals were harmed in the making of this blog. Mother Earth? Not so lucky.

Last week I received a chain email about ways to help out Mother Earth. One of the suggestions included in this made-for-TV special list was turn off your computer when you take lunch at work. Either this list was written in the 1950's or the author works for Uncle Sam (not you, Mrs. Murphy) where I believe the last eight hour, full benefits and kickin' pension exists. When I read this I thought but how will I get my work done? I couldn't tell you the last time I sat down, ate lunch, and talked to a human face to face. And no, Gchat does not count. Maybe elsewhere, but my office doesn't promote the wash-your-sandwich-down-with-a-cold-glass-of-mental-stability. But maybe that's just New York. After all, the only 9 to 5 in Manhattan nowadays will cost you a pretty penny.

Okay, buddy. Back to the picture.

The point of this post is talk about the fact that lunch was a positive part of my day. Granted, it was more like an early bird special since I didn't leave my desk until 4:00pm to search the Ugly streets of midtown for lunch. But what I did find might just be the my next big thing.

In search of falafel, I followed the suggestion of steadfast Midtown Lunch and checked out the street vendor at 54th and Park (one short block away from the Ugliness). Mind you, the lunch rush was over by now and I was scraping for the literal leftovers. Still at 4pm there I was third in line to order. I went with the falafel platter and I was excited with what I received. Foodie note - this was unreal.

  • Eight - count them - eight falafel balls. A little dry due to them sitting around for hours but otherwise delicious.
  • Spicy rice that lived up to its name.
  • Lettuce and tomato salad.
  • Some kind of spicy pickle and pepper concoction. Really nice.
  • Two grape leaves.
  • A dab of homemade hummus.
  • Warmed and chopped pita bread on top. ($0.50 extra)

    If this was Price is Right, what would you guess? Try $5. Five bucks! Subway, please pack up your virtually meatless subs and scram.

    So there you have it. After surviving most of the day on breakfast and probably artificial free coffee I ended the work day on a delicious note. I'll return to 54th/Park again soon with every intention of considering it round two of my "best of" review.
  • Wednesday, April 29, 2009

    I'm going to have a field day with this place.

    Something I miss about the non-urban life is one's ability to be in continuous contact with nature. Surprise, surprise - that relationship is forfeited once you move to the overdeveloped land that is New York. Fear not though, as I've found my newest new thing to do - join the community garden! The 6BC garden is named for its location; East 6th Street between Avenues B & C. Formally a free-for-all gardening plot styled space, 6BC became a botanical garden over time. The current members' efforts are obvious all around as one walks along the maze of brick pathways. It is truly a space that is loved and appreciated by both its members and neighbors, and I'm looking forward to putting in my dues (and then some) to keep the garden alive and well.

    Tonight was the new member orientation meeting of which I will be, following a few hours of work on Sunday. I'm looking forward to earning a key to a sliver of urban paradise as well as my next photo obsession. Time to put the landscapin' skills to good use.

    Tuesday, April 28, 2009

    Rolling black outs here we come.

    And I'm not talking about the 3:00am drinking kind. Perhaps the saying should be changed to April scorchers bring New Yorkers skin cancer. Today was the fifth day of out-of-season-but-in-a-good way warm temperatures. Where did spring go? Hopefully it'll be back before summer here is here for good. This picture was taken at 9:35pm, mind you.

    For the record, I don't know what CNN and Fox are reporting, but I think the Little Miss Piggy thing going around is being blown out of proportion. Is it a highly contagious strain of the flu? Yes. Is it sweeping through the city's school system? Apparently. Is delicious bacon threatening our lives? No.

    I have not seen a single person wearing a mask on the subways. So if you see CNN pictures of this, take them with a grain of salt. I bet the copyright date on the image is July 8, 2006; unrelated. The only thing subway riders are concerned about is standing clear of the closing doors.

    Sunday, April 26, 2009

    And on the seventh day, Spider-man walked his dog.

