Brief Hiatus

Good morning Readers!

I’m going to take a little hiatus from the blog until after May 3rd. Right now, I’m guest blogging for the Chicago Northside Mini Maker Faire for CNS Mini Maker Faire on May 2nd. Check it out here:

I’ve been interviewing makers all over the city and continuing my oral history project. So I’ll link to those posts in the meantime.

After May 3rd, I’ll be back with much more Bowler hat mischief!

That’s all for now!

Part 5: Spring in NYC

Then it was our last day in New York. It was a bright and beautiful Easter day. We had a lovely breakfast at Les Halles and then walked back to the hotel. On the way home, we wandered by Gramercy Park. It’s a tiny private park, more of a postage stamp than park, which looked really well maintained. Sadly, it’s truly a private park, surrounded by a tall wrought iron fence, so we could not go in. In the center of the park, there was a statue of Edwin Booth, famous Shakespearean actor and an overall better human than his infamous brother John Wilkes Booth. I’d read about the statue before but I had never seen it.

Edwin Booth statue in Gramercy Park

Edwin Booth statue in Gramercy Park

Then we checked out a cheese place near the hotel called the Bedford Cheese Shop. It was the most fantastic place. It has a broad selection of cheeses; I found a particularly stinky one named “Tomme de Berger” that is amazing. It’s a goat/sheep mix with a washed rind from Provence, France. Stinky and gooey. The good things in life. They also sell fantastic sandwiches; I had a sandwich with mozzarella cheese and ham with fig jam. Perfection. And they have a wonderful selection of chocolate bars. I didn’t get any on this trip but I’ll definitely stock up the next time I go.

I decided to head back to Momofuku for some more truffle balls. It was early enough that I didn’t have to wait. I got three packs including Birthday Cake, Dulce de Leche, and Chocolate Malt. They are really splendid. One of the best desserts I’ve had in years. Next time I’m going to try their slices of pie (and bring home more Truffles!).

I did a little bit more exploration around the area. I enjoyed the interesting and thoughtful graffiti and the strange advertisements. There is this one sign for a gym involving astrology. Bizarre but I dig it. I also found this building where a church façade was kept up and a more modern building was built behind it. It’s an interesting way to deal with preservation. There’s an apartment complex on Western near Iowa that has a similar thing. It’s an interesting phenomena.

Astronomy Gym sign

Astronomy Gym sign

Church façade

Church façade

Overall, I like the Union Square area. It’s such a different feel from Midtown or Upper Manhattan. It feels like a real neighborhood where people live. I also like that it’s a short walk to Greenwich Village. I can’t wait to come back and explore so more in the upcoming months.

But as a proud Chicagoan, it was nice to come home.

That’s all for now!

Part 4: Spring in NYC

Now to continue talking about our adventures on Saturday in NYC. After Bryant Park, we went to a Broadway musical. It was a preview for the new musical Something Rotten that takes place in Elizabethan England. I love that the advertising outside the theater riffs on the fact that it’s preview time. There’s a quip from the New York Times: “We’ll see it next week.” Or other lines “Actors promise to know most of their lines” or “The Show Must Might Go On!” Charming!

It’s about a pair of playwright brothers who are striving to be rivals to Shakespeare. They decide to put on a new thing in theater: a musical. It’s funny, ridiculous, and crude (at times). The songs are a riot. It’s full of inside jokes about Broadway musicals and Shakespeare. My cup of tea. The singing and dancing was well done. Plus, the world needed a Pilgrim chorus line. Shakespeare plays the villain, which is a nice change of pace. I do have some historical nitpick things (including one major one about Shakespeare) but it shouldn’t deter folks from going. So check it out if you are in NYC in the near future.

Afterwards, we wandered through Midtown so more. We ended up at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which was gorgeous. The scaffolding is finally down in front; I don’t recall a time when it wasn’t there. The façade is bright white with bronze looking doors. Because of the holiday, the front middle doors were open. That’s pretty cool. There’s still a fair amount of work inside but it’s spectacular to see it from the outside.

Doors of St. Patrick's Cathedral

Doors of St. Patrick’s Cathedral

After St. Pat’s, we returned to Union Square. I was on the hunt for truffles at Momofuku Milk. A coworker had recommended this place to me. It had these truffles cookies that were supposed to be awesome. One branch was near to the hotel so I walked over there. It’s a hole in the wall kind of place and it had a line. Normally, I skip places that have lines but I decided that it was a) short enough b) such a small store. I’m glad I did. I got the birthday truffles. They’re in between a cake ball and cookie. I’ve never had anything like them before. They were incredible. In a pack of three, I quickly ate two. I was going to bring the third one home to my coworker but that plan did not pan out. (I ended up returning the next day to buy three 3 packs.) All the flavors were amazing.

