Friday, July 23, 2010

Tourists - Take 3

My fascination with tourists continues. Here's some pics I took around Times Square the other day.


The Despicable Me couple


Picture taking and lanyards

The red bus

The blue bus.

The thrill of seeing yourself on the big screen


Tummy Troubles

You may remember back in May, Dan and I were really sick with a stomach flu/food poisoning/something. I went to the doctor and got some medicine that made me feel instantly better, but my doctor decided to run some blood work just in case. Long story short, my blood tests revealed that I might have an ulcer. I was really surprised because I never have stomach issues, don't have any symptoms and feel perfectly fine. I went to a stomach specialist who decided that the best way to investigate is by sticking a tube down my throat to look inside my stomach.

So last week, I took a day off from work and went to Kips Bay Endoscopy Center. I had to sign all kinds of paperwork asking about living wills and all sorts of things. I had butterflies in my stomach, which was weird, since they were going to look inside my stomach (would they notice anything fluttering?) Dan was even required to be there to escort me home. Luckily, the people who worked there were the nicest health care professionals I have ever encountered and were joking with me before I went under. My anesthesiologist was a bit of a flirt and at one point went down on one knee, holding my hand.

"Are you proposing to me?" I asked. "Because I am taken."

"I am proposing to your vein." he replied.

The whole thing went down without a hitch, and my doctor concluded that I have some kind of bacterial infection that causes ulcers. He prescribed to me eight giant horse-pills that I have to take every day for 2 weeks, saying that they will make me feel better. (But I already feel okay, so will feeling better feel absolutely amazing??) Since Dan and I have no prescription coverage, I had to pay $450 for the pills (and this is where my European readers pause and wonder, wait, why don't Americans want socialized health care? And my answer is because we'd rather make health insurance and drug companies rich than pay more taxes? I dunno. I don't get it.) Anyway, that must be some crazy bacteria in my stomach if it needs that much medicine to kill it.

The pills give me a horrible metallic taste in my mouth. It's awful. For the first time in many, many years, I bought myself a roll of Lifesavers to take away the flavor. It works pretty well so yesterday I got myself an entire bag.

Now, the reason why I write my health condition is not to gross you out, but because I have been thinking lately: Don't anesthesiologists have the strangest jobs? Isn't anesthesia so weird? I love that the day I received my procedure, I was told that I shouldn't make any important financial decisions in the next 24 hours.

Isn't it also weird that you can be sick and not know you are sick? And isn't it more weird that last week, someone stuck a tube down my throat? Too bad someone wasn't around to record it because I would be fascinated to see what that looked like. It gives me the shivers just thinking about it.

One day's worth of drugs.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Upper West Side

The Ansonia. Dan's favorite building in NYC.

Levain Bakery. They have the most amazing fist-sized chocolate chip cookies that are always warm and gooey.

Keep New York City Clean.

Hanging out at the deli.

On the phone.

No TV or meat

Dan and I are not watching TV for a month. Why? Well, it's on our "100 Things to Do List," the goal is to become a little more productive and a little less lazy in the evenings. Perhaps it will encourage us to be more creative. Who knows. As it is written on the list: "Go one month without TV. See what happens." We started on Monday, right after the World Cup ended. Summer seems like the perfect time for such an experiment. There's no good TV anyway and we shouldn't be wasting good weather sitting on our couch. While the weekdays seemed unusually quiet without our usual "Family Guy," the real test came over the weekend where we really had no plans but to relax and chill. I have to admit, I think we both missed the TV. Dan fell asleep at 10pm on Saturday night, I think, for lack of anything better to do. Maybe after three more weeks, we won't gain anything but rest.

The weekend wasn't a complete sleep in--we did cross off another ethnic food experience on our list by going up to Harlem for some Senegalese food. We went to this place called Le Baobab which was pretty shabby in ambiance. The room was kind of dingy with harsh lighting. There was a strange teller window, as if the space used to be someplace where money was exchanged. However, it DID feel like a hub for Senegalese culture. There were a bunch of African dudes hanging around both inside and out on the sidewalk. Lots of people coming in and out. Everyone seemed to know each other. Some African news playing on the TV. It felt pretty legit.

Dan ordered what looked like a sandy mound of couscous and a red lamb stew. I was planning to order the fish, but they had none left so Dan insisted I get the fowl, which looked like a roast bird and kind of tasted like a tough chicken. It felt like there was no meat, so I spent most of the meal wrestling with the bones. I also tasted some homemade ginger juice and it's probably the first time I have had a drink that tasted spicy. It had a little too much kick for me. But it was a lot of food for cheap.



This doesn't have anything to do with Senegalese food but one of the other things on our to-do list is "eat more vegetables," and one way I am instilling this in our household is by having Vegetarian Mondays, which means on Mondays, I won't be eating meat. (Knowing Dan, he'll just go meatless for dinner). Don't get me wrong, Dan and I love to eat meat and I don't think I could give it up completely. But after watching Food Inc and reading Michael Pollan's book, I do want to try eating more thoughtfully and this seems like a nice baby step in the right direction. At this point, it is just an experiment. I have to say my meals on my first Monday were kind of blah, so if anyone has any good vegetarian recipes that you would like to share, please pass them along to me.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Picture Update

The 365 photo project has definitely changed my day-to-day life. Lately, my days look something like this:

Wake up. Go to the gym. Go to work. Take pictures. Make dinner/order take out/meet friends for dinner. Work again/read/hang out with Dan. If I didn't take pictures after work, this is usually the time I panic and go outside looking for something to photograph. Go to bed.

