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

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

Street art Sunday: migrations

458ECDBE-EC23-4B77-9D3D-4735D6D62419I’m in northwest Ohio this week for the “Biggest Week in American Birding,” returning to the streets and landscapes of my childhood to watch thousands of birds make their own journey north. I’ll have more to say about my trip in a post-to-come.

In the meantime, here’s a series of poignant, hopeful murals that make the connection between the migrations of birds and people. They’ve adorned the exterior of P.S. 24 in Sunset Park for years now, and while time has worn and faded them, they’re still beautiful.

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Street art Sunday: Brooklyn at work

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A proud Sunset Park machine shop

In honor of May Day, also know as International Workers’ Day, coming up on Wednesday: images of work and workers from around the borough.

The first couple of examples aren’t street art proper, but I love them anyway. The gears and fasteners at the top of the post aren’t retro, or ironic, or historical: they decorate the walls of a small machine shop on the northern edge of Sunset Park. I choose to believe that one of the workers there – a skilled painter as well as a machinist – suggested festooning the outside walls with images of precision tools and quality products. Continue reading

Street art Sunday: self-referential irony

IMG_5760 (Edited)Today’s look at Brooklyn street art focuses on street art that’s not only aware of itself as street art, it demands that you be aware of it, too.

Like this late, great piece in Gowanus, dripping with irony as well as gold.

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Then there’s this contribution, which can still be seen in Bed Stuy.

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And this from Bushwick, with extra irony courtesy of a passerby.

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But my hands-down favorite is the piece at the top of this post, found in Sunset Park. I like the fact that there’s nothing ironic about it. It’s clever, sure, but it’s cleverness that celebrates creativity, not the other way around.

Street art Sunday: Mexico in Brooklyn

IMG_6858Today’s bonus post launches a new blog feature, highlighting especially cool and/or weird street art seen around Brooklyn. It’s quick and easy enough to post weekly, even when I’m at my laziest, which is often. It gives my backlog of “seen on the run” photos a raison d’etre. And, hopefully, it will brighten your own Sunday.

In honor of our Mexico trip, this week’s installment features “Templo Mixcoac,” seen yesterday morning at the corner of Norman and Guernsey in Greenpoint and credited (I think – deciphering tags is not my forte) to @tiburon_704, who appears to be on Instagram (also not my forte). Continue reading

200 Bird Thursday – Week 7 (frostbite and monsoons)

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Extreme birding (photo credit: Chris Laskowski)

After putting my quest on hold last week, I was determined to make up for lost time. So what if Saturday’s windchill hovered around zero degrees (that’s Fahrenheit, folks)!  A group bird walk to Bush Terminal Park was on the schedule, and if the leader was tough enough not to cancel it, then I was tough enough to join it.

My expectations were modest. I figured we had a good shot at a Bonaparte’s gull (since everyone who is not me has been seeing them in recent weeks). If we were lucky, we might see one of the uncommon white-winged gulls (glaucous or Iceland) that have been hanging around. Maybe we’d catch a red-necked grebe.

So when did I give up even these modest expectations? Was it when we noticed the striking absence of common ducks (scaup evidently having more sense than we did)? Was in when the snow started blowing sideways? Was it when the wind knocked down one of our scopes? 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

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

Wind, rain and morocho

I would look even colder and more miserable without the morocho.

I would look even colder and more miserable without the morocho.

With the abrupt change from heatstroke weather to nor’easters and possible hurricanes, my post-run treats recovery foods are changing, too. This was the summer of watermelon – pre-cut chunks from the grocery down the street, gone by the time I reached the apartment; pureed in agua fresca, the colder the better; sliced into half moons and sprinkled with spicy, salty Tajín seasoning; transformed into a salad with basil and feta.

My love of watermelon, though deep and strong, is not deep or strong enough to withstand 50 degrees with 20 mph wind gusts. There comes a day when, however regretfully, you must move on . . . preferably to hot, sweet, viscous, milky drinks that warm you both inside (when you drink them as intended) and out (when you spill them down your front because your hands are numb and shaking).

Once again, Sunset Park comes through. Continue reading