    I don't have much to say about this because what is there to say? Spider-man was walking his dog down College Avenue. Turns out his dog was Scooby Doo. Turns out Scooby Doo was a college kid. Weird.

    Saturday, April 25, 2009

    State College returns to normalcy, at least for a day.

    spent Saturday in Happy Valley for the annual Blue/White scrimmage. In case you were wondering (as I know you are), 76,500+ fans strolled in to Beaver Stadium to watch the White team defeat the Blue team 21-16. I'd say twice as many people flooded the cow fields to partake in Penn State's other favorite pastime; tailgating. Following the game four members of the Blue Band's drum line strolled past our tailgate en route to their Saturday night. For the bargain price of one beer a drummer they put on a show for all those in ear shot. Reason #4,902 to love this place.

    Friday, April 24, 2009

    Every college has a legend...

    I'm en route to State College for the weekend, it's 73 degrees outside, and I have chills running down my body. Nothing gets me more excited, more emotional, or more in my blood than Penn State football. You know those crazies that paint themselves at Giants football games in the freezing months? I was that crazy and I still am less the paint. What started out as a way to spend Saturday afternoon with one's freshman friends became something to criticize, dissect, and praise 365 days a year. I'm looking forward to a great weekend under the sun. Big expectations.

    A taste of things to come this weekend...get fired up!

    Every college has a legend,
    Passed on from year to year,
    To which they pledge allegiance
    And always cherish dear.
    But of all the honored idols,
    There's but one that stands the test
    It's the stately Nittany Lion,
    The symbol of our best.

    Hail to the Lion, Loyal and True,
    Hail Alma Mater, with your White and Blue,
    Penn State forever, Moulder of men,
    Fight for her honor, Fight, and Victory again.

    Indiana has its Hoosiers,
    Purdue its gold and black,
    The Wildcats of Northwestern,
    And Spartans on attack,
    Ohio State has its buckeyes,
    Up north the Wolverines,
    But the mighty Nittany Lion's,
    The best they've ever seen.

    Hail to the Lion, Loyal and True,
    Hail Alma Mater, with your White and Blue,
    Penn State forever, Moulder of men,
    Fight for her honor, Fight, and Victory again.

    -By James A. Leyden '14

    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    One down, one to go.

    Yesterday's rains have moved out and the sun is shining; the first sign that this weekend is indeed going to be AWESOME. Two weekends of nice weather in a row? I'll take it.

    Wednesday, April 22, 2009

    Batteries sold separately.

    It was pretty cool to see this car on Earth Day. I'm in western New York for the rest of the week before heading to the happiest place this weekend. Love your Mother (Earth) today, tomorrow and forever.

    Dear Big 3 - please take note of the enclosed picture. I hope your scrap your current doomed-for-failure plan.

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    Just your typical rockin' Tuesday.

    Before traveling for the next 5 days I had no choice but to succumb to the laundry powers that be. I passed this little warning sign over on 4th Street between washes.

    (The picture will be uploaded when I'm back home). Next up - Buffalo

    Monday, April 20, 2009

    April is living up to its reputation.

    Rain and more rain. Some today, more tomorrow. Hey, at least things are looking good for the weekend.

    Sunday, April 19, 2009

    Grapes on the wall.

    I was walking around Philly's streets this morning and mentally bookmarked the side streets south of Rittenhouse Square. The area feels a lot like the NYC's West Village only with less people (that's a compliment for Philly). These grapes were on the side of a building; an old-fashioned shutter stop. Bookmarked. I'll be back.

    Saturday, April 18, 2009

    PJ - unofficial Pescatarian, official heartthrob.

    Happy Birthday buddy. I hope there was wasn't cheese in there...

    Blogger's note - this is the first person to be photo-blogged (oldies but goodies don't count) and I still have mixed feelings about it. Leave your comments on whether I should avoid human subjects going forward.

    Friday, April 17, 2009

    Sunglass Hut - raining on the Macy's Day Parade?

    Okay, I think this is pretty freaking cool. Advanced apologies for the nerdiness of this post. It happens every now and then. But stories like this that make me continue to love this city. Here goes.

