Vinegar Hill

I never really thought that I would think "Oh this reminds me of home" standing the middle of New York City... and then I stepped foot in Vinegar HIll. It was a little on the deserted side when I visited several months ago. It was so quiet, I could have very well been in the middle of my hometown several hundred miles south of The Big Apple. Instead, I was a couple blocks away from DUMBO and staring straight across the East River into Manhattan (when the view allowed). A photo of the Golden Girls on my way back to a subway station only made the visit that much sweeter. 

Neighborhoods of New York, much like the latest evolution of this blog will most likely be an experiment - until a project (or two) finds its voice. For the past year I've wanted to continue blogging, but wasn't quite sure of how I wanted to go about it. So I kept waiting, until I could figure it out... Until now, I'm tired of waiting, and have decided there's nothing wrong with experimenting until something- or all the things- feel just right. 

Brooklyn Bridge

My advice for your inaugural visit to the Brooklyn Bridge is to go early. Head out of High Street station and walk through the park towards the Brooklyn Bridge entrance. It'll be a little dark under the overpass, but it's hard to miss, especially with all of the signage and tourists heading in the same direction.

Initially, walking towards the bridge didn't feel very special. You're very much in the middle of an expressway and most likely, surrounded by a a ton of people with cameras and tour guide books, most of whom are oblivious to which lane they should be walking in. There are two- one for bikes and one for people, not one for one direction and one for the other direction. If I were on a bicycle I would have run into half a dozen people in the wrong lane. Fortunately those who were on bikes had a lot more patience than I might have had.

The closer you get to the first arch, the more special the visit starts to feel. You're not as in between cars whizzing by on either side, as the traffic is now below you, and the cables going in what feels like a thousand different directions seems to almost mask out everyone else. It also helps to look up admiring the cables creating lines and angles in every which way.

As I stood under the arch, reading the plaque, I patted myself on the back for remembering that it was Roebling who designed the bridge. I knew this because he also designed the (John A. Roebling) Suspension bridge linking Northern Kentucky to Cincinnati nearly thirty years before The Brooklyn Bridge was built. In fact, John A.'s patent of wrought iron chain links are nearly identical to the ones his son, Washington would later use to secure The Brooklyn Bridge. Cool, right? Or maybe only cool to those of us from the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati area.

I think the view is better walking from Brooklyn towards Manhattan. You're always walking towards the impressive downtown skyline. And if you walk all the way across the East River, you'll find yourself in Chinatown, where you could easily spend the entire day sampling pork buns and picking up cheap t-shirts, sunglasses, perfume, handbags, etc. etc. OR you could turn around in the middle, like we did for some famous pizza. Don't miss out on the "Welcome to Brooklyn" sign on your way off of the bridge walkway. Because I'm new to both Brooklyn- and having a home again- it gave me a wonderful warm and fuzzy feeling knowing I can humbly say Brooklyn is my home!

Brooklyn Museum: Ai Wei Wei & Swoon

Andrew and I became members of The Brooklyn Museum shortly after we moved into our apartment just down the street. My immediate motivation was to attend a talk about street art in Brooklyn by founders Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo. Afterwards there was an open panel that included Swoon, a Brooklyn based artist who currently has Submerged Motherlands on display in one of the museum's rotundas. The talk was great and Swoon's exhibition is pretty rad- but more on that later. 

Before you even get into Ai Wei Wei's According to What? exhibition, don't miss S.A.C.R.E.D. This installation was made specifically for the Brooklyn Museum exhibition. We walked right by it, because we either didn't see the sign, there wasn't one, or we were oblivious. Perhaps it would help if you are more attentive than we were. From first glance the installation just looks like giant iron boxes perhaps left-over from or in preparation for some building construction. If you see a smaller wooden box sitting against the bigger steel box, go stand on it (like this little guy in with the awesome bike helmet) - and look down!

