Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I'm having a longing. It's also a craving and maybe a little withdrawal mixed in. For what? Junk food? Booze? Well, yes, but they are intertwined into my longing. The worst part is, there's no fix for me any time soon, and it happens to me about this time every year. Stop trying to guess what I'm wanting because you won't be able to. Want a hint? It involves bright orange cheddar popcorn in a bag, Vernors Ginger Ale, a pontoon boat, and Bob Seger. You already guessed? Wow! You're good! For those of you who didn't get it, don't feel bad. This is not an easy one.

This time of year, after a long winter full of cold and frosty landscapes, heavy coats and the death of 3 very wonderful people I had the pleasure of knowing, my mind constantly wanders off to distant lands. So distant in fact, that these lands go by some strange sounding names, like Dowagiac and Cassopolis. Alright, I won't keep you wondering about this wonderful and mysterious land any longer. Let me whisk you away to a place called southern Michigan.

 Isn't it beautiful? Walk with me, if you will, down the pier to the pontoon boat. We can sit there and I will tell you about this place. This is Diamond Lake, in Cass County, Michigan. My dad used to come here with his parents and brother and sister when they were younger, and we started having our very small family reunion here about 6 years ago. This is my one of my favorite places on earth. There are so many reasons I am having a Diamond Lake longing. For one, look at that water! It's like Hawaii! And a pontoon boat is the best kind of boat there is. It's like a floating front porch. I love all the lake things we do, like when our family friends come over and we all go out on the boat for a picnic, or the time my dad ran the boat into his friends pier, swimming, watching people get pulled behind the boat on inner tubes because I'm still afraid of them for no reason, and at some point someone always forgets about the rocky shallow part on the north side of the lake and drives into it. I also like our night time boat trips, which are so beautiful and quiet because no one else is out. My step mom, who will be known as Steppie from this point on, saw her first shooting star last year and it was so exciting. There was a meteor shower that night. Imagine, being out on a boat, with completely still water and a clear sky, and seeing a meteor shower. Perfect.

My family has noticed my obsession with this place. I know the depths of the lake and where the shallow parts are. I know which homes are for sale and how much they cost. And which ones are vacation rentals and what they look like inside. Now if only I could be so excited about things I actually need to know. It's ok though, it helps me feel like I'm closer to the lake when I'm really in Queens.
 Above: Diamond lake. It has an island! Below: Forest Hills Queens. We also have a lake but it's different.

Of course there are other things about Diamond lake and Cassopolis that make it wonderful besides the lake activities. So lets get off the pontoon and walk up to the house and I'll tell you.

 Ahh the porch. This is our favorite house to rent for our vacations. There have been others, and not all Diamond Lake houses are created equal.We've stayed in a double wide with plastic sheets, and a very large and very updated house. I liked them all but this one is the best.

Mike likes to point at things. Mostly he points towards the future.

Come on in. Lets avoid all the nicely remodeled areas of this place and go down to the basement. It's my favorite part.
 Time warp! If I ever own a house, I would purposely create an outdated wood paneled avocado green vinyl bar in my basement. It's so not hip. I love it.

Ok, enough basements for now, lets go out! Lets get out on the town! And let's pretend that Robyn is here and she's driving, because that will make it so much better. She is also a fan of this area and came to stay overnight last year. I'll tell you more about that later. Hey Robyn, put on some tunes!

Now that we've got on some Bob Seger System, lets go check out downtown Cassopolis. Hey, whats that over there? It's the thrift store where I bought that Burberry coat for .50c! And a t-shirt for the same price. And Robyn scored a whole bag of nice kids clothes for a dollar. Really? Yes! Still want to go to Hawaii for your vacation? No!

Onward. Robyn, what should we do? There's Vlasicak's Meat Market, but I think we already bought everything we need. That place is the best. It smells like awesomeness when you walk in. I think the guy always remembers us as the people who buy all his wine. Maybe next year we should warn them that we're coming. I always imagine they're thinking, "Here come those crazy city people again, buyin' all the wine!" I hope they like us. We spend lots of money there. So if we don't need to get thrift store clothes or meat and booze, what are we going to do? What does any person such as ourselves do? Come on, it's not that hard. Bowling! Robyn, aim thine vehicle towards Dowagiac and lets put on our bowling shoes!

Now this bowling alley isn't just any bowling alley. And it's not really in Dowagiac, but I guess technically it is. It out between two lakes on a narrow strip of land. And like places with bars in Michigan, it still smells like stale cigarettes and beer, which reminds me of the bars I used to go to in Arizona before everywhere banned smoking in bars, besides Michigan I guess. I don't like how I smell when I get home, but it seems so homey and familiar.  Anyway, let's bowl!
 Robyn, you're always such a good bowler. It takes me so long to get in the groove. But this place helped. Just look at it! Another time warp! Does anyone else think that the flux capacitor was working? Or maybe we have somehow transported ourselves into the movie "Buffalo '66"?
Spanning time. Spanning time.

