Thursday, June 27, 2013

MOMA: Rain Room

My wonderful friend Trent was nice enough to get a membership to MOMA recently, mostly just so we could actually get into the amazing Rain Room exhibit. Members of the museum get in an hour earlier than non-members, and while we were near the front of the line, it still took about 2 hours to actually get inside.

If you haven't heard about the Rain Room, it's a totally simple but amazing concept: you have a room (duh), where it's raining (obviously) but when you step into the rain, it stops. Motion sensors or some type of technology I'm sure I'll never understand, stop the rain around you. You can walk at a normal pace all through the rain and never get wet (save for the occasional drip). If you move fast enough, you can "trick" the sensors and get soaked, but that's not really the point.

It might seem pretty simple, but just trust me when I say it's totally worth the wait. There's something super calming and refreshing about being surrounded by fresh rain, and who hasn't wished for the ability to remain dry in the worst of storms?

Of course, the main point of the whole room is really to get your picture taken — it is 2013 — so don't forget your camera. There's a huge spotlight in the otherwise dark room, which makes for some pretty awesome-looking silhouettes. I've seen some ingenious poses on Instagram (#RainRoom), but I went for the more tame arms-up stance.

I would love to go again, but the waits have been insane so I can't stress enough to go early. Members also get to take up to two guests at a time for only $5 each (thanks Trent!), which also includes admission to the museum. The Rain Room is only open until July 28th, so grab your camera and a few friends — no umbrellas necessary.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Governors Island

A few weeks ago, in between apartment hunting and sunscreen re-application, I made it to Governors Island for the first time. I had been aware of the island for some time, but it's not open in the winter so it was one thing on my list I literally could not do when I was in the city earlier this year.

The weather forecast for Sunday was promising — sunny, high in the 80s — so I headed downtown in the morning to catch the 11 am ferry. I stopped at a Dunkin' Donuts to get an iced coffee on the way (so necessary), and I ended up on the 11:30, but luckily I only had to wait about 20 minutes before boarding.

The ferry to Governors Island is right next to the Staten Island Ferry station, and there is a separate line for people with bikes and strollers. I accidentally got in that line before I realized my mistake — if you don't have either, make sure to go inside the building labeled "Governors Island Ferry Waiting Room," where you can join the "people only" line.

FYI: When I returned to Manhattan on the ferry around 3pm the line to go to the island was insane. I have no idea how long the wait was, but the line was at least ten times as long as the one I had waited on. I've noticed that New Yorkers tend to get moving a little slower in the mornings, especially on weekends (the only time Governors Island is open to the public), so I would recommend going as early as possible. The island also "closes" at 7pm, so factor that into your trip times.

The ferry ride is short (and free!), but just like the Ikea ferry you are rewarded with amazing views of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. New York is known for being insanely expensive, which it is, but there's no reason why you couldn't spend an entire day exploring Governors Island without spending a dime — just another reason why I love this city.

I spent the day exploring the island — for two centuries Governors Island was a functioning military base, and has the structures to prove it. There are tons of amazing old, brick buildings, hospitals, barracks and forts to explore, all in various stages of decay or repair.

I recommend taking the (free!) National Parks tour of Castle Williams, even if you're not an eighty-year-old super nerd like me. The views from the top of the former fort (and jail, and haunted house, etc.) are pretty stunning, and the interior just went through a extensive renovation — open to the public for the first time in its 200-year history.

Governors Island is pretty much the perfect place to take a picnic, but if all you brought was your iced coffee (like me) there are a bunch of food trucks and places to grab a snack. I'm the worst person in the world to talk about food, but just trust me when I say you won't be disappointed or hungry.

There is also an island-wide art festival of sorts going on all summer long. I don't have the best grasp on it as a whole, but everywhere you look there are art installations or performances. Some of them were cool — like a huge hut made of plastic milk jugs, but most of the "performance" art is kind of beyond me. As I was walking to the ferry dock, a grown woman in a fairy costume walked by me blowing bubbles — totally cool I guess if you're into that.