The boxes are, according to Brooklyn Museum, "mini-prisons that show scenes from Ai's 81-day detainment in a Chinese jail, where he served time for tax evasion charges in 2011. The dioramas depict Ai eating, bathing, and sleeping with guards hovering over him." You can also view the inside of the boxes from little windows on the opposite side of the "ceiling" view sides. (It'll make more sense when you see them, I promise) En route to the elevators, it's harder to miss the Forever Bicycles installation. To hear Ai Wei Wei's inspiration for the installation, watch his video explanation here!

With my friend, Gina in tow, our first stop was to have a little fun in front of one of Michelangelo Pistoletto's mirror paintings. Back in August, Andrew and I saw these mirror paintings at the Louvre while we were traveling around the world. I love it when I recognize artwork, and even more when I can remember where I saw it last! Gina and a friend have funny glasses that they wear for pictures in different places and send to each other. She let me join in on the fun!

We got a little turned around thinking we'd see Ai Wei Wei first and then Swoon. This was a bad idea. After our trip and the many, many museum visits in many different countries around the world, Andrew and I have decided we should probably start a museum consulting firm. As much as I already love The Brooklyn Museum- their signage is terrible! There aren't any maps (that we could find) anywhere, and when I thought I was picking up some information on Ai Wei Wei, it turned out to be a pamphlet on how to become a member... WHEN I ALREADY AM! Lesson to share: just head to the fifth floor first. Seeing Swoon's Submerged Motherlands will make up for any prior confusion. While I admit- I couldn't stop taking pictures... you must read more about the exhibition here, and then go see it in person.

If you're not as familiar with Ai Wei Wei, I urge you to check him out. I'm a huge (*huge*) fan. He's one of those artists I want to meet, have a cup of tea with, hang out in his studio for the rest of my life hours with... Perhaps you might feel the same. Unless, maybe you're attached to Han Dynasty vases...




Cherry Blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Preface: This blog took a major backseat as Andrew and I shuffled around from one friend's pull-out sofa in DUMBO - to a two-month studio sublet in Midtown - to another friend's futon in Crown Heights as we looked for an apartment of our own all while grieving the loss of our friend Leanne and then making a last minute trip down to Kentucky to try as best as I could to be supportive for my oldest and one of my dearest friends who was going through a difficult loss of her own. I'm pretty sure that run-on sentence doesn't even begin to convey how challenging our first few months in New York City has been.

When we were in Mozambique stuck on 13+ hour long bus rides with Andrew's swollen (infected from the Tanzanian bus crash a few short days prior) leg, we'd ask each other if we'd rather be teaching our worst class periods back in Korea. We would laugh, and inevitably agree the 13+ hour long bus ride was better. It helped put things into perspective. As we tried to navigate these past few months, I think we'd both agree that even teaching our worst class periods would have been more enjoyable. It's been a rough, rough few months. But we're finally settled into our own (glorious walk-in kitchen and  three closets included) one bedroom apartment. And while I'm still searching and interviewing for jobs, it's much easier to focus on this project now. So here we go. Apologies for the delay. Hopefully life won't get in the way of exploring New York City any longer, Spring is so much prettier to photograph anyway!

With the new beginning of this blog, I thought it fitting to explore one of around our new home in Brooklyn. We're in love with the location, and after exploring some of Prospect Park, The Brooklyn Museum, and The Brooklyn Botanic Garden you can probably see why! If you head out of the subway stop exit and double back on the south side of Eastern Parkway, you'll find yourself at one of the entrances to The Botanic Garden. If you want some greenery, but not the crowd, head up the slight incline into a small (but quiet) section of Prospect Park. This little section is cut off from the rest of the park by Flatbush Avenue and seems to be a bit of a respite in between the Brooklyn Library and the Botanic Garden. On the few occasions that I've walked through, it seems to be a popular spot for moms (or nannies) and small children, who could probably entertain themselves for hours on the sweet playground set up.

Or head through The Brooklyn Botanic Garden for a stroll. I have to say- it's the absolute perfect getaway from the urban grind of New York City. After this slog of a winter, walking under the cherry blossoms in bloom feels downright magical. And even though the park was crowded (there are always long long lines down Washington Avenue over the weekends) there was still plenty of room and space within the garden so you didn't feel the same effects as you do, say, stuffed inside a subway car.

