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.


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


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

Bushwick constructivist w pedestrian (2)

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)

bush terminal birders (2)

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

The people we pass

11220859_10207499265028701_1802981245041717710_nHis name is Santiago López. On Labor Day morning, he was playing the accordion and singing in front of a shuttered storefront on an otherwise quiet block of 4th Avenue in Sunset Park; I was halfway through an easy 6 mile training run along the NYC marathon course.

Accordion music is a weakness of mine. After passing him (his improvised lyrics referred to “una mujer bonita”), I jogged to the next street, hesitated there, and turned around (“regresa la mujer bonita”).

“I love accordions,” I burbled, fumbling for a dollar in my hardly-sweaty-at-all plastic bag. A dollar, a photograph, a thank you, and an attempted riff of my own, in bad Spanish, about the next time I return, I’ll be running the marathon.

El maratón! He told me how that was him, in 1992, no, 1991. How he went to the United Nations. (We were speaking half in English, half in Spanish, and I was having a hard time following. I guessed he was referring to the pre-marathon event for international runners, which starts with a ceremony at the UN.) Here, he had a picture to show me.

He fumbled around and produced, out of somewhere, a cheap plastic portfolio – the kind that ties shut. He undid the tie, opened it up, and showed me his newspaper clippings.

Except they weren’t about the marathon. There was the front page of El Diario, dated October 22, 1991, with the screaming red headline, “Un charro armado en la ONU” and a picture of a much younger man wearing a cowboy hat and shiny black glasses. Continue reading

Cool treats for the Brooklyn summer: lychee slushie

Lychee slushee and honeydew milk tea (go for the slushie if you dare - it's better as well as colder)

Lychee slushee and honeydew milk tea (go for the slushie if you dare – it’s better as well as colder)

Warning: do not try this when the day is less than sweltering. Avoid air conditioning while consuming. Counter-indicated for individuals with a history of sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia (popularly known as “brain freeze”).

It is cold, so cold. And good, so good.

I got mine at a tea house on 8th avenue in Sunset Park (Ten Ren’s Tea Time, to be precise). On the menu, it’s listed as “shredded ice” (not to be confused with Taiwanese shaved ice, which is a whole nother treat); on the video screen that flashes a rotating display of menu items, it and its many-flavored brethren are labeled “slushies.”

Whatever. It consists of a whole bunch of ice pulverized (shredded?) in a blender with flavored syrup, then poured over tapioca bubbles.

I got a regular ($4 for 12 oz); I think a double ($6 for 24 oz) could lead to frostbite. Did I mention how cold this was?

Ten Ren, by the way, is a Taiwan-based chain that sells tea and various herbal products, elegantly packaged. Once you get past the long line and whirring blenders at the front of the shop, the atmosphere is positively serene. It made me want to start drinking more tea.

Featured in this post:

Ten Ren’s Tea Time, 5817 8th Ave., Sunset Park, Brooklyn 11220

Cool treats for the Brooklyn summer: chamoyada

IMG_3336 (4)To mark the start of July, a new series: icy treats from Brooklyn’s neighborhoods.

We’re kicking things off with chamoyada. This one – an explosion of orange and magenta, overflowing its chili-coated plastic cup to leave you sticky-fingered – comes from El Comal Juguería y Taquería on 5th Avenue (47th/48th) in Sunset Park.

“Is this your first time?” the guy working the counter asked, after I placed my order. (How did he know?) “I hope you like it.”

Oh, I did. My mango version included mango ice (with brain-freezingly cold chunks of frozen fruit); the briny, sweet-spicy sauce called chamoy (from whence the name); a chili-tamarind straw; and strips of dried mango dusted with chili seasoning.

And no, that’s not a cherry on top. It’s a chili-tamarind candy, and it was delicious.

Eating 8th Avenue – a two-part dim sum extravaganza

So long, 8th Avenue; you've been delicious.

So long, 8th Avenue; you’ve been delicious.

At the end of April, with Eric in tow, I headed back to the now-familiar 8th Avenue stop on the N train. It was to be my last “official” visit (reserving the right to come back for unblogged meals) before this blog moves on to another avenue TBD. To mark the occasion, we planned a dim sum blow-out.

So, it turned out, did several thousand other people. The line at Bamboo Garden (8th Ave and 64th St, our intended destination) spilled out the door and around the corner.

Our hearts sank. What to do? We ducked into the food court in an adjoining building, but there was no place to sit. Was everyone in Brooklyn on 8th Avenue that day? It was beginning to look that way.

We ended up at a bakery/diner hybrid called Jade Food Inc., drawn by the declarative simplicity of its awning (“Coffee. Milkshake. Other Beverages. Dim Sum. Bakery”) and the fact that there was an empty table inside. Over (rather watery) congee and (slightly gummy) dumplings, we plotted our next move. Continue reading