battery park’s seaglass carousel

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I have a thing for carousels.Ever since I had back surgery in high school, I can’t ride roller coasters. I was never that fond of roller coasters to begin with, but once that option was taken from me, I just really want to ride a roller coaster. It was even more Tantalus-like because I lived about five minutes from Kings Island (I could see their fireworks from my backyard), and when my high school physics class took a field trip to Cedar Point, guess who rode the merry-go-round again and again and again?

Anyhow, I learned to love merry-go-rounds and carousels and have made peace with the fact that I will never ride a roller coaster ever again. No matter. While roller coasters rely on screams and thrills, carousels are works of art. Take for example the SeaGlass Carousel in Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan. It was built while I was in Shanghai, so I hadn’t heard of it until I was interviewing for jobs. The firm I was interviewing at (but who didn’t get back to me until I had been at my current job for a month already – what’s up with that?!) had worked on the project and they showed me a video of it … and I was mesmerized. So when my sister was in town, I dragged her down there and we rode the carousel.

Totally awesome. Lights, colors, trippy music, and fun for all ages. It was a bit pricey at $5 for a 3.5-minute ride, so it’s not something you could ride on repeat without going broke, but I’d definitely go again.

SeaGlass Carousel
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Battery Park (entrance at State and Water Streets)
New York, NY
Open Daily, 7 AM – 7 PM

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chandeliers in treehouses (tbt)

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Toshihiro Oki Architect P.C. with Toshihiro Oki, Jen Wood, and Jared Diganci, “tree wood,” 2013

This was a pretty cool project, and one that I almost didn’t see. The last summer I was in New York, I was living in Astoria, but didn’t explore much of my neighborhood until the last few weeks I was there. It was July (2013), and it was hot, but it was also so green and beautiful. Ah, how I miss TREES in Shanghai! Anyhow, it was my first time to the Socrates Sculpture Park, and for the most part I found the park to be just so-so – nothing wildly impressive, but a nice stroll.

This particular project “tree wood” was pretty cool, although it blended in so well with the trees I almost completely walked past it. Socrates is a sculpture park, but this was more along the lines of installation art or temporary architecture than sculpture. Basically it was a tree house structure of sorts, framed with two-by-four studs, with a chandelier, which just won the whole thing. With the streaming sunlight and the quiet tranquility of the park and the sheltering of all those leaves and branches, the project had a really interesting quality to it, natural yet manufactured, unfinished yet refined, public yet secluded.

Not sure if this is still up since it’s been over a year since I visited, but regardless, I love the idea of the project.

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And whaddaya know, the project was designed by architects … I wonder if that’s why I appreciate it so much. I think it’s true that there’s no such thing as a ‘former architect,’ because even though there are many of us who have moved on to other fields, I feel like there’s some sort of weird bond/understanding between architects (past or present) where we just ‘get’ each other. I was talking to a jewelry designer whose pieces I admired, and whaddaya know, she was trained as an architect. Maybe it’s suffering all those hours in studio that gains one entry into the imagined community of architects.

rubber ducky, you’re so fun!

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Rubber Ducky, you’re the one, you make bathtime lots of fun!

Sometimes I just love contemporary art. Like this. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is indeed a giant floating yellow rubber ducky in a lake in Shanghai. And yes, it is amazing. And pretty darn adorable too. The art piece was created by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman in 2007, and has been touring the world ever since. Note that I called it an art piece. Because … what else would you call a giant floating yellow rubber ducky?

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I read an article about how it was coming to Shanghai, and since it’s one of those unusual ‘when else are you going to see this?’ kind of things, I just had to go see it. It’s in Century Park in Pudong … and yes, I actually went all the way over to Pudong to see a giant floating yellow rubber ducky. But it was worth it.

It’s only been in Shanghai a few days, and will stay here until November 23. And tickets to the park are only 10 RMB! There had been talk of raising the ticket price to 40 RMB, but eventually the powers that be backed down due to public pressure. The one downside of those cheap tickets were the crowds and crowds of people. But 40 RMB would have been ludicrous, because really, it’s just a giant rubber duck. You see it, you take some pictures, and you’re done. Very cool, but … that’s about it.

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Aw, but look at that cute duck bum! Although its size relative to those buildings makes it seem a bit Godzilla-like …

the petrified forest (tbt)

It’s been a while since I posted, so here’s a Throwback Thursday from 2012! Located in Arizona, the Petrified Forest National Park is absolutely amazing because it’s wood … but it’s stone. Trippy. It was a great place to scamper around, and it was on the way as we were driving to the Grand Canyon anyway. Although, after a while it’s all kind of the same. What’s over there? Petrified wood. And there? Oh, more petrified wood. Here too. Hm, yep. Got it.

