New York

Happiness is….

Happiness is when one of your favorite songs is being played on radio and you are singing word by word out aloud at top of your lungs in your apartment on a Saturday morning in greatest city of the world.

Mr. Brightside!

 

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Humans of New York

NYC is famous for being rude but I don’t concur with this opinion. It’s just that people here are precise, concise and succinct in conversation, time is the key here and we like things at fast pace. One time I was in Atlanta and waiting in a bank queue, that was moving at a pace that would put sloths to shame. People were exchanging greetings with teller and I guess discussing entire life stories with them. Seeing me uneasy and edgy, the old woman standing behind me asked me “Have you come from New York my dear young man?”

Subway of NYC are its lifeline. One meets interesting people while commuting. Be it the older asian woman who didn’t speak English at all but was trying her best to engage me in a conversation even on telling that I don’t understand what she was saying.  When I got down at Bleecker, she said to me in broken English “Smile son, smile”. Another time a really old couple, probably in the 80s, were at 77th street station with the MTA cards in their hands but they didn’t know how to use it. I tried to help them and they boarded the 6(downtown) train with me. I think they were somewhere from the middle east, I didn’t know what they were saying. But they smiled a lot. The woman was so proud that she has 7 children and in incoherent English she told me that my beard looks like her eldest son’s. On 4th of July, I marched to east river to see the fireworks. It was an overcast but I didn’t take the umbrella and by the time I reached Carl Schurz park, it started raining. People held the front thinking the fireworks will start anytime soon but eventually they retreated under their umbrellas or under the trees. I was getting drenched and enjoyed it a little but after a while a Chinese couple came to me and offered me their umbrella, I smiled and denied politely. But the woman nudged him and they stood with me for 20 minutes until the rain stopped with their large umbrella covering three of us.

Think before you judge Humans of New York!

 

 

Walking Entire Manhattan

Last week I came up with the idea of walking entire Manhattan, and it incubated for some time and I decided to try it on Saturday. I checked internet and I found that the idea wasn’t my brainchild but I had to do it anyway. I started quite late on Saturday morning from my Yorkville, upper east side apartment. I had to take 1 train that goes to 215th street that is the last stop in Manhattan. I started at 10:45 am and took M79 cross town bus to take the train all the way up. There were couple of snags in the service due to weekend services on the tracks. After stopping for a while on 137th street, I finally reached 215th street at 12:00 noon. I decided to take a sneak peek into cloisters as well on my way downtown.

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I took couple of notes while walking and here they are:

12:00 noon – reached 215th street, looks quite green area on broadway. Isham park on my right. The neighborhood is called Inwood and isn’t gentrified as people think it to be.

12:25 PM – Into the cloisters. Interesting artifacts, mostly from Germany. I think one of the oldest relics in USA can be found here. Check out the plants and the cafe. Green region, people were on reading and sleeping on nicely cut grass. One can see George Washington bridge on Hudson from here.

1:00 PM – Out of cloisters and on broadway again.

1:27 PM 174th street and passed the united palace. Read the wonderful sign “Come on in or smile as you pass”

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1:39 PM 164th street. I want to maintain 1 minute per block from now onwards. The signs are predominantly in Spanish. I think it is Spanish Harlem.

1:54 PM 148th street, it feels as if I am in New Delhi of 1990. People selling home based products on roads, group of men on roads chatting and laughing, small hand operated swings for children and they cost only $0.50.

2:14 PM 125th street, end of Harlem, Columbia Univ. begins. I stopped at a local place for a quick bite and some water.

3:03 PM 109th street, a gothic castle on my right. Massive and beautiful – Cathedral of St. John the divine

3:22 PM 81st street, I am thinking that I can anytime hop on the crosstown bus and go to east side and have an easier, less testing weekend but I moved on.

3:37 PM 73rd street – The area isn’t new to me, I have passed these streets many times. Same upper west side, columbus circle. Bustling with tourists. A mother and a father taking  a clever photograph at Columbus circle by holding the placards saying “Dear Casey, You mean the” then globe of columbus circle comes in picture and then “to us, Love Mom and Dad” 🙂

3:51 PM 61st street – Signs of leg pain; shall I stop. No, let’s see till where I can go. I have put on my earphones to distract myself.

