50 Favorite Places: Smith-9th St station

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50 Favorite Places #1

With this post, I’m starting a new project for 2020. The plan is to highlight 50 overlooked or off-the-beaten path places that I happen to like. It’s part of a general refocusing of this blog on travel, both within Brooklyn and New York City and farther afield. (If you follow this blog for running, birds or food, don’t worry – those things are a big part of how and why I travel, and will continue to feature prominently. And if you are unaccountably fond of my long-form pieces, I plan to continue dropping in a few of those from time to time as well.)

I should make clear from the outset that there’s no rank order to the “50 favorites” list. In fact, at the moment, there is no list. I’ll write about places as I revisit them, discover them, or generally get around to them.

Here it goes, then . . . favorite place #1: Continue reading

2019 in birds

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Varied Thrushes (January’s bird of the month)

I saw lots of birds last year. Seriously, lots. To be precise, I observed 470 species worldwide (which, last year, meant the U.S., Mexico and Spain), and 380 in the U.S. alone. Rattling off these numbers makes me feel a little sheepish. I know that listing is silly, even a bit tacky. It’s much cooler to ignore those totals that eBird makes so easy to track, and simply enjoy the birds you’re lucky enough to see.

On the other hand, reviewing my list provides a mini-review of my year.  This is the second time I’ve done a “year in birds” post, and both times I’ve been surprised by the intensity of the memories the exercise provoked. Continue reading

Lonestar Brooklyn

img_7580-e1576850953203.jpgOn the one hand, it’s become a cliche of lazy travel writing to describe this or that city or neighborhood as “the Brooklyn of (fill in the blank).” You could even say it’s become a cliche of lazy travel writing to describe Brooklyn – sprawling and variegated home to more than 2.5 million people, not all of them youthful or rich or white or especially hip – as “Brooklyn.”

On the other hand, when a resident of Park Slope passes a sweater-wearing tree in Coyoacán, or a co-working space in Sevilla or just about anywhere in Portland, Maine, it’s hard to avoid a sensation of familiarity – appealing, boring, comforting and a little ridiculous, all at once – followed by an urge to walk faster, even flee, guilty by association. I wonder if the quality of “Brooklyn-ness” hasn’t become a planet-devouring blob, no less imperialist for its good intentions, no less homogenizing for its quirkiness. This decade’s Golden Arches, packed with probiotics and infused with CBD.

It was this on-the-one/on-the-other handedness that had kept me from visiting Austin until recently. Continue reading

Back at it

IMG_7685I’ve posted several times about the unknown artist(s) whose sardonic observations are pasted on walls around the borough – most recently here. Over the past year, I’ve watched their sayings fade, rip and generally deteriorate, with no new contributions..

Until this week, when the piece at the top of this post appeared on Union St in Park Slope. I’m including it here for the record . . . and in hopes that Brooklyn-based readers may respond with their own sightings.

(“Back at it” also refers to me and this blog. I’m planning a new focus for 2020, so stay tuned.)

. . . 

Addenda:

While photographing the Smith-9th station in mid-January, I found this:

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And, while running through Gowanus (6th St between Second and Third avenues) in early February, this:

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From the sidelines of the 2019 NYC marathon

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My sentiments exactly

Here it is, delayed by my traditional post-marathon trip (look for a report on Brooklyn in Texas, coming soon) and general laziness: the view from the sidelines of this year’s NYC marathon. Seeing as how I presume to publish a spectator’s guide every year, it only seems right to share how my own spectating went down.

Pre-race – an odd encounter

I began the day, as is my custom, with a run along the Fourth Avenue segment of the course, from roughly Mile 7 in Park Slope to Mile 2.something in Bay Ridge. Thanks to the end of daylight savings time (daylight savings time is a fraud and a scourge, as far as I’m concerned, and I look forward to its end almost as much as I look forward to the marathon), I was able to set out in full light a little after 7 am. As I ran, I kept a rough count of the people I saw along the course. In descending order of frequency, they included:

  • Race volunteers (thank you, all of you)
  • Cyclists
  • Cops
  • NYC Department of Transportation trucks and personnel (so that runners would have fresh, sticky asphalt to step in, which I suppose is marginally better than potholes)
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses
  • Musicians
  • Other runners
  • Skateboarders
  • People telling me I was going the wrong way (only two this year, well under the norm)
  • A guy wearing a marathon race bib, seemingly doing strides on 92nd St

The last comes with a story. Continue reading

A Brooklyn neighborhood guide for NYC Marathon spectators – 2019 edition

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Old Brooklyn, new Brooklyn – you’ll find both along the marathon course

For five years now, I’ve compiled a spectators’ guide to the Greatest Race in the World, sometimes known as the NYC Marathon. The Brooklyn (and to a lesser extent Queens) sections of the course are now well-trodden terrain for this blog, and I’ve even ventured up to East Harlem and the Bronx. This year, I’m taking a slightly different approach. Instead of aiming for comprehensiveness, I’m focusing on a handful of specific neighborhoods; instead of limiting my comments to the marathon course, I’m offering a broader tour, including a bit of history and other things to do in the area, assuming you can tear yourself away from the race.

If you prefer a more comprehensive approach, you’ll find mile-by-mile suggestions, as well as viewing tips and advice on race day logistics, in my posts from 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015. While I don’t claim to have revisited and re-reviewed all of my past recommendations, I’ve tried to at least note closings. (And if you’re interested in knowing how I’ve personally spent Marathon Sunday since my retirement from marathon running, you can read my reports from last year and 2017 here and here.)

So, where should you watch the marathon in Brooklyn this year? (Because it goes without saying that you’ll be watching it in Brooklyn, right? We are the longest and best part of the course.) Read on for my top picks. Continue reading

Street art Sunday: A new mural rises in Sunset Park

IMG_7212Or perhaps I should say “newish;” I missed an opportunity to document its creation last summer. I did see it in its earliest stages, when I went for a run along Brooklyn’s industrial waterfront in mid-July, right at the beginning of one of our heat waves. A group of young people was gathered by one of the long, low-slung buildings along First Avenue, between the south entrance to Bush Terminal Park and the Brooklyn Army Terminal, and I stopped to chat with them, because I know how much teenagers enjoy talking with sweaty, middle-aged women. I could see what looked like the beginnings of a mural behind them – splotches of color, sweeping, curved lines, all very abstract – and asked if that’s what it was, and if they part of the crew putting it up. Yes, they told me. Continue reading