Monthly Archives: July 2017

Day Eighty: Walking Red Hook, Brooklyn with F.I.T. walking tours July 22, 2017

I gave up a day in Manhattan Valley and took one of the walking ‘trends tours’ with the Fashion Institute of Technology. These theme tours cover neighborhoods that are considered ‘up and coming’ or are already there but at the cutting edge at this point.

What is all really means is that the artists are still struggling, the buildings are not shiny and perfect and the stores and restaurants are in their first generation in the neighborhood mixing with the older neighborhood spots. Red Hook reminded me a small urban neighborhood isolated from the rest of ‘stroller Brooklyn’ closer to Prospect Park.

The tour was lead by Deborah Geiger, the Director of Content from Envirosell. Deborah Geiger, who you will note on Day Forty-Seven (July 9, 2016), lead the tour of Bushwick last summer. I teased Deborah this time wondering where ‘they were’  for this group. She wondered what I was talking about and I said on every tour I go on for school there is always one pain in the ass who either gets tired, can’t keep up with the tour, their hot or its not what they thought it was when they signed up.

They whine the whole time and want the complete attention of the tour guide the whole time. We had one this time again and thank God this one left the group as soon as we got to Red Hook. He lasted about twenty minutes into the tour and decided to leave. I wish more of them would do this so they don’t wreak it for the rest of us. I really think the college should explain to these people that every tour is different and the fact that it is ‘a walking tour’.

We started our tour for the day at the lobby of FIT, so we had time to see the new “Force of Nature” exhibition at the FIT Museum (See TripAdvisor review and my blog “VisitingaMuseum”). Don’t miss this as the clothes are interesting and they mounted the exhibition with interesting clothes through the ages.

Then it was a short trip by subway to the tip of Manhattan by the South Street Seaport where we took the IKEA Water Taxi to Red Hook docking by the giant IKEA store on the base of Red Hook. That was fun and what a beautiful day it was to travel by boat. The ride via New York Water Taxi is complimentary on weekends with the thanks from IKEA. It is a nice way to travel between spots especially on a warm, sunny day.

The trip took only twenty minutes but what a beautiful trip. We got the most picturesque view of lower Manhattan and of the Statue of Liberty. The view of all the buildings is spectacular. This is New York City the way people imagine it all over the world.

We landed at the slip where IKEA is located and walked around the harbor area to Van Brunt Street, the main artery of Red Hook, for a quick snack at Baked, 359 Van Brunt Street (See review on TripAdvisor).

It is one of those coffee shops that every neighborhood should have with cool seating, interesting music and the most delicious baked goods. I had the most amazing cinnamon rolls that I have ever had. This giant delight was filled with loads of cinnamon and had the thickest icing. It was a treat. We gobbled our treats down and then headed off to the Van Brunt Stillhouse at 6 Bay Street for a tasting.

The Van Brunt Stillhouse is an artisan distillery that produces high quality whiskey and rum. The owner had been in television and decided to make a career change. He had been dabbling in this for a long time and decided to make it a career. We had a tour of the small Stillhouse with its barreling all around us and a funky tasting room. We were allowed to taste the aged whiskey and get a good mouth feel of the product. After one shot, that was more than enough for me.

We moved on to more touring as we walked to the water to the former warehouses housing the Red Hook Winery for a tour of the facility. The Winery is really interesting as it is housed in an old shipping facility that has been converted into a wedding venue and an art gallery. If you get a chance to visit the winery, it is really interesting. Its not your normal winery as it has three different owners with three different philosophies.

They buy their grapes from the North Fork of Long Island and Upstate New York and created their own wines and blends. The collection is rounded off  by other high quality New York wines. Our tour guide showed us the barreling method they use and that they still use their feet to crush grapes for the wine. I thought that was an interesting fact. We toured their ‘racking’ method of wine by rotating the barrels and sampling.

The front of the winery is used for tastings and for socializing. The place was mobbed by the time we got there and it was definitely a younger crowd. I was surprised as I thought the next generation was not interesting in these things. People were tasting wines, conversing about them and looking over the selection. It is an impressive room done in light stained colors and surrounded by the selection of wines.

Our next stop on the tour was Cacao Prieto at 218 Conner Street. This is the most unusual factory tour that we tour. When you enter the back of the factory, there is a tree growing in the middle of the building. We all got a kick out that. The guide let us see the small factory with its showroom up front and production areas off to the side. The whole set up is really nice and the chocolate bars are so beautifully designed.

Our next part of the tour lead us Van Brunt Street to the Peninsula Art Space at 352 Van Brunt Street. We walked through the exhibition of ‘Grand Ole Opera’, an exhibition by Brent and Willie Stewart. The Tennessee born artists exhibition is their institutional debut in the United States, also serves as a venue for a related series of noise, metal and rock concerts, staged within a revival tent.

“Within the exhibition itself, cinematic tableaus reveal a truck turned to AM radio; bizarre trailer-homes containing surreal sculptural landscapes. a perpetually-burning sun projected under a revival ten, which doubles as a stage; the “murder bar”, a nomadic functioning biker bar from the Deth Killers of Bushwick and Romulus and Remus, who nursed at the wolf’s breast and founded ancient Rome, found in a bar-fight”. (Catalogue Pioneer Works)

It was an interesting experience walking through 70’s recreational vehicles and watching B movies on the screen. It was a real ‘red-neck’ experience. The gallery even has a court yard to walk around where more of the exhibition was housed.

After that it was a tour of the Peninsula Art Space at 352 Van Brunt Street for a look at their latest exhibition. While looking at the work of a local artist (interesting perspective of the neighborhood in his paintings), we had a lively debate on the gentrification of the neighborhood and the one the gallery representative lived in, Bed-Sty.  We debated the attributes about living above and below Gates Street where all the projects are located. She was amazed that I knew so much but I do read these articles.

Our last stop closer to the border of the neighborhood was the Raaka Chocolate Factory at 64 Seabring Street off Van Brunt Street. This is the most interesting candy factory where the owner just fell into the field when travelling abroad and found the cocoa beans. The factory has created a top of the line assortment of dark chocolate bars that are beautifully packaged. I do have a thing about $10.00 chocolate bars but these are a once in a while treat and the best part is they let you sample all the bars. The best was the lavender and the ghost pepper, which took time to linger on your taste buds when you bit into it. Like most of the factories we visited, we got a sample to the small cottage industries that are developing in this section of Brooklyn. I can go back for a more formal tour and tasting in the future.

We took a pit stop at Dolce Brooklyn for homemade gelato at 305 Van Brunt Street. This store has the most amazing homemade ice creams and gelato (See TripAdvisor review). I had the most delicious home trio of Strawberry Mint, Blueberry Lavender and Raspberry Mint. God , were these refreshing on a hot, humid day. There was a tangy-tartness to the flavors and they really do quench your taste buds. We were talking to the owner, who is French and he and the lady working the counter explained how his wife had gone to Italy to learn how to make proper gelato. I thought that was going to the extremes but it was well worth it in quality. The shop should not be missed on a hot day and it is one of those stores every neighborhood should have with its cool seating and relaxing atmosphere.

On our way back down Van Brunt Street, we stopped to go through some of the local stores and I got separated from the group. With only fifteen minutes left on the tour and totally starved (that was the only bad part of the tour is that we did not have time to stop for lunch), I figured the rest of the group was heading back to the ferry to go to Manhattan.

I decided to get some lunch and stopped at Marc’s Pizza at 326 Van Brunt Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor) for a slice of pizza and a potato croquette. The food is very good and you will love the atmosphere. The owner is a real character. Over the cash register there is a sign that shows a gun and it reads “We don’t call 911!”. The owner says he asks nicely the first time and then people stop (if you know what I mean). It’s not something you want to test. The pizza is great though and he gives you a nice size slice and his sauce has a lot flavor. The potato croquette is great as well. It’s a nice place for a quick lunch.

I walked around the bottom part of Van Brunt Street, looking at the shops and galleries. I stopped in Foxy & Winston at their gift selection. Not only does the owner have a nice of stuffed animals and stationary but she has the nicest dog to pet. He is so friendly that he distracted me from the group as they left without me. It was no matter it is a nice store that should be visited. I wanted to stay behind to explore some more.