 Well that was fun. It's getting to be late afternoon and I think we should get back home so we can cook up some various meats and corn on the cob. That was fun bowling, we should do that again soon. Oh, look! does anyone want some ice cream?
 No? Ok. Maybe tomorrow. But if you leave without having any, you must promise not to forget the chicken in a hat and tie, with either two fat legs or three really skinny ones. Home we go.
 Everyone is in the kitchen making dinner. Tonight is my aunt and uncles turn, and tomorrow my aunt and I will cook. but everyone still helps out. We got some vegetables from the farm stand up the road earlier. How is it that tomatoes can be so good? As a city kid I never liked them until I had home grown ones. Now I'm obsessed and I wish I had a yard. Oh New York, you are wonderful but I have other needs. Tomato needs. Hand me that corn! Everyone shares their personal preferences for cooking corn on the cob. I still think mine works the best. We sit down to dinner, everyone enjoying the local foods and beverages. At some point there is always singing or dancing to some kind of funk or soul music. Last year we all did a riveting version of Tina Turners' "Rollin' on the River". We are avid backup dancers. Are you tired yet? Yes? Too bad. We must go back on the boat and enjoy the serenity that is Diamond Lake after 9:00 p.m. Put some beers in your pockets and lets go. 

I'll drive now, because it's my favorite time to drive the boat. I can't see much but I know where I am, so we won't run into the sand bar. I always think of the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland when I'm on the lake at night. Maybe because it seems so foreign and mysterious. And I'm on a boat. Maybe I'll turn off the engine for a while and just float here in the quiet. The radio is on and the sound drifts off across the water, like mist would. It disappears into the night. Now can you see why I love this place so much? 

As we go back toward the house I slow down and pull into the dock perfectly. I like driving a boat much more than a car. It takes more planning and there aren't lanes or traffic lights. As we tie the boat to the dock it gets colder out and I'm glad we're going back in. Everyone goes back to their rooms and Robyn and I go to the guest house where we have decided to stay so we can talk and not bother people.
It's morning! Let's get up and see what the world has to offer us. Hey Robyn, Whats this funny thing in the bathroom of this old guest house we love so much?
Why it's an old Dixie Cup box circa 1970 something! OLIVER with guitar DAZZLES THE YOUNG! Have you ever seen something so amazing? I haven't. And thus began our momentary obsession with Oliver. He was really sweaty, with an invisible upper lip, and he was really digging on some girl called Jean. Totally groovy fellow, he was. I think he ended up selling real estate in the valley or something.

Unfortunately, as vacations work, we have to leave Diamond Lake now. Everyone get in your cars and drive to South Bend, or Indianapolis or Batavia. This is the horrible part of such a great vacation.  You have to leave. If you lived here all the time it would just be where you live. Then again, that wouldn't be so bad. I've got some houses in mind that I would buy if I had a good job. Let me change that to when I have a good job. I will buy a reasonably priced house on Diamond Lake so my family can visit every summer, and any other time they want. Robyn can come with her family when she wants. Forget Hawaii, forget Bora Bora, when you want to have the best time, go to Cassopolis. You already know the language, and you'll feel like you belong there instantly. And it's only a domestic flight away. (Or drive.)

Note: If you loved reading about Diamond Lake, fret not. For I have many other adventures to take you on. There are turkeys to visit, fields of goldenrod to admire, stories of a shipwreck, visits to the feed store, more thrift stores, very long walks through fields of corn past abandoned farm houses, a candy store where the egg salad sandwich will take you back to 1920, an organic farm run by a lovely woman who loves cats, stories of my grandma, and various other things that make Cass County what it is. Oh, and fried pork tenderloin sandwiches.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Food Food, Connecticut Style

For our two year anniversary Mike and I, after much debating and realizing our first choice of Buffalo NY might leave us trapped at the airport in mounds of snow, decided to go to Stamford CT overnight to sleep peacefully away from cats and various Bronx noises. It's only an hour from here and for 4.50 per person each way on metro north, you can't beat the travel cost. After living in large states for most of my life I really get a kick out of going to another state even though it's closer than I think.

We got a nice room at a nice hotel, which was conveniently located in the middle of a downtown area which was mostly restaurants and strangely, fur stores. After we dropped off our stuff we went out and got some lunch.

Restaurant #1: Buffalo Wild Wings. I know, I know. Chain restaurants aren't something to write about. But I happen to love that place. So does Mike. They have really good wings! And their Guinness is always fresh, and who doesn't love a beer with wings? Mike kept feeling funny about drinking in the afternoon, but it was 3:00 after all, not 12:00. Plus we were on vacation. Not interesting food writing, but tasty none the less.

