My biggest week

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Trumpeter Swans at sunrise, Maumee Bay State Park

The Biggest Week in American Birding takes place each year in the flat, marshy expanses of northwest Ohio. That’s where I grew up, where I fell hard for a singing house wren, and where millions of birds and I return each May – the birds as a quick stop on the way to their summer breeding grounds, me for Mother’s Day.

Until very recently, I was unaware that the Biggest Week in American Birding was going on during those May visits. I’d bird from the back deck of my parents’ house, which was gradually falling apart around them, or in nearby parks. Occasionally I’d meet warbler aficionados who’d traveled long distances to look at birds in the Toledo area. That surprised me a little; it surprised my parents even more. “They must have meant Oregon, Ohio,” my mother stated decisively of the Oregon couple I’d met at Sidecut Metropark and was describing to her. “Not the state of Oregon. Why would anyone come here from there?” Continue reading

Brooklyn vs Portland

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We surrender

Okay, Portland, Maine: you and your wood-roasted beans win the  hipster coffee throw-down.

You place well in the doughnut competition, too, with your potato-based Holy Donut (especially the maple-glazed ones, with or without bacon). Continue reading

From BKLYN to CDMX

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Just like Brooklyn!

Mexico City is sprawling and intimate. It smells of exhaust fumes and sewage and eucalyptus and cinnamon and masa and sizzling meat. It awakens to birdsong, sells itself in sing-song chants, and talks and shouts and eats and drinks and honks its horn late into the night. Oh, and the weather is perfect year-round.

I loved it.

What follow are some general impressions, beginning with this blog’s principal obsessions – food, birds and running, looking at stuff (often while birding and running) – and then offering some broader thoughts on the city. While I don’t pretend to know or understand it, I was struck by the way it manages, however improbably – built as it is on sinking ground, its population swollen to 20 million – to work. The contrasts between politics, national mythology and historical memory here and there provided plenty of food for thought. Continue reading

Dispatches from New Mexico

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Time to hit the open road and find some western birds

The top line results of my birding trip: 42 new birds, bringing my 2018 total to 399 species . . . meaning that unless I saw a burrowing owl on my way to the ABQ “Sunport” (I did not), bird number 400 would be in Brooklyn.

Which was as it should be.

I’ll have more to say about New Mexico birding, but there’s more I need to say about New Mexico first. Why do I love that state so much? There are the birds, of course, but also the light – blinding at midday, painting the landscape with color and shadow morning and evening, dazzling always. There’s the painful, complicated history as New Mexico passed from one empire to another, a history that includes conquest, the Inquisition, hidden Jews, indigenous revolts, revolutions, invading Texans, shifting borders, mushroom clouds. There’s the fascinating, syncretic culture this history created. There are the chiles.

And there’s the general weirdness of the place, always a plus in my book. Continue reading

400 birds

16B70747-7872-451F-A25B-3D70B710959EAh, the appeal of round numbers! Ah, the lure of arbitrary goals! Ah, the joy of obsessive pursuits!

I haven’t prattled on about birding on this blog of late, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t continued to devise ornithological challenges for myself. Two years ago, I documented my quest to see 200 species in New York City . . . something that turned out to be ridiculously easy for anyone with a pair of binoculars, a Metrocard, and (most important) time on her hands. So I upped the goal to 200 birds just in Brooklyn, and managed that as well. (The final tally: 249 species in NYC, 225 in Brooklyn.) Continue reading

Watching the NYC marathon in Brooklyn – 2016 edition

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“What’s good?” – this post tries to answer that

(NOTE: originally published in 2016, this guide has been reviewed and updated as of September 2018, with closings noted. Stay tuned for the all-new 2018 edition, to be posted sometime in the second half of October.)

Less than three weeks until race day on November 6!

If you’re running, this is high-anxiety time, when every training sin (workouts missed, long runs bailed on) comes back to haunt you; when thoughts of everything that could possibly go wrong run through your mind in a continuous loop (you fall off a stool while reaching for a high shelf and twist your ankle, you miss a connecting flight and are stranded in Atlanta, you contract food poisoning the night before the race); when your interpersonal relationships are strained by this obsession of yours that no one who’s not running quite understands.

But if you’re spectating along the course, as I will be this year, this is a fun time. Instead of visualizing the long climb up the Queensboro Bridge, you can visualize brunch spots; instead of obsessing over those twinges in your left calf, you can obsess over finding the best tacos in Sunset Park; instead of planning your best race, you can plan your best race day.

Last year’s guide was pretty popular, and I’ve gone through and made some quick updates and corrections to keep it useful for 2016. But because it was so much fun to do the research, I’ve been back out there running the marathon’s route through Brooklyn (in nice, manageable segments). In the process, I’ve found a whole bunch of additional places worth checking out.

So, here it is – the all-new 2016 edition of one Brooklyn runner’s totally idiosyncratic guide to where to eat, and what to do, along the NYC marathon course.  Continue reading

Katie and Linda’s Central European Adventure

vitkov viewThis blog is back from its travels and unstuck from its post-trip doldrums. It will return to its usual Brooklyn-focused posts soon enough (with a race report or two thrown in for good measure and, no doubt, some whining about marathon training). For now, I offer these highlights and observations from our mother-daughter trip to the Czech Republic and Slovakia. (Hat tip to Evan Rail at the New York Times and “Taste of Prague” bloggers Zuzi and Jan for never steering us wrong throughout our trip.)

Czech beer is good – and cheap. Guidebooks breathlessly proclaim that in the Czech Republic, beer is cheaper than water. That’s not entirely accurate. Despite warnings that nothing in the Czech Republic is free (including – gasp! – ketchup packets at fast food restaurants), we found that we could in fact ask for and receive complementary tap water in restaurants and cafes. (For our first few days, in thrall to the guidebook warnings, we demurred offers of water and left bread baskets untouched. We were idiots.)  Continue reading