life in and around NYC is insane
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Sunday, December 29, 2013
Saturday, December 28, 2013
The 2008 posts:
The 2009 trip:
The 2010 posts:
No trip into the city in 2011 -- that was the year I was under the weather all month.
And last year's post -- no photos, but a good description:
We took the train to Penn Station (32nd and 7th), and that's where our adventure began.
Lovely shot of the empire State building:
Our first stop -- the windows at Macy's. Macy's always does two sets of windows. This year the 34th Street windows featured a "Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus" display -- Macy's sponsored the animated show on TV a few years ago. It's cute, but honestly, the "Miracle on 34th Street" display, which saluted the original move, was a better set of windows. The Herald Square windows had a fluffy bit of froth about dreams and believing. Very nice.
Fortified with hot dogs from a street vendor, we walked over to 5th Avenue. Lord & Taylor did lovely windows, all about high fashion in years gone by.
At the tail end of the windows line, you could pose for a photo, and then retrieve the photo via text message. Of course we did.
Continuing up 5th, we arrived at 42nd Street -- the New York Public Library and Bryant Park. This time of year the Library Lions -- Patience and Fortitude -- wear holiday wreaths. Behind the library, there's an ice rink and shopping village in the park, and of course a beautiful Christmas tree. Sort of a foretaste of what to expect a few blocks further uptown.
Stopped at a deli for a cup of coffee, then headed to Rockefeller Center, otherwise known as the heart of Christmas in NYC. First up were the windows at Saks, which feature their Yeti character in an adventure to discover his artistic talent -- which includes a ride on a NYC subway.
Then across the street, where angels and toy soldiers line the path to the big tree. Topped with a Swarovski crystal star, it towers over the ice rink. And don't forget to walk across the street, where the folks from Swarovski have an older version of the star on display.
(And FYI there are public restrooms on the concourse under Rockefeller Center, should the need arise.)
Next, we walked over the Madison Avenue, and up to 6oth St. to see the windows at Barney's. This was a display of crystal forms and their reaction to light -- to see the main window, you have to walk into a tent. They also have a window called "sleigh ride", where performers interact with the crowd. The light show was good, the interactive performance was neither clever nor funny. Not my favorite.
Next it was back to 5th Avenue, where a huge snowflake hangs over 59th Street.
The windows at Bergdorf Goodman salute holidays throughout the year.
And Henri Bendel has a tribute to the caricatures of Al Hirshfeld.
We walked back down to Rockefeller Center. By now it was dark, so we were able to see the light show on the side of the Saks building. Yes, every few minutes Saks projects a show onto the side of their building, featuring snowflakes and the Yeti. The show this year is much shorter, really not worth the effort unless you've never seen it before. And 5th Avenue gets very very crowded with people watching the show.
Took the subway from Rockefeller Center to Canal Street. Time to revisit an old favorite, Wo Hop. Anyone who "knows" understands that for the real experience you must go to Wo Hop in the basement at 17 Mott St., that the street level restaurant at 15 Mott is simply not as good. You wait on line outside, on the steps, until a table becomes available. The room is small and very crowded, very no frills. The walls are decorated with dollar bills and photos of celebrities who have visited for the food. the menu is strictly a la carte, everything except tea must be ordered from the menu.
We started with soup. I ordered won ton soup, Drew got the won ton egg drop. A small bowl of soup comes with five won tons, can't imagine what a large bowl is like. Steamed dumplings -- most places serve the sauce on the side, but here the delicate dumplings are plated with the sauce. 4D lo mein -- Drew's "go-to" comes with beef, chicken, shrimp and pork as well as vegetables -- piled so high that you can't seen the noodles beneath. And the lemon chicken -- three fried cutlets in an incredible lemon sauce -- was simply the best I've had in ages.
We did a lot of walking. And I do mean a lot. Given my age, weight, medical issues and lack of activity, it's no wonder I was limping by the end of the day.
And today I am in pain! Seriously, all of my muscles hurt as if I'd run a marathon.
Thursday, December 26, 2013
What do Jews do on Christmas? We go to the movies and eat Chinese food, of course.
If it's good enough for Justice Kagan, it's good enough for me.
Yesterday Drew, and I and our friend Flo went to the movies. First show of the day, reduced admission costs, popcorn for breakfast.
We saw American Hustle. Set in 1978, it's a fictionalized version of the ABSCAM scandal. It's an interesting story of manipulation and moral ambiguity. I barely remembered the scandal, had to Google it. Political corruption at its "best" -- the scam netted a mayor, several congressmen and even a US Senator. Loved the nostalgia, the fashions and music of the 70's.