My last stop on the tour was the Rood Gallery at 373 Van Brunt Street.  I was attracted by the display in her windows of these little clay creatures by artist Peter Opheim. He makes the most unusual little clay monsters or characters, I don’t know how to describe them. They look like Japanese Pokémon. It was funny that I mentioned that to gallery owner, Samar Maziad. She told me that when Japanese tourist visit the gallery they will buy a few because they think the same thing. The only problem is that they are not cheap. They come with a small painting and certificate and beautifully boxed in a collection but at the same time are several thousand dollars. Their better to look at and admire.

I ended my tour walking around the waterfront at the Pier 44 Waterfront Garden and then walked back to the Erie Basin Park where IKEA was located and where the ferry is located. What a view of the Manhattan skyline! It must be something when its dark outside. These parks are a very nice place to just sit and relax and admire the view.

Still for all its charm and small town feel, Red Hook was still under water when Hurricane Sandy hit and it below sea level. Not an environment that I want to live in. You debate all of this in an up and coming neighborhood but still Red Hook, Brooklyn does have its charm to it. It was a engaging tour and I give tour guide Deborah Geiger credit again for a great touring experience. Its nice when your can meet shop owners and manufacturers who are working to create a real neighborhood.

These ‘trend’ walking tours are taken through the Fashion Institute of Technology Continue Education program and are well worth the price ($45.00). You can visit any part of the city on your own but to really see the neighborhood and experience meeting the business owners and seeing the out of the way places you might miss on your own, they are a lot of fun. You can access all tours on the college website.

I am also an Alumnus of The Fashion Institute of Technology (Class of 93) and a Lifetime member of the FIT Alumni Association.

 

 

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Day Seventy-Nine: Walking the edges of Manhattan Valley from West 110th Street to West 96th Street from Riverside Drive to Central Park West July 16, 2017

I walked a tremendous amount of miles today. I had wanted to see three cultural sites before I left the Harlem area. I wanted to visit the Museum of Arts & Letters, The Studio Art Museum of Harlem and Grant’s Tomb. So my trip on this hot Sunday started at the 157th Street One Subway station. I had wanted to start at the Museum of Arts & Letters.

The whole campus that the museum shares with the Hispanic Society was closed for renovation,  so I walked from 155th Street to 122nd Street to tour the Grants Tomb National Memorial. The tomb is open only at certain times so I wanted to get to the park early.

It has only been three months since I left this part of Harlem and a lot has changed. Even I can’t keep up with all the changes as I was walking down Broadway. Many of the businesses that I passed have since closed. Many of the storefronts as you get closer to the SUNY campus around 140th Street to about 132nd Street have converted to small trendy restaurants and clothing stores. Many of the older businesses that had catered to the neighborhood Hispanic customer now have ‘For Rent’ signs or are being updated for a more diverse customer.  I had seen this happen in the short time I was walking Inwood in upper Manhattan.

When I got to Grant’s Tomb at 122nd Street (See TripAdvisor review and story on my blog ‘VisitingaMuseum’), there were already a couple parties going on around the park area. On a nice day, there are always birthday parties for kids in the park around the tomb. People in the neighborhood love to spend time with their families here and in the other parts that surround the area.

There were not that many people touring the tomb and the building itself so it was nice to take my time. Designed by architect John Hemenway Duncan in 1883 and the tomb was dedicated on April, 1897 on the 75th Anniversary of President Grant’s birth. The President’s remains were placed here right before the dedication and his wife was buried here in 1902 (Wiki/NYC Parks).

The vaults are amazing with paintings on the ceiling of scenes of his life that were put up in recent years. The crypts of him and his wife, Julia,  are on the bottom level of the tomb surrounded by the busts of generals that fought in the Civil War with him. It does not take that long to tour the tomb or the gift shop. I learned a lot about our 18th President Grant by watching a film on him. I never knew at the end that he died broke and what saved the family were his memoirs. Amazing the things that happen in peoples lives in the end.

After the tour of the tomb, I walked down to the Studio Art Museum of Harlem and toured several of the exhibitions.  The museum is located at 144 West 125th Street (See review on TripAdvisor and on my blog “Visitingamuseum”) and is open for viewing for free on Sundays with the support of Target Stores. The museum is small and only take about an hour to two hours to see all the exhibitions which is nice. Some museums the exhibitions are endless and it takes hours to see and absorb everything. The Studio Art Museum exhibitions are detailed but on a smaller scale.

I was able to see artist Rico Gatson’s exhibition on 70’s influenced art, Jamel Shabazz’s exhibition of photo’s around 125th Street, which I don’t know if you could do today without releases and the “Regard the Figure” exhibition, which is in the front of the gallery on figures that influenced the curator. All were very interesting and had their own unique perspective of the culture. I was able to get through all three exhibitions in less than two hours. After viewing the exhibits, I sat on their outside patio to relax for awhile. It was a hot day and I just needed to cool off in the shade. There had been a nice crowd in the museum that afternoon.

After the Art Studio of Harlem, I walked down to the business district of 116th Street and went for some lunch. Like the rest of Harlem, things are opening and closing so fast you can’t keep up with them. Half the customers on 116th Street are White and Asian. A lot of people from Columbia University and the Upper West Side who are starting to come to this area to eat. There are many innovative restaurants opening up on the 116th Street row.

I had lunch at Harlem Pizza Company, 135th West 116th Street, a restaurant that I had passed and had read online that was very good (See review on TripAdvisor). The pizza was wonderful and the service was very friendly and welcoming. I sat in the outdoor seating area and it had cooled down a bit since it was later in the afternoon.

The restaurant is excellent and I highly recommend it. I had a personal 12 inch pizza with sausage and soppressata that was perfectly cooked, the meats and sauce were highly spiced and was gooey and delicious. It was nice to just eat and watch the world walk by. It is a very relaxing that afternoon.

My next stage of the walk included walking Manhattan Valley, another name for the Upper Upper West Side. This area includes from West 110th Street from Riverside Drive to the West and Central Park North to the East and West 96th Street to the South. I was able to ring the neighborhood and work off breakfast and lunch at the same time.

I started the later part of the afternoon walking from Morningside Park to Central Park West. God, was the park busy. There must have been four birthday parties, two barbecues, five basketball games, a soccer game and a softball league playing in various areas of the park.

A lot has changed in this side of town in the last 25 years. It is a major change from the mid-80’s when most of this area was abandoned. I remember seeing pictures of this area in the late 80’s and all through the 90’s and it was not such a nice area. Most of the housing was run down, Riverside Park was over-grown and sensible people did not travel above 86th Street.

I had dinner with a vendor my last year at Macy’s in 1995 on 92nd Street and the vendors and my boss at the time said to take the subway to 86th and walk up. I took it to 96th and walked down and even then I could see what they were talking about. It was run down but didn’t seem dangerous. Two weekends later I got adventurous and walked up to Columbia University. Those were the years where fences were put on the entrances to Morningside Park.  A lot of the buildings were abandoned and boarded up by 100th and the further you got from Central Park the worse it got. I had even overheard two Columbia students talking about the fires in buildings across Morningside Park the evening before. You would not see any of that today.

I was not surprised on how nice it was to walk around now. This area has improved so much in the last thirty years and keeps getting nicer and more expensive. Pretty much everything until the 130’s on this side of the island is getting a facelift. The east side of the island over 100th is more juxtaposed. All along Fredrick Douglas Boulevard, Malcolm X Boulevard and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard new restaurants, cafe’s and shops have opened catering to a diverse group of New Yorkers.

I started my walk down Central Park West, walking past the apartments on the other side of the park. Everything has changed so much up here. Almost all the apartments facing the Central Park now are luxury homes and apartment buildings sandblasted back to their original elegance. Each building has its own unique style. The best part of them is there view of the park must be amazing.

I passed some unusual historical sites and art work along the way. At the entrance of the subway station at Broadway and 96th Street is a statue of a woman holding her child by the artist, Joy Brown. This very whimsical statue is part of a collection of statues that line Broadway and a map is provided at each site to find them. Some of the people thought it might be the Madonna and child. I guess everyone has their interpretation of it. There were a lot of families taking pictures by it when I was there.

