new york city

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The lashed R is killing me in this one. ‘You Go Girl’ should be given a civic award.

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The muppet that never made it to prime time. Man, this guy gets around.

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Right outside the library. Given that it’s scrawled 4 feet off the ground, kudos to the bold 2nd grader who chose such a vicious gang name.

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If I got one of these dollars from here my head might pop.

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El Especialito indeed! El dragon es tan lindo!

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Tussy. Not so tough, but well-marked.

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As part of our commitment to enjoy the city we live in while broke, my sister suggested we visit the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens on their free day. Most museums and important spaces have some sort of ‘free day’, or at least reduced admission, where those who can’t foot the normal ticket can still enjoy the sites. The Met in particular, with their ‘suggested donation’ is a good spot to visit, if you can get over the attendants’ dirty looks when you suggest they get more wealthy patrons. Do not let their stares guilt you! Some family is paying for the flower arrangements at the front door, so I think they’re doing alright.

I attempted the MoMA’s free day exactly once, and was not only disappointed by their poor layout and exhibits, but the crowd was so great you could only see the top halves of the larger paintings for the most part. A similarly poor experience was had at the New Museum; love their gift shop (which is totally free to wander around in and has plenty of overpriced arty books and trinkets to flip through to your heart’s content), but hated their collection. ‘Younger Than Jesus’ was up, a collection of artists from the last 10 years or so, and if the two galleries I saw before being unceremoniously booted out for early closing were any indication, pointless bullshit shoveled into large piles is de monde. Also- large lettering over said piles. But to focus on the positive- despite a grey and windy day, the Botanical Garden offered much natural beauty and even shelter in the form of their extensive greenhouses, three of which are representative of three different ecosystems. Some sites en route:


Wolfy at the bottom looks so chuffed with himself.


You don’t see ‘Warning: Sexually Exquisite’ around many construction sites.


I recently discovered there is a Lifetime Movie Channel. Glad Ganesh is a part of it.


I’ve seen birds sleeping in clumps, half awake, but never have I seen zombie eyes on ducks before. Their eyes are completely whitened, and they reacted to no stimuli, including half a dozen children screaming ‘DUCKS DUCKS DUCKS DUCKS!!!!’


The fox statues and intermittent sun reminded me of the first story in Kurosawa’s ‘Dreams’, where the little kid witnesses the Fox wedding procession against his mother’s advice and ends up abandoned and presumably encouraged to commit seppuku.

Here we have the leftmost greenhouse, showcasing desert plants of all varieties. It wasn’t extremely warm in there, but was dry enough to stop our runny noses.


This looks like a sandworm’s mouth from Dune.


Crown of Thorns plant.

The next greenhouse was the Tropical Greenhouse, filled with papayas, mangoes, coffee plants, guava trees- my sister expressed surprise no families were up in here climbing the trees and having a picnic.

Dicks.


Get your spoons out, Victorian ladies!

Another greenhouse upstairs was dedicated to water and swamp plants:


Someone turned their garbage can into a giant Muppet.


Street rage taken out on a snazzy clown car.


What the hell? This is in front of someone’s 3-STORY BROWNSTONE HOUSE! Did they have no room in any closet shelf to tuck this lil’ guy away?


I spent seriously 10 minutes waiting for the extreme wind to die down so I could get a picture of this saying ‘Sex Street Tail Market’. But noooo. 20 pictures later this was the best one.


So close.

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I’m finally uploading all the photos I amassed during the pleasant parts of the year. Please to enjoy.

Quite some time ago I promised photos of the most Bauhaus children’s playground ever. Behold! I give you:

St. George’s Play-Yard! Can’t you just feel the joy? Here’s a crappily cobbled wider view:


Can you hear the grey uniforms the kids here must wear? It looks like any minute Cesar will somnambulistically walk along the Spider’s Web down to the imposing angled dodecahedron with his master’s hapless victim.


I passed this poster on the way to work every morning and it made me giggle, partly because it always triggered the song ‘My Boo’ in my head, partly because ‘Boo’ was a childhood nickname, and mostly because the first 20 times I passed it I thought the guy in the hat was a 10-year-old kid and the other guy was his dad, making the bottom proclamation rather startling upon my first closer examination.


The Doughboy’s getting all sorts of outside game:




This went up suddenly along Houston St., and was slowly taken down as the building it covered was renovated. Close-up it was equally amazing- each slat on the iron gate was covered with an individual strip so it wouldn’t tear when the gate was lifted.


The guy has every reason to be nervous but the bear’s expression looks like he has some awesome gossip to share.


It’s been confirmed that Aqua Boricua was the Victorian term for Bacardi Dark.


This store’s time has long passed, but we can still enjoy their pluralization of Nintendo. Why bother posing him so carefully if you didn’t even put sais in his hands?

Anthropomorphic Flea Market

Yaaaay!


Nooooooooooo!


Whyyyyyyy, God?

L.E.S. Mystery Theater
Though lately Manhattan has little to draw me to it, Cakeshop, a pleasant coffee shop/bar/music venue, remains one of the few places I feel comfortable. It too has its share of overly loud, fashionable patrons, more so on Fridays and Saturdays, but their cheap and interesting lineups and parties are worth some crowding. It’s also run by the people behind the now-defunct Alt.Coffee, my college hangout. Across the street from Cakeshop are a wall of boutiques selling fancy clothes for fancy people. I’d never really walked along there though it’s only about 12 feet away, the only thing on that side worth the effort being Le Creperie when one has a late-night hankering for some ungodly combination of Nutella, chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers all tucked up in a crepe.

