November 28, 2009


(above: rain on the pavers in Brussels, Belgium)
We're home in our 6th floor walk-up apartment after having experienced the most amazing week of our lives. I live superlatively (as many will remind me) but this is a genuine declaration in calling the week most amazing. I've been toiling over how to recap the trip in an organized, clever, amusing and yet emotional fashion, however I, ever the self-proclaimed writer, have come up with nothing. I suppose I could have snatched up a course on travel writing at some point prior to the vacation, but seeing as I did not, I've decided to let my sense of stream of consciousness roll this out, and ideally my memory will have captured what is left unsaid.*Amsterdam is secretly (as I type this out loud??) the most favorite place of mine that I've ever, ever visited. Ever. New York City, you know that I love you and you will always be my top U.S. destination. Maine, you live on in beautiful mystery in my mind. England: a great way to get our feet wet traveling across the Atlantic because, well, no language barrier exists. But Amsterdam? And I haven't even reached the point where I can describe Paris, but we just left that stunning City yesterday, therefore I need time to absorb.*In Amsterdam, as I mentioned, the cyclists own the streets and even at times the miniature 2' wide sidewalks patterned out for pedestrians to walk primarily single-file. Imagine having these senses at once stimulated: Sight: brightly colored window shutters, extreme structural leans of the architecture (at times appearing almost unsafe, but people live and work in these buildings!), the endless spinning of bicycle wheels as well as the timeless appearance of some of the most beat up bikes (the majority of them). Smell: marijuana. Plain and simple. The scent permeates everywhere, but it's faint, practically an ideal fragrance for such a laid back town. "Coffee shops" can be found on every corner, where locals smoke wide ranges of weed at every hour of the day and night. Sounds: again, wheels spinning. A minute or two walk without the sound of oncoming or passing spinning wheels is rare. Even some of the smallest side streets find cyclists heading home, or to work or to play. Then there's the taste of Amsterdam. We were informed prior that Dutch food is notoriously bad. I'm an ever-evolving foodie, but I knew up front that our trip to Europe, with the exception of France, would not be food-centric in nature. The first day in Amsterdam, we navigated our way to a small bi-level eatery called Pancakes! Amsterdam. Yes, with an exclamation point! Pancakes! How else can you say the word?? PANCAKES! We found this establishment via our friend Alison's cousin Kiara, who lives with her husband in Amsterdam. At first, we could not get a seat. I was itching to eat there, so we swung across the street for a beer in the Jordaan (we stayed in this neighborhood, and I would recommend it to anyone traveling to Amsterdam, as it was charming and perfect.) After our first beer in Amsterdam, we returned to Pancakes! and lucked out with seats upstairs. I ordered a savory pancake(!) with spinach, garlic, oil and goat cheese. Craig ordered a strange sweet-laced pancake(!) with caramelized bananas, bacon and red pepper (the latter which he claimed he barely tasted) and we each drank coffee. I fairly generally relied on espressos and cafe cremes and lattes and cafe con leches to keep my jet lag at bay the entire week. Heck, it worked! Following our Pancakes!, which were delightful and which kicked off a whole week of dining wherein I should have ordered for Craig, because he consistently preferred my dishes to his!...we toured the town. For those who are adept at entertaining themselves with sights, Amsterdam is it. The nooks, the canals, the winding streets with their severely leaning architectural structures (almost as if the buildings are bending toward one another in conversation), the friendly residents and their easygoing style - picturesque and charming are understatements. And in fact we were blessed, if not miraculously bestowed upon with the host who housed us for our two night stay. Peter runs a Bed and Breakfast from his home, Boogaard's Bed and Breakfast, with exquisite rooms, plenty of common areas to be shared with other guests (such as the pleasant older Israeli couple David and Beth, and two Australians from England that we met the first morning around a table of fresh rolls, butter, fruit, fresh juice, homemade bread pudding, cheese plate, yoghurt, granola, delightful coffee served in charming mugs, and the aforementioned phenomenal light quiche in a likely homemade flaky crust!) and Peter and his home offer just the most sophisticated, yet warm and inviting elegance you could ask for. He's so friendly, and his partner Tom was also a treat, although we didn't spend as much conversation time with him as with Peter. Peter is probably one of the most well-rounded individuals