But still! It’s totally worth visiting. And I can’t believe it’s already been two years since I was there. Look at those blue skies, the open space! Ah, the things I miss while living in China!

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merry christmas! poinsettias

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What is it about poinsettias that just screams “IT’S CHRISTMAS!”? It’s one of those weird flowers that you never ever see. And then in the lead-up to Christmas, they’re suddenly everywhere. They appear for the season, and then promptly disappear for the rest of the year until the next Christmas rolls around. So you can imagine my surprise at seeing a whole lotta poinsettias in Hong Kong’s Hollywood Road Park, gathered in a giant cluster, waiting to be spread around. Seeing those poinsettiaas – more than all the gaudy lights along Nanjing Road – that made it truly feel like Christmas.

Merry Christmas! I wish you and your families all the happiness and joy your hearts can handle.

paley and pal – pocket parks on 53rd

A few days ago I posted about a series of sculptures by (Albert) Paley on Park (Avenue). Well, it’s only right that I follow up that post with one about Paley Park. Because … come on! Paley on Park v. Paley Park? Golden. It’s a teensy tiny little park, and it’s not really a park in the way that Central Park is a park (id est, no room to lay out or throw a football), but it is public, although technically a POPS (privately-owned public space).

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I gotta say, it’s a very nicely done park. Midtown Manhattan is a busy, crowded, kinda soulless place. But the park is so calming, so unexpected, and so removed from all that. It’s a few steps up from street level, there’s green ivy on the side walls, some trees for shade, and a freakin’ waterfall. It’s no wonder that it’s an extremely popular place to eat lunch. Unfortunately when I visited there was some construction going on, so the pocket park was made even tinier, and I didn’t get the full effect of the waterfall.

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Paley Park is on 53rd Street, between Madison and 5th. Walk a bit further east and you’ll come across another pocket park, which in my opinion is even more impressive than Paley (although smaller and not as well designed or aesthetically pleasing). But hey, it has a chunk of the Berlin Wall. Sorry, but as impressive as the waterfall wall is, it doesn’t beat the history of THE FREAKIN’ BERLIN WALL.

This park doesn’t get as much press as Paley Park because … it’s nameless. I guess it’s the courtyard or whatever of the building 520 Madison, because people refer to the park as 520 Madison. There are five sections of the wall, and they’ve been painted by two German artists, Thierry Noir and Kiddy Citny. Not my favorite work, but how many people can say they’ve had lunch next to the Berlin Wall? And these people do it repeatedly. Amazing. New York = amazing.

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It’s also amazing to me because of how understated both of these parks are while being completely open. The whole setup is so New York. Hundreds of people walk by these parks every day – how many stop? But when you do stop and walk a few yards into that little space, you get the feeling that you’re no longer in busy Midtown, but at the same time you don’t feel cut off from the hustle and bustle that makes New York great. How many people realize that they’re walking by history? In a city like New York, there’s history and art and culture everywhere you turn, and after a while all that becomes so normal and comfortable that eating a tuna salad sandwich next to the Berlin Wall becomes commonplace. I think that’s what’s most impressive to me, that instead of confining pieces of history to a museum to be gawked at, they actually become part of the present and enrich our everyday lives.

Kudos, New York.

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.

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!?!

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

remember nemo?

It has been about a month since Nemo hit. Remember that? The storm was called Nemo, and I have no idea why. It didn’t really need a name. It was a snowstorm! They don’t get names! Plus, if they really, really wanted to give it a name, Nemo was a bad choice. First of all because it’s the name of that cute little fish and secondly because it continues to ignore that great movie from the my childhood that was based on a comic strip from the early 1900s. Oh and also because THERE WERE TWO STORMS, not just one. But I suppose my main quibble is that apparently my sister and I were the only ones to ever watch “Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland.”

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The storm itself was kind of overblown in terms of New York. Apparently there was about a foot of snowfall, but … it really didn’t seem like it. Quite pretty and not a big deal considering that the morning after, even without all the sidewalks salted, it wasn’t too bad except for crossing Morningside Park (which hadn’t had its stairs shoveled at that point). But everyone was sledding and the kids were having so much fun. It was funny to see because it’s New York City! Sometimes I forget there are so many kids around here.

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[NOTE: Image is the “Little Nemo in Slumberland” comic published on March 11, 1906, and retrieved from the Comic Strip Library.]

The name Nemo is Latin for “nobody” … but no one really cares about dead languages, right? I didn’t even know the stupid storm was named Nemo until way after the storm had already started (ah, life without cable) but when I eventually heard the name Nemo being tossed around, I immediately thought of Little Nemo, whereas I’m sure most people thought of the fish. Sigh … on the other hand, Google knows of my Nemo (the comic at least) so that’s gotta be worth something!

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.

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