A block away from Momofuku, I found this incredible mural of a dinosaur. I don’t know what it is selling but I want it. Because dinosaurs.

Dinosaur ad

Dinosaur ad

Content with my choice, I wandered over to Greenwich Village. I haven’t spent a lot of time there but I feel that I would really enjoy it. I found a space with various artisans. I managed to avoid temptation of hats. The area just seems delightfully funky with some tasty places. On my brief walk, I found a dumpling place and a peanut butter place. Yeah, peanut butter. Have to try that when I go back.

While I walked back to the hotel, I passed through Washington Square Park. The past few trips, I’ve only been there at night so it was nice to see it during the day. There were these net things that people could lie on. There was also a dog park filled with small rambunctious dogs. I heard someone playing the Tetris theme on a tenor saxophone, which got my attention. I saw four guys holding instruments with cases before them set to play. I also noticed people filming. I took a dollar out of my wallet to give to them since I am fond of musicians. When I asked if I could, the musicians said that they weren’t actually playing, they were shooting a music video. One guy held up his electric guitar and said, “It’s not even plugged in.” Then a woman in the audience shouted, “Give it to them. They’re good.” I was momentarily torn between the band and the fan. I shrugged and said, “Gotta listen to the lady” and tucked a dollar into one of their cases. Then I walked off, the band shouted confused/bemused thank you as I wandered away. So I gave a dollar to a band that wasn’t playing music. I dig it.

That night, we tried out a seafood place near the hotel. I tried both the East Coast and the West Coast oysters. The East Coast one was about three times bigger than the West Coast. But I preferred the smaller oyster. Something was better about it. Both were good but West was best.

That’s all for now!

ShortDocs Challenge

I’ve talked about my love of Third Coast International Audio Festival before. Well, they are having their 2015 Short Docs competition where people are asked to produce stories with certain rules. This year’s theme is “Studs Rules” after the amazing Studs Terkel. Pieces have to be 2-3 minutes, the title has to start with a question word (Who/What/Where/When/Why), have either a cry of laughter or a shout of silence, and have the phrase “And what happened then?”

Here’s more info at their website:

Here’s my submission. This is the second Short Docs I’ve participated in. I’m totally an amateur but I’m proud of this story: “What happens when a horn and dog get together?”

Horn players know what I’m talking about!


Part 3: Spring in NYC

On Saturday morning, the farmer’s market was even bigger! We wandered around, seeing even more vendors including one that sold sheep skins and yarn. My parents had bought a rug from there about a year ago, which my fiancé’s dog took a nice bite out of it several months later. Thankfully, my parents are super understanding with dogs. So my mom asked me to tell the vendor about it. He thought it was hilarious.

For breakfast, I went to Mighty Pie at Union Square. It’s a hole in the wall with a seemingly permanent location in the square. I ordered a cheese pie that was delicious. It was super big though and I overdid it by eating the whole thing. Warm cheese and dough. Mmm. I probably would go back for lunch rather than breakfast (I prefer small breakfasts).

Then we went off to the MOMA. We had tickets to see “Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955-1980.” It was an interesting exhibition but not my favorite. I’m not sure I love exhibitions about architecture. I love going to see architecture itself; I’m a member of the Chicago Architecture Foundation. But somehow sketches of buildings and models don’t appeal to me. I would prefer photos but that’s slightly different. It was worth a walk through. I did enjoy these six films synched together on TVs that represented six major cities of Latin America from Havana to Buenos Aires. Researchers and artists found old archival footage from the 1st half of the century and spliced it together. At times, the six screens would show the same footage to emphasize commonalities in development. Quite interesting. There were also some impressive photos of Brasilia. What a fascinating place. Clearly built without people in mind!

I did like that the exhibition was trying to show the influence of Latin America on architecture. It makes the case that often we think of architecture as imported from the US or Europe to Latin America. However, Latin America was developing its own architecture design, maybe even exporting it. There was one building sketch for a hospital in Uruguay in 1920s that looked like it would have been built on our skyline today. Amazing.

