Around Town

Tourist in My Town: Brooklyn Bridge Park

Brooklyn Bridge Park is a waterfront park that hugs the East River for about 1.5 miles. For decades it was absolutely derelict.The area inspired plenty of mafia films. The piers were rotted. Everything was either tagged with graffiti or rusted. Old trailers were abandoned with weeds overtaking them.

But thankfully that is a thing of the past. As if you needed one more reason to come to Brooklyn (I mean, come on people!), Brooklyn Bridge Park is now a great space for the community.

At the north end of the park is Jane’s Carousel. Jane Walentas and her team painstakingly restored the horses and chairs by hand over 20 years. I love everything about this place. If I need a pick-me-up, this is where I come. Hurricane Sandy nearly spelled the end in 2012, but luckily the water receded just in time.

Jane's Carousel

The park runs under the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges along the piers lining the East River.  This is definitely an urban, mixed-use park. It’s not a space of quiet contemplation like the Conservatory Gardens.

Large pavilions provide space for organized sports. For the record, I do none of these sports, but I like the idea of someone else doing them.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Look at these intrepid young people playing beach volleyball! Good for you, young people!

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Now this is more my speed: Ample Hills Ice Cream stand. I doubt that Walt Whitman had this in mind when he wrote, “I too lived—Brooklyn of ample hills was mine,” but let’s not quibble. I had a scoop of “Baby, I was churned this way,” and it was delicious.


Brooklyn Bridge Park

I thought this was a clever concept and design. It’s a curved wading pool in a protected alcove. Though it does beg what should have been the obvious question: who wants to wade into the East River? I wouldn’t go in even wearing a hazmat suit.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

During the warmer months, there are concerts and events at this new bandshell. What a lovely view. See the orange Staten Island Ferry docking in Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty to the left of the frame.

Brooklyn Bridge Park


The park is about 75 percent complete so construction is ongoing. The same is true of these luxury apartments being built just behind the park. A two-bedroom unit costs only $3.7 million. Who’s in?


What a bargain! And this view is free. Sweet.


There are quite a few art installations throughout the park. This one gets right to the point.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

I spent hours walking the park and this just scratched the surface. There are even nature walks through the park. Check out Heather Wolf’s photo blog to see the wide variety of birds that live here.

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

The One With the Dancers in Three Acts

Act I

During my morning commute, a company herd gaggle troupe of dancers boarded my subway car. They were young and lithe, wearing leotards, tights, and Jennifer Beale-esque tops that hung off one shoulder. The girls had their hair wound into buns. The boys were broad with postures that would make a finishing school teacher proud. Each of them carried a duffle bag from the Joffrey Ballet School. Inside the bags were probably pointe shoes and rock rosin and bandages. They were headed uptown for a practice session.

With them was a young woman, slightly older, who was their chaperone. She reminded them that their cell phones didn’t work on the subway and to get off the train at Seventy-Sixth Street.

Woman: Which stop do you get off at?

Dancers, in unison: Seventy-Sixth Street.

A burly man sitting next to me: Young people, this train doesn’t stop at Seventy-Sixth Street. It’s Seventy-Second Street.

Woman: Oh, thank you! Did you hear that? It’s Seventy-Second Street.

Dancers, in unison: Seventy-Second Street.

Burly man: Don’t want no one getting lost.

He eyed them all for a moment, making an astute assessment.

Burly man: Young people, are you going to Lincoln Center?

Woman: Yes. How did you know?

Burly man: You want to be getting off at Sixty-Sixth Street, young people. That’s Lincoln Center.

Woman: Sixty-Sixth? I’m so glad we ran into you!

Burly man: Yeah.

By the time I got off the train, the dancers were buzzing about the day ahead of them—a day of creating art, filling the space with graceful sequences, expressing themselves through movement—while I would be staring at a computer screen until the repeated clicking of the mouse caused my wrist to ache.

Act II

When I was a girl, I wanted to dance with Gene Kelly. It didn’t matter that he was well past his dancing years, or that I was only three-feet tall, or that I didn’t know a tap shoe from a pointe shoe. I decided I needed to be prepared for our eventual opus.