we've ever had the pleasure of meeting: he's a singer who has performed on Broadway, he received a certificate of Design from Parsons, he's multilingual, runs this stunning B&B, serves just splendid breakfasts, all homemade, cooks food for the entire week for his grandparents each week, is well-read, articulate and generous. He's got two dogs named Curly and Pepe, both of which hung around in the mornings with us. He's completely enchanting with an International flair. We loved our bed, the shower, the comfort and the ease of our stay! He offered to do some of our laundry. He offered to "post" our postcards given that we were leaving Monday morning for Brussels and had a train to catch from Amsterdam Centraal early (which was a swift 10-minute walk from his B&B!) The entire Amsterdam experience, while too short, was perfect, with the exception of two quite minor mishaps, one involving my shared space with a biker wherein we tangled and she rode off annoyed leaving me with a nice eggplant-colored bruise on my arm (we knew that inevitably one of us would dance with a cyclist!) and the other is another story for a totally different time, one which found us in circles after leaving a weird antique store where we met a man from Africa and drank strangely bitter coffee! Finally, we did stumble upon the famous "I amsterdam" sign which is the city's statement, and didn't shoot a photo and never found it again! No matter though. Amsterdam provided us with a perfect intro for our trip.*I don't want to hurt Brussels' feelings, but I doubt I will: we had an unfortunate stay in Belgium. It was bound to happen that we'd happen upon incremental weather so late in the fall, and we returned to the US lucky to have only found one seriously awful day of rain there in poor, sad Brussels (we left cursing its name however in retrospect, I'm certain the city and country had little to do with the downpours!) We rolled into Brussels around noon. A taxi picked us up at the Midi station and dropped us at our nearby Hotel Floris. At first glance, the place was impeccable and modern. We couldn't check into our rooms yet, too early, so we left our luggage in a room near the front desk and traveled on foot to visit the Manneken Pis, a miniature yet famous statue of a little boy relieving himself into a fountain. Across the street we ate at a touristy pub. I ordered a "cheese plate" which arrived as a "cheeseburger" because in French Europe, "plat" is a main dish and I failed to emphasize "fromage" therefore the waiter took my language to mean cheeseburger. I'm not one to send anything back, so I ate it (despite its curiously un-cheeseburger like qualities!) Craig had an unbecoming beef stew with french fries (beginning his long adventure with the pomme frites, which likely remains his favorite experience in Brussels.) What more can I say? It rained, rained, and rained some more. We drank a few beers, returned to Hotel Floris to check in, then headed out to the Grand Place (Plaza?) which later would be trumped - nay, its ass got KICKED - by the Louvre in Paris (details to follow eventually.) The hotel wasn't too terrible, except that Craig woke in the middle of the night to hydrate and for the life of him could not get anything but scalding water to come out of the bathroom faucet. He clothed himself and left the room in search of some sort of bottled water, but in vain. He came back cursing, just cursing the hotel, and the water, and the room and Brussels and in the morning, we ate breakfast (cheeses, salami, ham, tomatoes, bread and coffee) downstairs after showering, then battled our luggage down to the lobby to wait for our alleged reserved taxi to drive us back to Midi. Our train would depart for Paris at 9:46, and our taxi was ordered for 9. Needless to say, as if things could not get any less inviting or attractive there in Brussels, by 9:15 our taxi had not shown itself, so the gentleman at the front desk advised us to walk to Midi (approximately 10 minutes away.) The rain was spitting steadily and we were both averagely panicking, nothing too severe, because our train tickets between countries were reserved seats, like purchasing plane tickets, so if we were to miss our train to Paris, who knows how many euro it would set us back or how long it'd take to get out of Brussels! So we darted down the street, manhandling too many bags (word to the wise, after lesson learned, do not overpack for an International adventure! Pack 3 similar plain colored shirts, few pants, and accessorize to change things up a bit!) and about halfway to Midi, the rain really, really came down on us. I had an umbrella but Craig had ditched his due to high winds which rendered the thing useless the day before, therefore he was quite soaked when we reached Midi. Finding the right car and seats proved somewhat simpler after a confusing spell of trying to find our seats on the Thalys back in Amsterdam (strange system), and with a rough Belgian experience behind us, we were off to Paris! Bonjour, bon soir, oui, merci, en anglais, s'il vous plais, au revoir! Paris and other stories to follow. For now, it's after 8 on a Saturday morning - I've been awake since 6:30 because my body believes I'm still in Paris. Sleep could be interesting this weekend. I've got hundreds and hundreds of photos to paw through. I'm still not 100% set on using Photoshop. I've tackled half of "Bridge," the viewing platform, but must apply some organization to the photos before I can even begin to process RAW files. And our apartment looks like someone threw up stuff everywhere.