Archive for March, 2012
I can still remember the first time I held a Blackberry in my hand. I got that same adrenaline rush as I did when I saw The Matrix for the first time. Whoa! This is something so. very. different.
I will never forget that opening scene, with Trinity running away from the guys in suits and thinking, oh, she’s the villain. And then, suddenly, everything goes down the rabbit hole.
Could ANYONE have played Neo but Keanu Reeves?
With all the remakes and rehash and blah blah blah of Hollywood, The Matrix blasted everything else out of the water. For awhile. Until Matrix Reloaded opened, and the thrill was kind of gone. There were glimmers of creativity and innovation, but I just got the impression that the Wachowski brothers might have been in the counting house counting all their money instead of on an impassioned mission to create cinematic history for a second time.
And I wonder if that’s the same thing that happened with my beloved Blackberry.
No one is more Crackberry about their Blackberry than me. I literally – not figuratively – sleep with mine beneath my pillow. Wouldn’t want to miss anything, right? Steve Jobs may have been a god, but I really challenge you iPhoners out there to tell me you prefer your virtual keyboard to Blackberry’s beloved Qwerty keyboard – that you can actually type on!
I thought my Blackberry love affair would go on forever. But a couple of Christmases ago I got that queasy feeling that all was not right in the world. Research in Motion was apparently not in motion at all. Apple was parading new iPhones right and left, yet there was no new Blackberry device on the market for the holidays! While techies all over the world spent Christmas morning ignoring their families while they explored their shiny new iPhones, there I sat, bereft and betrayed. And how was that fuddy-duddy Brickbreaker supposed to stand up to apps like Angry Birds?
The writing on the wall was as clear as a Qwerty keyboard. Blackberry had betrayed me. I sold my RIM stock, but since I am that person who writes novellas for emails, I could not bring myself to go over to the dark side and the arrogance of the iPhone’s predictive text intrusions. I was no Cypher. I still believed, deep down inside, that, like Neo, Blackberry was “the one”.
I hung on through the dreaded “pearl” trackball phase, when the tiniest grain of lint would lodge beneath the pearl and render the device unusable. And I survived the “Storm“and took the “Tour” in stride. But everything changed after I got my latest Blackberry Bold 9930. It is twitchier than Agent Smith in the subway fight with Neo. The cursor jumps all over the place while I’m typing. It seizes up and freezes up at will and many a nail I’ve broken doing the battery re-set to shake it out of its glitchy trance. Like the Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions, it is not just a disappointment, but a betrayal. Yes, I’m looking at you, Wachowski Brothers and Research in Motion!
The last several months have seen the predictable denouement for RIM. Too little, too late. Massive power outages last fall. A less-than-stellar Blackberry Playbook tablet stumbled onto the market. Founder Lazaridis and co-CEO Jim Balsillie were fired in January, 2012. RIM stock has plunged 75% in the last year. Does anyone else think it’s ironic that RIM headquarters are based in Waterloo, Ontario?
Seems to me that the squiddies have surrounded the ship.
There’s talk of a buyout, a takeover, whatever. But at this point, who would really want RIM? As the Wall Street Journal aptly put it, “The question is whether a potential acquirer like Microsoft will want to catch a falling knife.” RIM is apparently betting the ranch on the new Blackberry 10 OS, but all I see is that brick wall that appears when Mouse is frantically trying to escape.
There are still a few cockeyed optimists around, I guess, since RIM’s stock surged 7% on Friday. But I’m not one of them. I’m like Switch, sad and stoic, pretty sure the plug is about to be pulled, shaking her head and saying “Not like this. Not like this.”
Hey, I know it’s hard to hear, especially if you’re a true blue Blackberry aficionado like me. But as Cypher said, “Don’t hate me…I’m just the messenger.”
I’ve been cutting back the calories these past few weeks, which means I am constantly thinking about food. And as far as I can tell, NYC = food. You can’t go a hundred feet in that city without being tempted, and yes, I have been known to succumb to the cannoli at Central Park’s Merchant’s Gate kiosk; why do you think it’s all water and crackers this week?
With apologies to Adam Platt, I’ve come up with my own little amateur list of yays and nays in the nabe, and here it is in no particular order. Let the hungry games begin!