I convinced my mother to register me for tap dancing class, though I suspect she was well aware I would not be the next Ginger Rogers. “Are you sure you want to dance? Maybe you’d enjoy karate?” I didn’t know much about karate, but I knew Gene Kelly would not be at the local dojo.

Off to dance class I went once a week. I liked the sound the taps made as I walked across the stage. The music was fun. My teacher was kind with the patience of a saint. I had three pairs of leg warmers. We held a recital in which my group performed under bright spotlights in largely unflattering costumes, but included a snazzy boater hat like the one Gene wore in An American in Paris (below).

I was, and I won’t sugarcoat this, a terrible, and I mean terrible, dancer. (If I’m being honest, things haven’t improved since.) In my mind, I was Cyd Charisse or Leslie Caron. In reality, I looked not unlike a chicken being chased around a coop.

I stuck with dance for another year, tripping my more graceful classmates, uninhibited by my Elaine Benes moves, until I moved to other interests. I never did dance with Gene Kelly. Maybe he was at the dojo after all.

Gene Kelly_Leslie Caron

Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron


Nothing made ballroom dancer and instructor Adrianne Haslet-Davis feel as alive as dancing. “When I’m dancing, I don’t feel the need to be doing anything else. My joy is complete.” When she lost her left leg below her knee in the April 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon, she vowed that she would dance again. About six months later, she did just that. With the help of MIT prostheticist Hugh Herr, she regained her dancing feet. Here, she performs in front of a live audience at TedX Boston.

Do you like to dance?

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

The One With the Creepy Clowns

Some neighborhoods decorate for Christmas with twinkly lights and charming wreaths. Not mine.

But Halloween? Hold onto your goblins. The spookier, the better. It’s like the Monsters, Inc. motto: We scare because we care.

Let’s take a walk around my neighborhood into the ghoulish and the macabre.




Disturbing clowns seem to be all the rage this year. This gives me the creeps.


More clowns. The clown heads light up and spin around. *shudder*


Skeleton 1: So, Marty, how’s it hanging? You look like you’re wasting away to nothing.

Skeleton 2: My FitBit is on its last legs. I’m dying to get a new one. It’s hard to get in so many steps per day.

Skeleton 1: I hear you. You know Larry? Trying to cheat the system as usual. He’s got a new way to increase his steps…






Another clown!


After all the gruesome, let’s end on a sweet note.


Happy Halloween! 

The One With the Shakedown

It’s difficult to live in New York City for any length of time without being on the receiving end of a shakedown. I had a few doozies when I first moved to the city, but since then I’ve honed my Spidey-sense. I thought I’d long passed the point of being bribed by deliverymen, plumbers, contractors, and the like. Oh, was I wrong.

This time, the culprit was a charitable organization. You can see how a person could be fooled by that. The charity was coming to pick up a desk I wanted to donate. I made an appointment through the organization’s website. I entered a special note: No elevator in building. Fifth-floor walk-up.

The day before, I received a voicemail from a guy at the charity to confirm the appointment. No mention of a specific arrival time or restrictions. In late afternoon the drivers arrived and I buzzed them in the building. They came trudging up the stairs, mopping their brows and complaining about the climb. This kind of complaining is like a dentist being annoyed over having to fill a patient’s cavity. I was so glad they showed up at all and I’d finally get the desk cleared out that I missed the first clue. This is NYC and walk-ups are not uncommon. These guys move furniture all day long. For a living.

Now let’s go to the actual conversation.

Guy #1(We’ll call him Henry): Whoo-wee! There’s no elevator in this building? This is crazy.

Me, trying to keep it light: It’s a good workout.

Guy #2 (We’ll call him Johnny): You think I can sit for a minute? I gotta catch my breath.

Henry: We got a bit of a problem here, ma’am. He shakes his head in sympathy. My boss says we can’t move anything from higher than the third floor.

Johnny takes a bandana from his pocket and wipes his face.

Me, my heart sinking: What? it doesn’t say that on the website. I even wrote it in the special notes.

