crack is wack (the playground)

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The other day I discovered a fascinating little gem in East Harlem near the Harlem River (north-ish of the East River). It’s actually a pretty crummy little place in a pretty crummy area, but there’s this mural. It’s a crazy public art piece by Keith Haring, who was a famous 1980s New York City artist. And it is from this mural that the playground gets its name. That name? Crack is Wack. Oh yes. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Crack is Wack Playground.

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The playground’s a small little thing located between East 127th, East 128th, 2nd Avenue, and Harlem River Drive (the northern continuation of FDR Drive). There are basketball courts et cetera, but it didn’t seem very well maintained. And there’s honestly not much nearby but a bus depot, car dealership, and the rest of Harlem River Park. And Harlem River Park? I ventured over there, then turned tail and walked out very fast. I imagine by the water it’s quite nice, but I got freaked out by a group of sketchy looking guys who were staring at me ’cause I think I interrupted a drug deal … in the middle of the day. Quite ironic given its proximity to a large mural proclaiming that crack is wack, eh?

Anyhow, back to Crack is Wack. For the record: Crack is wack. Kids, don’t do drugs. “Crack is Wack” (1986, the mural) is located at the north tip of Crack is Wack (the playground) next to Harlem River Drive. The mural is on the two sides of a concrete handball wall on a seemingly little used handball court … because seriously, who plays handball? And who wants to play next to a highway? The mural got restored a few years back but I doubt many people venture out to see it, although the orange and black side gets seen plenty by all those people zipping by on Harlem River Drive (which connects to FDR East River Drive).

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As the story goes, Keith Haring painted the mural illegally in response to the crack cocaine epidemic that was basically ravaging New York City during the 1980s. He got a $25 ticket for it and a few months later the New York City Parks Department contacted him and asked him to finish the mural. Kinda cool, eh? Then again, by that point he was already well known so I wouldn’t recommend anyone else going out and trying it. ‘Cause I have an inkling the fine these days is a tad more than $25.

I lived in Harlem for a year (north of Central Park, east of Morningside Park) but never went out to East Harlem except to go to Target or Costco. I was also kinda busy with the time-consuming disaster/masterpiece that was my thesis. However, now that I’m preparing to leave New York, instead of packing I’m trying to knock things off my NYC bucket list – and it’s a long list. The list grew significantly during my time here, since the more entrenched you get, the more things you hear about, and the more you never want to leave. Needless to say, the list isn’t going to get completed, but whatevs. Just another reason to come back, eh? Well … maybe not Harlem. I probably won’t come here again.

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There’s a lot of food in New York. Thank goodness because I’m not a good cook (although for the sake of cheapness, I try). Eating out so often means … yummy midnight leftovers! It also means a very sad bank account … but let’s not think on that, eh?

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Beyond Thai Kitchen: Drunken Beef Fried Rice

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M&O Market & Deli: Fish Sandwich

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Red Rooster: Harlem Chowder

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M2M: Hamburger and Fries

All of these are totally recommended. Beyond Thai Kitchen’s drunken fried rice is really darn good and every time I go to M&O I try a different sandwich and am consistently completely satisfied. Red Rooster in Harlem on 125th is pricey, but it’s worth the trek and splurge … at least once. And as for M2M … I can’t even count how many times I’ve been there or how many hamburgers I’ve had from there – I also really don’t think I’d want to know.

weird morning in new york

Thesis presentation went well – woot! Class paper finally done – woot! Final thesis turn in is … uh oh, back to campus then.

Yesterday morning I walked to campus, taking the same route I always do. Walk walk walk. As I was climbing a set of stairs in the park, a guy in a black suit walked by. Weird, but it barely registers. Walk walk walk. More guys in black suits. Huh? Eh, whatever. Walk walk walk. Woman in white puffy wedding dress. Walk walk walk. WAIT. WOAH NELLY, WHAT? Stop. Double take. Stare. Gaggle of women in sage green dresses walk by. They stare back. Oh, I get it now. Wedding pictures. They’re not actually crossing the park to get to Harlem, they’re just using the park and stairs as a backdrop. But still … woah.

I know it’s not that weird, since it’s a park and the weather is AMAZING and it’s wedding season, but it was still surprising, maybe because my walk to campus is usually done on autopilot. After I made it out of the park I was still thinking to myself: That was weird, right? And then I was confronted with a children’s carnival. Right there along my normal path. It was set up in the street with pony rides and face painting and inflatable bouncy castles and OH MY GOSH IS THAT A LLAMA!?!


Yeah. Weird morning. And in the afternoon I saw another wedding party, but those bridesmaids were wearing blue.

darkest before the dawn

Ugh … almost done! Okay, not really. But one can hope, right? Or is the unrealistic optimism making you gag? I have so much to do in the next few days, it’s crazy. My internal clock is way out of whack. For instance, last night I slept almost 16 hours. Woah. I really could’ve used that chunk of time. But whatever. It’s okay. It will all be okay. Repeat: It will all be okay.

I’m also slightly freaking out because the library sent me a notice that a book I had checked out is overdue … even though I am positive I returned it last week. I did finally quit my job, which is kind of sad, but I’m just not going to have the time for it anymore. And what else? Oh, I’ve lost another few pounds, meaning that I am now approximately 20 pounds under my college weight. Whups. I’ll probably gain it back during the holidays though, so I guess it’s okay.

And hey, New York is pretty in the early morning. You know, in that rare space of time when there are no rats or people.


the magic of costco

On Sunday, I took my first-ever trip to Costco. And it was ridiculous. I had heard of Costco before, but it always seemed silly to pay in order to shop. Now, I kind of understand why people do. Although how many people really need that many sausages? Or a gigantic slab of cheese? Or enough dish soap to last you a lifetime? Since I live with three other people, buying some things in bulk made sense. The food samples totally made it all worth it. But yeah … it was still pretty ridiculous. We were originally planning on taking the bus back home, but with the amount of stuff we ended up with, we had to go with a taxi. All in all, it was quite an entertaining adventure!