4:29 PM 32nd street and I am off broadway, I avoid times square area like everyone does. The sun is shining right in my eyes and at times it became unbearable. I need AC. Manhattan needs trees.

4:55 PM Washington sq. park. I see a lot of Indians and many people in Indian attires. Someone tried to hand a book to me but I refused politely. It was Hare Krishna people doing their thing. I felt irritated to make my way through the milling crowd.

5:05 PM Entered SoHo. Ah! shadow of buildings. I have moved further away from Broadway.

5:22 PM – In Tribeca, upscale bars all around me. I can see One world trade center. I am near. Leg is quite stiff.

5:45 PM – I texted a friend that what is the probability that of all these people at battery park today there are more than one who have walked entire Manhattan? She called me.

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Lady Liberty in the view

Mind your language/Friends/Seinfeld

Watching TV shows from 1970s is a different experience. At that time there wasn’t any proliferation in the entertainment industry and at least few of the TV shows held true entertainment value. I happened to stumble upon Mind your language – a TV show from late 70s in England. It is about group of immigrants trying to learn English. Phrases such as Por favor, a thousand apologies, blimey, professori, Santa Maria, Okay-cockay remind me of the various characters present in the show. One can watch them on YouTube.

Having said that, I enjoy watching Seinfeld and Friends too. I have watched these multiple times and I still laugh at the jokes as if they are thrown at me completely renewed. Seinfeld is a little Manhattan based and jokes are more indigenous to NY lifestyle but it is hilarious. Who won’t like the dialogue delivery of Kramer who delivers with such a finality. I like the emotionless characters of Seinfeld. I can write loads about the characters of friends and there must be thousand of blogs on the same topic. It is an awesome feeling to be in the best city of the world and be with such an amazing group of friends. I don’t want to compare Seinfeld and Friends as to me both are good but Seinfeld was more realistic as the characters were narcissistic and took pleasure in the misfortunes of their friends while Friends had too many mushy moments. Friends paints a picture of an American dream for people in 20s and early 30s to live their lives in a great city of the world, free from traditions and having enough time and some money to enjoy it.

One thing that I see in these NY based shows is the the old skyline of the city and old Manhattan. Every time I see the twin towers in shows, it feels a little uneasy. Knowing that human life was obliterated for whatever reasons makes me fume. Seeing how technology has changed is also great. I remember Chandler stating the specs of his new laptop which are laughable in today’s terms. But at that time, it must be a powerful machine. 🙂

Museum of Natural History

Funny story, few days ago I was trolling the natural history museum and there was this “cool dude” Thor type character hanging around the rocks and meteorites. An old man, who supposedly works at the museum, was explaining to kids what meteors are while our protagonist was checking how much would he weigh on moon by standing on a weighing balance and was touching his biceps persistently as if his arms would pack their bags and leave him if he didn’t touch them. He showed interest in Halley’s comet and the old man explained what it is but like every movie the hero must have more dialogues than anyone else, he interrupted the trajectory of comet and said passionately in his deep baritone”My girlfriend’s name is Sally. Salley- Halley, same same.” And the proverbial rocket scientist juxtaposed his oracle with diabolical laughter. He added “so, like, if like , I also, like discover a comet then I can name it after my girl Sally, right? That would be so cool!!” and then shouted from across the hall “Hey Sally! babe!! Hey babe! I am gonna find a comet and name it after you”. I said to myself, hmmm! that’s exactly how Galileo started. I wanted to see who this Sally is, the girlfriend of our budding Tycho Brahe. She came running towards him and said “you know it takes forever to go to Mars, why these people at NASA or something can’t make it faster. I am not going to Mars unless they speed it up”. I started appreciating that girl from that moment itself- after all,how ambitious she is! Then they started talking about some astronomical distances and the number “million” cropped up which baffled both of them. But our cool dude, Himesh Reshamiya, had answer to all the problems – “so babe!! keep it simple, whatever is greater than a thousand becomes a million and in other countries like “London” they call it a billion” and that was the final conversation between Marie and Pierre Curie before I walked into river Hudson and accepted death.