However, en route to the Tenement Museum (possibly the most depression for your dollar, second only to the Holocaust Museum in DC), a tiny shrine caught my eye, tucked into the niche between two of the stores:


I tried looking up the woman’s name and date of death in the public record, but with no luck. Does anyone have a better idea what happened here? The wording on the urn’s plaque is so strange; it could mean ‘they denied her children…” as in they denied children she had as legitimate, or ‘they denied her children, as in they wouldn’t let her have children. Both the photo and the plaque also imply some sort of suicide in response to whatever the incident left unsaid might be.

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This past weekend I visited the Museum of Natural History (pictures forthcoming). The place was packed, more so than usual for a Saturday, with kids running around everywhere. The Hall of Marine Life was amazing, open in design yet presenting a great deal of information, rivaled only by the Hall of Diversity for jaw-dropping awe upon sight. However, it was the quieter parts of the museum, particularly the Hall of New York State Environment, with its windowed dioramas and lettering untouched since at least the 60′s, that charmed.
In the far corner of the room containing ancient mammals is an open rotunda looking out on Manhattan; seats encourage checking out the view and resting, so not surprisingly it was filled with strollers and toddlers. While admiring the view I heard a mom exclaim loudly and grab a small boy, who seconds later began screaming. Looking over again I saw a pool of blood gathering on the ground where she stood holding him. I realized the kid must have run straight into a bench and if not broken at least opened up his nose. A crowd began gathering, the kid kept screaming and I moved on.

Crossing the street by Irving Plaza yesterday I heard a child in a stroller fake crying. As if that wasn’t annoying enough the kid then started yelling “You didn’t get me what I waaaaaaaaannnt!!!” between fake sobs. I was walking past them and looked up at the mother. She was calmly pushing the stroller ahead and I realized, she’s annoyed by this too. It’s her kid though, she can’t just walk past it and judge like I’m doing. As I moved ahead on the sidewalk I heard her say “Did you want to ride on the carousel?” with complete and malicious innocence. This set him off on a new volley of “I WAAAAAAAANNNT IIIIIIIT!!!!” and then “I WILL NEVER BE YOUR BEST FRIEND!” to which I heard her say “I can live with that.” As the kid kept shouting “NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER…” until I was out of earshot, I sympathized and realized people can and do get irritated by their own progeny. So many parents turn a blind eye I’d assumed tacit acceptance was the general rule, with true irritation reserved for parents actively cooing at their childrens’ rampant destruction of property or selfish behavior.

I’m not exactly sure why I’m writing about these two events, the first reminded me of the second, and that’s about it. Hmm.

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Sure, fine, they’ve got millions burning holes in their Diesel jean pockets and there’s only so many designer satchels they can buy before it gets boring, so I can see why real estate would pique Yuppies’ jaded interests. They can go ahead and price everyone interesting out of Manhattan, build glass and steel monstrosities all over Brooklyn, turn everything into giant human terrariums, but I beg of them, leave the High Line be!!!

If you’ve worked or walked around the Chelsea district, chances are you’ve noticed the unused elevated track running over streets and through buildings along 10th Ave. It is all that remains of New York City’s El tracks, aside from a tiny chunk of the 3rd Ave line, and the rusted remains of the Ninth Ave El in the upper 160′s. It can’t officially be called abandoned, as the Surface Transportation Board denied Conrail’s request to abandon the line in 1992, before Conrail handed control of the space over to the Norfolk Southern railroad and CSX. It has a long and storied history, beginning in the mid-1800s, when 10th Ave. was known as ‘Death Avenue’ for all the fatalities occuring on it. The El lines were proposed to eliminate traffic congestion, lower the accident rate, and leave New York streets free of noise and pollution. However, the 10th street El wasn’t built until 1929, as part of the West Side Improvement Project, and remained in steady use until the 1950′s, when the new interstate highway systems allowed trucking to surpass the line in usefulness. The line has been completely out of use since the 1980′s, and has been the center of a struggle between preservationists and developers ever since.

As can be seen at Old NYC’s virtual tour and Forgotten New York’s photos (with a few historic ones showing the line in use as well), the High Line has become a nature preserve above the city streets, verdant and filled with wildlife and plants. Though of course it is illegal to trespass on city property, Mr. Fletcher has generously suggested two ways with which one might view this raw space within the city, along with his own set of photos.

Unfortunately, it seems the only way to preserve the High Line is for the yuppies to mold it into their own image, destroying what’s most wonderful about it in the process. The non-profit groupFriends of the High Line has championed mightily and are largely responsible for the El not having been torn down for condos already. However, there’s only so long you can go on defending the beauty of the slow intertwining of nature and structure. The solution they’re moving towards is to turn the space into the High Line Promenade, a walking park with cement sidewalks, neatly trimmed hedgery, ‘natural landscaping’ (really, is such a thing possible?) and glass railings. Where possible they’ll preserve the original railings and structural elements, and use the plants already taken root as inspiration for the landscape design. Who was it that said every man destroys the thing he truly loves?

If anyone would care to join me on a walking tour of the line in its current state, please do let me know. I’m trying to see as many bits of city history as I can before they’re wiped out completely.

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