Stoop recycling

imageIt’s easy to make fun of Park Slope and its earnest, politically-correct, kombucha-guzzling denizens. There are the bars that offer special happy hours for new mothers (“have a pint with your half pint”); the stroller traffic jams; the antics of the Park Slope Food Coop, dutifully reported in the Linewaiters’ Gazette; and kale, kale, kale, everywhere you turn, in places kale has no business being.

It’s easy to mock, and mock it I do (just ask Eric) – but I also love this neighborhood. Continue reading

A Queens interlude

IMG_4235Although I’ve categorized this post under “Seen on the run,” that’s not entirely accurate. My number one training goal for this month is to avoid heat stroke, and so my trek to Astoria last week to see the Welling Court murals was accomplished via N train and a slow, shuffling walk down 30th avenue. (Truth be told,”slow” and “shuffling” are also pretty good descriptions of my running these days.)

The plan – to the extent I had one – was to see the murals; try the falafel and shawarma at King of Falafel and Shawarma (henceforth, “KOFAS” or simply “the King”); and use my NYC ID to sign up for membership at the Museum of the Moving Image. If I stumbled across some other interesting stuff along the way, so much the better. Continue reading

My biggish year (mid-summer update)

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After hitting the magic 200 number back in May, I fully intended to give bird-blogging a rest. The plan was to refocus this blog on other things (running! interesting or odd things seen while running! food to fuel my running! and, of course, politics . . . because nothing fuels my running like rage!).

Then the summer doldrums hit.

But here I am, back at it, with a quick update of birds seen over the last two months. That would include the fine specimens at the top of this post, spotted by the Brooklyn Navy Yard yesterday and photographed today. Turns out they’re part of an art installation to dramatize the effects of climate change (you can read about the project, and the artist behind it, here). In addition to provoking thought, they also lent a note of grace and beauty to the landscape – something we could all use more of, especially after this past week. Continue reading

Walls of wisdom

IMG_3869I’m taking a break from birds and writing about birds (and also, on this not-so-Super Tuesday, from batshit crazy politics) to share a photo gallery of posters from walls around Brooklyn. I’m not sure who the artist/philosopher is, but as you can see, they’re quite prolific.

Here’s a further sampling:

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There goes the neighborhood


Really rich people make really bad neighbors.

The process of gentrification is pretty far along in Park Slope, but the above-pictured sign on 1st street between 4th and 5th avenues still stopped me in my tracks. The block is divided between commercial spaces and condos at the 4th avenue end, and nice (but modest) brownstones closer to 5th avenue. It’s not, in other words, the kind of block you’d normally associate with house-hunting oligarchs.

And therein lies a tale. Continue reading

A Mexican epiphany

All along 5th Avenue in Sunset Park this week, bakeries and grocery stores are advertising “Rosca de Reyes.” Peek through a steamy bakery window, and you’ll see giant pastry wreaths bedecked with unnaturally bright candied fruits and sparkly, multi-colored sugar stripes.

It’s part of the celebration of Epiphany, or Three Kings Day. Tomorrow night, families and friends will eat rosca, drink hot chocolate, and try not to ingest or break a tooth on the tiny baby Jesus figure baked inside each ring. Continue reading

Lutheran Halal


This is my Brooklyn.

Go ahead and try to wrap your mind around the concept of Lutheran halal. (Spoiler: it’s not really cuisine prepared according to the dictates of both Lutheran and Muslim dietary laws, but the name of a coffee shop by Lutheran Medical Center.)  It’s as Brooklyn as . . . well, as a large extended family, all dressed up, the women wearing hijabs, smiling for a group photograph in front of Junior’s before their traditional ‘Eid al-Adha feast of pastrami and cheesecake. Continue reading

The people we pass

11220859_10207499265028701_1802981245041717710_nHis name is Santiago López. On Labor Day morning, he was playing the accordion and singing in front of a shuttered storefront on an otherwise quiet block of 4th Avenue in Sunset Park; I was halfway through an easy 6 mile training run along the NYC marathon course.

Accordion music is a weakness of mine. After passing him (his improvised lyrics referred to “una mujer bonita”), I jogged to the next street, hesitated there, and turned around (“regresa la mujer bonita”).

“I love accordions,” I burbled, fumbling for a dollar in my hardly-sweaty-at-all plastic bag. A dollar, a photograph, a thank you, and an attempted riff of my own, in bad Spanish, about the next time I return, I’ll be running the marathon.

El maratón! He told me how that was him, in 1992, no, 1991. How he went to the United Nations. (We were speaking half in English, half in Spanish, and I was having a hard time following. I guessed he was referring to the pre-marathon event for international runners, which starts with a ceremony at the UN.) Here, he had a picture to show me.

He fumbled around and produced, out of somewhere, a cheap plastic portfolio – the kind that ties shut. He undid the tie, opened it up, and showed me his newspaper clippings.

Except they weren’t about the marathon. There was the front page of El Diario, dated October 22, 1991, with the screaming red headline, “Un charro armado en la ONU” and a picture of a much younger man wearing a cowboy hat and shiny black glasses. Continue reading

Brooklyn nature, red in tooth and claw

Marathon training has put a serious damper on my birding habit. Last year, I tried to finesse the conflict by incorporating what I called “birding jogs” (which involved far more walking and standing than jogging) into my easy mileage. This year, I’ve called bullshit on that practice and erected a firewall between my two hobbies.

So far, it’s holding reasonably well.

But today was a rest day on my training schedule. Naturally, I spent it unrestfully, tromping through Prospect Park with binoculars around my neck. I saw some great birds – the rarest a worm-eating warbler, the prettiest a male redstart, the most arresting a chestnut-sided warbler in fall plumage, lacking the namesake chestnut sides but seemingly dusted with greenish-yellow glitter on its back, so that it shimmered when it moved.

That’s not what I want to write about, though. What I want to write about is nature’s brutal, seamy underside. It’s not all pretty flowers and birdsongs out there, you know. Sometimes it’s the stuff of horror movies. Continue reading

Coming soon: drunk painting

IMG_3337Look what’s coming to Fifth Avenue in Park Slope! Soon we’ll be able to get sloshed while daubing paint on canvas somewhere other than in the privacy of our own homes.

I was unfamiliar with this franchise concept, but on reflection, its appeal to frazzled moms who feel their creativity is being stifled makes it a natural for the neighborhood.

Thank god we still have Leopoldi Hardware and Save-on-Fifth for the rest of us.