    The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is as popular as the turkey dinner or the Detroit Lions getting pummeled on national television. Whether it's the Wednesday night balloon inflating event, the trek down Central Park West, or Santa Claus ushering in the holiday shopping season, millions of Americans make the parade a part of their annual family tradition. These same people have visiting Macy's flagship store in Herald Square at the top of their NYC to-do lists, sandwiched between Canal Street purse shopping and a Broadway show. I don't blame them because after all, it's an intangible part of New York's culture. The Citigroup/Uncle Sam Bailout Day Parade doesn't have the same ring to it.

    When asked by a tourist where they can find Macy's, my answer is always the same - the block of 34th and 35th Streets between 7th Ave and Broadway. Until very recently I thought this was true. How wrong I was. Check out this video then find my reaction after the jump.

    Seriously, how cool is that?!?! I went today to check it
    out and lo and behold, there was the Sunglass Hut in all of its spoiler glory. According to the video, Macy's rents the air space where their bag advertisement rests. I did not know that about Macy's or Siegel, but I certainly feel more NY now that I do.

    Thursday, April 16, 2009

    A day of sunny firsts in Binghamton, New York.

    Unless you were living under a rock (or your work) for the past month, Binghamton New York has recently been in the news for the wrong reason. Had it not be for work, I would be in the same position as those of you who previously did not know where Binghamton was. A simple 3.5 hour highway drive from the city, Binghamton sits at the literal crossroads of Routes 88, 81, and (Highway) 17. If one was stopping in "the Bing" for gas on their way to Scranton, Syracuse or Rochester, it would be easy to think of the town as a place that time has let slip through its fingers. After all, IBM, Dick's Sporting Goods (they sell firewood), and other companies got their start in Binghamton before moving on to towns offering tax breaks. The general consensus is you're either in Bing for life or you're there for the great education at Binghamton University and you're off to greener (or maybe not) pastures. You should note that the town's current and future success rides heavily on the University. A night in Binghamton's bar scene can be easily mistaken for one of Long Island's finest hot spots. Tanning salon and gym membership required.

    As I made the drive I noticed something for the first time. After countless trips to the Bing, it was finally sunny outside. My previous trips were always blessed with rain, sleet, and (usually) snow. I was feeling good as I rode my vitamin D high into town.

    This time around I was skipping the chance to collect serious Hilton points and instead chose to stay at the Grand Royale Hotel (by Clarion). I chose the Royale mainly for its convenience to my evening events (two blocks) and the local watering hole (across the street). I had no idea what I was in for. Formerly Binghamton's city hall, the building is an integral part of the city's architectural history. I was pressed for time today, but I'll be back with charged batteries and an empty memory card.

    Also on the list are....carousels? The next sunny day I'm in the Bing you can bet your lunch money that I'll do my best to track down some of the carousals around town that make it the self-proclaimed Carousel Capitol Of The World. That will be enough for picture WEEK.

    Wednesday, April 15, 2009

    Night two of DMB.

    Another night of DMB, this time in NJ. This was the best I could do with a camera phone...

    Tuesday, April 14, 2009

    Put on your dancin' shoes.

    These guys can still rock.

    Mind you, I'm a former Dave Matthews Band fanatic whose life was 100% engulfed in everything "Dave." Posters, concerts, road trips, AIM screen names, email addresses, wardrobe - it was an obsession that bordered on addiction. I traded (legal) bootleg copies of concerts, first on tapes (MaxellXLII 90's were the standard) then CDR's. To my mother's relief, being addicted to a rock band whose stand out musician plays the violin, I guess things could have been worse. Right?

    Much like my food palette, my musical tastes have (thankfully) expanded over the years and Dave and Co. now find stiff competition on my ipod. But every once in a while, it's good to go back re-live the good old days - predicting the next song based on the instruments the guys are holding, or hoping for the Recently intro to be On Broadway, or keeping fingers crossed that an oldie but goodie is pulled out of the archives (which happened tonight).