Some days I absolutely love it, and some days I want to kill it.

The days I love it are when I actually set aside an hour of my day and go somewhere to take pictures. People say that you should carry your camera everywhere you go (and I do for the most part) but I rarely feel inspired by my daily surroundings since I mainly walk on the same three boring streets over and over, and frankly, the Upper East Side and Midtown are kinda dull. Sometimes when I am without camera, I see photographic moments, but usually when I have it on me, I see nothing interesting. It's the days when I venture outside my neighborhood or set out to photograph a certain thing or destination that I like my pictures best. Or sometimes I walk around and can't find anything and then I turn a corner and something surprises me. Sometimes I am so swept up by the moment that all of a sudden I notice that I have taken over a hundred pictures and didn't even realize it. Those are good days.

The bad days are when I am
cranky and tired, when I don't feel like taking pictures, when it's raining and I don't want to go outside. The worst is when it's 8:30 pm and the sun is going down and I am literally walking up and down the streets looking for something to photograph before the light goes away. And then I find something and I let out a huge sigh of relief. Until tomorrow.

If it weren't for the girls who are doing this project with me, I probably would have given up weeks ago. But now I know I won't stop. I can't now. They inspire me to keep going.

Nell, who started this whole project, asked me if I felt proud of myself for all we have accomplished so far. I said no. I don't think that is the right answer. I guess I am really hard on myself but I wish I were improving faster, and I wish I liked my pictures more. But after that conversation, I looked through my pictures (I've got 90+ now) and in three months, I have to admit that I am getting better. Very subtle, but I can see it. I still have a long ways to go. But I am looking on the bright side: I am spending at least 20-60 minutes a day taking pictures. I have made it three months--that's one quarter of the project done. I like being creative every day. I will give myself a pat on the back for that. Thanks Nell, for reminding me to do so.

Today, I went grocery shopping after work and didn't have a lot of time, so I ventured to John Jay Park in my neighborhood. There is a free swimming pool there that I just discovered this summer, and I could see adults swimming laps. I wanted to lie on the concrete and take some action shots of the swimmers but they wouldn't let me in because I wasn't swimming myself. There was also a big sign that said no cell phones or cameras. Boo. Hiss. This picture represents how the New York City Parks system is stifling my creativity.

Because I couldn't go in the pool, this became my photo of the day instead.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dan's shining moment

Remember this? Or more specifically, this? Here's my husband being awesome in all his New Yorker geekdom glory:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Philadelphia (home to the BEST gelato of my life!)

Ever since I visited my friend Chris in Philly two summers ago, I have been wanting to go again with Dan in tow. This past weekend, we finally decided to take a day trip to the City of Brotherly Love for some record store shopping (for him) and sweet eating (for her).

"I haven't been to Pennsylvania since I single-handedly delivered the state for Obama," Dan said, referring to when he campaigned in Allentown for what was it? two weekends? I don't think this statement is true.

Taking the MegaBus cost us $25 round-trip for the 2-hour trip to Philly for the two of us...meanwhile, thanks to the recent NJ Transit rate hike, it costs us $52 to take a 1-hour train to my hometown. Go figure. Wanting to get most of the day, I made us take the 6 am bus, which got us there waaay too early. It was raining and everything was closed. Until the city woke up, we ducked into the Reading Terminal Market for a hearty breakfast and some food sightseeing at all the cool butchers, bakeries and specialty shops.

After buying Dan a poncho, we walked in the drizzle through some of the historic district though we weren't in the mood to do anything too cultural.

Dan has a thing for Ben Franklin. He calls him his B-F-F. (Ben Franklin Forever). Here's Dan posing by one of his many statues, and we threw pennies on his grave.

We hit up four record stores during our trip (Dan got seven records!), including Philadelphia Record Exchange, pictured here.

Even though Dan says he is completely over New York City, anytime we visit any other city in the United States that isn't New York*, Dan always shrugs his shoulders and says, "This city is a complete whatever" and complains the entire time how dead it is. Philadelphia was no exception. Well, except for this street. Dan has decided he wants to live on this street, which looks like a Parisian alleyway.

*Can you guess, besides for NYC, what other American city is not a "complete whatever" or "totally dead," according to Dan?"

Similar to my last trip, we checked out the mosaic art of Isaiah Zagar. We walked through the Italian Market, ate some sandwiches, and we bought some cookies from the famous Isgro bakery, which was closed the last time I was in town.

But the best part of the trip, hands down was the gelato. The last time I visited Philly, Chris took me to Capogiro, and I remember thinking it was pretty good. Good enough that I wanted to come again. But this time, it was out of this world. The flavor combo I got was peach, chocolate-hazelnut and pistachio. Peach is not a flavor I normally gravitate towards, but the guy behind the counter recommended it, and it was surprisingly the best of the three. I have been to Italy and Argentina and had some pretty good gelato in my life, but this tops all of it. I was so sad when I reached the bottom of the cup.

