Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Farming in the City

I'll admit it. I love farmer's markets. Some have said it's because I'm white, perhaps it's my general interest in fresh food, or preference for produce grown close to home. Whatever the reason, if there is a farmer's market in the neighborhood I'll be there.

Thank you, NY Botanical Garden, for bringing a farmer's market to my neighborhood every week. As a part of a larger Edible NYC initiative, I see this market as a gift to the community. Learning more about the Edible Communities publications makes me want to become a nutritionalist. Just look at the beautiful photos in these magazines. The best part? It's food close to home!

To be honest, the food was not the best part about the market this morning. Today was particularly special because I got to share the market experience with old friends and new. I picked up my honored guests at the Harlem Line train stop and we walked right across the street to peruse the market and pick up some fresh produce (and more) before heading to my apartment for breakfast.

We enjoyed a delicious meal of market goods including cherry tomato, mozzarella, sauteed onion and fresh basil eggs, sliced apples, whole wheat toast and even homemade chocolate croissants. I'd like to say I made the eggs myself, but a more gifted chef stepped in to help while I got the kitchen ready (see previous post on lack of countertop space).

So, "what's in season in my region"? According to the Edible Communities page, apples, Asian vegetables, asparagus, carrots, lettuce, mustard greens and turnips. Any good asparagus or turnip recipes out there?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Park in the Sky

In it's heyday, the High Line was referred to as the "lifeline of New York". The raised railroad was built to save lives and deliver food to the industrial district for almost 50 years. All the cool people (that I know) are talking about this railroad because two years ago the city transformed it from a rundown eyesore to a trendy public park.

I sold a visit to the High Line to Dominic like this: "It's a park. In the sky!" He was intrigued too so yesterday we spent the majority of the day wandering around the West side enjoying the beautiful weather and this unique urban revitalization project.

At first, people were really happy about the High Line being built. The announcement was made in 1929, and at that time it is said that something like three schoolchildren a week were being killed by the congestion of buggies, trains, and cars whizzing down the streets. The raised railroad would allow deliveries to come and go without crossing transportation paths on the ground. Some business owners were so happy they retrofitted their buildings to allow the tracks to run straight through.

The history is rather unfortunate. Ultimately, the railroad was unnecessary and the last delivery (of frozen turkeys) ran on the High Line in 1980. For almost thirty years the structure sat unused and started to turn into a big neighborhood concern. Most people wanted to tear it down.

In 1999, Joshua David and Robert Hammond, two neighborhood residents interested in preserving the High Line, met and realized there wasn't any type of organization fighting to save it. Together they decided it was up to them to make it happen. With a logo (they said that having a logo makes you look important even if you're two people in an apartment) and a shared mission, the two worked to gather support for saving this space. At one point, they had a contest for people to submit ideas for what should be done with this long, skinny track. Some of the most interesting - a lap pool or a roller coaster for instance - seemed cool to me. In the end, a landscape architecture firm and an architecture firm were chosen to work their magic and in 2008 designs to create a public park were released.

Here we were yesterday at the park 30 feet in the sky:

I was glad we could go on a Saturday because at 11 a.m. the park provides a free guided tour. Here was our tour guide. A Fordham alumni:

He told us all kinds of facts and pointed out great landmarks like these old hooks that had been preserved from when the trains still ran. They would unload the meat on these hooks straight from the cars.

There are eight full-time gardeners who maintain the wild plants in the park. The landscape designer intended for careful attention to be paid to the plants so everything must be hand-watered. Apparently the plants- whether through dying, growing or maturing - change the look of the park every two weeks. I imagine it's also pretty spectacular at night.

There are several art instillations to enjoy as well. This one takes the skyline and forms an abstract view of colors and shapes through a viewfinder.

Rachael Ray, in her October 2010 Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine, had a list of 'NYC faves'. She described a little store called BuonItalia as "The best-kept secret in the city". Just as she described, you can go there to get pasta, olives, nuts, grains, cheese and more. When she suggested, "pack yourself a picnic and eat it upstairs on the High Line" I knew it was fate and made the same plan.

This is me with our picnic of fresh bread, salmon pate (we're still a little Seattle homesick), dill cheese, crackers and chocolate.

What Rachael left out was that BuonItalia is right inside Chelsea Market. Such an exciting place! Fresh bread stores, natural food markets, a chocolate bar and stores. We wandered around inside listening to a violin quartet for awhile before buying our picnic food and stopping in to check out a designer clothes sample sale. I think we see the best sites when we're just wandering around.

People have asked what our lives are like in NY so far. Sure, the dreamlike weekend days are fun, but the reality of our day-to-day lives is almost just like Seattle. We both work, we make dinner, we figure out how to manage chores and daily exercise. We are constantly entertained by the surprise Mariachi band concert on the street or the farmers market hidden in the park, but overall we're settling in nicely.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering 9-11

It's not that I would ever forget that day. Walking into Mrs. Bookwalter's AP English literature class, noticing the television, and complaining: "I don't want to watch this movie". It could have been a horror film but it was the morning news.

Nine years later I never would have imagined I'd be standing at Ground Zero behind an ABC News Radio reporter to see the families, dignitaries and patriots line up to memorialize the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

I watched as Governor Paterson was interviewed on the memorial service and the afternoon protests. He described the healing process of the families, how resilient the survivors are and how "there's a lot of good" in New York City. I also appreciated his comment on the scheduled mosque protests. He said that it was a shame they were being held today as this day was meant for those grieving loved ones.