    Dave remarked throughout the night, "Who kicks off their tour at Madison Square Garden?" And it's true. The greats have all played here. Billy Joel's name hangs from the rafters. Hell, Dave shared the stage with the Godfather of Soul in 2002. There's something magical about the building that brings a different energy out of the crowd and tonight was no different.

    I've seen my share of DMB shows (20+) and I continue to have respect for a group that goes out night after night and puts on a solid show while having fun. The band has toured every year since '92, and it's the driving force behind their success. Their new album out in June will be their first in seven years.

    Highlights included new material from the upcoming album, including a great first single in Funny The Way It Is. Classics like Two Step and #41 continue to evolve, while songs that have been shelved for years made a boisterous comeback. Oh yeah, Gregg Allman joined the band on stage too. All in all, this DMB fan nerd was reinvigorated.

    Next up - tomorrow's show at the Brendan Byrne Continental Airlines Arena IZOD Center.

    Monday, April 13, 2009

    Buddha – boss of the kitchen.

    The gentle giant watches over the kitchen.

    Sunday, April 12, 2009

    Gracie wishes you a Happy Easter.

    Although she's feeling under the weather, Gracie still wanted to get into the spotlight. To no surprise she was a natural in front of the camera. Hmm, someone loves the spotlight. Happy Easter everyone.

    Saturday, April 11, 2009

    Hey Guy Fieri (and the rest of Jersey) – you’re missing out.

    I’ve been a fan of Guy Fieri since he won the Food Network’s second (and arguably most successful) season of The Next Food Network Star in 2006. Spiked hair, sunglasses tan lines, a fun attitude and an appreciation for fancy real American food made him stand out amongst the crowd. He was the perfect TV personality to take charge of the network’s Diners Drive-ins, and Dives. The show is in its third year of traveling the country for America’s best Triple D’s, even visiting the great Diner State multiple times over. But through all of the mileage he’s clocked traveling the country, there is a small blip on the diners/drive-ins/dives map (emphasis on the dive part) that remains to go unnoticed. Gyro’s Bob’s in Stanhope New Jersey deserves all of the culinary (yes, culinary) recognition given to the much more popular (and aesthetically pleasing) restaurants showcased on Guy’s show.

    Gyro Bob’s is a one-stop shop for good food, a good laugh, and a good lesson in history via faded newspaper clippings. Stealing facts from last year’s Star Ledger review, Crisostomos Dimitrios, now 80 years old, is Gyro Bob. He opened the establishment (with less seats than a high school class room) in 1976 and has been working behind the counter/bar ever since. His no-older-than-14 grandson was behind the counter with him on this day, responding to customers’ questions like a pro. Often times he was translating what his g-pop was saying, as it’s all but impossible to understand Gyro Bob’s still-thick Greek accent. My advice – play it safe. Agree with his questions and you’re guaranteed to leave satisfied.

    Although people rave about his gyro’s (another customer was ordering six to bring back to friends in Pennsylvania) and falafel, I went with the Cheesesteak Royale – steak, lettuce, tomato, bacon, onions, potato, peppers, and mushrooms. All of that made to order and shoveled (literally) on to a bun the size of a paper plate. It’s not South Philly nor is it trying to be. A great combination of flavors, it’s evident its creator put thought into this edible beast.

    If I don't have you convinced already, let me set the scene for you. Faded newspaper clippings from the 80’s. A Woodstock poster. Pictures of old Yankee Stadium. Eighty year old hands slicing tomato to order. Wood paneling. One guy and his grandson. A ’77 Caddy parked outside. Go – visit – order – eat – enjoy. You’ll be back, I guarantee you that. This was not my first time ordering off the half page Xerox menu, and Gyro Bob knew it. When ringing me up he looked me in the eye and said, “Yo’ be’ he’ ‘for, aight? I recognize yo’.” Assuming he said "You’ve been here before, right? I recognize you” it was clear to see he’s still on top of his restaurant’s patrons.