At the corner of 96th Street and West End Avenue is a plaque to Teresa Carseno, a famous pianist who lived at the Delha Robbins Apartments back at the turn of the last century. I had no clue how famous she was but she had travelled over the world performing and had interesting relationships that spread to four husbands. She was quite the character at the turn of the last century.

When I made the turn around at 96th Street, there is no exit so be prepared to walk down to 95th Street and go under the tunnel by Riverside Park. Go under and around and take some time to walk through Riverside Park and take in the view.  I had walked through this area last summer on my way up to 155th Street after some time at the American Museum of Natural History. It is nice to see the park in full bloom again.

I passed the Firemen’s Memorial at Riverside Drive at 100th Street and the Shiron Shonia Memorial at 105th Street. I have seen these before and the Firemen’s Memorial means a lot to me being a fireman. Its nice to see the memorial being visited and flowers being left. The Shonin memorial was dedicated to Buddhism.

Along Riverside Drive between 107th and 108th Street, there is a majestic set of mansions that line Riverside Park. These are going under renovation but still the detail work on these homes is very elegant and must have been something when they were built at the turn of the last century. They stand out amongst all the apartment buildings that line the park.

As I turned around at 110th Street and walked back around the same route on the other side of the street. One of the most beautiful spots along Riverside Avenue is between 96th and 97th Streets with a line of shade trees that must be over 100 years old. It is just so graceful and humbling to see these huge trees and the way they shade and lead the path down this part of the sidewalk. Its nature at its best.

I passed Central Park on the park side of Central Park West and when you reach around 100th Street, you see the rock formations that line the avenue.  This is a result of the last Ice Age and I had seen similar formations uptown. Again this is when you realize that Manhattan is not flat. Nature takes over when you see the trees and plants growing through the cracks. This picturesque part of the park with trees, bushes and flowers sticking out here and there through the formations. Its wall is what separates the park from the street.

When reaching 110th Street at the corner of that and Central Park West, several new buildings are built around the circle of the two streets. Modern architecture dominates this part of the street and ushers in a new beginning to this once destitute section of the neighborhood as a gateway to a new beginning for the neighborhood. The lines of the Upper West Side and Harlem on this side of the island are beginning to blur.

We’ll see more as we visit more of the neighborhood on a tour of the streets and avenues. I ended the day with a trip to McDonalds just off 96th Street and Amsterdam Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor). That McDouble and fries tasted so good as they were freshly cooked for me. The best is their frozen Strawberry Lemonade which cooled me down inside and out. It is one of the best things recently added to the McDonalds menu and a perfect drink for a hot summer day.

Places to Eat:

Harlem Pizza Company

135 West 116th Street

New York, NY  10026

(212) 222-9889 http://www.harlempizzaco.com

McDonald’s

2459 Broadway

New York, NY  10025

(212) 864-8138

http://www.mcdonalds.com

Places to Visit”

Grant’s Tomb

West 122nd Street & Riverside Drive

New York, NY  10027

http://www.grantstomb.org

Studio Art Museum of Harlem

144 West 125th Street

New York, NY  10027

(212) 864-4500

http://www.studiomuseum.org

Firemen’s Memorial

West 100th Street & Riverside Drive

New York, NY 10025

(212) 639-9675

http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/memorial

 

 

 

 

Day Seventy-Eight: Walking the streets of Spanish Harlem from 110th to 96th Streets from Fifth to First Avenue and the Third Anniversary of “MywalkinManhattan” June 17th-21th

I started walking the streets of East Harlem after a long day in the Soup Kitchen. They keep me very busy there and I had to work the busy bread station. It can very harried if there are any sweets such as pastries and doughnuts to give out. I was worn out but still carried on.

I took the number six subway uptown to 110th Street and started my day with lunch at the Blue Sky Deli (Haiji’s) again for another chopped cheese sandwich. I am beginning to love these things. For five dollars and my budget on the project, it just makes sense. Plus it is nice to sit in Jefferson Park and just relax and watch the kids play soccer while I am eating. I don’t know if it was the sandwich or all the walking but I had stomach craps for the rest of the day. It was a long day of walking.

I started the day by retracing my steps on 110th and looking over all the housing projects that line this part of First Avenue. I looked along the long line that is First Avenue and made sure to walk this part of the street as quick as possible. It does not start to get sketchy until about 105th Street but still you want to get through as fast as possible.  Walking eight blocks across and back is impossible to do in one day even walking fast so I broke it up into two and a half separate days.

Along most of these blocks I was retracing what I saw along the Avenues and there is a lot of new construction and renovating along the way. A lot of buildings are being sandblasted to their original beauty and along the way there are little surprises along the way to discover. I just wanted to let readers know that since I had already walked First Avenue and the side streets on both sides, when I reached First Avenue when walking the streets, I did not cross the street and stayed on the west side of the avenue.

Most of the side streets I had walked already in some form along the way of walking the Avenues and took time out revisit many of the parks and restaurants that I had travelled previously. There are still many gems in this neighborhood that you should take time to visit. In some parts of the neighborhood, I would suggest going during the day when many other people are around. Even as safe as Manhattan has gotten over the years, I still look over my shoulder all the time and watch everyone no matter what neighborhood I am in.

I made several walks through the housing projects all over the neighborhood. You can really understand the complexity of the projects by walking through them as many as times as I did. It really is a different life. Sometimes I get the impression that being piled up in one complex is not good for anyone. The yards are not properly taken care of and playgrounds that are not kept in great shape.

Yet there are signs that residents have made it their own though. I walked through the Dewitt Clinton, Franklin, Lehman and Washington Carver Housing complexes and here and there are raised beds for fruits, vegetables and flowers. Some residents have taken it upon themselves to clean up the garbage in the playgrounds and paint the equipment and benches. Some make their own repairs in the play areas and then stand guard, watching what the kids are doing. I discovered this as I walked through the Washington Houses three times to complete 108th, 107th and 106th by criss-crossing the open air park in between the complex. People kept looking at me walking through park.

Along the way, I discovered many small community gardens tucked between buildings such as the Neighbors of Vega Baja Garden at 109th between First and Second Avenues and the Humaniano Community Garden at 108th between First and Second Avenues. These small patches of green make the block. Hidden behind fences, I can see that the neighborhood puts a lot of pride into landscaping them and planting them. Some times they are open to the public but I just walk by because no one is there.

I was back at Make & Bake Pizza at 108th and Third Avenue for lunch again (See second review on TripAdvisor). For a dollar this is great pizza and they give you a nice size slice. The restaurants in this are around the three local schools offer menus with reasonable prices catering to the kids and their families so take time to explore them. Mr. Moe’s is right down the road and I can still taste that chopped cheese sandwich.

I also saw some of my favorite ‘street art’ murals on these blocks. Between 109th and 107th there are several that I saw. This ‘Spiritual Art’ work has almost an Aztec/Mayan look to it and its use of color and motion are so detailed. Take time to look at these works of art. Some are ‘tags’ while others the artist was trying to tell a story. Look to the side of the buildings and the sides of schools. You might see some on the sliding doors of businesses. There is a lot of talent here. If there was only a gallery for these kids.

As you travel to the corner of Lexington and 107th, the neighborhood starts to change again once you pass the Franklin Housing Project. The buildings around this area are being fixed up and sandblasted back to their original beauty and new restaurants and shops are opening bringing a little life back to the area. By Hope Community Inc., there is are interesting portraits of Latino Cultural leaders. The detailed portrait of Pedro Pietri by James de la Vega is interesting and take time to admire the work.

My first day walking the streets, I made it to the corner of 105th and First Avenue by the beginning of nightfall and decided to stop there. I was passing the East River Houses again and there were some shady characters walking around so I decided to finish 105th and rounded 104th Street for my next stop in the neighborhood and relaxed in the Central Park Conservatory on 104th and Fifth Avenue for the rest of the evening. My feet were killing me at that point.

My next trip up to the neighborhood was June 21st, the third Anniversary of ‘MywalkinManhattan’. I can’t believe it has been three years since I started walking the island of Manhattan. I still remember my first day walking in Marble Hill on Father’s Day 2015. I honestly thought I would finish in one summer and here I am at 96th Street on the East Side with the rest of the island ahead of me.