A kid waved hello – Pure Joy

Finally it snowed in New York. It was light snow, only about an inch but it felt great. The first snow of the season is always special. So many people came out just to feel the snow. I did so too. I wasn’t in the best of health but I couldn’t miss a walk in the snow getting my trench coat white and getting snow on my hair and my beard. Along the Carl Shurz park trail so many children were playing with snowballs. Many parents were out with their new born babies and the tiny kids were experiencing first snow of their lives. I was walking for a while and my coat and head was visibly white from the wet snow. A small girl who was collecting snow from the railings to make her snow ball waved a big hello to me. I waved back. What a moment of pure joy !

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A Marathon tale

Yesterday, I ran my first marathon despite not being in best of health.  My body is crying for help. Everything is hurting from hips to knees and from back to toes. I quit running on the 19th mile and walked the remaining distance. If I were alone I wouldn’t have gone for even 10 miles but there is something about the New York’s crowd- it cheers you up and makes you push your limits. I got a cheer when I ran past  east 81st street on 1st avenue – Yorkville, the place where I live. At 19th mile I just sat on the road thinking whether to quit. An old couple who was distributing bananas gave me wet kleenex and a pair of socks for my toes were bleeding. I injured my feet and ankle ,pulled hamstrings and have sore toes but I felt ecstatic.

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I came across the small documentary by ESPN about Joy Johnson , the woman who ran 25 New York marathons. She was 86 and passed away hours after finishing her 25th marathon. She never ran before the age of 59. I am overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and perseverance shown by the great woman.

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An excerpt from the interview of the director of the documentary “I love that she found a passion for running so late in life. At age 59, most people are thinking about retiring and sitting on a beach. She started running and fell in love with something brand new, which is so cool. Most 30-year-olds feel lost if they aren’t on the “right” path. She taught us it’s never too late to try — or fall in love with — a new direction.”

http://espn.go.com/espnw/athletes-life/article/14009608/the-story-86-year-old-woman-ran-25-nyc-marathons

Image Source :   http://www.nytimes.com/news/the-lives-they-lived/2013/12/21/joy-johnson/

Bob Dylan ??

Today I spent my evening in Greenwich Village, an area in downtown Manhattan that used to be haven for the musicians in the yesteryears. I go to Bleecker street often but today I was scouring for few signs- the signs of presence of the activism of 1960s. Greenwich village was famous for its musicians and political activism,its cafes, live music performances. Unfortunately, gaslight cafe couldn’t stand the test of the time. Cafe wha is not the same as it used to be but its still there.I have this (bad) habit of reading about things and places on internet and such unnecessary researches hog my time.

I knew that cafe wha is associated with many famous names but that list on internet was overshadowed by Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix wasn’t mentioned a lot for he passed away young but Dylan like a Victoria Secret’s advertisement was overwhelmingly everywhere.

60s wasn’t the era only of free love but also of the social and political activism. The term generation gap was coined in those years for there was a lot of difference between the thought process of the youths and their parent’s who had seen the perils of the world war. It didn’t mean that the youths had myopic visions or were in complete disillusionment. Greenwich village in NY was the incubation center of the revolutionary ideas that governed the political and economic facade during those years and those ideas found their ways resonating in the songs that those multi talented artists wrote. Each of the artist was presenting his/her thoughts in the form a song be it on civil rights, Vietnam war, crony capitalism, nepotism or sycophancy.The idealist generation of 60s purported to reject the materialism and bolstered movements that forced Nixon to step down.Not only music but food also was affected as many people turned towards non violence and vegan-ism.

