upper upper west side dreamin’

On Friday I got off early from work and went up to my old stomping grounds. Ah, hello my old neighborhood! Hello dearest Columbia! Hello quiet residential streets!

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There isn’t much up there except housing, the university, the hospital, and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, but I have such fond memories of the area! It’s where I first lived in New York, and while I was busy at grad school, that quiet environment was just what I needed. Oh, but seriously, Columbia isn’t in Harlem, it’s in Morningside Heights (the area west of Morningside Park, West 110th to 125th Streets), which I tend to merge with the UUWS (Upper Upper West Side, aka Manhattan Valley, West 96th to 110th Streets), which itself is differentiated from the more happening part of the UWS to the south.

But in truth, who really cares? I lump Morningside Heights with the UUWS because combined, that was the majority of my life, and culturally, it feels more like the UWS than Harlem. And after living in Harlem for a year (east of Morningside Park), I gotta say, that park is a pretty serious dividing line. Oh gracious, all those stairs. (Not so fond memories.)

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I was actually up at Columbia in order to get an alumni ID because my student ID had been stolen (along with the rest of my wallet) during my last few weeks in Shanghai. I also went to look at an apartment in the area, which was spacious and clean and recently renovated and overall great. But unfortunately not great enough to outweigh the location. That being said, I love the location.

The UUWS really does feel like home to me (or more like home than my current tourist-ridden pit of hellfire), but alas, it’s no good for me anymore. Sigh, if only I could transport the UUWS to Midtown. So yes, this is a bit of an ode/elegy to the Upper Upper West Side, because it was amazing. But is no longer. (For me anyway.)

architecture randomness (tbt)

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Back when I was at Columbia I used to sit in on a lot of the lectures hosted by GSAPP, and attended one that I made a note of. I shall now share:

Date: April 04, 2013
Setting: Wood Auditorium, Columbia University, New York
Event: “Converse” – Conversation between Mark Wigley and Wang Shu

Wigley was TORTURING this conversation about hard versus soft for what seemed to be forever. I was over it, I’m sure most of the audience was over it, and maybe even Wang Shu was over it (or at least he seemed kind of confused). Wang had brought up that he practices calligraphy in the morning before he begins pencil sketching his designs … and Wigley took off from there, trying to conceptualize Wang’s process. Then Wang mentioned that the first thing is actually making tea, which comes before the calligraphy, which Wigley took as the ultimate soft (id est, the liquid) that transitioned to the semi-soft (ink and brush) and then to the hard (pencil). In other words, this was a really weird conceptual sort of conversation and this particular topic went on much longer than it should have. But then:

Wigley: How hard is your pencil?

Wang: 1H.

[Laughter from Audience]

Maybe you had to be there? I think it was funny because of the literalness and simple specificity with which Wang Shu answered compared to Wigley’s all over the place hard-soft monologue. And the fact that an H pencil isn’t all that hard. Don’t get me wrong, I love Wigley … but this was not one of his finest moments.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why this post started with a picture of an alpaca/llama, it’s because it’s also random and somewhat Columbia/architecture-related. It was a Saturday, I was stressed and sleep deprived because the end of the year was nearing, and I was on my way to studio to work on my thesis. And then I ran into an alpaca/llama. Well, not literally ran into it. About a block from campus there was a street festival with bouncy castles and the alpaca/llama and I basically froze in shock. Because, seriously? How much more random can you get than seeing an alpaca/llama on your way to school? Or well, I actually have no idea if it was a llama or alpaca because I can’t tell the difference and didn’t stay long enough to ask. Anyone know for sure?

leftovers leftovers leftovers

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.

thesis? oh, that thing i turned in?

Thesis – done. Not fantastic and not actually done, but turned in so … DONE. Not completely happy with what I turned in so I’ll probably work on it some more before the End of Year Show, but that’s just for me. But basically I’m done. Absolutely done. Commence intake of food and alcohol and long periods of sleep!

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A bunch of us went to Five Lamps Tavern for dinner in celebration. Some people still had work for other classes so couldn’t join, but … it was a good night. I had fish and chips, which were yummy, made all the more yummier by the fact that they represented FREEDOM FROM THESIS.