I wandered down to the Modern galleries to say hello to my friends. I checked out the Magrittes, tipped my hat at Yves Tanguy. I gazed reverently at Brancusi’s sculptures soaring in space. I stood awestruck at my favorite painting there “The Three Musicians” by Picasso. It’s the perfect representation of jazz to me. Cubism is jazz. Then I wandered over to see the Gustav Klimt’s other painting of Adele Bloch-Bauer (not the one in the movie but another one). Simply beautiful.

I made a special tour to look at Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night.” Usually I pass by it since it’s always surrounded by tourists (like the Mona Lisa) but Macy’s Flower show gave me pause. Even though it’s over-reproduced, it’s still an amazing painting. I managed to squeeze up close to it and gaze into that night sky. And I didn’t take any photos.

Then we went off to check out Bryant Park. We had been told that Bryant Park had these artisanal vendors. Sadly, it must have been too early in the season since none of these vendors were there. But it’s a lovely park with a statue to Gertrude Stein. While we wandered around it, some folks were teaching others how to juggle and others were playing pingpong on convenient tables nearby. There were signs for bird watching club. Nice vibe.

That’s all for now.

Part 2: Spring in NYC

On the second day in NY, we went to the farmer’s market at Union Square. It’s one of the advantages of staying in that area. Vendors sell a variety of organic meats, cheeses, fresh and dried flowers, baked goods. Nothing like a good farmer’s market! It’s simply lovely to walk by all the different vendors from all over the state and area. My favorite name for a vendor is the Flying Pigs Farm. The next time I go, I’m going to try the ostrich jerky that one vendor sells. They also sell ostrich eggs but that would be a little harder to deal with without a proper kitchen. But ostrich jerky I can handle.

Then we went to Midtown to run some errands. I mostly wandered around, taking in the luxurious stores lining 5th Avenue and Madison avenue. I did wander up to Jacques Torres Chocolate since I wanted to try some of their truffles. In the past, I had only had their hot chocolate. So I got three truffles. One had chili spice in it; the other two had Chai tea and Earl Gray tea. The chili one didn’t have as much of a kick as I was hoping. The Chai was white chocolate but not overly sweet for me. The Earl Grey was not distinctive. Of the three, the Chai was the best. Go figure. I’ll keep trying different truffles when I go back. I really love their hot chocolate.

After lunch, we decided to head up to my other favorite bookstore Crawford and Doyle. It’s a small shop on Madison near the Met but it’s always got an excellent selection of books. It’s not the place to get bestsellers unless they are really of quality. This is a place where the art of bookselling is alive and well. These folks know good books.

Then we went to my favorite place of all: the Metropolitan Museum. Yes, it’s huge and super crowded but I can never get enough. It just doesn’t feel the same without a trip to the Met. We made a beeline for the Temple of Dendur, which has to be one of my favorite rooms in a museum ever. It’s simply magnificent. There is the temple surrounded by a reflective pond next to windows on Central Park. It’s the best tribute to Ancient Egypt you could ask for. I heard that my former favorite band actually played a concert there several months ago. So jealous.

Then we wandered into the American room where the amazing stained glass windows live. I love Louis Comfort Tiffany; he really takes his stained glass into a new world. I also love saying hello to the Louis Sullivan staircase that used to be here in Chicago. We miss you!

Then we meandered through the medieval era where I was distracted by amazing door jams and locks. I love the artistry that some metalworkers put into their work. They make some impressive looking creatures for these functional pieces.

Then we spent some time in the South American civilization room. I love seeing the amazing pottery shaped like animals and plants. The Moche and Nazca pottery is simply magnificent. I also took a closer look at some of the textiles they had, which is fairly impressive considering the material and age.

Nearby the Metropolitan was a gallery space that I wanted to check out. I had read in Hyperallergic, an online magazine/news source about the art world, had mentioned an exhibition called “From Ancient to Modern: Archaeology and Aesthetics” at the NYU Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. It’s a very small museum, just two rooms, but I really enjoyed it.

The exhibition was interested at looking at ancient objects and their lives after discovery. It focused on the ancient Sumerian culture. It showed some beautiful sculptures along side notes and photos by the archaeologists who found them. It also had a wall of newspapers about one spectacular find of Puabi,  a possible Sumerian queen who had been bludgeoned to death and found with twenty of her ritually sacrificed attendants. An amazing headdress was found. It was interesting to see how interpretation of her changed from powerful queen wrongly put to death to cruel queen who made her servants die ritually after her. Very interesting.

