We were in Detroit last weekend for a family wedding, and I went for a run and took some pictures. Here’s a sampling.
Full disclosure: the picture at the top of this post was actually taken last summer, but it was too cool not to include here. In fact, I’d say it’s a contender for “most Detroit street art” ever – though so is this piece, also from last year. At first I was unhappy that I was unable to capture the art without all the cars parked in front of it, and then it dawned on me. It’s Detroit, the cars are the point.
I knew, in a general way, that there were a lot of taquerias in Bushwick, and that you could find freshly-made tortillas there, as well. But living so close to Sunset Park has spoiled me for choices, and Bushwick is kind of out of my way, and I wasn’t sure which streets had the taquerias and which the annoyingly young, beautiful and hip people . . . and so I procrastinated.
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.
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.
Burros – along with their diminutive (at least in name) cousins, burritos – have always struck me as problematic. They’re invariably overstuffed, often grotesquely so. When they’re not dry, they’re drowning in goopy sauce and (horrors) cheese. Worst of all is the dreaded burrito fold, confronting the eater with double or triple or quadruple layers of gummy flour tortilla.
But Eric and I are in Tucson this week, and Tucson is the land of flour tortillas, where chimichangas were born and burros reign supreme. As the saying goes: when in Rome, do as the Sonorenses do.
50 Favorite Places #28 Shirley Chisholm is a new state park, opened in the summer of 2019 and named after the pioneering Brooklynite who represented central Brooklyn in Congress from 1969 to 1983. It’s located on the far eastern edge of the borough, just off the Belt Parkway, where East New York butts up against Howard Beach.
From 1956 to 1985, the site was a pair of working landfills. As the Starrett City housing complex rose, so did the landfill piles across the Belt Parkway from it. The landfills blocked not just waterfront access, but even waterfront views, for residents of the waterfront neighborhood. Take it as a sign of the disregard the city has historically shown its 520 miles of coastline (fun fact: NYC has more coastline than Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston combined), and its scornful attitude toward residents of modest means. (You can find an excellent history of the site here.)
By the time I started birding and running Brooklyn’s coastal edge, the area’s reclamation was well underway – the formerly stinking mounds were covered with grass – but it was closed tight. Ominous signs warned away trespassers, while increasingly tattered banners promised a park was coming.
50 Favorite Places #27 The Verrazzano Narrows Bridge – the second Z was added in 2018, about which more below – has connected Brooklyn and Staten Island since 1964. It’s a massive span. Until 1981, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world; it’s still the longest in the Americas. You can see it from much of Brooklyn and Staten Island, catching glimpses while walking or driving or riding the train. You can see it from Manhattan. You can see it across Jamaica Bay in Queens. And if you pick the right vantage point and maybe crane your neck a bit, you can see it from the Bronx, too. (I have not personally done this, but according to the nyfacts.com site, it’s possible.) Another fun fact from the same site: the bridge’s length required its designer to compensate for the earth’s curvature by making its two towers 1 5/8 inches farther apart at their tops than their bases. I’m sure an engineer will soon come along to say that’s not in fact unusual, but it sure sounds impressive to me.
50 Favorite Places #26 It has history. It has creepy ruined buildings and empty hangars. It has miles of runways and a coastline. It has birds, from soaring raptors to twittering finches to goofy woodcocks. It has that most coveted of urban luxuries: space.
What it doesn’t have are easy transit connections. Consequently, I’d lived in Brooklyn for more than three years before I made my way to the end of the 2 subway line, found the Q35 bus stop alongside the Nostrand Junction Target store, got off by the Gateway Marina and dashed across Flatbush Avenue to what was, at one time, the main commercial airport serving New York City.
50 Favorite Places #25 Ditmas Park, a Brooklyn neighborhood of tree-lined streets and gracious Victorian homes, is one of my favorite places any time of year – but that’s for another post. This post is about Ditmas Park at Halloween.
Several years ago, I heard someone mention that Halloween is to Ditmas Park as Christmas is to Dyker Heights. I was intrigued, but then forgot about it until after the holiday. Last year, it slipped my mind again. But in this pandemic year, with nothing but time on my hands, I made a point of reconnoitering the neighborhood on a damp late-October morning.
At first, I was disappointed. I saw the requisite pumpkins, many spider webs, and a few skeletons. An inflatable black and purple ghoul, bobbing in the breeze, struck me as more playful than terrifying. Frankly, I saw nothing that would have stood out as exceptional in any residential section of Brooklyn.
Then I came to the corner of Argyle and Albemarle roads. It was just one house, but what a house! Its wraparound porch, typical of the neighborhood, lends itself to discrete vignettes of horror. There’s one dedicated to witches, one to zombies, one to demons, and one – my favorite, shown below – to scary clowns.
If I weren’t signed up to make calls to voters tomorrow (my attempt to avert true horror), I might run by there after dark to check out the full show.