Restaurant #2: We walked around after lunch, scoping out dinner locations that we had read about in the booklet in our hotel room. We don't know anyone in Stamford, other than fictional characters from "The Office" who are not actually people we know and not actually in Connecticut, so we didn't have any inside info on where to eat. While walking, we spotted empty canole shells in the window of some Italian-ish place. Mike and I love a canole, so after walking another block, to the end of the "downtown area", and past 2 fur stores, we went back and got 4 of them. They filled them while we waited, the sign of a proper canole, and we took them back to our room. Angels sang as we each ate one. Usually I can't eat more than a half of one at a time, but these were amazing. Not too sweet, no weird mini chocolate chips in the filling. Nothing like laying on a king size bed eating great canoles. And there were still 2 left.

Restaurant #3: Dinner. The ideal thing to have at night, especially to celebrate anniversaries. Generally one chooses a place known for good food, but as we didn't know what was good, we went with checking out the menu and seeing how crowded the place was. We walked past a Napa Valley wine country California cuisine type place, unfortunately attached to the hotel, which made it seem maybe a little off, although the menu looked good. Mike didn't think it looked good though, and as we have different tastes, I figured I would let him decide. There was a Spanish place across from the hotel that looked pretty promising, the menu looked good, and there were a lot of people inside, all seemingly enjoying themselves. I love Spanish food, at least what I've had of it. Anything containing chorizo gets and A+ in my book. So we decided to eat there.

Interior. Night. Restaurant: Barcelona.

After being seated, our very (unrealistically) enthusiastic waiter came up and asked us what we would like to drink. Neither of us had decided on a wine yet, as it had been about 2 minutes. When we said we didn't know yet, he came back at us with a "Have you been to this restaurant before?" I said no, I haven't. He said, "Do you know what tapas are?" I said yes, I do. I like them. He said, " Well let me tell you what they are. They are little plates of food that you usually order about 5 to 10 of, and share with your table." I said, I know, and we would like to look at the menu for a minute. He then started asking us what types of wine we like, and grabbed the bottle list from me and handed me the menu of wines by the glass, assuming we would not want to order a bottle, as we would have had he not been such an asshole. Or if I had still had the menu of wines by the bottle. It was obvious that he demanded an answer about wine asap, so we ordered what we wanted. About a minute later he came back with our wine and asked if we had decided. As he had previously described in great detail a few of the menu items, and seemed to be in such a hurry to take our order, we asked for the three things he had suggested and on top of that a tuna tartar and a calamari. Having rid ourselves of him once again, we attempted to enjoy our night. But wait! Tiny water glasses = guy filling water glasses constantly. CONSTANTLY. Not only was he at our table every time either one of us took a sip, but he felt as though he had to talk to us, in his ridiculously high pitched voice every time he poured more water. I'm not talking your usual male falsetto, I'm talking my impression of a 3 year old girl times 5 with a little creepy Michael Jackson in there, just for fun. If that wasn't enough, we were shoved next to a woman and her friend who can be defined by her comment to the friend, "Sorry I brought you to a place you're uncomfortable with. I guess I know this type of food better than you." Come on! Food isn't brain surgery! Order what sounds good and eat it! The mean woman's friend looked sad and shy and I felt bad for her. It's not like we were at some fancy 59th st. Columbus Circle $300+ per person place. We were at a Spanish restaurant in Stamford. Not so surprisingly they also offered a large plate of meat Argentinean style, which sounded great but not after downing a canole and some wings. Argentinean at a Spanish place? Sure, but if you're going to do something, stick with it. It's better to do one thing well than to spread yourself all over the place like some two-bit hussy. (Or Spanish restaurant).

The meal.

Our food came out, one or two plates at a time, which was the way it should be. That's about the only thing they did right. To define my meal at this place in one word, "salty". Like they dipped everything in a layer of salt before it came out. I had wings for lunch and didn't find them overly salty. To say the food was salty is an understatement. As someone who cooks food for a living, I am careful about salt. I usually salt less because if someone wants to pour salt on their food, that's their business. I don't want people having heart attacks in my restaurant. The only thing nearly edible was the tuna tartar, if you didn't eat it on the potato chips they provided for eating it with. It was actually perfectly tasty, by itself. There were enough capers in there that I had to avoid some of them. Salt Assault. Mike and I didn't get to talk much during our special anniversary dinner, but I agreed with him completely when he asked for our check before we were even done with our food.

Here's the compare and contrast segment of this blog:

Tonight, while still thinking about this "fine dining" experience, I looked up the reviews of  Barcelona to see if anyone else had the same opinion  as we did. Here they are, in order.

"Very cool inside, but a little loud"

This person said other things, about liking the food, etc. Now people rate restaurants based on temperature and volume?

