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Sunday, August 23, 2009

They were careless people, Tom and Dasy--they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made. . . .
(The Great Gatsby, pp 180-181)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Day five - Successful coffee trip!

On Tuesday I was finally successful in hunting for great coffee in NYC. I started out at Macchiato, in Midtown. The place was VERY modern, house music on the speakers, a packed house, and sleek design everywhere. I had a tasty cappuccino there with nice latte art.

I continued by jumping on the subway and roaming around like a fool for about 40 minutes, which didn't seem like a promising start. But after a couple of wrong turns I lucked out and ended up exactly where I wanted to be: just a few blocks away from Cafe Grumpy.

I had a really nice cappuccino there, and chatted a little with the baristas about their coffee. They use multiple roasters and feature a "guest espresso" on rotation, which I thought was a pretty cool thing to do.

From there I went on to Chelsea where I visited Ninth Street Espresso in Chelsea Market. Wandering around outside the Market, I encountered The High Line, an amazing example of adaptive reuse and sustainable landscape architecture and design. From there I wandered around some more and ended up doing some window shopping.

After that I met up with Lan and Dan to watch cartoonist and humorist Michael Kupperman perform at The Strand bookstore. Fun, hilarious, and I got a signed copy of his new book Tales Designed to Thrizzle, vol. 1.

From there I left the group to meet up with Wade at a bar called Gatsby's. We had a couple of drinks, then went for a slice of pizza. Not a lot going on in the area, so we went back to Greenpoint (Brooklyn), where Wade lives. We popped into a couple of bars, but ended up at a really nice place called Black Sheep. The owner was there, so I chatted with him a bit about craft beers and the Brooklyn bar scene. He gave us a bag of Doritos, and then we headed home.

Another great day in New York!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day four - Failed coffee trip, Rock of Ages

On Monday I made an effort to check out a bunch of different coffee shops around town. I pretty much failed. This was the first day I was on my own. Lan had to go to work, so we had a quick coffee at Oren's (a cappuccino--way too foamy) and then I set up my game plan. They didn't have any outlets at Oren's, so I tried to make my map on my phone, which didn't work out too well.

I got on the subway and rode back and forth for about 40 minutes for what should have been a ten-minute ride to Counter Culture, a coffee roasting company originally from North Carolina. Counter Culture is one of the most respected coffee roasters in the country, and I was really interested to see their setup in NYC. It turns out it's really just a training facility. I talked with a girl that worked there named Meister, who was super friendly and extremely helpful in getting to know some good coffee places to check out here in town. I promised that I'd see her again on Thursday night for the latte-art competition.

After leaving Counter Culture, I ran across the street to a place called Hill Country BBQ. Funny, right? The sign promised Lone Star, a bunch of Texas stuff, and good BBQ, so I thought I should check it out. I had a pulled beef sandwich, some mac and cheese, and a couple of Lone Stars and they were all quite good. The staff was ridiculously friendly, and we chatted about Texas, BBQ, and what to do in NYC.

From there I got a hold of Wade who was working on setting up the space for his new art gallery. Getting over there was much easier than it was to get anywhere else, and soon we were catching up over a couple of Stellas at a place nearby. It had been about five or six months since I'd seen the guy, so it was nice to hang out. We'll see more of each other this week for sure.

From there I took a cab to Manhattan to meet up with Dan and Lan because we had tickets to see Rock of Ages, a Broadway musical featuring the music of Journey, Whitesnake, Styx, Poison, etc. Before we went, though, we stopped at a food cart called Biryani Cart for some lamb wraps that were pretty great. Apparently Biryani Cart won best vendor food in 2008. I can't really validate that, but the food was pretty damn good.

Rock of Ages was awesome. It was kind of a sleeper thought--the first ten minutes seemed really cheesy and kinda dull, but after that it really took off. It was funny, exciting, and all the performances were really impressive. I have never seen a Broadway show before (well, not on Broadway), so this was a really fun experience.

After that, Lan and I trudged home through Manhattan, had a quick whiskey at the bar around the corner from his apartment, and passed out. Another great day.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Day three - Dinosaur Jr, etc.

I've only been here for three days and my feet are killing me. I've walked at least ten times more per day than I normally do.

Checked out a couple of spots that I really wanted to go to yesterday. First, we stopped in at Oren's, a coffee shop near Lan's apartment that he frequents. It was reasonable, but I got the impression that great coffee wasn't their main focus. They had an enormous four-group Marzocco (it looked like a GB5, but it was hard to tell). I had an Americano, and the barista waaaaay over extracted the shot. Plus, I have to say that when I got to a place that has frappes and all kind of sweet drinks on the menu, I kind of take it a little less seriously.

Immediately after that we went to Joe, whose tagline is "The art of coffee." I had a macchiato there, and it was really nice. Joe has five locations, and is really well-designed as far as their menu and the layout of the store. I would definitely go back.

Then we went over to Shake Shack on the Upper West Side (71st/Columbus, I think). Wow. As a business, these guys are doing pretty much everything right. They make a great product, the space has a great aesthetic, friendly staff, and somehow they've managed to make being extremely busy and having a huge line part of their image and appeal. I had two shack burgers, fries, and a lemonade. It was all very good.