*Final few shout-outs to Europe: the euro goes a lot farther than one would think. We saved together 1,000 USD which translates at the current exchange rate to 750 E. That 750 E not only paid Peter the 230 E for the B&B, but also got us through Amsterdam and half the day in Brussels. I withdrew from my own saved spending in Paris on the first day - a mere 400 E, which is exactly 600 USD. We returned to the States with way, way more cash than we imagined we would! That was quite happy for us! And traveling in Europe is one of the most educational experiences one can imagine. Different countries do so many things so differently. But if one can shove all traces of xenophobia aside, it's a breeze. It really is! Tourists are everywhere. We're all in this together. And it's brilliant to be able to share our cultures with one another. Proost! Sante!

November 23, 2009


We're en route to Brussels via the Thalys train, which provides me with WiFi (pronounced by the overhead announcement, "Wee Fee"!) for an hour for 6.50 euro. An hour doesn't adequately give me the chance to explain how perfect this trip has been thus far, so I won't even attempt it, but I will recap a few highlights. We left New York Friday night via Iceland Air right on time (8:20 p.m.) which means we had a layover in Iceland (Reykjavik, which I am maybe not spelling correctly). Craig and I both caught a few z's on the first leg of the flight, but not as much as I hoped. The airport in Iceland was strange - Craig declared it to look designed by IKEA! - but we were only there for a ditty bit of time, during which I spent 1,155 kr. on a peculiar sandwich of egg, tomato and lettuce on Asiago bread, a bottle of sparkling water (sparkling by mistake, and it was yuck!) and a muffin for Craig. I had no idea how many USD equaled 1,155 kr., but in my thick fog of jet lag combined with lack of sleep, it barely mattered. Our flight to Amsterdam from Iceland left at 8:00 in the a.m., and was surprisingly quite full for such an awkward flight time, although if you were Icelandic traveling to Amsterdam I suppose that would be like catching an early flight out of a U.S. state. We arrived in Amsterdam by noon Netherlands time. Strangely, we were not stamped there in Amsterdam at customs. In fact, we arrived, retrieved our bags and were off to explore! We took the train into Amsterdam Centraal, about a 15-minute ride, and at Amsterdam Centraal, we emerged to find the most amazing blue skies and mild temperature! We walked to our B&B at 34 Langestraat. Wilma, the house maid, let us in and showed us to our room at the top floor. Splendid! Nice bed! Nice room! Good shower! What more could we have asked for? Oh, how about the brilliant homemade quiches Peter (our host) served us the next morning with fresh juice, delightful coffee, smoked and aged gouda, warm rolls, yogurt, granola and homemade bread pudding?? And Peter himself? We'll get to that later, as he is also too amazing to abruptly describe. After Wilma welcomed us (Peter was not there at the time), we showered and changed and were off by about 2:00, which bettered the time we'd assumed we'd be out by about half an hour. No exhaustion, really, which both relieved and delighted us, as we do not have time for exhaustion this week. I can't begin to express, especially in this initial post, how charming Amsterdam is. The primary mode of transportation is bicycle, and there are maybe more bicycles in the city than humans - we couldn't believe our eyes. And in Amsterdam the foot pedestrian does not have the right a way. No, indeed, it's the cyclists who rule the streets and sidewalks. I did survive a slight altercation with one later on that night. But that too will be further explored when I'm home with more Wee Fee time. For now, I just want to thank Amsterdam for the time of our lives. We couldn't have asked for a more engaging, amusing, creative, energetic and most memorable vacation. And that was merely the beginning.*I did manage to shoot approximately 200 photographs. I shot both RAW+jpeg, and look quite forward to processing the RAW images in Photoshop once we're en route home, or have arrived home (it will depend on how beat up I am on the plane ride home as to whether or not I play with photos at that time.) We left Amsterdam with only one question: how could one not want to travel?