Landmarc at Time-Warner Center
10 Columbus Circle, 3rd Floor
I begin here because here we begin every visit to the city. We have not arrived until we stow our bags at our apartment and walk over to Landmarc. Since our flight usually comes in around 8 or 9 pm, it can be late-ish by the time we are seated. No matter; Landmarc is always bustling and it’s a great fallback, default, when noplace-else-suits option for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Yays: steak frites and spaghetti carbonara. Nays: can be LOUD! Ambience: not really. The only restaurant I’ve been in that uses rebar as a design motif. Does not take reservations except for larger parties. Standout: manages to have a bar scene and is kid-friendly. It’s worth borrowing a young’un just to get the free after-dinner cotton candy. Also: wine by the half-bottle or bottle only. Desserts are bite-sized, so you can indulge without (quite as much) guilt.
Nougatine at Jean-Georges
1 Central Park West (Trump International)
Love, love, love Nougatine and not just for the proximity. Their three-course prix fixe lunch is now emulated all over the city. At $32 (the price recently went up a bit) it’s still a bargain. Service is usually excellent or beyond, although can sometimes be a bit slow. We have not yet ventured into the adjacent fine-dining Jean-Georges, but if you want to go all white tablecloth it’s another option. Yays: views of the Park; the shrimp salad; molten chocolate cake. Nays: it can be hard to get a reservation. Ambience: casual chic. Minimalist decor and always a ginormous, breathtaking floral arrangement at the bar. Standout: their homemade sodas – I recommend the lemon ginger! Heads-up: a renovation has been announced at Nougatine, so there will be change. Oddly, I can’t get their web site to open on my computer, so can’t provide a link. For reservations, go to opentable.com or call – just be sure you tell them which side of the restaurant you’re reserving for.
1900 Broadway between 63rd and 64th
This was another go-to for us. Fun place to sit outside in warm weather if you don’t mind a bit of Broadway bus fumes with your meal. Inside, an energetic (read noisy) bustle of Lincoln Center concert-goers at dinner. I say “was”, because we noticed big changes at Fiorello’s this last trip. Their hang-over-the-plate pizzas have apparently gone through the dryer and shrunk, except for the price. Same with the Caesar salad, which used to be big enough to share. Takes some of the fun out of the experience and, while it was never cheap, the ding to the wallet makes you think twice about going here, when there are so many other neighborhood options. Yays: lasagna like no place else; love their Sangria. Nays: halving the portions and doubling the prices has been noticed, you guys! Ambience: neighborhood casual, although there will be some theatre-going glam. Standout: the ultimate raw bar! Heads-up: Unless they’ve shrunk this, too, they serve chocolate mousse that is brought to the table in a chilled champagne cooler, along with a giant side of whipped cream. You’ll want to share. Also: outside tables are very close together, which makes for great conversation with whomever sits next to you. Probably not a great place to argue or propose, though.
P. J. Clarke’s
44 W. 63rd (between Columbus Ave. and Broadway at Lincoln Center)
This is one link in a NYC/WDC/Las Vegas and Brazil (!) chain. Serviceable casual fare. Yays: Great for comfort food. Nays: Nice but not special. Ambience: neighborhood saloon-ish. Standouts: macaroni and cheese, yum! Also: cheerful vibe here. Could be anytown, USA. Good option for families.
Ed’s Chowder House
44 W. 63rd (between Columbus and Broadway)
Just next door to P.J. Clarke’s in the Empire Hotel, we go here for the occasional Sunday night bowl of chowder. While you generally find the best of everything in NYC, our take is that the chowder is good, maybe very good, but not great. Still it’s a nice alternative when you’re Frenched and Italianed out. Yays: um, let me think. Nays: well, truthfully, it’s a bit meh by us. Neither the food nor the service are particularly inspired. Ambience: casual, can be loud.