After eating, we made our way to Central Park, where Saviors, The Walkmen, and Dinosaur Jr were playing a free show as part of their summer concert series. Can't beat that, right? I've never heard of Saviors, but they were a really solid metal band from Oakland with lots of tattoos. The Walkmen were of course great, but Dinosaur Jr. rocked our asses off. These guys are a group of super-talented professionals who know exactly what they're doing. They were totally on fire.

I've had a few recommendations for coffee here in NYC, and I'm looking forward to checking them out today. I really want to check out Counter Culture (and possibly the throwdown on Thursday), Gimme Coffee, Ninth St. Espresso, Stumptown, Kaffe 1686, Stumptown, and Intelligentsia. Any other recommendations are very welcome. Let me know!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Day two - Rockaway Beach

(This may be a short post, because we're about to go to the Central Park Summerstage and watch The Walkmen and Dinosaur Jr.)

People in New York spend a lot of time talking about where things are and how to get there. It makes sense--the city is so big and there are so many ways to get lost. Plus, it makes you look like you're really smart and savvy. The subway does seem like it's pretty intuitive, and even if you don't know what you're doing you should be able to get around if you pay attention. People here are also a lot friendlier than pop culture would have you believe. When I got off the plane the other day a lady picked her bag up from the carousel, and her bag busted open, strewing her clothes and personal items all over the carousel and the ground. Every single person who was standing nearby grabbed something and helped her get it together. Very nice!

I woke up early yesterday, showered, dressed, and headed to the subway. Lan lives Manhattan, and it's very easy to get around by subway from here. I headed over to LiLi's--she lives in Greenpoint, which is in Brooklyn. Greenpoint is the Polish area of town, and there are all kinds of Polish stores, meat markets, signs, and people all over the place. We headed farther south to meet some of her friends who would then drive us to the beach.

I forget that many people don't drive here: When it came up in conversation with people we met on the beach they all seemed pretty impressed. The beach itself was crowded with all kinds of people, and the weather was perfect. After a few hours, we headed over to a popular taco stand and an Italian ice place--each of which were really delicious. From there we headed back to Greenpoint via car/subway and got ready for the second TV Torso show, which was at a place called Sheas Stadium.

There was this crazy art-rock-freakout band from Atlanta there called the Back Pockets that were in parts really great and really awful. TV Torso was supposed to play at 10:30 but ended up going on at 1:30 a.m. In between me and LiLi stopped at some little Mexican bakery and had a torta and a burrito, which I think made me sick later. TV Torso played about half a set--and played like men posessed--after which point we were all really exhausted so me and Lan just trudged back home and passed out.

Now time for Dinosaur Jr. and the Walkmen!

FOR THE FUTURE: I'm thinking about going to this (via Jen Hellow):

Saturday, August 15, 2009

First day in NYC was a good one. Flew Jet Blue, got to JFK early. Met Lan at the Sky Train terminal and headed to the subway. They say the subway is easy to navigate, but I have no clue what I'm doing yet.

We dropped off my bags at his place and then went to a place called The Burger Joint for dinner. The burgers were really good, but probably the coolest thing about this place is that it's totally hidden--literally, behind a curtain--within a French hotel called Le Parker Meridien. We both had a couple burgers and some fries and cokes--it really hit the spot.

Then we wandered over to a place called Billy's Bakery in Chelsea where we were the only two straight men munching on sweets at 10:00 p.m. They also have coffee there, so I got an 8 oz. Americano and Lan got an iced soy latte. They have a cute little dual-group La Marzocco there. The coffee was good, but it didn't knock my socks off like the apple pie did. Wow, it was AMAZING.

Then we went into Brooklyn via subway to watch TV Torso play at a little hipster oasis called Goodbye Blue Monday. Beers weren't too expensive (for NYC)--$4 for a PBR tall boy. Met DO there, who is a pretty great guy--born in Brooklyn himself. TV Torso was awesome, but Austin, the bass player, got shocked really bad by the microphone which very nearly ended the show.

We headed back to Midtown-East to see what kind of trouble we could get up to. For some bizarre reason Lan was hungry again, so the three of us went to Pho 32. A few minutes after we sat down, a group of four showed up next to us and before long the seven of us were belting out Bon Jovi songs in the middle of the restaurant. . . .

Fast-forward forty minutes and we're a block away at a Korean karaoke joint with private rooms rocking out with a bunch of strangers and drinking canned Coors Light. The strangers LOVED Texas (especially Austin), and were down for a good time. When it was time to go it was 5:00 a.m., and me and Lan trudged back to his place where I immediately passed out on the couch. Amazing day.

Today: Going to Rockaway Beach with Li Li, more food and coffee, and then an encore TV Torso performance (get to see them twice here!). More + pics soon!

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Just weighed myself. I weigh 204 lbs. That's the most I've ever weighed, but a lot of it is new muscle.

It's funny, when you meet basketball players, you realize how much bigger than normal people they are. But when I look at the stats of some NFL players, I realized that by the numbers, I'm bigger than they are (and sometimes stronger--according to the number of reps they do on bench press, which is published information).

By no means to I have the talent or athleticism to become an NFL player, but it's still kind of weird to think that I could beat a pro athlete at arm-wrestling. Or at least be bigger than him.