Friday, January 20, 2017

A Walk in Harlem

After having fairly thoroughly exhausted my New York City Pass, it was time for exploring the part of the city that I lived in and go for a walk in East Harlem and walk over to Harlem. I wasn't doing anything in particular, mostly just looking to explore the city and take pictures, see things I had not seen before and maybe understand the place a bit better. I've never been so disconnected from a place I lived in, but Harlem I was disconnected from.

The day was pretty warm, again, the entire Christmas season had been warm, so it was a good day to go out and take a random walk to see what I could see. I hadn't eaten so I figured I would also take this as an opportunity to eat some Harlem Street food and take in some Harlem restaurants. For the most part I stuck to 116th street. I wasn't doing an kind of specific historical tour, just really curious to see what was down the block.

For the most part it was a quiet day. I walked to the little outdoor taqueria I saw all the time on my way to the train and stopped in for a breakfast of two chicken tacos. They were absolutely extraordinary. I talked to the lady running the shop in my poor Spanish/Korean until we were both amused. She gave me some free dessert which I failed to eat.

116th is a strange blend of things as you have all the historical and a touch of modern with a ho-hum run down feel. It's easy to understand why films shoot here when they are trying to get a sense of New York in the 1970s. It feels like it hasn't advanced that much since the 1970s.

I walked down to the La Marqueta, an outdoor market that is open during the season but has a few things going in the winter. I discovered Hot Bread Kitchen, which I had never heard of at all. They sell bread and employ local women and people who have trouble getting jobs. I also happened to show up during their special holiday deal, that they usually only do after 5 on weekdays, bread on a sliding scale. As much bread as you want, pay what you want. This is to help provide locals who might not have access to high quality food a chance to feed the family, while supporting growth in the community. I was very impressed.

From there I walked towards Malcolm X boulevard and for the first time walked into the Harlem African Market. I had seen this so many times, but had never gone in. It's a very interesting place run by African expats and immigrants where a number of traditional items from the home country are sold. Lots of beads and jewelry, statues, bags, hats, dresses, shoes, etc. It was very bright with a sort of vibrant life that fit well into the walls of Harlem.

I walked past old churches and run down brick and mortar houses, I walked through the various different retail avenues, avoiding groups of men who catcalled and whistled as I walked past taking my pictures. I walked with care and caution to get the photos without making myself a target for theft. I walked all the way down to 8th avenue, where I decided to take in some chicken at StreetBird. The place had great ambiance, and good drinks, though I liked the chicken from the local Cuchofritos place a bit better.

I walked down to the local butcher and finished with a piece of cake at Make My Cake in Harlem, which is a fairly popular shop and an institution with celebrities before finally walking back home. I don't know if I felt more connected to Harlem at the end of it, but somehow I did feel more at ease. Like I had finally stopped being a tourist and was now becoming something else.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

New York Goth as Fuck

After getting done with a very long tour of the Intrepid museum I realized two things.

1) I was super hungry.
2) It was drinking time.

So, how to kill two birds with one stone. When I was teaching at a school downtown on the weekends I kept going through Grand Central Station and seeing the Grand Central Oyster bar. For some reason this came into my head at the very moment that the best way to follow up a tour on a ship was to go and get some oysters and fish. Water does this to me, I won't apologize for it.

So, I got on a bus and headed towards the oyster bar and suddenly caught a glimpse of myself in the bus window. The day had turned dark and rainy and I was wearing a black hoody dress and suddenly I needed to put the hood up. As I looked at myself in the window I exploded in giggles.

Wearing knee high Doc's? Check.
Wearing six shades of black? Check.
Wearing deep black eyeliner? Check.
Wearing a hug black caplike hood? Check.
Wearing a leather jacket? Check.

The only thing I was missing was a pack of clove cigarettes. I was as goth as it comes.

The oyster bar was lovely. The bar tender angled to get my number, which I politely managed not to give. The train ride home was quiet and contemplative.