The weavers were quite popular in the era for they brought the folklore and music not only to the big apple but also on the int’l podium. Thanks to McCarthyism that weavers were blacklisted under HUAC (House Un-American Activities) ,Pete Seeger asked correctly “what the hell is an American activity, what is the definition” when he was also booked under HUAC and his name appeared in the red channel magazine floated by oppressive forces. That was the era of the change Seeger, Woody Guthrie,Harry Chapin, Dylan, Tom Paxton etc were few names.Everyone was famous for his own type of work.

I have nothing against Bob Dylan; When I listened to “A hard rain’s A-gonna fall” for the first time after more than 50 years it surfaced, I was en-rapt and enthralled. He definitely is talented but somehow I feel that he not only knew how to write resonating songs but also how to sell them. He was able to create an image and kept it afloat. He did join the artists of protest music but with the banishment of many under HUAC, he definitely got an advantage.None of his songs are for Vietnam war but I am not sure why and how people have linked the two. He didn’t go to the famous Selma march in which everyone was chanting the Dylan’s hymn “The times are A- changing”. He did say in one of the award ceremony which he attended in an inebriated state that he no longer wants to write songs on people and doesn’t wishes to be spokesperson. He choose his next genre of rock and roll and remain stuck to it.He started “playing it safe”. And I personally have started believing that when the competition is tough then one has to play safe to soar and be relevant. I won’t say that he was an opportunist who grabbed the hot selling cake of folk music to open his own shop but he wasn’t exactly the same revolutionary that media propagates him to be. He was from the main land Minnesota and came to NY to test his destiny and he succeeded splendidly. The American dream – from rags to riches came true and many benefited from the same directly or indirectly.

Haiku for Morning

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I read a wonderful and refreshing haiku at one of the Barnes and Nobel store in New York .

 

Hi no hikri
kesa ya iwashi no
Kashira yori.    

Translation is :

The first gleam
Of a new day
On pilchard’s heads

 

The wonderful thing about the haiku poems is that they say so much in so less words.

As they say sometimes only a look from the eyes obviates a thousand words .

How Romantic is that, eh ? 🙂 😀

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EggPlant ??

I am speaking the truth and nothing else when I advocate my hatred towards eggplant . It has never been one of my favorite vegetable. When my mother cooks it I separate eggplant and potatoes and eat eggplant only. Yes , even now I do so. I am 27 and I do it 😀

Last month when I landed in Chicago from New York, I stayed in Marriott for few days. On the north Dearborn street , there is this bar Harry Caray’s on the Kinzie-Dearborn cross section. Now being a veg the options are very limited. The lady sitting next to me was having something of eggplant. I was wondering, why on earth one will eat something like eggplant and that too when they have other options available. The place had only salad, pasta and eggplant Parmesan as the vegetarian options. I didn’t want to have salad and I know how creamy the pasta is, so I avoided that as well.

I am a little experimental in nature , so when the lady sitting next to me was extolling the egg plant parmesan to no bounds, I decided to give it a try and trust me it was one of the best thing that I have ever tasted. Crisp, a little bit of cheese and eggplant. I was in love instantly. Surely a good chef can convert the inedible into finger licking delicacy.

After that night, I went to the same place again and ordered the EPP for myself again . By then this dish had made a permanent spot for itself in my heart.

I am settled in Chicago now, I have a studio room and at least a bed to sleep on, books to read and things are fine. While buying vegetables yesterday from the treasure island , my eyes fell over the eggplants and I thought why not to try it by myself. I instantly bought one medium sized eggplant / brinjal (as its called in India).

Now, I do not have a lot of utensils to cook my food, only a sauce pan, a frying pan and a boiling pan. That’s it ! That’s my kitchen .

If not Parmesan, let’s fry the eggplant and let’s see what happens. I cut the veg in round circles, marinated them with all the spices which I had, which were not many. Salt, black pepper,cumin powder, a little garlic paste. and fried them in 4 table spoon of olive oil.

Garnished it with fried onions and the result was great 🙂

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PS : It was a little bit more oily than I expected, actually eggplant is soft veg and absorbs oil readily and I think I had added 2 spoons of oil later on while cooking as I thought it might burn itself due to insufficient oil.

I have to work on how to reduce the oil, it might come with the experience I hope.