Johnny looks at the print-out of my information: Yep. It says that right here…No elevator in building. Fifth-floor walk-up.

Me: So, if that’s a problem, why wasn’t I told yesterday when the appointment was confirmed?

Henry and Johnny both shrug.

Johnny reviews the print-out again: Looks like you made this appointment….

Me and Johnny simultaneously: Two months ago.

Johnny: I bet you need to get this desk out of here. He taps Henry on the shoulder. I hate to leave you in a situation, but if I tell my boss we took this desk, we could get in trouble.

Henry: Lots of trouble.

Like a babe in the woods, it’s slowly dawning on me.

Johnny: But, look, I want to help you out. We’ll do you a favor; you do us a favor.

There are only two choices in a shakedown:

  1. Pay up to get your 80-pound desk moved four flights of stairs and into the home of someone who could really use it.
  2. Don’t pay up and take a hammer to your desk (thereby freaking your dog out) so you can move it downstairs piece by piece to leave it on the curb for trash day.

Me: Fine. Just move it.

Henry, jumping up with new found energy: All right! I’ll go get my hand truck.

I could have told him from experience that the hand truck wouldn’t be of any use. The turns in the stairwell are too narrow. But he had to learn that on his own. Thirty minutes later, they decide, instead of lifting the desk and carrying it down the stairs—admittedly a difficult proposition, but they are movers, FFS!—they decide to slide the desk down on its top. By the time it reached the moving truck, the desk was scratched and battered, doubtful anyone could use it unless it had a fresh coat of paint and missing screws reattached.

But I went back into my apartment, my wallet a bit lighter, and I did a little happy dance in all that extra space.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of a shakedown? 

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

The One With the Tourists

The New York City subway has a much different feel on the weekends than during standard commuting hours. Belligerent, jaded locals cede the trains to tourists, which is fun on several levels: A. Tourists are generally nicer. B. They try so hard to “blend in.” (Note to tourists: Wearing your backpack on your front is a dead giveaway.) C. They congregate in groups around subway maps trying to figure out how to go cross town. (Short answer: walk.)

It was on a 2 train through Midtown Manhattan one recent Saturday afternoon that we broke through the fourth wall. Most of the passengers were tourists, with a few locals like me sprinkled in for good measure. They were busy staring at me reading a book. I could almost hear one woman whisper. “Look, Harold, there’s one now. It’s rarely seen on the weekends. I think they call it Homo Brooklynius. Put your fanny pack away. You might scare it.”

NYC Subway

A man took the open seat next to me. He was a bit disheveled. There was a hole in his orange shirt and his basketball shorts were two sizes too big. He was rocking formerly white tube socks with sandals. In short, he was a few ticks beyond “eccentric,” but he seemed content, smiling at nothing in particular.

At the next stop a guitar player boarded the train. There is a direct relationship between the number of tourists on the subway and the number of buskers trying to get money entertain them. As soon as the doors closed, he turned up his amplifier to butcher sing a classic Temptations song. He smartly zeroed in on a young woman a few yards away.

“I got sunshine for the girl in the green shirt. When it’s cold outside, I got the girl in the green shirt.”

She looked around to make sure he was talking about her in the same way I would look around if someone pointed in my direction and said, “You’ve just won a million dollars.” Then, in a spirit of if-you-can’t-beat-em-join-em, she started clapping. Our busker kept singing to her. The eccentric guy next to me swayed in time to the music.

So she began dancing. Of course she did.

“What can make me feel this way? Everybody! The girl in the green shirt!”

“Today is my birthday!” she shouted. Of course it was.

Everyone starting clapping while the busker pulled the Beatles card. “Today is your birthday.”

“it is! It’s my birthday!”

The eccentric guy reached into the pocket of his oversized basketball shorts and pulled out a can of Budweiser. He held it high as if to toast the girl in the green shirt and the busker. Then he popped the top with a satisfying whhushhh and took a long swig.

Another woman across the train caught my eye, her mouth hanging open just a bit, and shook her head slowly. She knew it and I knew it. This would never happen during commuting hours.

Have a great weekend, everyone!