Monday, July 28, 2014

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Last Saturday I met friends for breakfast at Tom's Restaurant in Brooklyn (Danish pancakes alldayeveryday) and afterward I headed over to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It's really close to Tom's, making it the perfect place to walk off the pancakes (and sausage) I stuff into my face every chance I get, and admission is free every Saturday until noon.

The garden is completely lovely in every season, and I always enjoy checking in on the adorable bonsai collection. It was cloudy, but still a beautiful morning and after wandering around I settled under a tree in the cherry esplanade and took a glorious, carb-induced nap.

Aside from cherry blossom season, the BBG never feels overwhelmingly crowded and it's compact enough that I feel as if I can really spend time exploring every corner. Somehow I'm still discovering new-to-me areas and gardens—this time I wandered into the rock garden which was completely deserted and beautiful.

I had ample opportunities to photograph huge, adorable bumble bees, which always turns me into a giddy five-year-old and I'm completely obsessed with the subtle gradations and all the beautiful pale colors. At one point during my stroll, I even happened upon some kale—lest I forget for a moment that even though I'm surrounded by nature, I'm still in the middle of Brooklyn.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

City Island: Part One

Last Sunday Trent, Alisha and I spent the day on City Island in the Bronx. None of us had been there before, so we didn't have much planned except to explore and eventually end the evening stuffing our faces with fried seafood at Johnny's Reef. Johnny's is at the southern tip of the 1.5 mile island, so we started at the northern end and slowly made our way south.

City Island is on the western edge of Long Island Sound and is described as having "the look and feel of a New England fishing village," which is a pretty accurate description. Although, I would add that you never forget for long that you're actually in the Bronx—from the New York City trash cans and public transportation to the barbed wire, chain link fences that prevent you from actually getting anywhere near the shoreline, City Island is a city island through and through.

The thing I noticed first, and loved most, about the island was the abundance of hand-painted and vintage signage on store fronts and restaurants. The one thing I was looking forward to was the City Island Lobster House sign, and I was really disappointed when Alisha mentioned that she thought it had been damaged during hurricane Sandy. Sadly, she was right—the huge neon lobster and "By Land or Sea" portions of the sign are no longer there, but if you never knew they were missing it's still a pretty great sign in its current iteration.

Right next to Johnny's is a stretch of Sammy's restaurants, including the Shrimp Box and Fish Box (ew), both with great neon fish signs that looked even better lit up at night (but I may have been a little too drunk tired to photograph them after dark).

Despite my fear of water and seafood, I have always loved the New England nautical aesthetic and there is no shortage of items to fit that description on City Island. It's hard to decide what I loved more—the weathered wooden signs like the Black Whale's, the kitschy neon signs like the Crab Shanty's, or the hand-painted signs for Johnny's.

Although, if it's patriotism you want, I dare you to find a more American mural than this one we found on the side of a building that featured the Twin Towers, an American Flag, Uncle Sam, a bald eagle (in flight, of course), the Statue of Liberty, a firefighter, a policeman and a scroll of parchment that is probably supposed to be either the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.

Friday, July 11, 2014

My Twelfth Month as a New Yorker

I began my twelfth month as a New Yorker taking a ferry to the Statue of Liberty with three of my best friends on the most gorgeous summer day—and it only got better from there. We had amazing weather in June, with a lot of rain during the week but every single weekend was picture-perfect. By the end of the month I think I can definitively say I was "paraded out" after attending both the Mermaid and the pride parades. I visited cemeteries, saw amazing shows, ate wonderful food, drank delicious iced coffees, went on adventures, read creepy books and had some of the best weekends I've ever had.

A few more highlights from my twelfth month:

We climbed to the top of the Statue of Liberty and peeked through her crown  /  We ate ice cream on Ellis Island and took in the spectacular view  /  I waited in Central Park for Shakespeare in the Park tickets (Much Ado About Nothing) and then won the online ticket lottery the same day  /  I went to Gravesend, Brooklyn and continued to see black cats in the creepiest places  /  Trent and I went treasure- and horse bone-hunting at Dead Horse Bay and then explored Floyd Bennett Field.