Later, a group of us went to dinner at Jani. I'd never been to the Hicksville location before, though I've enjoyed numerous meals at the Wantagh and South Huntington locations. This location is relatively small in comparison to their other restaurants, they actually had to open the party room to regular diners last night to accommodate the crowd. Service was flawless, with a minor exception -- at the end of the meal the server neglected to ask if we wanted dessert before bringing us the bill. But I seldom order dessert, and we had no interest in it last night.
Our meal was what we've come to expect from Jani. Boneless ribs were succulent, steamed chicken dumplings were delicate and the sauce accompanying them was rich and flavorful. Our favorite shrimp with honey walnuts, sliced pork with vegetables. The most interesting dish was three-flavor chicken, three different chicken dishes on the same platter. Mu shu beef was ok, but next time I'll stick with the Peking beef -- similar dish, the strong flavor of hoisin sauce, but the Peking beef has more meat and fewer vegetables. House special fried rice had a little bit of everything in it. Food was hot, flavorful and filling -- four main dishes and the rice were enough for 5 people, with very little left over.
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
So we were driving through Hicksville (yes, that is a real town, you can look it up) and Drew said to me "There's a house you should see."
The house is in a side street, just off the main road. Every conceivable space on the walls and the roof is covered in a variety of lights, multicolored and blinking beautifully. Every inch of the lawn is covered in figures -- Santa, reindeer, snowmen. It is gorgeous. Over the top.
And then there's the house next door. Simple display of white lights formed into an arrow. And next to the arrow, a single word:
Monday, December 23, 2013
Local movie theater has a program called "Silver Screen". For a small fee you get a classic movie, popcorn and soda.
Today we saw It's A Wonderful Life.
A Frank Capra classic. Jimmy Stewart. Donna Reed. Lionel Barrymore. A story that always makes me cry -- and in a theater full of people the emotional intensity is magnified.
And when you see a classic on the big screen, you are bound to notice details you can easily miss on TV.
The themes resonate even today.
A wonderful film, well worth the $2.
Sunday, December 22, 2013
We've been to the Deer Park location many times, but had never been to the Hicksville location.this location is at the Broadway Mall, but the only access is from the parking lot. Which may explain why is was fairly empty at 8:30 PM on the Friday before Christmas.
It's like walking into a hamburger joint or ice cream shop circa 1962. Red and white decor, Coke posters from way back then, servers wearing crisp white "soda jerk" hats, "oldies" music piped in.
The chain's slogan is "The Original Hamburger", so it should come as no surprise that the menu features burgers, hot dogs and sandwiches, but they also serve salads. And shakes and floats are prominently featured.
I ordered the Route 66, a burger with Swiss cheese, grilled onions and grilled mushrooms. Very juicy burger, keep the napkins close to you. Drew ordered the Philly cheese steak, a huge helping of steak with grilled onions and your choice of cheese. Fries were crisp and tasty. And the server gave us each a smilie face make of ketchup -- a trademark of this chain. Heaven.
Yes, this chain is definitely on our "keeper" list.
Like somethin' is brewin' and bout to begin.
Can't put me finger on what lies in store,
But I fear what's to happen all happened before.
I was four years old and it was the very first time I went to a real theater, and of course it was the fabulous Mary Poppins that my father took me to see. So of course when heard about the movie Saving Mr. Banks it immediately went on my "must see" list.
We saw it Friday night, and it did not disappoint.
This is very much a Disney movie, but it is not a movie for children. The focus of the movie is on P.L. Travers, her traumatic childhood in Australia, and her relationships with Walt Disney and the Sherman Brothers. The movie explores dark themes about childhood traumas and how they make us what we are as adults.
But it's told within the framework of the two weeks Travers came to California to meet with Disney and develop Mary Poppins as a film. So there is Tom Hanks doing a credible portrayal of Uncle Walt, just as those of us old enough to have seen him on TV remember him. And there are the Sherman Brothers, Richard and Robert, singing the wonderful music they wrote for the film.And there is Disneyland, circa 1961, with Sleeping Beauty's Castle and costumed cast members. And we even get a few film clips from the project. What a marvelous trip into our Disney past.
And if Colin Farrel doesn't make you cry by the end of this movie, you are not human.
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
I hold several licenses related to my employment. My licenses have continuing education requirements. NY employer periodically arranges all day symposiums to help us meet those requirements.