20 W. 64th Street between Broadway and Central Park West
A favorite new find! Daniel Boulud is Mr. Ubiquitous, with no fewer than five NYC restaurants. The only real misstep we’ve experienced is DB Bistro Moderne in the theatre district, which was more or less atrocious. But Boulud Sud more than makes up for that disappointment. The menu is billed as “vibrant Mediterranean” and it’s a fresh, spacious new option for Lincoln Center concert-goers. Yays: I loved the hummus appetizer and the service was outstanding. Nays: you can get lost on your way to the subterranean restrooms, which are shared with the adjacent Bar Boulud. Ambience: streamlined chic. Interesting: the dinner menu is arranged by provenance: de la Mer, du Jardin, de la Ferme. Also: Good option for a pre-theatre dinner date – the tables are spaced far enough apart that you can actually carry on a conversation.
43 W. 65th Street (between Broadway and Central Park West)
I don’t know about you, but I’m always iffy about trying a new place for Chinese. Angie introduced us to Shun-Lee and it’s a great find. Very popular, very busy, very good. Yays: Clever zodiac light fixtures on the ceiling. Nays: only been there once and had a great experience. Ambience: casual, lots of families.
35 West 64th Street (between Broadway and Central Park West)
Gentlemen, get out your wallets! This is, by my lights, a special-occasion restaurant. It is no-holds-barred French, so you will find menu items like Liquid Foie Gras and Sweetbreads Saltimbocca, so depending on how evolved your palate may be, you can go here or take the safe option of a burger at P.J. Clarke’s. We’ve only been to Picholine once, so I’m not really qualified to give you a review, but it may be your most elegant option close to Lincoln Center (aside from budget-busting Per Se) and you will definitely want to dress up a bit here.
There’s more, lots more, but I’m out of time and, truthfully, starving now. I’ll update this from time to time so check back if you’re looking for dining options in the Columbus Circle/Lincoln Square area.
I’m very happy to be back home in CA, but the city life it most definitely is not.
Take this morning, for example. The chicken coop was especially messy and I was up to my elbows in bleach and pine shavings when several of the hens decided to “help” me clean. Each time I set a section of the counter top right, Tulip or Coco or Hope started kicking and scratching and pretty soon I had to start over.
And then Tulip turned her back to me and I noticed a bigger problem. Her backside was covered with clumps and clumps of, well, you know what. Many flock keepers call their hens “fluffy butts” and the fluffier the butt, the greater the possibility of, shall we say, hygenic issues. Tulip has a very, very fluffy butt.
I grabbed the protesting Tulip and held her under one arm like a bowling ball while I searched out a plastic container and filled it with warm water. Yes, I was wearing gloves – I’m not completely crazy. She honked at me like an angry goose, but ten or fifteen minutes and several rinsings later, Tulip’s backside was a much prettier sight, while I was soaked and probably should have just committed myself to the compost pile. If you would have told me I was full of s*** at that particular moment, I would have had to completely agree.
My thanks from Tulip for all the trouble was a fierce wing flap to the face when we were finished. But I did check with other folks at backyardchickens.com and found that this is a fairly common state of affairs, especially in inclement weather. One person even volunteered that she has “spa days” for her hens where their hindquarters are bathed and then blow-dried! Now that sounds like a perfect life!
We took friends Pamela and Kirk out for dinner last night to thank them for holding down the zoo – er, fort – while we were away. They managed to find humor in the situation: Kirk was on cat box duty and said he ”raked them to look like Zen gardens” and Pamela said they adopted a “see a cat, feed a cat” motto that seemed to work out fairly well.
They trailed chickens around and chased hawks away. Dogs were walked. Gaggles of animals joined them for sleeping.
And as I heard all this played back and realized oh my gosh, this is my life they’re mirroring back to me, it occurred to me that it’s probably time to get one. A life, that is. And then I realized – it’s too late. What’s done is done; these animals are all here to stay for awhile. But I also noticed when we returned from NYC this time that Chloe is starting to show some white around her muzzle; “awhile” is not forever.
We free-ranged the chickens this afternoon and took a walk with the dogs. Tonight we’ll read with various cats snuggled up next to us while the logs crackle in the fireplace. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but somehow it seems to work for us. And as long as we have dear friends like Pamela and Kirk and Dave and Karen and Ashleigh and Paul who are
crazy enough kind enough to pinch hit while we get our city fix, all will be well. Just know that I won’t ask any of them to wash chicken heinies…
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Pamela and Kirk!