I started at 96th Street and walked the length of it again from the park to the river. It was sad that the tulips along the river had died by the time I got back. They had been a colorful display by the path entering the river. Even the flowers at the Park Avenue Mall at Park and 97th Street started to change. Spring was giving way to the summer months and you could see the difference in the plants and trees. Between the plantings on the streets and second stage of flowers in Central Park, June was here.

You begin to notice distinctions in the grid pattern of the neighborhood block by block. By East 97th Street, you will see a real change. The Metropolitan Hospital, the Department of Sanitation and the Washington Housing projects set almost a border between the Upper East Side and Spanish Harlem once you pass Third Avenue.

Along the border of 97th Street on the grounds of the projects, the residents have set up a series of vegetable and fruit gardens and have done some landscaping that have some character to the lawns of the housing complex. I give the residents credit for their creativity and I will have to revisit the site over the summer months to see how it turns out. Also along the street is the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Catholic Church, which is the only one of its kind in NYC. Stop and look at the detail of the church.

By 99th Street, the Washington Carver Houses start to dominate the middle of the neighborhood and Mt. Sinai cuts the neighborhood between the Upper East Side from Spanish Harlem to the east to Park Avenue. I tried once again to visit the Martha Stewart Garden in the Washington Carver complex but again the gate was locked. At this point, it looked like it could have used a gardener to touch it up.

I continued the zig-zag through the streets having criss-crossed again through the projects that I had walked a couple of times before. Between Park and Lexington Avenues as you round 101 Street, you can find some beautifully maintained brownstones and landscaped stairs with potted plants. It looks like something you would see in the village downtown.

This small break in the grid pattern shows what the neighborhood once was before the city leveled it for public housing. People are really moving back in this pocket of the neighborhood and fixing up the buildings. Here is where you will find the street art on the walls and fences. I saw a lot of the yarn art I saw uptown but am not sure if this was the same artist.

I had a funny incident with a young police officer at the 23rd Precinct on the corner of 102nd and Third Avenue. He was making a phone call and had just finished and really must have wondered what I was doing in the neighborhood. He took the time to yell a ‘hello’ to me and I just looked at him for a minute and said ‘hello’ back and waited for him to say something. I guess my progressive glasses must have given me a professional look and he did not say anything else. He watched me walk through the Washington complex and strangely enough waited for me to come back and then watched me walk back up 102nd on my way back up to Fifth Avenue. I saw him staring at me again and I just nodded and smiled and kept walking. I didn’t know that me walking around was so interesting.

Between Park Avenue and Third Avenue up to where the projects start again by 109th Avenue and Madison and Fifth Avenue is where you are seeing where the neighborhood is starting to gentrify and people are starting to fix up the buildings and the new restaurants and shops are starting to pop up. There is a pizzeria on Lexington Avenue that I have on my bucket list.

Thank God I did not have to venture past 105th Street as it was getting darker. Between Second Avenue and First Avenue after 101st Street, I always felt that the people in the housing complexes were watching me. More like staring at me yet I could not catch them actually doing it. I guess I really stood out.

As I rounded 104th onto 105th Streets on First Avenue, I must have made quite the impression walking down the street. A group of guys,  I swear to God,  looked like they jumped when they saw me round the corner. When I had to walk back up the opposite side of the southern part of 105th Street and First Avenue to complete this part of the neighborhood, they completely disappeared. I swear I thought that they were going to gang up on me and jump me. They also gave me the strangest looks. It reminded me of walking on 155th Street by the river and what I saw up by the Dyckman Houses. I just don’t blend in.

I walked pass the parks along 103rd and 105th Streets and brought a quick snack into the White Playground on 105th Street and relaxed for a bit just watching the parents watch the kids playing on the park equipment. I really like this park. They keep it in good shape and the parents in the neighborhood really seem to enjoy coming here. I walked past Maggie’s Garden again on 101st Street but the gate was locked on this day.

I ended the afternoon walking through Central Park and walking around the length of the reservoir and watch the joggers pass me by. If they only knew how much I had already walked that afternoon.

It really made me think, looking at the crowd of joggers in the park and the people walking around the Central Park Conservatory that early part of the evening,  how many of the people I passed that day venture past their part of neighborhood. These blocks have really been an eye-opener in urban planning gone wrong and how a neighborhood can be affected by the wrong decisions in building efforts. I saw a lot of people in the neighborhood trying to improve things on their own terms and take matters in their own hands.

I just don’t think that this part of Manhattan has to worry about getting too ‘hipster’ or ‘Yuppie’ unless the city sells off the projects and knocks them down. Even if they did, the neighborhood has its own character and I credit the people living there for making it that way. There is no real way to explain it  without you, the reader walking these streets yourself and soaking up the culture that is East Spanish Harlem. Do yourself a favor though, don’t dress like me

Happy Third Anniversary and a very Happy Father’s Day to my Dad!

Thank you for inspiring this walk around Manhattan!

Day Seventy-Five: May 10th-May 15th, 2017 Walking the Avenues in Lower Spanish Harlem from 110th to 96th Streets

Whew! This was a two day affair. I had already walked 5th and 1st Avenues and then all of FDR Drive and the Esplanade on other days. This left for me to walk the length of Madison, Park, Lexington, 3rd and 2nd Avenues from 96th Street to 110th Street. This meant 14 blocks back and forth, up and down the streets of the neighborhood. It was a long day of walking. I never realized how long it would take.

This part of Manhattan is a real mish-mush of everything. It transitions from East Harlem into the Upper-Upper East Side into Yorkville. Some others call it Carnegie Hill. It has it all. Housing projects, schools, a business district on Lexington, expensive brownstones, luxury apartments and hospitals that create the border between the two very different neighborhoods.

96th Street is the true border between the two areas but even that transitions as you get closer to the East River. A you get closer to 98th Street, you will see luxury housing complexes right across the street from some sketchy housing complexes right across the street (some people want the authenticity of the city). This changes from block to block and if you follow the grid pattern, be prepared to walk through some housing complexes. I would only recommend that while the kids are exiting from after-school. Then the neighborhood is teeming with kids with their parents picking them up. Public or Private, adults are all over the place at the schools and it makes any neighborhood safe to walk around in as the police are out in many of these neighborhoods watching everyone.

Where you really see the difference in the neighborhood is between 97th Street and 99th Street on the East Side of Central Park. Some of the blocks are lined with beautiful and graceful brownstones and apartment buildings and then right across the street you can see where they leveled the neighborhood to building the housing projects that line long avenues and streets.

You start to see the changes as you walk down 97 Street and you reach the end of the Park Avenue Mall, a grassy knoll between the uptown and downtown grid which in the lower part of Park Avenue is planted with flowers and trees during the year. This gives way to the elevated railroad tracks after 97th Street and Park Avenue. As you get further up into the 100’s streets, Park Avenue is lined with housing projects. This is the failure of city planning where whole blocks in this neighborhood were leveled for public housing that never worked. This ‘slum clearance’ of the 1960’s would now be a fully gentrified neighborhood by now.

Walking  the Avenues , one sees how the neighbor changes. Every block is so different in this neighborhood. You can go from luxury housing to a public housing project just by walking the street. Also, if you walk while school is in session and when it gets out for the day, you should have no problem walking around the housing projects. Pretty much everyone ignored me or just looked at me in the corner of their eyes and then put their heads down. It was such a strange attitude. In my opinion, people are people but the site of 6:4 preppie white guy walking around in a blue polo must have panicked people.

Along the way, there is so much so see and experience in this neighborhood. Small hole in the wall restaurants at very reasonable prices, great street art, small community gardens tucked between buildings, beautiful brownstones in a row and interesting views of Central Park and the East River as way of sidewalks. It is a diverse neighborhood that is getting harder to define as the whole island changes. Even in the short time I walked around Spanish Harlem, things were being knocked down and rebuilt.

It seems that every block had something to offer in some small way. Since I had done the borders of the neighborhood already and wanting to avoid First Avenue again (scary) with all the public housing, I started my trip up and down Second Avenue.