Today's session was set for 9:10 AM at our corporate headquarters in the Wall Street area. My plan was to get to the office by 8:45, choose my seat and get my coffee well in advance of the start time.
Famous last words.
My plan was to catch either the 7:16 toi Brooklyn or the 7:21 to Penn Station and the take a subway to Wall Street.
Got to the station just as a train was leaving. Thought it was the 7:16. Turns out it was the 7:08, running late.
Turns out the 7:16 has been cancelled and the 7:21 will make extra stops to accommodate those passengers - the Brooklyn train is a local and the NY train runs as an express, so our ride will take an extra 10 - 15 minutes. And the 7:21 is running 15 minutes late.
And the train is going to be super crowded, so I anticipated standing all the way to Penn.
Well, the transit gods were kind to me. Despite the crowded conditions I got a seat on the train. Didn't have to wait for the subway and actually got a seat. Arrived at our offices at 9:15 and to the classroom by 9:18.
And the class hadn't started yet! Technical issues. Had time to find a seat and get my coffee before the lecture began.
As long as it ended well . . .
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Our visit in 2010 -- http://songbirdscrazyworld.blogspot.com/2010/12/christmas-in-nyc_12.html
and last year's --
Monday, December 16, 2013
Today I had to drop one of my new-found "friends". The blogger wrote something that really got under my skin. I wrote a response in the comments section, which she apparently did not take well -- within 15 minutes or so of my posting the comment, she posted another entry in her blog, addressing my comment.
I don't really want to get into a battle with her, so I deleted her blog from my news feed.
I've only been reading her blog a few short weeks, but I feel like I just dropped a friend.
Sunday, December 15, 2013
Saturday, December 14, 2013
This time it's Drew's uncle Marvin, his father's younger brother.
I've mentioned some of the issues before.
Marvin is 87 years old. He and his wife never had children. Several years ago, after his wife died, Marvin moved in with Drew's sister Shelley. Shelley needed a roommate, someone to pay rent and utilities. Shelley is not the type to be caring for an elderly relative. And that was fine when Marvin was still relative healthy, still employed and still independent. Neither she nor Marvin has a lot of money, but together they could manage the rent and utilities on the house. Shelley cannot manage the rent without a roommate.
But in the last two years Marvin's health has deteriorated considerably. He's been in and out of the hospital and rehab several times. He probably should be in assisted living.
Adult Protective Services has been involved since last summer.
Last summer APS concerned about Marvin's physical well-being. Shelley has been renting that house for many years, and she turned it into something out of an episode of Hoarders. She wouldn't call the landlord to make repairs, because if he saw the mess he would want to evict her. Until APS showed up last August, along with officials from the town, and made her clean up the mess and take her menagerie to the vet to be checked out.
And she was mad at Marvin because he apparently said something to a doctor or nurse to trigger the interest of APS.
Last week Shelley told Drew that APS took over Marvin's finances. Shelley had been handling the money under a Power of Attorney, but apparently someone at APS didn't like what they heard when they asked Shelley to account for Marvin's money.
I found out today that Marvin is back in the hospital. Shelley posted it on Facebook, she didn't bother to call Drew to let him know.
Right now Drew is glad APS, a neutral third party, is involved, because he's worried about Marvin but he doesn't want to be confrontational with Shelley.
This is not going to end well.
I discovered Tolkien when I was in high school. The Hobbit, a lighthearted fantasy, a pure adventure story. And then the Rings trilogy, a dark, tragic story with roots in Norse mythology, a serious story with all the elements of a classic epic journey. Even though the books take place in the sane akternate universe and involve some of the same characters, it's hard to see a real connection.
So I couldn't help but wonder how they were going to stretch The Hobbit, this light, fluffy novel, into three movies.
The answer, of course, is to add subplots and back story, to make the tale of Bilbo Baggins and the Dwarves a true prequel to the Rings trilogy.
Last night we saw The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. This is the second installment of the trilogy, and while it drags a bit in places, it serves as a very interesting "bridge". We get to meet Legolas, we get to meet the dragon Smaug up close and personal, we see Bikbo use the Ring, and we get our first real taste of . . .of where Gandalf goes when he's not with Hobbits and Dwarves.
The special effects are amazing, and benefit from the IMAX 3D treatment. And the ending is a real cliffhanger -- Drew actually gasped and said "No, they can't end it here."
Afterwards we wound up at Denny's. It was only fitting -- Denny's brought back their "Hobbit" menu for the occasion.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Can I just say that I love Ben Stiller?
Drew received an offer for two tickets to a sneak preview of Walter Mitty, which opens Christmas Day.