After a long adventure day, Trent and I rewarded ourselves with a DiFara pizza, made by the man himself and it was totally worth the three-hour wait  /  I went to the New York City Marble Cemetery, which is only open a few days a year (not to be confused with the New York Marble Cemetery across the street), and had my first tiny meat pie at Tuck Shop  /  I visited the Poe Cottage in the Bronx and then walked around Fordham University to hear the bells that inspired Poe to write The Bells  /  My wonderful coworker, Francesca, gave me Mozart an inflatable unicorn horn to thank me for watering her plant while she was away—spoiler alert: Mozart didn't love it  /  I rode Metro North for the first time to Hartsdale, NY to visit America's first pet cemetery where I laughed at the names and cried at the sentiments.

I caught the rose garden at the New York Botanical Garden in full, spectacular bloom  /  I finally saw the Coney Island Mermaid Parade—and Dante deBlasio's afro!—both of which were amazing  /  I considered riding Coney Island's newest rollercoaster, the Thunderbolt, but chickened out  /  I saw a very long and strange Russian film (Solaris) at the Museum of the Moving Image and explored their collection of movie memorabilia (including Meryl's Auschwitz wig from Sophie's Choice!)  /  I became mildly obsessed with spotting the Mister Softee knockoffs, Master Softee, and saw three (possibly four) of them in one day  /  I visited the Morbid Anatomy Museum and Library in Gowanus on opening day and immediately became a member.

I crossed another historical home off my list and visited the Old Stone House in Brooklyn  /  I had an amazing slice of rhubarb crumble pie at Four and Twenty Blackbirds in Gowanus  /  I walked through Brooklyn and stumbled on a street with amazing ghost signage  /  I spent a few blissful hours wandering around the stunningly beautiful Green-wood Cemetery  /  I bought a Cleopatra wig and put on my favorite cat-face skirt for a Prince of ShEgypt rooftop pride party  /  I ate breakfast at the adorable Donut Pub (Patti Smith used to write there) and teared up at all the love and support on display in the pride parade.

What really stands out most about my eleventh month, however, isn't a specific place or a thing, but the people I spent it with—I currently have the pleasure of calling some of the best people I've ever met my 'friends' and they continue to amaze me with their generosity, sense of adventure, humor, kindness and all-around awesomeness. I know my blog posts (and photos) are mostly devoid of a human presence, but that actually isn't at all representative of my life here. New York is a wonderful place, but without my incredible friends it would just be a city—with them, however, it's my home.

More Recaps: First Month  |  Second Month  |  Third Month  |  Fourth Month  |  Fifth Month  |  Sixth Month  |  Seventh Month  |  Eighth Month  |  Ninth Month  |  Tenth Month  |  Eleventh Month  |  The Entire First Year

Monday, July 7, 2014

Hartsdale Pet Cemetery: Part Two

Aside from all of the ridiculous names (I'm still laughing at Freckles Rutherford) to be found at the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, what really got to me were all of the heartfelt epitaphs from grief-striken owners to their dearly departed pets. Every "human" cemetery I've been to includes the usual sentiments, from "Rest in Peace," and "Dear Mother," to more heartfelt declarations such as "Friend to All," or "Never Forgotten."

But at Hartsdale it seemed as if almost every single stone had an achingly sad and personal inscription, from "My One and Only," or "The Love of My Life," to thoughtful eulogies such as "They Gave Nothing But Love and Affection," and "Dillon loved biscuits, sticks, snow, fetch, burgers, walks, sitting outside, and his family as much as we love him" (Dillon and I have a lot in common).

These deeply personal and heartwrenching words really tugged at my pet-loving soul and caused me to tear up almost immediately. I've never been surrounded by so many loving words and the affection that each owner felt toward their pet was incredibly moving.

I walked by the graves of at least two cats dueling it out for all of eternity for the title of "Best Cat Ever" — Tara and Bentley — Hodge the "Good Gray Cat," Fudge who was "A Most Remarkable Cat," Sport, who "Was Born a Dog and Died a Gentleman," and Rusty, who was a "Perfect Little Gentleman." I wonder if Sandy, who was apparently the "Best Dog in America," knew that it was actually Spot who was "Best Dog in the World."

"Our Little Sweetpea" choked me up because that's what I call Mozart on the days where I'm not annoyed with her for screaming in my face, and I totally think I would have loved Woodstock, who by definition was "one hell of a cat" and, inexplicably, "often mistaken for a meatloaf."

The countless "I Love Yous" and "Thank Yous" were undeniably sweet, but it was Yahtzee's stone with its "My Guiding Angel" inscription and photo of him with his blind master that finally broke me and caused me to shed actual tears after trying my best to hold back all day.

Hartsdale Pet Cemetery: Part One