Hospitals seem to dominate in this section of the city with Mt. Sinai dominating the borders of Fifth to Madison from 96th to 101st and Metropolitan Hospital from 97th to 100th Street along Second Avenue. These large facilities create a wall on the neighborhood borders almost sheltering the Upper Upper East Side from Spanish Harlem. The neighborhood around them reflects the role the hospital plays around it with ever expanding buildings in the neighborhood and housing for the residents. I saw this up in Washington Heights with Columbia as they expand in the neighborhood.

Located off Second Avenue, the Marx Brothers have a small park named after them and it was busy after school with kids playing tag. As you walk up Second Avenue, the area is dominated by a mix of brownstones and public housing. This is dominated by the huge Washington Housing complex that stretches from 97th Street to 104th from Second Avenue to Third Avenue. After school, this are was very lively with kids but boy did they give me looks when I walked through later in the week when I was doing the streets. Because of the way the grid works, you have to walk through the same paths. So the same people kept seeing me walk through the complex.

Between Third Avenue and Lexington, there is a nice place to sit and relax at the Marketplace Plaza. This small pocket plaza was created between to newish buildings and provides a comfortable place amongst the flower beds to sit and relax and people watch. There are benches and rows of flower beds to admire and rest your legs on the long walks up the Avenues.

Third Avenue is the most commercial section of the neighborhood dominated by stores and restaurants along the way. It is again a street of extremes as new buildings dominate until you reach the Lexington Houses at 98th Street and then the street is juxtaposed again with a series of public housing, luxury buildings tucked away and commercial buildings that are in the process of renovation.

I reached the Poor Richards Playground outside the Tag Young Scholar School and Junior High 117 by mid-afternoon and the kids were letting out for the day. The place was mobbed with children and parents from the neighborhood. Kids were playing basketball and tag on the school’s playground and I got quite the looks from the teachers as I watched the kids play basketball especially when I had to throw the ball over the fence when it flew over to me. I just smiled and continued the walk.

Across the street from the school and the surrounding blocks there are some really nice reasonable restaurants for lunch. These are places that the kids and their parents were eating at after school. Make & Bake Pizza at 1976 Third Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor) has terrific pizza at $1.00 a slice and it is so fresh because the place is so busy. Another great place to eat is Mr. Moe’s Deli at 2001 Third Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor). They make a terrific chopped cheese sandwich that competes with Blue Sky Deli up on 110th Street. The nice part about Mr. Moe’s is that their chopped cheese sandwich comes with a Coke for $3.50. It is a great bargain and it is delicious.

The best part is on a nice day take your lunch to the White Playground on 106th between Third and Lexington Avenues and relax on the benches. It is such a nice playground and is beautifully landscaped and I thought very safe with all the parents and grandparents around watching the kids play.

Lexington Avenue and Park Avenue are also the land of extremes as well.  Walking up Lexington Avenue to about 98th Street is an extension of the Upper East Side until you hit the Lexington Houses at 98th Street and those go on for a block until you reach between 101st and 102nd Streets, where you will see the most beautiful set of brownstones with art work from local Harlem artists on the west side of the road across from the gas station. The is also a few outdoor cafes that are very nice in the area so you can see the area is getting gentrified.

The street art in this neighborhood is varied and very unique. On 106th Street off Lexington Avenue, there is a painting dedicated to Puerto Rican Poet Julio de Burgos entitled ‘Remembering Julio de Burgos’ that has excellent detail and you should take the time to see. Also along 110th Street and Lexington Avenue on the wall of the Success Academy, there is another interesting mural that is very colorful. The art work featured on this blog was my favorite piece of street was the man dressed in animal costumes that I saw on 106th Street. I was not too sure if it was a Central American theme to it or just tagged. Whatever the story to this artwork, who ever did it I thought was extremely talented.

Travelling back down Lexington Avenue, there is all sorts of architecture to admire. There is a beautiful row of brownstones between 106th and 107th Streets. A small private gated park by Bean Y Vino is at Lexington Avenue and 104th Street that I could only see from the outside is nicely landscaped.

Between 100th and 101st Streets on Lexington Avenue, there is Maggie’s Magic Garden, which is a whimsical little oasis of trees, flowers and plants with imaginative statuary all over this little space tucked between two buildings. I was lucky that the garden was open that day and met Maria ‘Maggie’ Amurrio herself who created the garden over a decade ago from a weed ridden lot to this little piece of paradise that is perfect for kids to visit.

She and I talked for about a half hour and she explained that she was sick and tired of this lot looking like this and wanted to do something about it. Like many of the Community Gardens and their creators whom I have met along my travels, she took matters into her own hands and with the help of other volunteers started to clean the lot up and plant it. She told me that later the Parks Department recognized this effort and now she has the seal from the city. Not only does she grow flowers here but is also growing fruits and vegetables and took me on a tour to show me where birds live in the trees. It is amazing how the determination of one New Yorker and a group of volunteers shows in creating this creative piece of landscape. Try not to miss  this little oasis on your travels up and down Lexington.

Traveling up Park and Madison is interesting because when you get past 98th Street, it is pretty much public housing complexes from 98th to 110th Streets, stretching from Park Avenue to Madison Avenue. This is dominated by the Washington Carver Houses from 99th Street to 106th Street, the Lehman Houses from 107th Street to 110th Street, the Governor DeWitt Houses on the Park Avenue and Lexington Avenue from 110th to 108th and then to 106th to 104th Streets and  the Lexington Houses from 98th to 99th Streets. So walking through this area of Park and Madison Avenues make sure to go through while school is out and people are outside. I never felt unsafe but there will moms and kids all over the playgrounds in the projects and everyone ignored me.

The projects also cut the neighborhood into sections as you have to keep walking through them to get to the extension of the street. So as I was finishing the Avenues on my way to starting the streets, you have to make several trips especially on 107th Street through the projects to complete the grid.

Martha Stewart has been involved in helping Mt. Sinai Hospital and built a beautiful garden across the street between 99th and 100th Streets that was locked both times I tried to visit it. Her and her staff did a nice job landscaping and planting this part of the Washington Carver Houses gardens and the playground. Many of the staff from the hospital use this area to relax on their lunch breaks and the kids are very active here.

Mt. Sinai creates the border between the Upper East Side and Spanish Harlem on this side of the neighborhood and the campus spreads two blocks over. Between this and the Park Avenue train creates the border on this side of the neighborhood. The between the west side of Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue are the most expensive housing in the neighborhood that faces Central Park. Even here the housing is being updated and renovated. You have also some of your nicest stone buildings with elegant carved entrances. Businesses also dominate this side of Madison Avenue.

There are some good options to eat at in the neighborhood. On the corner of 97th and Madison Avenue at 1398 Madison Avenue there is Famiglia Pizza. This has some of the best pizza by the slice in the city and their prices are fair. Their plain and sausage pizzas are really good. For a quick snack, I also like Tu Casa Grocery at 29 East 104th Street right next to the Museum of the City of New York. For a dollar, they have excellent chicken and beef pastilitos and they sell soda and candy for a reasonable price. I took a couple of pastilitos and a Coke and went into Central Park to relax after finishing the Avenues.

I finished the Avenues on May 15th by relaxing at the Conservatory Garden at 104th and Fifth Avenue. It was an interesting and tiring day and it was just nice to relax.

 

 

Day Seventy-Seven: Visiting Narrowsburg, Bovina Center & Ithaca, New York for Alumni Weekend “Hail, All Hail, Cornell”-June 8-10, 2017

I decided to take the long weekend from finishing East Harlem (that took about two weeks to finish on various days through some spooky territory) and head up to Ithaca, NY for our summer Alumni Reunion for Cornell University, Class of 2004 and 2010 PDP.

I decided before I left that I was going to take the long route and explore New York State. There were a few towns along the way I wanted to explore and a few restaurants that I wanted to try that I had read about in travel magazines. Who knew it would take four hours to get to my eventually destination of Bovina Center, where I would be spending my first night.

I unfortunately started the day late by cutting the lawn and helping a friend with a problem she was having and did not get on the road until 3:00pm. Even though it was a long trip up to Narrowsburg, it was a beautiful one that almost competed with the trip to Hana when I was on Maui years ago. It was a beautiful sunny day when I started the first part of this trip to Narrowsburg, NY to visit the Heron Restaurant and The Nest Hotel, two places that had been recommended on a tour guide of the area.