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palm sunday service at the cathedral

I’m going to start off by saying that I am by no means a devout Christian … heck, I ain’t even baptized. But I like going to church and I like the ritual/history of it all. For those reasons I usually end up attending Catholic mass, but today for Palm Sunday I went to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Morningside Heights, which is an Episcopalian church – a beautiful one at that.

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I’ve been inside the cathedral before for their exhibits, but this was my first time attending service there. I’ve been to Protestant youth groups, but never a full on church service other than Catholic mass. This was similar enough, but thankfully they handed out little booklets with all the hymns and prayers so I could follow along.

There was no Latin like I’m accustomed to and there was more singing than I expected, but there was still a whole lot of standing and coughing (from the incense). I was also somewhat surprised to see that there were quite a few people apart from myself who did not partake in Communion. Maybe that’s how it is with Episcopalians or maybe because the congregation is more religiously diverse in New York, but in Texas I always felt SUPER AWKWARD sitting alone while everyone else queued up.

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The cathedral itself is beautiful and historic so it gets a lot of tourists. It was built (or started construction) in 1892 and as cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, it’s the seat of the bishop. For the service I sat closer to the front where there were real chairs and beyond the threshold of “No Pictures Please” signs, so it wasn’t until service ended and I started leaving did I realize there were a whole bunch of people taking pictures in the back.

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They handed out palm leaves (it is Palm Sunday after all) and after the service and a snack at the Hungarian Pastry Shop across the street, I tied them into crosses. The whole thing was such a relaxing experience; one that I really needed. I realize it is really, really weird for a non-religious person to attend church, but it’s one of those things where churches just make me happy. They’re safe, calming … centering places. And even though I’m super busy with thesis, when I’m this stressed out, two hours of church is more helpful than not. Although I have no idea what I’m going to do with these palm crosses now.

burger + (bar/joint/place)

I had previously posted about a place called Burger Joint in Midtown, so I thought it’d only be fair to mention Mel’s Burger Bar in the UWS. Then that got me thinking … what makes a burger place a ‘burger bar’ versus a ‘burger joint’? Or for that matter, a ‘burger place’ (I’m specifically thinking of Dirty Martin’s Place in Austin)?

These three places are known for their burgers and have that same homey/classic Americana atmosphere … the only kind of atmosphere that allows one to wholeheartedly dig into a scrumdiddlyumptious burger. They definitely differ, but not to the degree that I would be able to identify Dirty Martin’s as a place rather than a joint, so what’s the deal?

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Does it have to do with location or how they function? None of the three has real plates. None has multiple locations. Mel’s is a classic sit-down, at Burger Joint you collect your order from the counter, and at Dirty Martin’s you have the option of eating at the counter, inside, or at a picnic table outside. All have beer. Mel’s and Dirty Martin’s have televisions. Mel’s is a few blocks from an Ivy League school, Burger Joint is an ironic fad in a swanky hotel, and Dirty Martin’s is a cultural institution a stone’s throw from the ginormous University of Texas. None of them particularly cares about your health.

Hm. Whatever. I don’t think it really matters. How much do you pay attention to how something is named? At Mel’s I had the W.T.F. burger (seriously, that’s what it’s called) and it had cole slaw and fries on it. If that sounds disgusting to you, it’s okay, I never wanted to be friends with you anyway. Because it was delicious. Much better than Burger Joint, but I don’t think anything could ever compare to Dirty Martin’s greasy goodness …

“let us have peace”

Yesterday I was walking around Riverside Park in Morningside Heights when I came across this building. It’s the memorial/tomb of General Ulysses S. Grant and on it is inscribed “Let us have peace.” Unfortunately the memorial was blocked off, I think I was there too late. Anyway, it was interesting to see.

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slowly exploring

There’s so much to see in this town and so far I haven’t gotten very far. After all, it took me until the end of my time in Shanghai to actually see the Pearl Tower and the other big Shanghai sights. I actually have yet to ride the subway here (it’s expensive!), which kind of explains why I’ve only really explored my neighborhood. What would explain that more is the fact that I’m lazy. I have walked around Central Park though, so that’s an accomplishment. The Upper West Side has some nice architecture, and I love the grid system because it’s so much easier to find my way.

I’m also very slowly going through my pictures from China, and I hope to be able to share them and print some within the next week. And I just registered for classes, but I might end up switching some of them. Still have a while before classes begin. All in all, things are good, but our landlord still hasn’t told us where to send the rent checks … which is kind of weird, right?

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