This is my favorite:
"- chorizo w/ figs -- my fav., though the sausage was a little hard, but the taste is excellent."

Chorizo? Hard? Really? I didn't know that a cured sausage that is hard should be... HARD?

From the same reviewer...

tuna tartare -this was a disappointment compared to the various interpretations I've seen in NYC, also a bit bland.

It's Bland because you ate so much salty crap before you ate something that was actually not salty. And your NYC versions, probably better because they weren't so damn salty.

Just for fun, a girl who knows her sea creatures:

"The chef obviously understands the delicate precision in the timing needed to cook cephalopods like this."

I could go on for hours but I have realized that this is a Spanish place in Connecticut so it's really not worth it. I might not even be this angry about the whole thing if I hadn't woken up in my hotel room looking like the Michelin Man, my face so puffy from so much salt that my eyes were folding over on themselves and I had to walk all over the huge mall shopping for anything because there's no tax in Connecticut. Mike bought shoes. I watched through puffy eyes. We ate lunch at P.F. Changs. It was good. I got the Shanghai Street Noodles. They came with a wedge of lime, and the shrimp was cooked perfectly. If they had anything in Shanghai called Shanghai Street Noodles, I'm sure it wouldn't eat it. But anything was good after my sodium saturated Stamford Spanish shitty food fest. You're welcome for the alliteration.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Bar in the Basement

Every year my family meets at Diamond Lake in southern Michigan for a family reunion. We rent a nice house that is modern and comfortable. But in the basement lurks something from another time. Down a flight of wooden stairs, below sagging ceiling panels, and filled with the aroma of millions of mold spores, is a bar straight outta 1975, complete with wood paneling and vinyl covered stools. It's my favorite part of the house. If I could transport any room in the world into my apartment, it very well could be that one. I've taken some of the best pictures in there. It's horribly lit, which somehow doesn't matter because the ceiling is so low that the lights are right above your head. Here are the pictures. I hope you enjoy them.
They remind me of one of my favorite movies, Bufflao '66. Maybe that's why I like these pictures so much.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Everyone knows Europeans don't tip.

It has become a game to me, trying to guess whether or not the Europeans will tip. It's a fact that in Europe you don't tip. But I'm pretty sure that these people read guide books before coming to NYC and I can't imagine the guide books don't mention that in America, we tip. I've been able to narrow it down by country, which countries tip and which don't. England tips, France is 50/50. Italy can either be very generous or very stingy. It has become very obvious to me in the last 10 minutes that Spaniards do NOT tip. I just had about 5 of them in here, demanding things left and right, wanting weird stuff, not speaking English, ordering things I had to cook for them. Ordering them in Spanish. And never smiling or saying thank you. They ordered 12 different things, and even though I was helping someone else when they came in, their leader just started telling me what he wanted. I got them what they wanted, and sat here and watched them make a mess of the table. When it was time for them to pay, the total was $23. That is really cheap for that much stuff in Manhattan. He gave me a 20 and $3 in quarters. He had a huge wad of cash. Did any of it go in my tip jar after I was their waitress, barrista, cook, busboy, and cashier? Heck no. They just walked out, probably on their way to Century 21 to spend all that money or to the Statue of Liberty or something. It made me so mad. Not that he didn't tip, because obviously I am used to Europeans who don't get that they're in America, even though they're all wearing stupid I heart NY shirts. It makes me mad that he kept pointing at things like I was some kind of idiot. He glared at me the entire time they were here. If you hate American so much, go back to Spain. I want to put a sign on my tip jar that reminds people that I'm not just taking their order. I'm also cooking their food and making their espresso and cleaning up after their messy children. It's the least they can do to recognise that and leave me a few dollars. If they just order coffee or something I don't expect anything. But food? Come on! Unfortunately there is no solution to my problem. Europeans aren't going to start tipping because I complain about it. Maybe a few of them will read this and realize what assholes they look like when they overlook this detail of American life.

And then there are the Bus People. Oh Bus People how I dislike you. Here in Chinatown there are lots of buses that will take you to Philly, DC, Boston, etc. for insanely low prices. Do you know who ride these buses? Really cheap people and really poor people. The Chinese business owners do something I wish we did. They have signs on their doors that say "NO BUS!" This translates to "If you're here because you're waiting for a bus, we don't want you in our store." The Bus People are the most demanding, low class people I have to deal with. On top of complaining about the prices, (which as I said before are really cheap for Manhattan) they throw a hissy fit if it takes me more than 2 minutes to make their stupid egg sandwich because the bus is leaving in one minute. If your bus is leaving in one minute, DON'T GO IN A RESTAURANT AND ORDER FOOD! Wait for your bus! Or order a muffin! I don't have to cook that. I've started asking Bus People how long they have and if they are in a hurry I will tell them to order something that doesn't involve heating a pan, melting butter, beating eggs, toasting something, or application of any condiment. I would rather they leave than give me attitude about the amount of time it takes to scramble eggs. And for Christ sake, don't order the waffles. You will miss your bus and I won't care.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I am a Link