To work off all that ice cream, we went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to hit the stairs, Rocky-style.

Burn, baby, burn!

I did it!

We thought it was funny that it seems like everyone goes to the museum just to pose by this statue and run up the stairs. Does anyone know if the art is any good? We ran out of time, so we never found out.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Hel-lo, Adam!

Some of you know this already but my friend Adam wrote, directed and produced his own movie. It's called Hello Lonesome and it is the story of six people who are a bit lonely in their own different ways and looking for love and connection. I still can remember, sitting in Brett and Emily's NYC apartment years ago, the moment when Adam first told me that he was going to make a movie. He was so passionate and driven about it that it was no surprise when I watched the rough cut and thought to myself--wow, he really did it!

Fast forward to now, and Adam's movie premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June. It even won an award for best ensemble! Not only is Adam a great friend, but he is so inspiring. He is one of the few people I know who says he will create art and then go out and actually make it happen! I love him for that.

On Friday, we went to an intimate New York City screening for cast, crew, and friends at the 92Y in Tribeca. It was so wonderful to see Adam's film on the big screen. I am really proud of him, and I can only imagine how he feels to see his five years of hard work come together.

Dan helped Adam pick some music for the film (he's even credited!), but most of the music was created by a cool band called Jones Street Station. They performed a show after the film screening, and it was such a nice night for everyone. Congrats to Adam, and can't to see where it all goes next!

P.S. While Hello Lonesome is not playing at a theater near you (well, not yet, anyway), you can go ahead and save the movie to your queue in Netflix. Adam hopes the DVD will be available very soon.

Adam's name on the big screen!!

Adam and actor Harry Chase during the Q&A after the show.

Jones Street Station toasts to Adam during their set.

Adam, me and girl Brett (who handled the casting for the movie)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Happy Birthday America!

Happy Fourth of July everyone! How did you spend your holiday? Dan and I had a nice relaxing weekend in the city.

The highlights:

Dan and I invited Nell and Adam on a voyage to Flushing, Queens where we indulged in some authentic Dongbei (aka Northeast Chinese) cuisine at Fu Run.

Of course, we ordered some yummy fare like shrimp dumplings, noodles, spicy ribs, mixed vegetables and lamb...but if we were going to travel an hour by subway for Chinese food, we had to try something different. So we tasted jelly fish (which was surprisingly kind of crispy and not-so-surprisingly salty like the sea) and Dan insisted we order this delicacy recommended by our waitress that was some kind of seafood intestine.

The intestines smelled horrible. They kind of looked like whole wheat pasta in a bed of scallions, but it tasted more like rubbery nothing-ness. It was actually kind of bland. It reminded me a lot of this book I read where the author talked about how Chinese cuisine is all about enjoying weird textures in your mouth. Now this is what she was talking about.

Love Nell's reaction as she watches Dan eat some intestines. Glad we tried it, don't think anyone from the table would order it again.

On 4th of July, Dan and I headed to City Island, which is a tiny seaport town in the Bronx.

It's kind of hard to believe that this sleepy, practically one street town is part of New York City. (We got here by subway and bus!)

This town is known for its seafood, so we headed to Johnny's Famous Reef which has been around since 1950, and had some delicious (and cheap!) fried soft shell crab and fries in a basket and lemonade.

We decided to spend the afternoon at nearby Orchard Beach, which was a world of difference from our quiet morning. When we arrived at the scene, we were amazed to discover a crazy party scene.

I wouldn't call it a relaxing beach experience, by any means. A million people everywhere. The water was refreshing but kind of grimy. On the towel next to us, we watched a mom verbally abuse her children and saw the dad being handcuffed by police for drug possession. I was sad to see that the kids were witnessing this, but they have probably seen much worse.

Besides for beach-going, people seemed to come to Orchard Beach for all kinds of reasons. People watching, playing music really loudly, playing maracas, salsa dancing, basketball playing, barbecuing. It was a cool photo safari for me until a man yelled at me for taking his picture. Yikes! We were a little bit out of our element.

It was a scorching 95 degrees (Dan told me it was the hottest day of his life) so we purchased an umbrella to protect us from the sun and the foot-burning sand but the umbrella either tried to run away or turned inside out every 10 minutes. We were thankful for the umbrella, but we hated the umbrella. We only stayed a few hours. The umbrella didn't come home with us.

Besides that, in keeping with our Independence Day tradition, we saw a bunch of movies: Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, and Getting Him to the Greek (with Kim and Nien; after wards we ate burgers by the Hudson River at the Boat Basin).

On Saturday, Dan watched the World Cup (go Germany!) and after 10 years, I finally got new glasses.

And lastly, there was a lot of ice cream. Oh yes, a lot of ice cream. What more can you ask for on the 4th of July? Oh how about the tidbit Dan told me that in high school, he used to wear a Seinfeld t-shirt on Thursdays to get pumped up for the show that night. Is that totally dorky/cute or what?