The first part of my day was exploring Sussex County, NJ and driving up Route 23, a highway I had not traveled since the 70’s when I went to visit Sterling Forest with my parents. Route 23 take you though towns that time forgot. These small little towns that have a unique character to them, with their home town stores and buildings from the turn of the last century. I was not able to spend much time in these towns but it will be fun to explore in the future.

The town of Sussex had a beautiful downtown with large grand hotel in its downtown that I want to revisit. It is such a elaborate building and impressive brunch menu. Plus I want to look around the downtown more. There were some interesting businesses and beautiful architecture to admire.

Leaving the town of Sussex, I traveled to the corner of the state to the highest peak in the State of New Jersey in the mountains of Stokes Forest, where the peak sits at 1803 feet above sea level and quite a view from the top. The roads twist and turn once you leave Colesville, NJ and make sure you buy gas before you leave Sussex because the gas gets more expensive once you get to the New York border.

I crossed Route 84 into New York State and the City of Port Jervis where there is not much to see and then started my trip up Route 97 to my first stop, Narrowsburg. I have taken many scenic trips before but this is an amazing and breathtaking view of both the Delaware River and the surrounding mountains.

Route 97 in this part of New York State hugs the Delaware River as it winds up the border of the state. For most of the trip up, I tried to take my time with an occasional car honking at me to get going. It is a road that you want to take your time to enjoy and look at the mountains as they pass by and the river below. On the way up you are on the mountain side of the road and the view down can be scary. Almost like the trip to Hana on the island of Maui, where you hug the mountain on the way there and then panic and drive slow with the guard rail next to you on the way back. Still it is a spectacular view on the way up.

Rolling hills, high mountains covered forest in full form and deep valleys where you can look down and see the river below. It was the beginning of the summer and everything was in full bloom. With the sun washed against it, it is the backdrop for a postcard. I was able to slow down and admire the river below. If you are traveling up Route 97, take your time but plan accordingly because it takes a lot longer than the map will lead you to believe. It took two and a half hours to get to Narrowsburg.

Narrowsburg, NY has become a refuge for people escaping the high costs of Brooklyn and other parts of the NYC. How residents of Brooklyn found this tiny town tucked up in the mountains on the banks of the Delaware River, I have no clue but it is becoming a trend in small towns along the Hudson River from Beacon to Hudson. These small towns are attracting artists, chefs, boutique owners, movie makers and bed & breakfast owners who are fixing up old homes and reclaiming downtowns upstate with new businesses catering to people in the city.

Narrowsburg was starting the evolve again but had businesses that still catered to locals with small drug stores, shops and a very nice post office. Here and there the town was starting to change. I had read online that little sleepy town was at the narrowest and deepest part of the Delaware River thus the name Narrowsburg created in 1840. The town was a sleepy hamlet where lumber and the local stone quarry were the main industries and in later years an escape to small room houses and bungalows for people from New York City escaping the heat. In its location on the river, it must have been a transport hub for New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania being so close to the crossroads for all three states.

By the time I got there at 5:30pm, most of the stores had closed for the night. The town has its usual drug stores and small restaurants but look closer and you will see the traces of Brooklyn that I kept reading about. You can walk the downtown in about a half hour but really look at the views. In the middle of the downtown, there is a gap between the store fronts and you have a little park that looks over the river and it is picturesque. What a beautiful view of the river valley below and the mountains in the background. I can see what inspires the artists to move up here. It reminded me of Woodstock with its boutique shops and small art galleries.

Two businesses that  I had wanted to visit were the Nest Hotel, a small boutique hotel I want to visit and the Heron Restaurant, which was getting rave reviews online on all the review sites. Both of the them are what I was expecting. The Heron, a farm to table concept with local purveyors, has a simple and interesting menu. The brunch menu was being featured when I visited and the small dining room is well designed. Because of time and a reservation in Bovina Center, I skipped this and kept walking. I visited the Nest, a small local hotel and got to see the small store attached. It is supposed to be well-appointed and service excellent. For another time.

I got to pass most of the small boutiques and art galleries and then walked around the corner to see a very busy Chinese restaurant in full swing and a local theater closing for the evening. The area was surrounded by beautiful woods and streams. You can visit the whole town in about an hour but this is a place to relax and reflect and the 45 minutes I spent here just wasn’t enough.

I left Narrowsburg and continued on my journey up Route 97 to the connection to Route 17, which I had travelled up years earlier to my interview in Ithaca for graduate school. I travelled up Route 17, a sleepy highway that was once the main through fare for this part of the state until Route 81 was built. Then I got off at local Route 30, which is a winding road through the mountains. Having a 7:30pm reservation, I did not have much time to really look as I drove past small towns and through wooded areas. I had passed most of these towns during the holidays on my trip to Woodstock when I explored the area.

The beauty of Route 30 is the winding road through the small towns with views of the mountains and through the valley gaps. Passing the Pepacton Reservoir is a gorgeous site, with its small islands full of trees, wooded hills and the bridge you have to cross and the views of the lake. With the sun being in the perfect position, the a spectacular gleam on the lake and if you have time, stop at one of the rest stops along the way and really look at it. Its quite a view.

Somehow I got lost in the turnoff on Route 28 on the way to Andes, a small growing artist town on the way to Bovina Center. I had to double back up Route 28, remembering most of these farms six months earlier when driving through on Christmas Day. Bovina Center is located on sleepy Country Route 6, on a turnoff that is easy to miss. I got to the Brushland Eating House 1927 Country Road 6, Bovina Center, NY, (See TripAdvisor reviews) my destination at 7:30pm on the dot.

The Brushland Eating House had opened the same time as my first trip to Woodstock , NY at Christmas of 2014 and had been on my ‘bucket list’ since to visit after reading an article on it in Hudson River magazine. The accommodations were supposed to be wonderful and the food in the restaurants rated excellent by all reviews I had read online. The overnight stay exceeded my expectations. I have never decompressed like this before.

I arrived in Bovina Center three and half hours later than I expected and one of my hosts, Sara, could not have been more gracious. She could tell I was tired and asked if I wanted to check in first and then come down for dinner in the restaurant. I took her up on that. I just wanted to settled in a bit. Thank God that the restaurant was rather quiet that night.

I can not say enough good things about the Brushland Eating House. My ‘room’ was a two floor loft that was decorated with local art work and vintage décor like a record player, board games and locally made art and furniture. It looked like a loft in a major city in some trendy neighborhood. The room could have entertained 6 people sleeping there and no one would have gotten in each others way. The first floor had a large living room/dining room, a nice size kitchen over looking the yard and a bedroom overlooking the hills, valleys and a farm behind downtown Bovina Center.

The second floor had another bathroom, a second bedroom with the same but larger view of the surrounding community and a large dressing area. The beds had brand new mattresses with a soft comforter. I just sank in for a bit and then unpacked. I went to dinner around 8:00pm. That was a treat.

The Brushland Eating House Restaurant is on the ground level of the building and had gotten excellent review both online and in local magazines. The restaurant’s décor used the plan of the old post office, which this one served the community as in the past and local artisans built the bar and added to the shelving. The restaurant is painted in deep colors and has a rustic feel to it.

The menu items are locally sourced ingredients from the surrounding farms and it shows in the limited menu that Chef Sohail prepares each night. I liked their use of New York State wines on the menu and enjoyed them with the meal. The meal was incredible (See TripAdvisor & Airbnb). Not being to stop for any lunch because of the time it took to go to Narrowsburg, I ate a full meal. I started with the mixed greens salad that had a light dressing, the pork schnitzel and the olive oil cake that was covered with a powered sugar icing. Everything was excellent. The greens were so fresh I swear that they were just picked, the pork schnitzel was pounded thin and fried to perfection and the meat had so much flavor and the olive oil cake was a real treat. I had never had it before. It had a savory/sweetness to it with the thick icing and studded with fresh blackberries.

The New York State wines really were good. They had a nice body and flavor and worked well with the meal. The service was flawless. The waiter and I got along famously and she told me her stories about commuting into the city. We laughed at each others stories. It was also such a nicely paced meal as the restaurant was half full for a Thursday night. After the meal, I talked with my hosts Sohail and Sara for a bit before they started to clean up. If there was ever an ideal business that I would want to own and operate, this would be the one. I can tell by the outside that the place still needs a lot of work but they really know what they are doing and could not have been more gracious hosts.

