The Verrazzano Bridge

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 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.

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From the sidelines of the 2019 NYC marathon


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

The way it should be

imageThese are scary times. But even as the rhetoric from the White House gets falser and crazier, I’m hopeful. I was moved to tears by the enormous gathering that filled Central Park West from Columbus Circle to 67th street the night before the Fake President’s underwhelming inauguration. And I was beyond moved – stunned, really – by the mass movement of cars and buses down I-95 early Saturday morning; by the commandeering of half the men’s room at the Maryland House rest stop by women in pink pussy hats, aided and abetted by a middle-aged, white, male security guard; by the lines that snaked around the parking structures at the Shady Grove metro station; by the spirit of cheerful cooperation as we made our slow way through the outside line, then the inside line, then onto the train; and, of course, by the Women’s March itself.

I’m also finding hope in small acts of decency that show how different we are from the Fake President’s dystopian vision. 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

One Brooklyn runner’s totally idiosyncratic spectator’s guide to the TCS New York City Marathon

Welcome to Brooklyn, baby.

Welcome to Brooklyn, baby.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Originally published in October 2015, this post has been updated to reflect business closings (a sad fact of life for restaurants everywhere, perhaps especially in gentrifying sections of Brooklyn) as of September 2018. 

This is for you, marathon spectators! Thanks for listening to our whining, humoring our obsession, pretending to understand our talk of intervals and tempo runs and split times and generally putting up with us throughout our months of training. As if all that isn’t enough, you’ve further agreed to stand outside for hours in whatever weather November 1 brings. Some of you have traveled long distances and invested significant sums of money to be here on marathon day.

You deserve the race of your life.

I’ve been a spectator along the marathon course about as many times as I’ve actually run the race, so I know a little bit about spectating. The main thing you need to know is that it’s great; prepare yourself for a wild, raucous, exciting time. It can also be a little tiring. It may be cold. Cheering for random strangers will leave you thirsty and hoarse. At some point, you will get hungry.

Since I’m a runner who gets cold and thirsty and hungry a lot, and who uses many of her runs to explore Brooklyn neighborhoods (including, of late, obsessively running portions of the marathon course), I can help. And I want to help, because your cheers are what make the New York City Marathon, in my biased opinion, the greatest race in the world. Continue reading

The thrifty marathoner

armwarmer crop
DIY arm warmers for those chilly race mornings

I admit it: I’m a cheapskate. Having coughed up more than $200 in entry and processing fees to run the New York City Marathon, I’m not exactly itching to spend a lot of money on gear.  (Shoes, being essential,* are the exception.) But with the forecast calling for temps in the 40s on Sunday, it’s going to take more than a plastic garbage bag to prevent hypothermia during the long pre-race wait at Fort Wadsworth, and even during the early miles of the race itself.

A little creativity is in order.

Take the attractive and highly functional arm warmers pictured here. They’re fashioned from a wonderful thing called “socks,” widely available for a few bucks a pair from your local dollar store, pharmacy or street fair (or for even less if you take them from your spouse’s sock drawer). A snip here, a snip there, and you’re in business.  I plan to wear these with my race singlet for the first few miles, then throw them to my cheering fans somewhere along Fourth Avenue.

Other race day gear piled in our back bedroom/office in preparation for Sunday:

  • Mismatched throwaway gloves from Hanson’s running store in Detroit
  • Layers, layers, layers – including my daughter’s “Super Sophomore” shirt, found under the bed, and a discarded shirt of Eric’s, retrieved from that pile we keep forgetting to take to the fabric recycling place
  • A pair of (very) relaxed-fit Mom jeans that gapped at the waist even when I was fifteen pounds above my racing weight
  • Mylar blankets saved from previous races and stashed in the trunk of my late, lamented Saturn just in case I ever got stranded in a snowdrift somewhere

Come Sunday, I’ll try hard not to look smug when I watch runners in expensive gear debating whether to wear it in the race or stand in the baggage line to check it. I’ll be comfy in my Mom jeans, garish T-shirt and frayed, stained button-down – right up until the last possible moment, when I strip down to emerge as “Running Woman.”

. . .

In the meantime, let me suggest another money-saving opportunity for thrifty marathoners and their friends and family – check out those New York Road Runners “Run the City” deals. Sure, most of them are less about saving money than about marketing: I love Jacques Torres as much as anyone, but if I drop $25 on fancy candy, a complementary small hot chocolate seems like the least they can offer me.

There are some gems in there, though, like 2-for-1 doughnuts at Leske’s in Bay Ridge. You won’t find doughnuts glazed with organic passion fruit icing and sprinkled with non-GMO, fair trade cocoa nibs there. You will find airy crullers and overstuffed squares oozing raspberry jelly. I planned today’s easy 5 miler so that it ended at their store, which happens to be practically on the marathon route. I arrived just as a massive shipment of flour was being delivered, and got a peek into their bakery operation in the back. Super nice people, great old school doughnuts and cheap, too (even when they’re not 2-for-1).

Thrifty marathoners, take note.


2-for-1 at Leske’s Bakery: of course I’m smiling!


Leske’s were making doughnuts, crullers and kringler in the back of their store before “artisanal” was a thing.

Leske’s Bakery, 7612 Fifth Avenue, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

*Barefoot runners, please refrain from commenting.