    Yes, he pronounced "recognize" as a three syllable word.

    So Guy, take note. Triple D's mission is to showcase America’s restaurants - big, small, clean, dirty, and everything in between – in all of their glory. I urge you to check out Gyro Bob’s before it’s too late. It doesn’t have the seat capacity of Tick Tock or the martini’s of Skylark, but what it lacks in style Gyro Bob's makes up with a devoted, small-town America following and a sincere appreciation for serving up hearty food.

    Friday, April 10, 2009

    The Ghost of Jiggy Present.

    Headed home for the holiday weekend. I tried taking pictures of my buddy Jiggy but he was not cooperating. It didn't help that I left the flash on the first picture I took; something Jiggs associates with lightening. Sorry buddy.

    Thursday, April 9, 2009

    A slick monster rises from the East.

    The real estate boom greatly fueled neighborhood tensions across the city. Tischman bought Stuyvesant Town for upwards of $5 billion, hoping to turn the last major rent-stablized utopia in Manhattan into a market-rate rental monster for following-the-dream 20 somethings. Trump is working (and will be for some time) on a luxe condo/hotel dual action monstrosity below Houston Street. Brooklynites are still clawing out the eyes of the Atlantic Yards developers (sorry, NJ Nets).

    The East Village has not been immune to the development either. While most upgrades have been gutting old walk-ups and replacing them with similar sized luxury rentals, The Cooper Square Hotel went all-in (with the exception of its rather cumbersome website) on a 22 story hotel in the heart of Cooper Square. The design is slick and will compliment Cooper Union's new academic building, but it has been the treatment of its neighbors at 27 Cooper that has been the at the center of the controversy. Check out this NYTimes article for the dirty details.

    Wednesday, April 8, 2009

    A Ukrainian legend tucked away in the East Village.

    I've recently become a fan of walking 6th Street to work. It's quiet, frozen yogurt free, and because of this blog it offers new quirks to catch on (digital) film. Today I noticed the "no ball playing" sign on a building and grabbed a quick (albeit somewhat blurry) picture. I turned around and noticed the labeled side street connecting 6th with 7th. Who the heck is Taras Schejkjcakcn? I wondered. Determined to do research later, I discovered that Taras Shevchenko was the man who laid the foundation for modern Ukrainian literature. He was a poet, humanist and artist. He's on Ukraine's money, has countless streets named after him and monuments in his honor. The Shevchenko Scientific Society is around the corner. Pretty important dude, no?

    Taras would be happy to know that although his street is not the most traveled strip in the Ukrainian dominated East Village, it leads to an old timer's watering hole. Cheers, good sir.

    Tuesday, April 7, 2009

    Drugs, check. Cosmetics, check. Personality, check.

    I took a detour down 6th Street today and came across Block Drug Store, a quaint, family run shop that was established in 1885. This was my first time
    noticing the storefront in my 2+ years of wandering. According to their website, the store's vintage sign is a designated landmark and the family pharmacists still compound prescriptions. You can bet that I'll be stopping in here sometime soon, as it reminds me of the pharmacy we used to go to as kids (before CVS moved to town). Any place that's been open for 100+ years is cool in my book blog.

    Monday, April 6, 2009

    Wanted: A place to plant these shrubs.

    Yeah, not really sure what the owner of these bushes and peat moss plans to do with them. They were in front of an old walk up, not one of the newly minted luxe locales. I couldn't imagine having a garden (although I'd love one) in my building; I'd be happy with kitchen counter space.

    Sunday, April 5, 2009

    More color spotted at the farmers' market.

    My buddy Kodi and I were walking in and around Tompkins this afternoon and cut past the farmers' market. Taking random, blind shots as I walked, this one actually turned out okay.

    Saturday, April 4, 2009

    Down! High-five!

    I'm dog sitting this weekend (woo woo) so this guy is keeping me company. Kodi is his name and taking long walks in the park is his game. We make a good team, don't you think?

    Friday, April 3, 2009

    Sign #4 that spring is here - color.