The other room had a more modern view of the objects. It paired objects by William de Kooning, Henry Moore, and some ancient objects for inspiration. It had some sketches by Alberto Giacometti too. Most interesting for me were the two most recent pieces. One was a series of twenty small photos by Jananne al-Ani that were a reaction to the first Iraq war. The photos show ancient artifacts, portraits of family members who’ve survived the war, and common images in the press about the war. It was a powerful look at how war impacts daily life and families.

The other was the piece “The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist” by Michael Rakowitz. I’ve talked about this piece before in last year’s MCA and more recently in my adventures at the British Museum. It was smaller display that at the MCA and definitely bigger than the British Museum.  Lying on a simply unfinished wooden table are various artifacts made from disposable consumer paper (like candy wrappers) that replicate artifacts that have been lost from the looting of the Baghdad Museum. Each piece has its own placard talking about the piece, its status, and a quotation relevant to the event. Most are quotations by Rumsfeld and his lack of compassion/comprehension at what the looting meant.

The piece keeps revealing itself to me. I got see a part of the work that I had previously missed. I noticed this series of drawings on the wall behind it that had  text about the ancient sites and some of the people who worked at them. It talked about one archeologist/curator who ended up having to flee Iraq because of death threats. Very poignant. I’m glad that I’ve had the chance to see this work several times.

That evening, we had Spanish food in Greenwich Village. We strolled through Washington Square Park on our way home. It’s always beautiful at night (well, during the day too). There was one guy who had found some spotlights meant for the archway and he was showing off his moves. Only NYC!

That’s all for now!

Part 1: Spring in NYC

So this past weekend, I took a lovely trip to New York City. For the next couple of days, I’ll be talking about the fantastic (and much needed) trip during the end of Easter week.

We arrived early afternoon on Thursday. We stayed near Union Square, which I have come to really like. I love the small neighborhoods of NYC. I’ve decided that I’m not very fond of Midtown; it’s too big and flashy for me. Anyway, I threw my stuff in the hotel room and started to wander the neighborhood.

The Strand bookstore was nearby so naturally, I went. I usually have about twenty minutes there when I’m in town. It was nice to have about an hour to wander the store. It’s known for its used books but unless you really feel like digging, the deals aren’t too great. But it’s always got an interesting selection of books. I found a book about the history of cooking utensils and books by newly translated Scandinavian writers. Also it has funky socks. Yeah, books and socks. My dream place.

Afterwards, we decided to go the High Line Park. Basically, there was an elevated track on the west side of Manhattan that was no longer used for trains. They decided to turn it into a giant elevated narrow park. It’s more of a boardwalk than park but it’s quite impressive. Buildings have been built around it; trees and art emerge from the planks of wood. People were out and about. One man was selling “Poems while you wait” and another woman brought out her grey parrot to enjoy the sun. It’s fairly long; I think they keep extending it. We walked most of it, from Gansevoort Street to 30th. It even has elevators at various points so that it remains accessible. It’s a wonderful place. I look forward to when we get our own version here in Chicago in the form of the 606 in Wicker Park/Buck Town.

High Line

Then we wandered to the Macy’s flagship. Last week, I talked about the magnificent flower show at the Chicago Macy’s on State Street. The Macy’s flower show was in full bloom (hah!) when we were there. The shows had the same theme but it was interesting to see how they were done differently. This Macy’s had these flowering displays on lintels overhead; each was a nod to a different artist. There were displays in the middle of aisles with orchids and Chihuly glass sticking out. Outside, the windows were magnificent. Ballerinas spun amidst pink flowers. But they didn’t have a secret garden like Macy’s in Chicago. I actually prefer that since the 9th floor space feels tucked away and unknown. It makes it feel more magical. But Macy’s NY had a nice show too.

Then we walked up to Time Square. I’ve come to realize that I’m really not a fan of it. Normally, I love places of great spectacle but it comes off as bland. Like it’s trying to be Vegas and missing the mark. Or Vegas learned how to improve upon it. Also, it’s filled with tourists and the most generic shops and restaurants. I was glad to get out of there. However, there are some amazing old hotels nearby including the Algonquin Hotel where Dorothy Parker and her fellow sharp tongued compatriots met. This is the NY I love. That history.

We ended up back near Union square. Near our hotel, there are a lot of farm to table places. We ended up at one called County, which was tasty but expensive. (They advertised a happy hour deal for $10 Margaritas. Only NY!). They had very good multi-grained bread and some tasty bass fish. It’s not my favorite of those style restaurants in the area but it was interesting to try another one. (Friend of Farmer is nearby; we had dinner there almost a year ago and I still remember it!)

What a first lovely day in NYC!

That’s all for now!