I was googling myself (no, I'm not egotistical, I'm bored at work) and came across a website that had created a link to my blog about the horrible Moby Dick shirt! It says, "Blogger Erica Nicksin deems this "the most horrible" T-shirt ever." Wow! Now I have proof that people are actually reading what I write. Which could be good, or maybe it might make me nervous about what I'm writing, but either way my writing is not pointless. Now lots of people know that I thought a t-shirt was ugly. And not only is the link to this blog on the website, but the website is called powermobydick.com and has all things Moby Dick.

At first I worried that people would think I dislike Melville because I disliked the ugly shirt, but then I clicked on the link to my own blog and remembered that I have a picture of a whale at the top of my page and have numerous posts about Melville.

I'm at work right now so I can't do any in-depth writing, but this has caused a stirring in my brain and as I have been unusually witty lately I'll have to make the best of it. Maybe more people will read what I have to say, even if it's about things like shirts or pizza.

UPDATE: I am another link too!
Not quite sure what the website is, but interesting.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Food, Part 2

I thought I would share some of my favorite things to make for dinner, because who doesn't like food?

I was watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain and he was talking about how everyone should know how to roast a chicken. I had never actually roasted my own chicken, although I had eaten many. They're good. Whats not to like about a roasted chicken? And there was one piece of advice he gave which I think is the most important. You have to dry your chicken. After you wash it off, pat off all the water with a paper towel. Otherwise the skin wont get crispy. (I don't eat the skin because it has a lot of fat in it, but Mike and the cats like it so I have to do it right.) Plus it looks better that way. Another thing I do is to carefully detach the skin from the breast, making sure not to puncture it, and there you have a great place to put spices, garlic, or whatever you want. Because if you only season the skin, the flavor wont go through the skin and into the chicken. You'll just have really flavorful skin and bland chicken.

If you have a string, tie the legs together. The dark meat cooks faster than the white, and by compacting it into a smaller area, you're going to have a more evenly cooked chicken. You also have to flip the wings underneath so they don't burn. And always remember to remove the bag of weird chicken parts from inside the chicken. Feed those to your cat.

For spices, I use a mix of Old Bay and some brand name chicken seasoning because that's what I have in the cabinet. If you've never used Old Bay, get some. It's really great in hamburgers too.

After you've done all those things to your chicken, and you've preheated your oven to 350, go online and look up how long to roast your chicken by weight. I'm not going to type every cooking time on here. It's easier for you to just look it up. I usually add on about 20 minutes to whatever the websites say because I'm afraid of undercooked chicken and I don't have a meat thermometer.

I always put my chicken on a cookie sheet (with a rim) covered in foil. The lower the sides on your cooking dish, the more evenly cooked and crispier your chicken will be. Lots of websites will tell you to baste your chicken, which I have done, but I've also not done it and it came out fine.

Once your chicken is in the oven, go watch TV or stalk people on facebook for a while. I usually watch the travel channel and have a beer, or stand in the kitchen for no reason. Then, in a few hours, your chicken will be done. The house will smell good, and whoever you cooked for will appreciate the hard work and hours of preparation that went into this meal. You don't have to tell them how easy it was.

A tasty chicken looks even better on some retro
Bjorn Christensen Rosti Mepal Dinnerware

My other favorite thing to make is pizza. I like ordering it too, but home made pizza is great because you can put whatever you want on it and you don't have to tip someone to bring it to you. My dad started a tradition around Christmas called pizza night. Everyone makes a small pizza with whatever toppings they want, and then he cooks them on a pizza stone on the grill. It's a lot of fun, and it's interesting to see what other people will come up with. Last year even Ivy, from the Cramps joined us for pizza night. (Cool, huh?)

Ivy made a lovely vegetarian pizza

My new favorite pizza that I make is red onion and chorizo. I love chorizo maybe even more than bacon. It's good with anything. It comes in different forms depending on what ethnic group you happen to live near. In Tucson I always found it in the ground form, like hamburger meat. Out here its in tube form, and more like salami. I like them both. If you use the ground kind, drain it after you cook it. There is a ton of fat. You don't have to cook the tube form, but I do, and I break it up into small pieces.

The crust is up to you. Personally, I just buy the frozen dough because I've only got about 4 square feet of counter space and I have really bad luck with getting dough to rise. If you want to make your own dough, you're on your own. Frozen dough is pretty good. Just don't buy that Boboli crap.

Now cut up a small red onion into thin pieces, and cook your chorizo so it's ready to go on your pizza.