Juliana's vs. Grimaldi's

Fact: Everyone in New York knows - and will tell you where you can get the best pizza in New York.

Fact: Everyone will tell you a different place.

I'm still in search of my favorite. And in this search (and out of curiosity) I had to check out Grimaldi's and Juliana's under The Brooklyn Bridge. These pizza places might be more famous for the rivalry between them than they are for their pizza, but I had to find out if a visit to either was worth the long lines often winding down the block - especially on a Saturday. I should have been more scientific about my comparison, but I wasn't. I took one friend to Juliana's first (last week) and another friend to Grimaldi's today. I didn't even get the same kind of pizza, so I'm not quite sure I can speak to one being better than the other... (I know, I know, What good am I?)

You're probably wondering about this infamous rivalry. And if you want a detailed report, read this article. The same article is hanging in Juliana's front window, so you could wait until you visit to read up on the details. To make a long rivalry short- the original pizzeria was owned by Patsy Grimaldi and called Patsy's. But when a group took over his uncle's pizzeria (the original, so to speak- of the same name) in Harlem in the 90's, he was forced (by way of an expensive legal battle) to change his own Brooklyn pizzeria's name from Patsy's to Grimaldi's. In 1998, wanting to retire, Patsy and his wife, Carol sold the business to Frank Ciolli. What began as an amicable relationship between Ciolli and the Grimaldi's began to wan over time, as did the quality of pizza- according to Grimaldi that is. Despite the pizza not being made to Grimaldi's high standards, restaurants began popping up around the country. Recognition grew- but the institution began to turn into a chain much to Grimaldi's dismay. After a separate legal battle involving Ciolli, the Grimaldi's decided to open up a new pizza joint in the original location, with the original pizza oven. They named it after Patsy's mother, Juliana.

I decided to head to Juliana's first. My friend, Sarah and I arrived around noon on a weekday, hoping there wouldn't be a line. When we arrived, there wasn't a line, but I'm pretty sure we got the last available seats at the bar in the back of the restaurant facing the chefs and pizza oven. It was busy, and we had to wait awhile for our pizza. So long that by the time it arrived I completely forgot to photograph the pizza itself because I was so hungry. We ordered the No.4 (tomato, mozzarella, arugula and prosciutto) and while it was good- I would have liked more mozzarella and an unanticipated wave of nostalgia for a pizzeria in Seoul washed over me. Strange, right? But you see, the pizza in Seoul was served with a warmer- and the pizza at Juliana's could have benefited from something similar. By the time I reached for my second slice, the pizza was already cool. Perhaps we were talking too much, or eating too slow, but it wasn't as hot- not even as warm- as I would have liked it to be.

A week later, I went with another friend to Grimaldi's. Again, I suggested a weekday and we arrived to the restaurant a little after one in the afternoon to a short line, but no wait at all for a table for two. We compromised on our order and got a regular pizza with mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes. I liked Grimaldi's grittier setting. I felt like I was in an old school pizza joint compared to Juliana's more modern approach. I wasn't as fond of the waiter yelling at customers for sitting in the wrong spot while we waited for our pie. I read later that the waitstaff's gruffness is a standard, one that I'm not really a fan of. Grimaldi's felt much bigger, but our pizza came much quicker and seemed cheesier than Juliana's. It also seemed to stay hotter longer. By the time we left, a longer line had formed, similar to our experience at Juliana's. But I didn't feel rushed at Grimaldi's like I had at Juliana's. I want to like Juliana's more than Grimaldi's but I'll probably head back to Grimaldi's first, and then perhaps Juliana's immediately after for a more proper comparison of the two. Who's with me?

Shake Shack

Andrew got a job! We went to Shake Shack to celebrate! It was our first time... and it was amazing. Perhaps relief of having at least one income again flooded our tastebuds, but our burgers tasted glorious. It was our first triumph in New York City; a job and a burger to celebrate. For this reason alone, Shake Shack will always hold a special place in my heart.