Last weekend, the National Audubon Society teamed up with the group Runstreet to host a running tour of the Audubon Murals in Upper Manhattan. Let’s see . . . an event that combines running, birds and street art? Sign me up!
And so, only slightly challenged by weekend train schedules, I headed across the East River and up, up, uptown to the Harlem Public at Broadway and W. 149th. A small crowd of participants had already gathered – easily recognized, first, by the fact that they were milling around outside a closed bar at 9 o’clock on a Sunday morning, and second, by their mix of running and bird-themed apparel. As we arrived, a preternaturally cheerful organizer checked us off from her list of registrants. New arrivals continued to trickle in, muttering about “trains” (the all-purpose NYC excuse for tardiness), until someone decided that it was time to get started.
First, though, some background on the Audubon Mural Project, echoing the introduction provided to us by Avi Gitler, a local gallery owner and project coordinator. The ambitious goal is to depict all of the more than 300 North American birds threatened with extinction because of climate change. Eight years into the effort, the count has reached 138, spread across 100 murals, mostly in Upper Manhattan – where John James Audubon was once a major landowner, and where he is buried in the cemetery of Trinity Church.
On Memorial Day, I mixed up my running routine by heading out of Prospect Park to the north, in a general Prospect Heights/Crown Heights direction. With spring migration winding down, I figured it was high time to start reacquainting myself with the less birdy sections of my borough (though as we know, birds are everywhere). And so I meandered through Grand Army Plaza, around the glassy Richard Meier building with the prestigious “1” address, then north on Underhill and east on Park Place. Eventually I hit the complicated intersection where Park Place and Washington and Grand avenues converge to define a small triangle. The triangle is surrounded by a construction fence decorated by multiple artists.
Naturally, I paused to snap photos of my favorite panels:
Having just arrived in Puebla on Friday, I can’t claim to know much about the city (other than the fact that El Carmen on Calle 16 de Septiembre makes incredible cemitas), and there’s certainly beautiful, funny and provocative art to be seen driving into the main bus station, or walking around the Centro Histórico. But if there’s a more extensive – and stunning – display than the one found in Ciudad Mural in the Barrio de Xanenetla…well, I’d be surprised.
Eric and I arrived in Mexico City yesterday afternoon. In our first 24 hours in the city, we consumed tacos al pastor; de arrachera; de costillas con nopales…not to mention tostadas topped with a startling variety of sea creatures.
At the beginning of the last century, Sunset Park was home to radical Finnish immigrants who set about constructing a cooperative alternative to capitalism. It’s nice to see that spirit endure today – in a different language, of course, the Finns having mostly moved on.
A few more snapshots from around the neighborhood follow.
Sometimes, it’s not enough to park in the bike lane, or in the crosswalk . . . or perhaps all the bike lane and crosswalk parking is already taken. In that case, some Brooklyn motorists see no problem hopping the curb to claim a sidewalk spot.
Not only is sidewalk parking problematic for pedestrians, it also blocks one’s view of cool street art, like this mural in Gowanus. I did my best, but the between the silver Nissan on the sidewalk and the truck parked curbside, it was challenging to capture everything going on in the work.
Please don’t treat this as some sort of “bizarre foods” gross-out post. The “head” in tacos de cabeza doesn’t stare back at you or anything like that. It’s nothing more than shreds of meat painstakingly removed from the head of a roasted animal, then steamed to melting tenderness.
Nothing more, but also nothing less; while I normally go for strong flavors and crunch and char, I’ve come to appreciate the unadorned, unctuous meatiness of cabeza. It’s my go-to order from the Tacos El Bronco truck stationed on Fifth Av between 37th and 38th streets, across from the Jackie Gleason Bus Depot in Sunset Park. Taking advantage of a thaw in the weather and (mostly) clear sidewalks, that’s where I went for lunch today.
I ran to and around Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood twice last week: once on a long-shot quest for Snowy Owls (they’ve been showing up in all kinds of unlikely places this year, so why not a warehouse roof somewhere in Red Hook?), once to get sandwiches from Defonte’s. It was on the first run, which meandered through likely unlikely Snowy Owl habitat and yielded no owls, but an inordinate number of Fish Crows, that I saw these cool examples of poster art.
The amorous skeletons at the top of this post were pasted on an expanse of brick wall on one of the quiet streets leading west from Van Brunt toward the waterfront – Van Dyke, maybe? (I made a mental note to remember the location, then promptly forgot it.) They shared the wall with this tagged-over jaguar by the same artist(s) . . .
. . . and this delicate plant, in a very different style.
And finally, not art, but a reminder of how long it had been since my last Red Hook run . . . and how fast the neighborhood is changing; I’m pretty sure this Potemkin building had four walls the last time I was on Coffey St.
It was long past embarrassing – approaching shameful – to have lived in Brooklyn for the better part of a decade without once crossing the threshold of Defonte’s Sandwich Shop. I have no excuse: not ignorance (Defonte’s was a favorite of the old Outer Boroughs Chowhound board, which I used to read avidly); not convenience (it’s a bit out of the way, but I run and bike close by often enough); not lack of hunger (obviously).
It’s time – past time, honestly, but who among us isn’t mired in the deep lethargy of another pandemic winter? – for a look back at the last year in birds. It was a great year for them. Northern finches descended on Brooklyn in abundance, for reasons I won’t go into here, but which folks who study such things will cheerfully explain if you’re at all interested, or even if you aren’t. So, for reasons no one has been able to explain to me, did seagoing ducks. Plus the usual suspects, and a few breathtakingly unusual ones. Above all, with human time either frozen or stuck on repeat, the progress of the avian calendar – migration, courtship, babies, migration again – was reassuringly normal. It’s OK, the birds seemed to be saying. You’ll get through this.