After dinner, I walked around the small downtown that is Bovina Center. It is literally in the middle of nowhere and that’s what I liked about it. You could see the stars and since there was not much in the way of street lights, you could hear the babbling brook in the darkness.

The room was so quiet and relaxing that I wished I could have stayed longer. I slept like a log and it was fun in the morning to just sleep in and relax. There was no TV in the room and I just read and wrote in my journals and books that whole morning. I was inspired by all the quiet. It was also nice to just look out the window on a misty morning and look at the rolling hills and farms that lay before me. It is such a rural environment but I found out later on as I walked down the street to Russell’s General Store, a lot of people here are transplants from other places.

Russell’s General Store, 1962 Country Road 6, Bovina Center, is a step back in time to when the pace was slower and everyone knows everyone. I met with Bea, the owner, who ironically is from Los Angeles near where my brother lives, and she could not have been nicer. She greeted me so warmly I thought she was a long lost friend. She knew everyone who walked in the door, greeted them by name and even let them go around the counter to get coffee. It was fun watching her deal with her vendors. The bread guy walked in with his daily order and put it onto a old fashioned scale.

I had read online about her breakfast sandwich and it is mind blowing (See review on TripAdvisor). She cooks either homemade bacon or pork sausage out, cracks two organic fresh eggs and fries them out and puts fresh homemade cheddar on a freshly baked Chibata roll. The pork sausage is freshly made too and perfectly spiced. When you bite into it, all the flavors combine and it is a gooey and delicious mess. I had not had a breakfast sandwich this good since I ate at Miss Lucy’s Restaurant in Saugerties, NY three years earlier.

Not only was the breakfast sandwich excellent but for dessert (yes, dessert) I had a piece of locally baked apple pie with fresh whipped cream. The combination of fresh apples with fresh farm honey in it will take you away Bea explained that she had a woman locally who owns a farm that she makes the pies on the side. Do not miss this! I never thought anyone could compete with my mom in pie baking but this woman is neck and neck. The whole meal was enjoyable. It was fun to look at all the knick-knacks along the shelves and the penny candy and other items from stands I used to visit in the 70’s.

I walked back to the loft and just collapsed for the next three hours until I had to check out and then said my goodbyes to Sohail. He was walking with his dog in the back of the building in a garden he had planted. I told him how lucky he was to have nice business like his that he and Sara could build on so close to the city but far enough away to enjoy a good quality of life. He looked happy.

I left Bovina Center and drove down Route 28 to Andes to check out the town and work off breakfast and lunch. I ended up staying for over three and a half hours and having lunch here. Andes, like Bovina Center, Narrowsburg and many small towns in this part of upstate New York are being settled by people from NYC and they are waking up these sleepy towns with new businesses, art galleries, cottage food businesses, antique shops and fixing up Victorian homes and added life to towns that even ten years ago were dying out.

I walked along the main street a couple of times, wandering through shops and galleries, talking to all the owners and looking at their wares. No wonder why so many of them come to the farmers markets in the city. There is so much wonderful  pottery items and food stuffs that people would love to buy in the city. There was a pottery store where the dishes were reasonable and very nicely made. I loved the small parks and the stream that ran through the town. I liked the slow pace of the town and the beautiful views of the woods and old houses. The place is out of a postcard.

I had a quick lunch as I knew it would take about three hours to get to Cortland, where I would be staying for the night. I had lunch at Two Old Tarts, 22 Lee Lane, Andes, NY. The food and service are excellent. Its a beautiful, airy restaurant that was once upon a time the restaurant that now is the Brushland Eating House, so that was a good sign. I ordered a grilled cheese, which was cooked with fresh cheddar, green apples, tomato on a sour dough bread. The flavors combined well and the sandwich just worked. Their mac salad is one of the best I have ever eaten at a restaurant and everything was a nice sized portion. The couple who run it are really nice and the service is friendly.

Andes is a nice little town to just walk around and relax and enjoy the experience of a small artsy town. It is a nice day trip when you are in the area. It kind of reminds me of Phoenicia outside of Woodstock, just a nice town for a afternoon trip.

After I left Andes, it was off to Cortland for the Alumni reunion. I always stay in Cortland because its fifteen miles from Ithaca and the fact that Ithaca charges double for their hotels for alumni events.  The trip up there was anything but fun.

Do you ever think to yourself when you travel, ‘but it looked so much closer on the map’. That’s what I experienced when I travelled from Andes to Cortland. It just looked so much closer on the map. That and there was a major accident on Route 17 North.

Half way up Route 17, we hit a major traffic jam and we backed up for almost a half an hour. Most of the cars were rerouted up the local Route 7 to Interstate 88, which would take us to Binghamton. I followed up the longer Route 8 and passed a series of farms on the way up.

I stopped at Penguin Ice Cream, a small local dairy stand for a cone. I had the most unusual tasting Peach Ice Cream and it was soft serve which is unusual for this flavor. Its a nice stop with friendly service but not the greatest ice cream I have ever tasted. It took about another 45 minutes to Interstate 88 and then reaching Interstate 81 another 45 minutes to get to the exit for the Route 81 turnoff. Once on that, up I went to Cortland.

Cortland , New York I have written about in the past. I have stayed here a lot in the last few years. First for my uncle’s memorial service, then the Homecoming game last year against Yale. It just makes it easier.  I checked into the Cortland Quality Inn, , 188 Clinton Avenue and then headed over to the cemetery to pay my respects to my uncle and my cousin who are interned there. It is a very pretty cemetery and they are buried in an area that overlooks the campus of SUNY Cortland, where my uncle worked years earlier.

It was a quiet afternoon and I was able to spend some time there and pay my respects. That has been hard but the purpose of this project is to pay my respects to my dad as well. That had been a rough summer for all of us losing my uncle, my father’s older brother, six months after my dad passed away.

The rest of the evening I spent walking around the downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods. You could tell by the many Victorian homes off the downtown this must have once been a very wealthy area. It really is a pretty city when you walk around. The downtown has some good restaurants and the older buildings in any other town closer to the city would be lofts and artist studios. There is so much more that can be done in this city. I was still so stuffed from lunch that I went back to the hotel to relax.

The next day it was off to Ithaca for the Alumni Reunion. The breakfast at the hotel could have used some work. The eggs tasted like plastic. It did not make much of a difference as we would be having brunch at the hotel school later that morning.

It is a quick trip to Ithaca from Cortland and a very scenic one as well as you pass all the farms and mountains covered with forest on the way between the two cities. Along the way down Route 13 you pass many depressed towns and villages reminding you that the economy is not so great up here.  You can see it in downtown Cortland where if it were not for the college, the town would be in serious trouble.

All of this does not matter once you get to Ithaca and reach the Cornell University campus. Cornell has one of the most beautiful campuses in the country rivaling the Michigan State University campus by the Red Cedar River. Both are just so beautifully laid out but what makes Cornell so beautiful is all the gorges, lakes and rivers that flow through campus. Driving into the southern part of the campus, old campus, is breath taking especially when you look over the bluff into the city where you have a view below of Ithaca and Lake Cayuga. In the summer when everything is in bloom, there is no view like it. It is one of the most popular places on campus to take family pictures.

First off, the campus was loaded with Alumni for Alumni Weekend. Most of the students had gone home for the summer and the Summer Programs had not started yet so the campus was pretty much ours. When I got to Statler Hall, the home of the School Of Hotel Management, where I am an Alumni, the place was mobbed.

The crazy part was that all the schools that ended in year seven were celebrating their reunions and I sat with a group of women from the Class of ’87. It really dawned on me that if I had gone there as an undergraduate instead of going to Michigan State University, these would have been my classmates. As a matter of fact, the two tables that surrounded us were Class of ’87. It really made me think of fate and what we choose in life (me, Class of ’04 and ’10).

Our breakfast was amazing but then anything the Hotel School does with food is amazing. We had a beautiful spread outside the main ballroom of the Statler Hotel and this was a breakfast that made the Quality Inn look like Burger King. We had from soup to nuts with pancakes, stuffed blinzes, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, fresh fruit and pastries all so nicely displayed.