November 14, 2009


The above posted photo is a JPEG. I shot this months ago, perhaps over the summer? near Washington Square Park. I'm now learning as I read more about Photoshop that shooting in JPEG format compresses photos to a point of losing information. I've been persuaded by the book to shoot Europe in RAW format, although that will eat precious memory card space and is proprietary (as they are Nikon RAW files) which poses other issues in Photoshop, but I'm still very green at this stuff. Given some time, I might better understand the jargon.*I'm sitting here at one and peace with myself quite early in the morning, while Craig still sleeps, because I have been aching for an aubade-esque moment wherein I'm separating myself from bed, sleep and Craig at daybreak to have some alone time. The week has flown past, time flies like that, and Europe is breaths away. I have such huge anticipation for this - my eyes and feet are ready for something new to see and traverse. In so many ways, I've embraced new things, sort of all at once. New neighborhood in which to reside, new neighborhood in which to work (and eat awesome lunches with co-workers!!), new emotional connectivity with myself and with surroundings. Oh, and to only further color my aubade morning, it's raining, and I can see it out of two tall living room windows, lovely rain, switching directions as it falls. I'm just in love with being alive right now. I don't have other words for it. I feel as though one part of evolving one's character is embracing something new, or many new things. There are still mountains to climb. I've got some improvement of character to confront. I am weak when it comes to some things. I am also still quite removed from my creative nature, which I'm trying to hatch anew with photography focus and my blog. My writing has slid down a slope in that I haven't written a poem in coming close to a year. I know I need to. I sort of owe it to myself. But steps, slow steps, slight movements in time and over the course of minutes and days help with all of this.*I wish I could capture this essence. The slow sheet of rain, and the neutral gray sky. A weathered and untamed brick wall that neighbors our building. Craig's slow and steady sleep breathing from the bedroom. Time, precious, and livable.

November 13, 2009


Accomplishment complete! The weekend was a blur. I mainly post to this blog so that I can look back and recall the little things, some big things, too, but my favorite posts are authentic individual experiences that may slip from mind if not recorded. This weekend, however, will forever remain a memorable adventure, whether I post it or not. But, I choose to post, to enhance the memory with minor details. Where to begin...well, for starters, the ex-apartment was in decent shape Friday night, or so we imagined it to be. Saturday morning the alarm sounded far too early, somewhere in the 5 or 5:30 range, which never finds either of us happy! I retrieved bagels and Craig retrieved the U-Haul from 23rd and 11th. We proceeded to carry what quickly came to seem like hundreds of boxes down the 2 flights of stairs to the ground floor hallway. We did this in "rounds," carrying the boxes from the hallway then to the U-Haul out front (parked in a construction No Standing Zone - you can imagine where that's going.) The apartment emptied slowly but surely, and the items remaining - furniture, etc., would be moved by professionals the following day. Our very patient and kind friend Amanda arrived at 92nd Street by 11, toting an iced coffee and graciousness. We had requested her presence to just watch the truck. No manual labor for her, just truck watchdog, insurance. Of course, that didn't last through the morning, as Amanda is forever too sweet and warm-hearted and wouldn't just watch us work. Thank you 6 trillion times, Amanda, and I do know that that is not enough!*The truck was actually fully loaded by the time Amanda arrived, so we all jumped in (after discovering that the traffic cops had, in fact, ticketed us - bah!) and traveled to 82nd to retrieve the new keys. Eberhart Bros. had an envelope ready, thus we commenced the 15-minute drive south on 2nd Avenue to E. 21st, where we discovered not a chance of a place to stash the truck, so with lots of luck to have brilliant November weather, we unloaded the entire truck to the sidewalk, and Craig drove off in search of a place to park the beast. Amanda and I began transitioning boxes into the ground floor hallway of the new building. By the time most of our possessions were at least inside the building, Craig had returned having found a metered spot at which to park the truck. And the next few hours are hours I feel I can't aptly describe. Our new apartment is on the 6th floor. Buildings built before a certain year in New York do not require elevators. Our building is what is known as a walk-up, which means you walk your legs all. the. way. up. to the 6th floor. Let's just say, my first trip up to open the