I've tried different ways of stretching the dough into pizza shape, and I think rolling it is the easiest, but I don't currently have a rolling pin. so hands work well. And if it looks funny just call it rustic. That's what everyone on food network does. And they all pretend that they're the first to think of it. I put some olive oil on my cookie sheet and get the dough as stretched out as much as I can. Then I put on some tomato sauce, and some sliced mozzarella. I don't grate it but you can. Then, I put on the chorizo and onions. (Do I even need to be telling you how to make a pizza? It's pretty obvious.)

Put it into a 450 degree oven or whatever your dough package tells you, and wait about 15 minutes. If the cheese in the middle isn't melted yet, wait a little longer. Then take it out. There you have it. And you can get all the ingredients, enough for two pizzas, for about ten dollars. That's the same price as those horrible five dollar pizzas from Little Cesar's. And you can have an awesome pizza that looks like this.

Mine is square because I have a square pan. If you have a round pan, make it round. Make it a heart for Valentines day. Do whatever you want. Just try making dinner. It's fun and it tastes better than eating at restaurants all the time.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday Monday

I wish I had.

Today is not my day.

I went to deposit my paycheck, which I was hoping to use some of for groceries. They usually let 100 or so go through, but not this time. I'm guessing it's because my card was stolen recently and now they think I'm trying to pull some fraudy crap. I'm not, I just wanted groceries and my money. So I left the bank, after getting no help from the "I could care less about anyone" teller. While walking down the lovely Jerome Ave, I stepped on a mirror and it broke. First of all, why is there a tiny mirror laying on the sidewalk, and why did I have to step on it? I'm usually don't believe in these kind of things, but it happened at the exact moment that I was complaining about my lack of money over the phone. Not only did it break, but it stuck into my shoe. Some woman said, "Are you OK?!" I think she thought it went in my foot. I was on the phone so I pretended not to hear her.

I continued my walk to the grocery store where I got what I could with the cash I had, and the cashier started chasing me out of the store. I thought, "oh, now what." She put someones yogurt in my bag. Thank God she didn't think I was trying to steal someones yogurt. I was worried with my luck so far, she would. So I walked home.

On the front stairs of my building was a turtle shell. From a dead turtle. The last time I found something dead in my path was a really horrible day that I don't want to go into. I had found a dead bird on my car and the rest of the day involved someone (not me) in jail and lots of drama that I didn't deserve.

So I'm home now, and I'm going to stay here. I was here all day waiting for a package that was supposed to be delivered but has not come yet. So there's another thing that isn't going my way.

So happy Monday everyone. Remember, you can't trust that day.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Bowling Green and Battery Park

If you read yesterdays post about Bowling Green park, I said I would be going there today to remember the historical events that happened 234 years ago. I went, and sat there, among lots of tourists who had no way of knowing that today was important for any other reason than that they got to take a crowded boat to the Statue of Liberty. I tried to get into my "reflecting on historic moments" mindset, but it just wouldn't happen. During the day it is just too full of people and noise to really reflect on anything other than the fact that I really don't like tourists. I'm sure I would like them if they were in their own cities, but for the most part they have no idea that they are missing out on lots of interesting places and things that are right in front of them. To emphasize this, I took a picture:

In the foreground is one of my favorite things in NY, the fence surrounding Bowling Green. Like I said in my last post, it was installed in 1773. It is still there. But do the tourists find it at all interesting? I'm sure some do, but most of them want to look at the ugly bull statue as you can see by the group of people standing around it in the background. And it's amusing that there is a British flag flying alongside the American flag. Considering the reason I went there today was to remember when Washington's troops tore down a statue of the King of England.

Here are some other things that have changed. I posted this painting yesterday and took a picture today that is in the same place more or less. What a difference. I can't complain that it's different but it's interesting to see what has changed. Here is another one, which shows that most of Battery Park is landfill.

Herman Melville wrote of this area in Moby Dick;

"Right and left, the streets take you waterward. Its extreme down-town is the Battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land. Look at the crowds of water-gazers there."
I looked at them. They were all waiting in lines for things. There was a man wearing an umbrella hat playing steel drums and another man holding a radio playing music and expecting tips. And hundreds of people selling photos of famous New York attractions, or caricatures or Jonas Brothers pictures. I sat and watched people until it got too hot and I went back to Bowling Green and sat in the shade for a while till it was time to go. I watched a whole group of tourists walk through the park, not even noticing the plaque out front telling about the fence and the park. They walked directly to the bull.

I could go on for days about comparing the bull to the statue of the King that was torn down 234 years ago today, and say things about the government and the economy but I already typed it all and read it and I sounded too preachy so I deleted it. You're welcome.