Like most things I've done in New York (and my life, now), I went to Governors Island by myself. I never felt lonely or bored, and I love going at my own pace. I took a million pictures and just tried to enjoy the amazing weather and atmosphere. Like Roosevelt Island (and I'm assuming Randall's Island, I haven't been yet), Governors Island is an amazing way to "escape" the city without going very far or spending very much.

It's a little weird, a little decayed and a lot of fun. I can't wait to go back when they open other parts of the island — right now only about half is developed but the plans for the future spaces are totally exciting. Next time I'll bring more substantial supplies — who wants to join me for a picnic?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Strand Bookstore

No matter how many new and exciting things I find to do in the city, one of my top-five favorite destinations will always be the Strand bookstore. Home to 18 miles of books at 12th and Broadway, the Strand is my happy place. I find it absolutely impossible to feel anything but excitement every time I walk down Broadway and catch sight of the red Strand banners and sidewalk racks of discount books.

I've always been a sucker for books — especially discount books — but the Strand is so much more. In its current location since 1957 (and in business since 1927), the Strand was once one of 48 other bookstores on Fourth Ave., then known as "Book Row." It is now the only one left, and even without having been in any of the others, it's not hard to see why. There's something magical about the Strand that can't accurately be described, but if you're a book lover and you've been there, I'm sure you've felt it. There are four floors — basically: non-fiction in the basement, fiction on the ground floor, children's and art on the second and a rare book room on the fourth — and while I'm not sure where the "18 miles" tagline came from, you won't be disappointed by the selection. They sell new, used and rare books and I don't think I've ever left empty handed.

In addition to actual books, they sell some pretty great gifts too — cards, mugs, shirts and my personal favorite: tote bags. I've been collecting Strand totes since my very first visit, and it's impossible for me to pick a favorite. The designs change frequently, and they're always coming up with something new that I can't resist. During my two-month stay this winter, I obviously had to buy this cat version, which I haven't even used yet because I'm kind of terrified to get it dirty. Most recently, I was just about to leave the tote area empty handed when I spotted a khaki-colored one that I touched because it looked soft (and I touch everything) and then flipped it over to reveal a screen printed coffee-cup pattern (!). If you'll recall I'm kind of obsessed with the classic "We Are Happy to Serve You" NY coffee cup, so it was a very pleasant surprise and one of the quickest decisions to purchase anything I've ever made.

I also lucked out in the discount book department, which can sometime be very hit or miss (I found dollar copies of this and this). Browsing the sidewalk racks is probably my favorite part of going to the Strand. The store itself is packed floor to ceiling with books, which is why I love it of course, but can make for some very crowded browsing on the busier days. You have more room to breathe outside, and can browse at a more leisurely pace. The racks are separated by price, with most hardcovers at $2 and paperbacks at $1. There is occasionally an even lower price book mixed in — I found a vintage copy of "The Cat You Care For" for 49 cents a few years ago that I will treasure always.

The Strand is a great place to spend a few hours on a rainy day (if you can stand the hot, sweaty, moist crowds), and be sure to check out their list of events. They are always having book signings, famous speakers and occasionally do less cerebral things like speed-dating. I cannot wait to be able to visit the Strand on a much more regular basis. While ordering books from Amazon is convenient, it will never be able to replace the joy that I get from browsing a real life bookstore. Incidentally, most of the books I've bought from the Strand have been much cheaper than if I had gotten them online, and I get to read them immediately, without paying or waiting for shipping.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Coney Island

It's not hard to love Coney Island, even if a lot of what I love about it isn't even there anymore. I'm not talking about the damage from Sandy, although that's still very much an on-going issue. The Coney Island in my head may never quite match up with the real Coney Island, last stop on the D, F, N and Q trains, but I still love it.

I've only been twice, the first time for Nathan's 4th of July hotdog-eating contest (spectator, not participant), and again two weeks ago. I had considered going in the winter just to try a hotdog from Nathan's, but the original 1916 location was still closed due to damage suffered from Sandy (they reopened in May). So when my mom expressed an interest in going (she'd never been), I was in.