The topic our dean is always talking about is the merger with two other schools to form the new Johnson Business School which everyone of the Alumni are against. Everyone feels it will only benefit the other schools and weaken ours as we have most of the support and money coming in. Plus we have the strongest Alumni on and off campus. Everyone just grinned and bared through it. At least breakfast was nice.

We then took a tour of the building which had been renovated even since I went there and I left in 2010. It makes me feel proud of all the money that is poured into the college and how modern it all is and up to date. It reminds me of all the money being invested in the Culinary Institute of America when I go up there (also Alumni Class of ’98).

All the lecture halls and the library have all been renovated and update with all the latest equipment and the lucky part now is that Cornell has an agreement with the Culinary Institute that you can finish a two year at CIA and then finish with a BS at Cornell. That would have been nice when I was attending both schools. I could have saved some money. Even so our cooking labs are still impressive.

The school was meeting up with the other business colleges later that afternoon for a cocktail party, so it gave me a chance to walk the campus and surrounding areas. Even though the campus was busy, I thought it would be busier but I figured the other colleges would have their own events.

The Student Bookstore was mobbed with Alumni buying everything was not nailed down. I have not seen anything so busy since I went to MSU’s Bookstore after a game. You would never know that we were in the middle of a recession with the way people were buying. I have so much stuff from Homecoming Weekend that I did not need more.

I went off to explore the campus. College Town is always a place of extremes. A lot of the restaurants that I remembered when I was there have now closed. Collegetown Bagels is always mobbed and was mobbed that afternoon. You could not get a seat if you wanted to and Rulloff’s, which has now reopened was busy as well. The rest of Collegetown is either being rebuilt (Again) or the businesses have closed. I saw so many empty storefronts or they are going the revolving door of Asian restaurants that keep popping up. There are a few holdovers on the main drag but outside that, Collegetown looks so depressed. No wonder its being rebuilt again.

I walked down the hill from Collegetown to see the downtown Ithaca and the new ‘Commons’ that has since been rebuilt. All I have to say is that it looks so much better. The downtown was looking a little run down the last time I attended school there and the downtown was a revolving door of restaurants and shops. The Commons was totally rebuilt with new bricks and planters and new street furniture is all over the place. The Commons was an 80’s concept to bring back people to downtowns by bricking up sidewalks and adding planters. The key though is parking and good stores and restaurants and little crime. That is what didn’t work for most downtowns in the 80’s. No one wanted to go because of those reasons. Somehow Ithaca is making it work.

They have really spruced up the buildings and added better signage. I would have thought the area would have been more crowded with people but I don’t think anyone got the idea to get a shuttle bus from campus to the Commons for Alumni weekend. Plus most of us had meals with our colleges and I was not even hungry considering we had a cocktail party at 3:00pm.

I walked around Common’s looking at the new buildings that have gone up, new hotels and restaurants that have opened while looking at old favorites and trying to figure out which ones I went to each of the summers that I attended school here. Simeon’s reopened since the fire there and their food was always great. Taste of Thai is one of the best Thai restaurants I have ever eaten at and the waffle place is still there as well.

I walked around the square in downtown off the Commons and the houses that surround it still need some work. They were falling apart then and they still are now. This is the sad part of Cortland as well. All these beautiful and graceful Victorian and early American homes just neglected or falling apart. Unlike Andes, Ithaca and Cortland are farther from the city and that form of reverse gentrification has not hit these cities yet. There is one large Victorian home that faces the square and the church that I have admired for years and its still depressing to look at. If only the time and money.

The number of artists moving to Ithaca is becoming greater in numbers. There are several businesses that deal with local artists like Handicraft Cooperative (the Commons) and Made in Ithaca (Mooseville Mall) where you can find the unique. Take your time at the Made in Ithaca store as there is many creative items for sale at very reasonable prices and the sales people are great.

I was debating walking to the Farmers Market by the lake but then I was running out of time and would not be able to walk back to campus in time. So I took a deep breath and walked back up the hill. If any Cornell Alumni are reading this, you know what I am talking about when walking from the Commons back to campus through Collegetown. Just walking around Cornell’s campus is a workout.

Our cocktail party for the new Business School was very nice. Passed appetizers and small desserts along with drinks was the focus of the event while the various deans of the three colleges being merged were trying to assure annoyed alumni that their school identity was not being taken away. I thought the get-together would be busier but figured that people were on their way home by 3:00pm. It was more of the same speeches with the deans trying to convince us everything was great with the merger. there was a lot of eye-rolling that afternoon.

I just walked around campus and looked at the new Residence Halls that were being built when I was there and finally finished now. The school really put a lot of money in student living. Walking though the gorges and gardens all over campus brought back so many good memories of the seven summers I spent there and of dad’s visits to me on campus and the adventures we would have before our long trip home. I finally decided on a Chinese restaurant for lunch that I had eaten in years ago, Hai Hong, 602 West State Street, Ithaca, NY in Collegetown (See TripAdvisor review). The Dim Sum there is good but not great and stick with the steamed items and stay away from the fried ones. Their soup dumplings are delicious.

The trip home took about four hours and I reached the New Jersey border as it started to get dark. Thank God for Daylight Savings time.

Going to Ithaca brings back so many great memories and special times in my life and the side trip to Bovina Center made it fun to visit and explore this part of New York State. Take time out to visit these small towns in upstate New York. You will never know what you can find. Still going to Ithaca reminds me how I got there in the first place and I always thank my dad for that. His support and encourage meant a lot to me when I was there as a student.

Hail, all Hail Cornell!

 

 

Day Seventy-Nine: An evening at the MoMA with Julian Schnabel at the Screening of “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”.

As a member of the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) Film Society, I get invited to a lot of showings of new and old films alike. This evening I put the walk aside and got work done around the house and then headed into the city to see the showing of “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”. The movie intrigued me as well as it horrified me and woke me up to what having a stroke is like from the perspective of the stroke patient.

Needles to say that after taking care of my dad, who had one of the most dangerous types of strokes you can get, for almost four years and knowing what is it like to be a caregiver, this was the first time I experienced what my dad was going through in his recovery. The main protagonist in the movie was a 43 year old fashion editor for Elle in Paris and was hit with such a devastating stroke that it turned him into a what some would call a ‘vegetable’. His form of communication was by winking to his therapists his thoughts and ideas. That was unique to some of the things I have seen up in Helen Hayes Hospital when visiting my dad in therapy.

I was shocked by it all especially seeing it from his perspective and what his feelings were and it made me sympathetic to the patients. It is easy for us as caregivers to say ‘I understand’ when we really don’t and when people responsible either don’t do their jobs or do or say something thinking the patient does not hear or understand and knows full well of their surroundings.

I walked out of the theater that night shaking and very emotional when I thought of my dad and all the times we sat in that theater at the museum before he got sick. It put life into perspective to me. I do not know how much the rest of the crowd felt but it hit me at the core.

As I left the MoMA, I saw Julian Schnabel surrounded by the usual ‘artiste-types’ and I did not want to bother him. I walked out of the museum still shaking. Something told to go back and say how I felt to the director.

I walked back into theater and approached Mr. Schnabel and pushed the artiste types to the side and introduced myself. I told him who I was and what I do for the Department of Disability Services for the County of Bergen and that I had taken care of my dad for over three and a half years.  I thanked him for giving me a perspective of what my dad was going through and how it affected me as a former caregiver. I could see that he saw the emotion in my face.

The whole conversation took about a minute and if I had stayed one more second, I would have cried on the guy’s shoulder and I don’t think it would have looked good for me to cry on the shoulders of one our most important artist’s of the 20th & 21st Century.  I found out later he was taking care of his own father when he was sick as he got involved in this film. Only another caregiver could have understood this.

So I am dedicating Day Seventy-Nine of “MywalkinManhattan” to Julian Schnabel, whose direction in this film opened my eyes. I think only someone who has lived it could understand the significance of this project. Losing a parent is not easy.

I recommend seeing the “The Diving Bell & the Butterfly” to all caregivers. When you are feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, please remember who we are taking care of and see it from their life. I am always glad that my dad and I had one another. We were very lucky!