Published on 2012-10-09 08:46:00
Upon reaching an entirely meaningless and inaccurate milestone on Goodreads, I've been inspired to put together a list of my favorite 50 books of all time. Ask me next week and it'll be different.
I reluctantly limited each author to only one book, otherwise I could never have winnowed the list down to just 50 entries. The books are in no particular order, but those marked with an asterisk are the ones I would, gun to my head and for highly varied reasons, call my top ten. (At this particular j [..]
Published on 2012-08-15 10:25:00
One frog’s fountain flows forth magnificently, a glittering spuming arc in the late-afternoon light. His brother’s perpetual drool splutters out into a sad little puddle at his feet. An elderly man totters over, reaching into the weaker stream to rinse his hands. Spying him, a young boy dashes over and covers the mouth of the more enthusiastic frog, shielding the old man from an inadvertent shower. The man doesn’t notice, but I do, and I raise my polystyrene food container to the boy in sa [..]
Published on 2012-08-02 08:05:00
2011 New York City subway ridership (hold shift and click-and-drag to move the map):
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2011 ridership information is taken from the New York MTA's website. Some of what I call "stations" are actually "station complexes," which are two or more connected stations--for example, Chambers Street/World Trade Center/Park Place. The MTA counts these complexes as one station in their statistics. Geographical coordinates are from Google Maps.
I didn't include shuttles, the 6/7 express t [..]
Published on 2012-07-16 07:21:00
“Jesus Christmas. I hate this.” Bent double, rubbing his forehead, lumpy hand-rolled cigarette spraying ashes into my lap while he dances at the edge of blasphemy. “I hate this. I really do.”
I can’t tell if he wants to talk, but there are plenty of empty spots in Christopher Park that aren’t right next to me. It’s a tiny splinter in the West Village, surrounded by a nonsensical tangle of streets (West 4th intersects West 10th; Stonewall Place is also Christopher Street; segments [..]
Published on 2012-05-28 10:23:00
Looking north from Sycamore Cove (2006)
On hot days in New York—and after eight months here, I’ve had a few—I remember California and its beach-salt smell mixing with pollution blowing over from Los Angeles. On the hottest day in my memory—during Labor Day weekend, 2007, a dry blast of heat that for sheer Fahrenheit beat out any Philippine swelter—I hopped into my little red Civic and drove up to Sycamore Cove, a dimple in the coastline past interminable Zuma but well south of Oxnard [..]
Published on 2012-05-14 11:35:00
New York has several of the tallest buildings in the world. It has the two most-visited tourist attractions on earth. It contains a single smallish island that, during the day, crams well over one percent of the entire country’s population onto its shores. Its metro system is among the busiest and most extensive anywhere. The city has more people than Switzerland.
For just those reasons, New York’s parks are all the more miraculous.
Central Park tends to grab all the headlines, for good r [..]
Published on 2012-05-07 08:41:00
New York is made out of tunnels, bridges and roads, boxy skyscrapers, green patches of park, a couple of rivers, three big islands and many smaller ones, a few bays, air thick with wireless signals and blaring horns, ringing phones, profanity, the aroma of pizza. Everything is falling apart, in an entropic sense—the brand-new floors being added to One World Trade Center are already past their prime, even as their last rivets are set. The green shoots springing up in Central Park and Flushing M [..]
Published on 2012-04-22 17:16:00
“You! I’m gonna kill you!” Estelle’s finger jabbed in the direction of a middle-aged woman walking past our bench outside Espresso 77 in Jackson Heights. Rain was trailing down halfheartedly, shunted away from us by a skimpy awning, but Estelle kept her umbrella at attention anyway.
The passing woman looked startled and almost instinctively guilty, clutching the cottony evidence of a dry-cleaned shirt. Estelle glared and gibbered. I thought I was in the presence of an octogenarian lunat [..]
Published on 2011-12-17 20:53:00
The most beautiful part of the Brooklyn Bridge is a metal rod protruding from the edge of its pedestrian walkway. This rod is on the south side of the walkway, closer to Brooklyn than Manhattan, covered in rust and connected to a large pipe daubed with gloppy grey paint and plastered with graffiti stickers.
The most beautiful things on the bridge that are not part of the bridge itself are the dozen or so padlocks dangling from this metal rod.
The bridge is renowned for its design—its thick, [..]
Published on 2011-12-07 21:53:00
Screeches, wails, electronic static fuzzing the edges of some irrelevant PSA—“This is an announcement from the New York Police Department”—out of such bedlam come the sounds of another subterranean monster. Its lights glow in the distance. The columns separating the tracks break up the scene, like the edges of film frames flickering across a screen. Your train and this other train are edging closer, smoothly eating up the distance between them, looking like they will converge into one.
Published on 2011-11-22 19:53:00
New York: the city of lights, of sounds, of dreams of the future and visions of the past, city of sewers and parks, of Walt Whitman and John Lennon and the Village Voice, of the Port Authority and Occupy Wall Street; the village of the Dutch and city of the world, an archipelago anchored to the mainland by a single poor peninsula but yearning, like the huddled masses called by its fabled statue, to breathe free.
All of that. But this post is about Elmhurst.
I returned from Asia only to find [..]
Published on 2011-11-13 17:17:00
I mostly receive expressions of sympathy, and sometimes of alarm, when I tell New Yorkers that I’ve never been through a real winter.