Loosely based on the James Thurber short story, but very different from the 1947 Danny Kaye movie, this version tells the story of an employee of Life magazine who leads a very boring life, and who "zones out" while experiencing rich fantasies. Everything changes when he loses the negative for the photo destined to grace the final cover of the magazine before it shuts down.
I'm not going to say any more, except that the movie is both humorous and heartwarming, and that I knew where the plot was going before it got there. Definitely worth seeing.
Monday, December 9, 2013
We were fortunate to see Holbrook in this show at the Tilles Center last weekend. What an amazing performance. Holbrook performs for two hours, sharing Twain's opinions on Congress, the monarchs of Wall Street, organized religion, science, evolution, the condition of mankind... His opinions are surprisingly modern.
Wonderful performance. Interesting show.
Saturday, December 7, 2013
Say that to any Long Islander, and they know what you mean. Point your car to the intersection of Long Island Avenue and Wellwood Avenue, in Farmingdale. You will find a small, seldom-used railroad station surrounded by ... Pinelawn Memorial Park, the Long Island National Cemetery, St. Charles Cemetery, New Montefiori Cemetery...
It was rainy and cold on Friday, when our little group gathered together. Our destination was the National Cemetery. Drew's father was never one for religious ceremony, but his service in the United States Army during World War II was something he held dear. And so Drew chose the National Cemetery as his parents' final resting place. It was a simple funeral, 14 of us gathered beneath a canopy near the columbarium. The honor guard, two soldiers in dress uniform, played taps, and folded up a flag to present to the family. Then each of us spoke a few words about Drew's father and mother. And then the funeral director placed the ashes in a niche, and it was over.
It was, as Drew said, exactly what his father would have wanted.
The story involves a friend of a friend. Let's call her R. She is an older woman, never married, socially conservative. You might say straight-laced. Very old school. R lives alone. Her brother J and his family live in the house next door. J is retired from a position in law enforcement. Over the years R has come to depend on her brother J for many things.
So when it came time to decorate for Christmas, of course J did R's front yard as well as his own. R notices that one of the inflatables, a Santa figure, is facing the house. She doesn't know why Santa is facing the wrong direction, but she figures J will fix it eventually, and she doesn't give it any more thought.
But she starts to notice that all the cars in the neighborhood stop in front of her house to gawk at her decorations. Not admire, gawk. So one day she's outside, and someone stops to look at the lawn decor. So she asks him, "why is everyone staring at my decorations?"
And he says "It's because of Santa."
"Santa? what about Santa?"
And he points out to her that Santa has his back to the street.
He has his back to the street for a reason.
The reason is, he's mooning.
Friday, December 6, 2013
Thursday, December 5, 2013
The lure of felafel could not be overcome.
This is a storefront, meant primarily for take-out, with a handful of tables if you choose to eat there.
The felafel sandwich is very filling, no need for a side dish. Felafel was light and crisp, salad was fresh, pita was soft and warm. Next time, though, I will have to ask for extra tahini -- there simply wasn't enough on this sandwich. Broccoli cheddar soup was thin, not creamy, and had large chunks of broccoli. Not bad but not memorable either.
They also serve souvlaki, burgers, etc. Hummis sounded tempting.
It's no Souvlaki Palace. But it's a nice place to grab a bite when Greece starts calling your name.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
I am a woman of many talents. I play many roles -- mother, daughter, lover, friend, employee, volunteer.
But the most important function of all?
I know how to open a can of Fancy Feast cat food.
Or, at least, that's the thinking of three of my admirers.
Three feline admirers, as you might have guessed.
Mr. Kitty and Redford have a lot of people who feed them and take care of them. It's no wonder they expect food from me, I've fed them often enough.
But Duchess? She's a kitten. She's Drew's kitten. When he first brought her home I didn't want to feed her because I wanted her to bond with Drew.
But last weekend I gave her a can of Fancy Feast.
And now the little demon asks me to feed her. She wraps herself around my ankles as if to say "Welcome to the staff."
What can I say? I live to serve.
Repeat that address to any Long Islander of a certain age, and we immediately know what you are talking about.
It was the Amityville Horror, the scene of a vicious murder and a famous haunting.
On November 13, 1974, Ronald DeFeo Jr. shot and killed his parents and four siblings. The DeFeo family had lived in the house on Ocean Avenue since 1965.
George and Kathy Lutz purchased the house and moved in in December 1975 and lived there for 28 days, claiming they were driven out by paranormal activity in the house. In 1977 they published a book, and in 1979 that book became a movie.