There were a lot of people to watch today so I got to ground zero early and met this guy and his friend Jose who walked here from Hollywood, FL in honor of his children and the future of 'a country coming together'.
One of my favorite people was this man. He wore a huge clock on his shirt that illustrated how we would never forget 9-11. He was definitely not shy in front of the camera and actually recruited me to take a picture with him saying: "Are you smiling? All I want is for people to smile more."

While waiting for dignitaries to come out of the service I met a few photographers and videographers. This Irishman was getting footage for a documentary he's creating for the 10-year anniversary. His angle is on Irish-Americans who were touched by the tragedy. His impression of America: "You're big." I couldn't disagree.

Speaking of dignitaries, it was nice to see Rudy Giuliani in attendance. He stopped for an interview with my ABC Radio 'buddy' and I snapped a quick photo.

I sang an International Day of Compassion song led by an enthusiastic woman who wants 11-9 to be turned into an international holiday. She gave me a t-shirt and asked that I champion her cause. I listened to an Amish choir sing hymns and I had an in-depth conversation on urban revitalization at High Line Park with a Jersey fellow. It was great to get out into the city and experience what New York is about. Thank you for being such a resilient, welcoming and friendly city NYC.

Monday, September 06, 2010

The beginning. Finally.

Someone once said that the best way to realize how blessed you are is to compare notes from the beginning and the end. Dominic and I have gotten into the habit of doing this with weekly prayers. I've learned to notice exactly how specific needs are met or concerns are calmed over time.

It seems like we have plenty needs and concerns these days so I decided to publicly document the beginning of our time in New York. I had a lot of initial reactions and some pretty memorable first-day experiences so I thought you might get some entertainment while I give us something to look back on and laugh about a few years.
After some hurricane Earl drama I was scheduled on a flight to land in Newark. The unintended benefit to landing in a different state? The best train into Manhattan goes right to Penn Station and I was warmly welcomed by Madison Square Garden.

Dominic took me 'home' and I was shocked at how big our apartment was. I don't think it has any more square feet than the last place we lived, but the layout is different so it feels bigger. In the apartment I love our foyer and our bedroom. They have extra space that we can use for relaxing as far away from my workspace as possible.

I began to realize that we were spoiled in our Queen Anne building. In Seattle we had big closets, blinds, a sink disposal, a microwave, countertops and a full-length mirror. Here, although we have none of those conveniences, we do have a fire escape, a 'kitchen nook', four bathtub handles, windows in every room, and neighbors who barbeque on the sidewalk (more on that later). Our floors have had a very long and difficult life. Dominic refers to them as rustic or 'highly distressed' which he has tried to convince me people will pay a premium for.

After relaxing for a bit in our new place Dominic took me out to see Fordham and our neighborhood. It was a beautiful day and Fordham is a very pretty campus. Just look at that picture! It could be in an alumni magazine. To get into campus you have to show a student ID so the grounds are calm, quiet and pristine. We visited the cathedral and Dominic showed me where his classes are held.

Fordham is very close to an Italian community so we stopped for pizza and gelato at a tasty cafe. Dominic has been living on pizza alone for a few weeks and I can imagine why. It was delicious! The slices were conveniently served on paper plates so it's easy to pick up, fold in half and walk down the street with your snack. I'm not good at the folding yet so we sat and enjoyed people watching on Arthur Avenue.

Arthur Avenue, in and of itself should get it's own blog post. It's a bustling street with housewares shops, restaurants, parks, markets and tons of people. Not four hours into my NYC life we passed by a man urinating by the passenger side of his delivery van. Not one to judge the urgency of his situation I turned away wondering if there were different laws in New York, but ultimately decided he must have been in a hurry.

I'm not easily intimidated, but this area is busy. There are more people, more 99-cent stores, and more languages spoken (mostly Spanish) than I have ever experienced where I live. Each time I walk out of the building I'm greeted by the thumping rhythms of ethic beats. There's a fire hydrant which has been spraying the street for three days and twice I've seen cars deliberately drive by for a shower. The key to this new life is to remember that this is my home and my neighborhood. I'm not visiting.

I was pretty thrilled with the Italian market stands. I bought a bunch of fresh basil and a quarter pound of fresh mozzarella for $3, figs, vine ripened tomatoes, and my very own houseplant all on one street. Feeling ambitious, I also suggested we stop at the local grocery store.

Grocery shopping will take a little getting used to. Cereal for $4.99 a box? Unfriendly checkers? Strange looks at my reusable bag? Toto we're not in Seattle anymore. We returned home exhausted and hungry. Good thing I'm crazy about caprese salads.

On Sunday Dominic and I went to church by Central Park. We tried out Redeemer Presbyterian because it had received such rave reviews from our friends around the country. I was impressed and I think we'll go back. The challenge for us is reframing our proximity mindset. Instead of walking up the street to church we may have to schedule a 30 minute metro ride into the city. Instead of connecting with a Bible study on Tuesday evenings we might have to find a volunteer project closer to home. We'll see how that goes.

After church, Dominic and I walked to the pier and took the Circle Line boat tour around the island. It was a beautiful day and a perfect way to be introduced to our new city.

We learned that this morning (and every morning) two out of every five people will wake up in this city having been born in another country.

It's almost as if Emma Lazarus was writing about us:

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" Send these, the Monleys!