apartment? I thought I was going to die. Right then and there, at the top of a New York City apartment building, I thought I might collapse into a dead pile. And all I had on me was a small bag and something hand held, also small. Oh, boy. I shoved into the new (brilliant! amazing! thankfully...) apartment, and panted for like 3 minutes. Then I headed back down what felt like an eternal spiral of steps, and thus began our long, ever long, forever and ever laborious move from the 1st floor to the 6th floor of a building on E. 21st. There were points at which I thought someone had punched me with a blunt object in the chest. Craig's forehead was perpetually a shiny sheet of sweat. Bless Amanda's heart - I asked her to help unload kitchen boxes because we needed to return to E. 92nd with empty ones for a few loose items left there. The upside? That apartment is a fine, fine space. It feels just about as unique to New York City living as we can get, given our price range. There are so many windows that the light just streams, fills the rooms! Two bedroom windows in one bedroom, one in another, two huge living room windows, an enormous kitchen window, even a window in the bathroom! And our views feel so much richer than any we've had thus far. At some point, we sent Amanda out for waters and other hydrating beverages. I don't remember ever drinking a pink Vitamin water as fast as I did that day! While Amanda was out, Craig and I crept up another flight of stairs only to find an Emergency Exit door partially open. Of course, slaves to our curiosity, we had to step outside! A roof deck! I was somewhat tentative, but Craig traveled across the roof and suddenly stopped dead in his tracks, and called out for me to come join him. There, rising above neighboring buildings of various heights, in clear sight: the Empire State Building! Our own private view! The moment wherein we both stared at it as if in a dream, I felt like every trip up and down those flights of steps was vindicated. Is this really happening? It is, and I'm so lucky to have this in my life. I'm relaxed, relaxing more all the time, into this experience, like it's meant to be, despite my fears of the instability of the future in terms of work. I suppose if something arises and in months we learn this isn't happening, at least I will have these initial memories in my pocket. The new neighborhood where we live is called Gramercy Park. It's quaint, quiet, with a gentle pulse. I love it.*So, Saturday night we took Amanda around the corner from our new place to an Irish pub we've been to a few times called Molly's Shebeen, a self-proclaimed "most authentic Irish pub" in NYC. They have incredible potato salad. Amanda loved it (we headed there about half an hour prior to Craig's arrival, as he had to return the U-Haul). We had a nice dinner, but my head was heavy and legs wobbly. We parted ways around 9, and Craig and I cabbed it back to the UES for one last night's rest there. Sunday morning, the professionals arrived around 8:30. Seriously? They rocked. They were speedy, efficient, strong and successful at getting our large items down to the truck, down to E. 21st and unloaded all the way up. We're in! We're all in! That isn't to suggest we are by any means close to feeling settled. The place is a train wreck, to be honest. Last night we made great progress. I am almost done with the kitchen. Pictures will follow eventually. For now, it's a little unruly to be photographed! Tonight the cable/Internet guy arrives. I'm working from Brooklyn today, er, reporting to the office, and will not likely report to the Manhattan office ever again, from what I can predict? Late next week we leave for Amsterdam! Oh, how will we ever be ready for that?? I still have 1 big purchase to make: a backpack I've researched to tote the Nikon and laptop along with anything else I deem necessary to constantly have on me. We're in the height of activity, right now. December is going to feel so quiet, comparatively speaking! This is life. Living it to the fullest keeps things interesting. I'm happy. I'm myself. I feel in tune with myself almost completely. Thanks to the Universe for these unique experiences.*<--typed the other day, top part of the week. Posting now sans photos, but photos will follow!

November 05, 2009


Here we go...thus commences the transition from one neighborhood to another in this remarkable beloved City! Well, I say "thus" but I really mean in two days. We have a lot of work to do prior to that, and today I learned that I am to commute effective tomorrow to Brooklyn for work, to which I look very, very forward, for reasons I won't name. And so I decided that while I wait for Craig to arrive home tonight, before launching into box-packing and strolling down memory lane and what not, that I'd like to sing a chorus to my Upper East Side, my charmed tree-lined streets, the bustle, the shops, the eateries, the strollers, the dogs on leashes, and so forth. Upper East Side, you are in my heart forever!