    Weekends are always a little bit brighter and today was no exception. I caught these forsythia bushes blooming over on Avenue A outside of the best damn gnocchi in the 'hood. Color isn't only in the bushes though. Every freakin' store in town is pushing color in a town that loves its black.

    Thursday, April 2, 2009

    State fights on in the Big Apple

    It wasn't supposed to be like this. Penn State's basketball team was actually winning games to start the year. Granted wins against Penn and NJIT were nothing to brag about, but the ball was beginning to roll. For the first time in who-knows-how-long PSU won its Big10/ACC Challenge game against Georgia Tech. As the season rolled on senior James Cornley, Stan-the-Man Pringle and sophomore Taylor Battle led our boys in blue to season sweeps against traditional powerhouses Illinois and Indiana. They fought for their lives and came out of East Lansing victorious against the NCAA tourney finalist Michigan State (then #9 in the nation). Penn State fans, usually counting down the days until the Blue-White game in April, were What the hell was going on?! Penn State was a bubble team leading into the final week of the regular season.

    And then the bubble burst. A loss to lukewarm Iowa to end the regular season capped off with a sha-lackin' in the Big Ten tourney by Purdue all but sealed the team's fate in the eyes of the NCAA Selection Committee. An invitation to the NIT (Not Invited Tournament?) and the chance to host the first two rounds was received more like a consolation prize than a reward for a hard fought season.

    The road to Madison Square Garden was almost over with the first game against George Mason. Down three with 4.8 seconds to play, Battle (honestly, you better be a-mazing at basketball with a name like that) hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send it all into overtime. Video of the shot is here - turn your volume down if you value your ear drums. Then there was a game in the Swamp against Florida, where the Gators were 18-1 on the season. Again, victorious. Off to Madison Square Garden to play the Notre Dame Fightin' Irish in the NIT semi's.

    It is easy to feel like a number when attending a university the size of Penn State. Greater than 40,000 students at the University Park campus alone, there are over 450,000 living alumni. But on the flip side, it is very easy to feel like part of something bigger. It is an allegiance-like pride that we paint on our faces, tattoo on our bodies, and incorporate into our weddings. When the call came to support our boys in the Big Apple, 16 buses of fans left State College for the ND game. Thirty three more were packed to the brim for the final game against Baylor. Joe Paterno not only postponed his weekly press conference, but he sat court side for both games. Penn State filled MSG with its very own whiteout. The Penn State faithful showed up, and our guys did not disappoint.

    To those of you who do not follow Penn State, we are not a basketball school. This year's team won more games than the past two seasons COMBINED. This was our first men's basketball championship title in the history of the program. Getting snubbed by the NCAA tourney turned out to be the best thing that happened to us all season. Hey Wake Forest, Florida State, BC, and West Virigina - how'd it feel to be one and done? Mmm hmm.

    Our players came to Happy Hoops Valley to play four more years of ball and receive a quality education. Tournament bids were not a realistic year-in-year-out expectation. But things are changing. Cornley led this program to the national spotlight. He made us relevant. He will go down in Penn State sports folklore as the reason the program turned around. Head over to BSD for a more poignant take on the importance of this victory.

    The victory was capped off on the walk home. Past the Fullington buses re-filling for the productive trip home, a blue and white Empire State Building cut through the foggy night. Turns out it was in honor of the Nittany Lions. Cheers, guys. You made us proud.

    Video highlights of the game bring chills to my spine the way only PSU football videos do. Like I said - things are changing.

    Wednesday, April 1, 2009

    Smell that? Wait until July.

    Some things in life are hard to avoid. Ridiculous rent. Taxes. "Just one more drink." Lack of closet space. But garbage, well it's simply an inevitable part of life in the city. Subway bins overflow, some people smell like it, and twice a week life's leftovers are literally to the curb. Urban planners, for whatever reason, skipped the chapter about back alleys (something Chicago and Philly nailed). The bags look sorta neat all lined up in a row, but come the summer months things will smell to the high heavens. Almost as bad as the subways.