So I'll leave you all with a Melville fact. He worked at the Customs House for years, which is directly across from Bowling Green. I bet he used to sit there on his lunch break. Here is a picture of the building, which is now a Native American museum.
There were no stinky nerds wearing 18th century military dress. I was the only stinky nerd. I had a nice day walking around and I hope the next time I go there it will be 3 a.m. which is my favorite time to hang out in the financial district. Because I'm the only one there. And maybe some ghosts.

Happy July 9th everyone.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The History of Tomorrow

I am an over-zealous blogger today. But it's too hot to do anything else.

Tomorrow I'm going to take myself on a field trip to my favorite park. I'm going to sit in the park and think about history because I'm a nerd. Let me tell you why. (Why I'm going to the park, not why I'm a nerd. That's a secret.)

The park I'm going to is called Bowling Green. It's the oldest park in New York and probably the smallest. You may know it because it has that really ugly statue of the Wall Street Bull which I visited a while back at 3a.m. for a quick ride:

Here is some background on the park, with a little help from Wikipedia. It is the original site of the Dutch fort of New Amsterdam and it served as cattle market between 1638 and 1647 and parade ground. In 1675, the Common Council designated the "plaine afore the forte" for an annual market of "graine, cattle and other produce of the country". In 1677 the city's first public well was dug in front of the old fort at Bowling Green. In 1733, the Common Council leased a portion of the parade grounds to three prominent neighboring landlords for a peppercorn a year, upon their promise to create a park that would be "the delight of the Inhabitants of the City" and add to its "Beauty and Ornament"; the improvements were to include a "bowling green" with "walks therein". The surrounding streets were not paved with cobblestones until 1744.

I really like the part about how it was leased for a peppercorn a year. I'm guessing they really didn't need the peppercorn, it was more of a formality. Kind of like the commercials where they tell you to lease a car and only put a penny down.

Anyhoo, the park was the delight of the inhabitants of the city, where they would go and push hoops around with sticks and other early American forms of entertainment. Maybe some of them would sit in the park and drink their flagons of ale and view the 4,000 pound gilded lead statue of King George III which had been erected in August 1770.

People didn't like this statue very much. In 1773 the city had to pass anti-graffiti laws and installed a cast-iron fence, (which is still there today and my favorite part of the park.)

Then on July 9, 1776, after the Declaration of Independence was read to Washington's troops at the current site of City Hall, (which is about a 5-10 minute walk away) the local Sons of Liberty rushed down Broadway to Bowling Green, where they knocked over the statue. and ripped off the cast-iron crowns that topped sections of the surrounding fence as well. Here my friend Wiki helps me with the description.

According to folklore, the statue was chopped up and shipped to a Connecticut foundry to be made into 42,088 patriot bullets-at 20 bullets per pound (2,104.4 pounds). The statue's head was to have been paraded about town on pike-staffs-but was recovered by Loyalists and sent to England. Six pieces of the lead statue are preserved in the New-York Historical Society; one in the Museum of the City of New York as well as two in Connecticut (estimated total of 260/270 pounds); The event has been depicted over the years in several works of art, including an 1854 painting by William Walcutt and a 1859 painting by Johannes Adam Simon Oertel.

So tomorrow, July 9th 2010 I'm going to go sit in that park and think about what happened there 234 years ago. Surprisingly (or not?) the parks department has no event planned to commemorate this anniversary, which is apparently less important than events such as "Hip Hop Kids Secret Agent 23 Skidoo" (???) and Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre. If anyone reading this post would like to join me in my sitting and thinking about history, you're more than welcome. If my printer wasn't out of ink I was going to make little pamphlets to hand out so other people know why it's an important day.

I was wondering if anyone else would go there tomorrow because of the anniversary and I imagine that if anyone does, it will be really nerdy people dressed in 18th century military uniform and I will have to avoid them and their body odor. And whatever concoction of Old English and New York accent they come up with to sound "authentic" (which is always about as unauthentic as you can get if my experience of historic role-players serves me correctly.)

I'll post what happens tomorrow when I get home. Hopefully sans stinky nerds.

Why can't we all just get along?

I decided to check out meetup.com because I have no one to hang out with and I thought maybe I could find a group near me that would have some people with similar interests so I could make some friends. I hoped maybe there was something for people who liked nature, since we have a huge park here that is mostly woods, or maybe something for couples so Mike and I could make some new friends. Apparently not.

Now as you may know, I'm not racist. I don't care what race people are. If they act stupid it's not because of their race, it's because they are stupid. So don't get mad when you read me complaining about this.