Swarms of flies. Glowing red eyes. Greenish-black slime on the stairs. Pig-like demons. Native American burial grounds. Scary stuff.
Was their tale real, or was it a hoax? I don't think anyone really cared.
And hordes of curious teenagers came down Ocean Avenue to gawk. A quiet, dead-end street in a quiet suburban town became an impromptu tourist attraction.
It got so bad that the owners remodeled the house, altering its distinctive Dutch Colonial style, and even asked the local government to change the house number.
I never went to gawk. Nope, not me. Never. Absolutely not.
Well, that's not quite true....
The movie was remade in 2005. Jen was 14 at the time, and really into horror movies. And one day we found ourselves in Amityville. She asked me to drive down Ocean Avenue. And she is convinced she knew which house was the "horror house".
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
From July 1976 through August 1977, he terrorized the City and its suburbs. He was preying on girls with long, dark hair, mostly in lover's lanes. He was known as the .44 caliber killer for the type of gun he used to shoot and kill his victims. Later, in letters left at the various crime scenes and sent to Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin, he referred to himself as "the Son of Sam." His ramblings were psychotic, but his aim was deadly. He killed six and wounded many others, all on the orders of the voices in his head, which he attributed to his neighbor Sam's black Labrador. He was caught because of something so simple as a parking ticket, which put him and his car in the vicinity of the last shooting. Ultimately he pled guilty and was sentenced to six life sentences...
I was 17 in the summer of 1977, going out with boys who actually had cars and were able to drive on our dates. Although all the shootings had been within the five boroughs, our parents were terrified that the shooter would make his way to Long Island, and cautioned us against "parking". Of course we "parked" anyhow, but the idea of the shooter out there lent an element of excitement to our encounters.
We never expected to become victims of the Son of Sam, but we scared each other with stories, with urban legends. Even after his capture, we told tales about how his next target was supposed to be in our Long Island neighborhood...
It kept us scared, at least until September, when we became distracted by another horror -- a book called The Amityville Horror ... but that's a tale for another day ...
Monday, December 2, 2013
My favorite here is the chicken souvlaki, huge chunks of grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato and onions in a warm, soft pita, served with traditional tzatziki. Chicken gyro is also excellent. Greek salad is huge and easily shareable. Lamb souvlaki is tender and flavorful.
We don't usually order dessert, but while I was waiting at the counter for my order I saw the waitress serve up a couple of rich and creamy Greek specialties that almost made me change my mind.
Staff is efficient and caring. The older gentleman behind the counter -- I believe he's the owner -- actually apologized to me because I had to wait for my food, even though my having to wait was my own doing, not the restaurant's fault.
Yes, definitely one of the best.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
The evening started at Matteo's. We'd eaten at the Matteo's in Huntington awhile back and really liked it, and thought the Bellmore location would be good, too. We were not disappointed. Food is served "family style", sort of. A half order serves one, a full order can be shared by two.
We started with caprese salad -- fresh mozzarella and tomatoes. Not bad, but I'm sure it will be better in summer with vine-ripened tomatoes. Fried calamari was light and crisp and not chewy. Veal franchese was tender and sauce was tart without being overpowering. Pasta was perfectly cooked. Marinara sauce had whole cloves of garlic -- yummy.
And I seem to be on a dessert kick -- got talked into ordering tortoni, creamy vanilla ice cream topped with toasted coconut.
And then it was on to the Tilles Center for a performance by Manheim Steamroller. I alwats liked this group but wasn't really a fan. Drew wanted to see the show, so we went. Abd it was a nice evening of music. Baroque crossed with jazz crossed with New Age. The huge video screen behind the live musicians can show abstract patterns or bring you to a medieval banquet hall, a WW I battlefield or a Christmas-decorated living room where the toys come alive.
A nice evening out.
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- countdown to graduation!
- NYC Christmas collection
- Christmas in NYC
- Christmas festivities
- Christmas decorations!
- Duchess surveys her realm
- It's A Wonderful Life
- And to complete our nostalgic turn, Johnny Rockets...
- But I fear what's to happen all happened before.
- Comedy of Errors
- New York City at Christmas
- dropping a blog
- Only a cat . . .
- Old Age Worries, Round Two
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
- Mark Twain Tonight
- funeral in the rain
- Santa, is that you? Oh no!
- And yet another Greek place . . .
- My most important function
- The Amityville Horror
- Songbird Salutes the 70's -- Son of Sam
- And completing the Mediterranean tour...Souvlaki P...
- Matteo's and music
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