We’re back in California, where I’ve spent the last few days sifting through memories of this latest sojourn to NYC. While each trip is a bit different, we’re settling, inch by inch, into patterns that define “living” there from being the greenest of tourists. One accomplishment this visit was discovering our “express route” through the park – a few blocks up CPW to 67th and it’s almost a straight-through to 72nd Street on the East side. Then it’s just another ten blocks up Fifth Avenue on the East side and you’re at that wonder of wonders, the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Since we visit the Met at least once or twice per trip, we decided to join the museum, which allows us to skip the ticket line and also makes us privy to announcements of upcoming events. And that is how I heard that David McCullough would be speaking there about some of the “American masters” he included in his recent book, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris.
I called to make reservations for the lecture as soon as I received the notice and the event was already almost sold out. And no wonder; in addition to being one of our country’s foremost chroniclers of history, McCullough is a most dignified and genial fellow and an impressive speaker. And a sweetheart, to boot – he began his speech with a loving introduction of his wife, who was in the audience. He called her his “North Star”. How dear is that?
In addition to writing, McCullough paints, and this most recent book is a love letter to some of the 19th century American artists who went to Paris to further their careers. He spoke of Samuel F.B. Morse, who spent decades as a painter before he invented the telegraph, and he discussed expatriate painters John Singer Sargent and Mary Cassatt, as well as the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Before reading the book and hearing the lecture, I’d heard of these people and seen some of their work, but McCullough has the gift of making them come alive. So much so that I was inspired to walk endless blocks in the wind and cold one day to see Saint-Gauden’s statue of Admiral Farragut at Madison Square Park.
I don’t know how many times I’ve walked past the Sherman Memorial at the Fifth Avenue and 59th street entrance to Central Park, but I must confess I never really looked at it until McCullough talked about it. He shared that an ironic aspect of the Civil War monument is the fact that the model for Victory was actually an African-American woman.
McCullough went into great detail about Morse’s painting Gallery of the Louvre, in which he “hung” onto the gallery walls his favorite paintings from the museum. McCullough shared that Morse steadfastly completed his painting while the cholera epidemic of 1832 raged through Paris. The painting now hangs in the National Gallery of Art, so when the CE visited Taylor in WDC the following weekend, they went to see it.
McCullough also went into great detail about the “scandal” that arose over John Singer Sargent’s Madame X portrait. Even though museum-goers were quite used to ambling through galleries filled with paintings of nudes by Titian and Rubens, somehow the portrait of socialite Virginie Amélie Gautreau, with its stark contrast between her black dress and powdered arms, shocked Parisian society. The furor over the painting eventually led Sargent to depart Paris for London.
After the lecture, we walked a few blocks for dinner at Cafe Boulud at Madison and 76th Street. Daniel Boulud’s restaurants span the West and East side, but this one is definitely worth a walk across the park. The menu was inspired and the service was impeccable. We can’t wait to go back.
After dinner, we walked down Madison Avenue, where boutique windows displayed their finery and East side denizens took their dogs for an evening walk. Then we turned to head toward Central Park South and up to our Columbus Circle neighborhood. The evening was cold but clear and we couldn’t imagine being anywhere at that moment but NYC.
Two weeks in New York are like six months anyplace else. Things move fast here! Especially the temperature – one day it’s squalling wind and in the low 20′s and the next day it’s a balmy 60 degrees. Leave it to NYC to have its own form of March Madness.
As always, this visit has been a magical melding of family, friends, feasts and fun. We’re probably bruised from pinching ourselves so often – can we really be so lucky as to live here part time?
We leap-yeared right in this trip with tix to see Venus in Fur, with its breakthrough role that set dynamo actress Nina Arianda on a collision course with Broadway. The synopsis I read promised “an intellectual adventure and an often funny encounter between an actress and a playwright”.
The synopsis conveniently forgot to mention that the leggy star spends most of her time on stage wearing a garter belt and thigh high boots or that a passive-aggressive Hugh Dancy finds himself in emotional and physical bondage to this alpha Aphrodite.
It may not have been what we expected, but it was most definitely memorable, and playwright David Ives navigates the terrain of relational power shifts at a dizzying speed.