I would say 80% of the meetup groups are for specific races only. I'm not just imagining that, because they have names like, "P.S. African- American & Latino Literati Salon", "MCCC - Married Christian Couples of Color", "Black,Thirty-Something, and Fabulous!", "The N.Y. People Of Color Genealogy Meetup Group", "Black Women of A Certain Age, NY Vicinity", "The African-American & Latino Literary Salon Meetup Group", "Arabs and Jews friendship", "BLACKANOMICS - NEW YORK", "New York City Brazilians and Brazilian Culture Meetup", "NYC Modern Orthodox Jewish Singles Club 30's-50's", "NYC Puerto Rican Culture", and on and on. A majority of the others are religious, which I guess is a little better because you choose what religion you are, so I could technically become Jewish and go to the Arabs and Jews friendship group. But I'm not going to.

So it got me thinking again, as I have in the past, about this phenomenon of every race except for white people being allowed to discriminate against other people. Usually white. And here is my point: If white people had groups named "White, Thirty-something and Fabulous!" we would get the crap beat out of us and be called white supremacists or Nazis. My favorite is "Whiteanomics - New York". What would that even mean? What does Blackanomics mean? Why are other races allowed to discriminate against white people? The first time I thought about this was while watching BET. Was I not supposed to be watching it? One may argue that every other channel is mostly white people, which is the case. I agree that there aren't really too many people on TV who aren't white. But it's not because white people don't want them to be. What would happen if white people made a channel only showing shows made by white people, with white actors, and wouldn't let anyone else on the shows? Again, they would be criticized or worse. Whats with this deliberate segregation? For so long, people of different races and colors wanted to be equal. And now that we all have the same rights, we have started separating ourselves, but in a different way.

If we are not supposed to discriminate against people, why are people still doing it? In this case that I'm bringing up, it's reversed, and I'm glad that we can all use the same drinking fountains and doors and bathrooms and go to the same schools. I have never even thought about race as much as I have since looking at these meetup groups. It bothers me that I am. I just don't understand why, a girl such as myself who would enjoy the company of these 30 something and fabulous women, would not be allowed to because of my skin color. Maybe they're just stickin' it to me. I certainly wouldn't join a group that only allowed white people.

I do understand that there is still discrimination in many areas of the United States and that is sad. But this is New York. Probably the most diverse city in the United States, if not the world. Everyone who came here is from somewhere else. Here are the stats:

White (non-Hispanic) 35%

Black 28%
Hispanic (any race) 27%
Asian 10%

As compared to the entire U.S:

White (non-Hispanic) 67%

Black 12%
Hispanic (any race) 11%
Asian 4%

If there is any city where people are equal, it should be New York. Our percentages are very close, and out living proximity is even closer. I'm pretty sure in my building alone there are people from at least 10 different countries, probably more.

Where am I going with this? Don't ask me. It's kind of a question that can't be answered. Not by me at least. I don't know why it's OK for anyone to discriminate against anyone else. White against Black, Black against White against Hispanic against Jewish against Arab etc. Whats the point? Let me and Wikipedia break it down for you into some bad-ass science:

In humans, melanin is the primary determinant of human skin color and also found in hair, the pigmented tissue underlying the iris, the medulla and zona reticularis of the adrenal gland, the stria vascularis of the inner ear, and in pigment-bearing neurons within areas of the brain stem, such as the locus coeruleus and the substantia nigra.

Dermal melanin is produced by melanocytes, which are found in the stratum basale of the epidermis. Although human beings generally possess a similar concentration of melanocytes in their skin, the melanocytes in some individuals and ethnic groups more frequently or less frequently express the melanin-producing genes, thereby conferring a greater or lesser concentration of skin melanin.

And that is how it all began. Sure, we're from different parts of the world and we all have different ways of doing things, different music, dancing, holidays, religions, and beliefs. But that's just because people are different. When we all began our long journey from what is now Eastern Africa, we all looked the same. Hairy and naked. It was only because of our environments that our skin colors changed, but as the groups separated, so did their beliefs and ways of doing things. I know this is a very simple explanation of millions of years, and that there is no way of ever fully understanding another person even if you accept them completely.
If we can't get along completely, here is what I propose: You know how some very well known black comedians make fun of white people? I think that is hilarious. We are a pretty ridiculous group of people. We take ourselves too seriously. We never really let loose. We can't dance very well. We're awkward. These comedians also make fun of black people. They make fun of everyone indiscriminately. I say, instead of everyone inwardly thinking about the things they don't like about other people, why don't we just make fun of them in a friendly joking manner? If you can laugh at yourself, this could be a great way to make new friends and not worry about offending anyone. I'm not a fan of political correctness. It makes for lame conversation, not very funny jokes, and a lot of inhibited feelings that could otherwise be brought out and resolved. I propose that we all start making fun of each other. Why not?

Seeing as I've already gone on way too long about this, I'll leave you with a picture that will remind everyone that we're all ridiculous and there's nothing wrong with laughing at yourself or anyone else who does something funny. Even if they're making fun of how you talk or what you look like.