  • I'll never forget the night we arrived, how Lauren introduced us to Jeff over dinner at Cilantro, how uncanny it was that Jeff lived mere streets away and how Craig and I both fell for him just about immediately upon meeting him (Craig had already fallen for Lauren when the two met way back in time, during one of our NYC visits) and how having these two amazing friends and their amazing friends in our lives has permanently emblazoned love and warmth on our New York City lives.
  • Craig and I battled one entire month in an apartment with nothing but a 7" DVD player, an air mattress, a Purdue tailgating chair (maybe two) and a few boxes of miscellaneous items, and luckily, a laptop borrowed from aforementioned Jeff, and each other. I'm surprised we never did throw one another from the 9th floor windows! Ha.
  • 316 E. 92nd Street...the tiniest L-shaped apartment, its brick walls, wood floors, barely-there kitchen, fridge shorter than me, second bedroom hardly the size of a walk-in closet, and every single memory we made living there.
  • Moving ourselves to 306, buildings away, to grab some street view! Great light, but noise! Sirens, cars honking at each other on 92nd Street, shouts from nearby bar backyard garden areas, computer too close to the television for me to get ample work done! (though I loved being able to gaze over at Craig whenever!) and a kitchen so small that we couldn't even be in it at the same time!
  • The nights. The food. Nina's Argentinian Pizzeria will always rest right in the core of my heart, for so many countless nights of good food, kisses from Gracie, waves on the street from Marcello, the small spinach salad Craig and I would order to share, topped with halved furiously red grape tomatoes, goat cheese, balsamic and olive oil, their pizza ordered many many a night both at 316 and 306, the way Jose always exuberantly asked, "What's happening, guys? Craig, how are you??" with the widest smile on his face...and more, and more.
  • Yura Cafe, now Corner Cafe, and their unbeatable brunch. I say unbeatable, and I do mean it. The light fixtures in the place are steel colanders. How cute is that? And in lieu of fried potatoes and toast on the side, they serve a dollop of mashed potatoes topped with white melted cheese and a tiny corn muffin. Their omelets are the best.
  • The Bullpen. No words for it. Except, maybe, thank you, Jara, for being one of the most fun bartenders in the Universe of bartenders! And the way she'd always cry out, "CRAIG!" like from some Friday movie from a hundred years ago. Jara, you rock girl!
  • The 4/5, the madness of it. The thick crowds of people shoving, while nicely, against one another to get where they want to be. Up the stairs, down the stairs, onto the subway, off the subway. We're not moving off of the Lex line, which is nice. But I will be the judge after some time down by Union Square as to whether it's more of a madhouse there than here! :)
  • Oh, gosh, how could I not have yet named this: walking to Central Park. Walking to and arriving in, in less than 20 minutes, Central Park, the country's most glorious expanse of urban foliage, sprawling grounds, sunbathers, softball players, strollers (again with the strollers! I love it!) and everything else under a blazing sun one might imagine! Oh, to have easy access to the Literary Mall there. And to emerge from the Park as one might emerge from a Wonder Land, refreshed, at ease and in sync with the City.
  • 2nd Avenue up this far north in the City, in general. When I surface from the subway at night, I hurry as quickly as I can to 2nd Avenue, even waiting at lights if need be, because I have such a massive crush on 2nd Avenue up here. And because of that, my heart breaks a little more each day when I witness more of the subway construction project. Oh, how I hope this Ave survives that chaos. Please! I love you dearly, 2nd Ave!
  • Familiar faces. Everywhere I frequent, I see them. We smile at one another. We know each other. We don't "know" each other other than in the sense that we're all in this together, but it's nice. It's peaceful. It's neighborly.
  • I'd go on. And maybe I will return for more Ode to the UES. I could go into extensive lists, stories, reasons for loving where we've lived since summer 2006. For now, Craig has arrived home (sorry this remains part of the bulleted list!) and I promised him Taco Bar night, so I must get cranking. Dearest Neighborhood, I do heart you, and will forever! Love, your resident for some bit of time.