A few evenings later, we toned things down a bit and saw Death of a Salesman with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Andrew Garfield.
Still in previews, this production is not quite yet on steady ground. Both actors seem perfect on paper for their roles yet, to me, seem strangely miscast on the stage. But guess who shines? Arthur Miller! The play may leave you in despair; there’s misery a-plenty for anyone who has been a parent or a child, so that covers pretty much everyone, but “attention must be paid” as this is a timeless work.
I hope the two current stars will find their footing and that the powers-that-be will tighten up Act II. Our review: it was “liked, but not well-liked”.
We were especially excited to see our favorite “off-Broadway” stars, namely friends and family. Angie and Bobby had us over for a scrumptious lunch of chicken and dumplings. It was a perfect meal to help us acclimate to wintry weather.
And we’ve hit the jackpot with multiple Daniel sightings:
We enjoyed a lunch with bibliophiles Sunday and Josh, and got to meet their adorable little Shih-Tzu, Marlowe. And I was thrilled to have dinner with friend and recent NYC transplant Teri – we were so busy catching up that I forgot to get a photo, but I can tell you that the city agrees with her. She looked absolutely stunning and she’s enjoying her new life and job here in the city.
The CE rode the Acela down to WDC to visit Taylor for a weekend to complete our East Coast family circle:
And that was just the first week! More to come…
When the suitcases come out, Soho retreats to the closet and our guilt index goes up, up, up. How could we abandon our pets like this?
So before we left for our latest NYC visit, we amassed a novel’s worth of care and feeding instructions for all the animals. Our friends Pamela and Kirk are virtually godparents to all our critters, but they had never been charged with the day-to-day tasks of keeping two dogs, four cats and six chickens (Birdie is on holiday at PG’s – thank you, thank you!) sated and happy at all times. When they volunteered to house-sit, we said “Are you sure???”
We wrung our hands a bit. When you’re writing notes that say “Don’t forget Dodger and Cody’s Prozac” and “the chickens do like to be tucked in at night”, it gives cause for pause. Who lives like this?
Well, for the moment, THEY do! While we’ve been frolicking in the big city, I’ve received a number of reassuring messages that indicate all is well back on the farm. And Soho is most definitely not moping in the closet.
In fact, not only are all critters happy and accounted for, they have completely forgotten us. Here is a photo of some of the defectors lining up to greet Kirk as he comes home from work:
Oh, and did I mention that up until last week, Kirk was not a cat lover?
I’ll fill you all in with a NYC update as soon as I come to grips with the fact that man’s best friends are as fickle as they come!
Creature or commodity? The chickens you eat are slaughtered at six or seven weeks of age and the ones whose eggs you buy at the grocery are “discarded” after one or, at most, two seasons of laying. In a nation hungry for its protein, you can see how the lines get blurred.
But last week, a line was crossed, one so egregious that mainstream news picked up the shocking story: Turlock, CA egg farmer Andy Keung Cheung abandoned 50,000 hens when he reportedly ran out of money to feed them. He just walked away and left them to starve.
According to the Modesto Bee “Authorities say the hens had not been fed in more than two weeks. About one-third died of starvation, while thousands were in such poor condition they had to be euthanized.”
I heard about it via Hope’s Twitter feed since she follows MyPetChicken, who tweeted a plea for donations to help the surviving hens. I was so horrified by the story that I managed to make a donation from my Blackberry via my PayPal account while I was walking down the street (who says modern technology is not sublime?)
I received an appreciative email from Kim Sturla at Animal Place, thanking me for my donation and providing an update on the rescue operation. Kim shared that their “exhausted small staff and volunteers have been working around the clock” to save as many of the starving, debeaked hens as possible. And she mentioned that the food bill alone is $300 a day until the birds are healthy enough to be adopted out.
The ethical issues of battery chicken farming are complicated and difficult. I won’t even begin to debate them here. I can even summon up an iota (only an iota, nothing more) of compassion for Mr. Cheung, who perhaps was at the end of his financial and emotional tether when he walked away from the birds that represented his livelihood. But, as a backyard flock owner, my heart is with the hens and with these organizations who saved the lives of so many of them this week. May all those little ladies find loving homes soon!