“Oh,” they say, looking me up and down, eyeballing my wardrobe and estimating fat thickness. “Do you have winter clothes?”
“I’ll get some,” I assure them cheerily, not bothering to admit that I am in fact already wearing what I consider my winter clothes – jacket, shoes, and a hat when it really gets nippy. Which it hasn’t, not by New York st [..]
Published on 2011-10-22 21:16:00
Aside from the maddening carnival-music-loop droning from one of its beachside amusement parks, Coney Island on a Sunday in mid-October was almost the opposite of its own lore. The boardwalk, particularly at its western extremity, was quiet and desolate. A stiff wind blew clouds of sand in from the beach. Now and then a headbanded jogger puffed by, blinking the grit out of squinted eyes.
Coney Island is a far jaunt from Queens, thanks to the dearth of trains connecting my borough with Brooklyn. [..]
Published on 2011-10-16 20:24:00
“Are you press?”
I couldn’t tell if the man was wary or excited by the prospect. I had just taken a picture of his little daughter. Amid the slow-moving ocean of protesters, gawkers, cops, journalists, and a couple of girls very keen to make it across Times Square to the Best Buy, she was balanced on his shoulders, bearing a sign calling for a books-not-bombs fiscal policy.
I assured the man that I wasn’t the press, though even as I was saying it I wondered what that word even meant an [..]
Published on 2011-09-18 20:05:00
Like the two photos above, September 17’s “Day of Rage” in lower Manhattan sent mixed messages. Inspired by this year’s protests in the Middle East and northern Africa, and named after Chicago’s Days of Rage activities in the late 1960s, Saturday’s activism was… well…
What was it, exactly?
It was a call for the end of unlimited political campaign contributions. It was an indictment of government overextension – and a protest against NYC budget cuts. Marchers called fo [..]
Published on 2011-02-13 19:21:00
(Above) This is where I traveled.(Below) For some perspective…It’s a big world.
Published on 2011-02-08 15:51:00
Hanoi’s Old Quarter is tiny streets and miniscule alleys packed with sellers of all things, from vegetables to headstones. The roads have baffling twists and mysterious termini: you may round a corner and have a beautiful lake filling your view, or
Published on 2011-02-05 18:43:00
In Hue it rained, and most of what I saw was filtered through a café window. I never had to brave any downpours; instead the clouds decided to drip just enough to discourage too much exploring. I embarked on two expeditions to the Citadel, Hue’s o
Published on 2011-02-04 10:50:00
In keeping with my belief that unplanned travel is often the best, Hoi An ended up being one of my favorite stops. I forfeited the remainder of my ongoing ticket to Hue, but a new ticket for the next day was only about 3USD and the extra was worth it
Published on 2011-01-31 06:19:00
It was on my bus out of Ho Chi Minh that I realized I had been living on a relatively small island for the past two years. The bus just kept going and going and never seemed to be going anywhere; it took us thirteen hours and around 450 kilometers to
Published on 2011-01-27 18:54:00
The inescapable thing about Ho Chi Minh is the motorbikes. Every light change unleashes a flood – a deluge – of humming bikes, flowing three or four to a lane. Riders clutch bags, bunches of vegetables and small children as their mounts tilt and
Published on 2011-01-24 18:49:00
Last year I passed into the New Year in Boracay; this time around I gave the holiday a miss and came a few days afterwards. (Thus avoiding “super-peak season” prices.) There’s little to be said about Boracay that hasn’t been said before – o
Published on 2011-01-18 19:25:00
Filipinos have a well-worn repertoire of national Sights and Spectacles to recommend to visitors. There’s Boracay, of course, the country’s dominant party beach; the Chocolate Hills of Bohol, a series of brown papillary bumps in the earth; the ta
Published on 2011-01-09 17:23:00
Hong Kong’s neon arms might be open to foreigners and foreign investments, but I had more trouble getting through its gates than I did entering the red border via Shanghai. After a long wait in line, my immigration official took my passport and sca
Published on 2011-01-02 19:40:00
War was everywhere I turned in Guangzhou. Grizzled men, their skins creased with the stresses of the military life, commanded their soldiers with flicks of their fingers, pondered and muttered strategies with their officers, and observed the triumphs
Published on 2010-12-28 22:46:00
When I arrive in a new place, I like to try to walk to wherever I’m spending the night. Long hikes from train stations and wharves might not be the most relaxing way to spend my first stretch of time in an unfamiliar locale, but it helps me l
Published on 2010-12-26 17:19:00
My train is speeding through arid valleys of dry rice paddies and some dilapidated buildings and hardly any people. Industrial haze is settling into pockets on the horizon. (One thing for the pollution: it makes for great sunsets.) Here are the dirt-
Published on 2010-12-23 19:30:00
My plan was flawless: secure my China visa, get to Kobe, and settle into my reserved bunk on Tuesday morning for a two-night ferry ride to Shanghai.
But as Monday morning dawned, there was no visa in my passport (and no passport, either) and no boat
Published on 2010-11-22 00:42:00
Meiji Shrine, Shibuya
Imperial Palace East Garden
Imperial Palace East Garden
Imperial Palace East Garden
Entrance to Yoyogi Park
Meiji Shrine, Shibuya