The day was beautiful — sunny, but breezy and cool. We went on a Wednesday, so it wasn't packed, but all the rides were open and running. On my first visit I rode the Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone, the two oldest, landmarked rides still in operation. This time we opted only for the Wonder Wheel.

Should you be interested in the Cyclone, know that while I love wooden rollercoasters, this one is particularly jarring. So much so in fact, that my friend said she "tasted blood" when it was over, and I most definitely had mild whiplash for days afterward.

People in the 1920s really knew how to have a good time.

The Wonder Wheel, however, is much less like a car accident, and much more like a regular ferris wheel. The white cars are stationary, while the blue and red cars swing. I was surprised on my first ride how much they actually swing, but this time I was more prepared and slightly less terrified.

We were the only ones on for our ride, which gives you great views of the parks, beach and ocean on one side and Surf Avenue and the rest of Brooklyn on the other.

There are tons of other games and rides — mostly for kids — and I made sure to get a fortune from Grandma (only 50 cents), but there's a Zoltar too if he's more your style ($1/fortune).

My favorite thing to do at Coney Island, however, is to just walk around. Even if the freaks are gone (officially), there are still tons of amazing signs, crumbling buildings and abandoned rides to hint at the old Coney Island that I wish I could have experienced.

We stopped and had lunch before we left at Nathan's, where I finally had my hotdog. I got mine with sauerkraut and mustard, and it was just as delicious as I expected it to be. I logically know that hotdogs are totally gross, and probably killing me, but that doesn't mean that sometimes they aren't just really, really good. Nathan's has burgers and fries and all sorts of other things besides hotdogs, but I can only attest to their hotdogs. I always wonder what kind of person goes to a place like Nathan's and orders a fish sandwich — I'm sure it's good, but it's not exactly what put the "famous" in their name, you know?

Coney Island is super easy to get to — just take the D, F, N or Q trains to the Coney Island/Stillwell Ave. stop. The beautiful, above-ground station is actually one of my favorites, and it's super close to the boardwalk and beach. Unfortunately I won't be back in time for the Mermaid Parade this year (June 22), but it's definitely on my list for next year, as is the recently reopened New York Aquarium. I'm so glad that Coney Island is bouncing back from the damage it suffered from Sandy, but if you know anything about its history, that's what Coney Island does best — survives, and reinvents itself.

It's scrappy, partially abandoned and a little bit dirty, but that's all part of why I love it and why I'll keep coming back.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

I've Got Nothing To Do Today But Smile

Hello! If you're reading this, you may have noticed that the blog has undergone some changes since the last time I posted about the closing of Blue Carrot Shop. My twitter name was the first to change, and since I've renamed my Instagram, Pinterest and this blog. While the Blue Carrot site is still up, I've put the shop on an indefinite hiatus — it may return in some shape or form someday, but I've sold all of my inventory in an effort to finance my next adventure.

In case you haven't guessed it already, I'm moving to New York City!

If you know me in person (or even just through this blog), this may seem like the most anti-climactic announcement ever, but I'm still pretty excited about it. I first came to New York when I was 14, and sent my sister a postcard saying "I want to move here ASAP." Well, 'as-soon-as-possible' turned out to be now — nearly 14 years later.

It's time.

To say I'm ready to be an official resident of the city I've loved for so long is an understatement of epic proportions. Even though I've still got a ton of things to figure out, I am planning to be back in the city at the beginning of July. I'm still looking for a job (anything remotely graphic designer-related) and an apartment, so if you hear of anything or have an amazing job that you just need get off your hands, let me know. I've been working on my new portfolio site if you're the person that wants to give me a job or if you're just curious what I do every day, you can check it out here.

In the meantime, I will be recapping a few of my recent city adventures — my mom and I went for a week recently to scope out apartments and in between we managed to see some new things (Governors Island, The Little Red Lighthouse), as well as a few favorites (the Strand, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Coney Island).

I hope you have fun following along on all of my upcoming city adventures. Simon and Garfunkel said it best in one of my favorite songs, The Only Living Boy in New York: I've got nothing to do today but smile.