Wednesday, May 30, 2007

biting the big apple

Taj Mahal Glowing Red Soup
After shopping along St. Mark's Place, I wandered aimlessly along nearby streets, my stomach growling by the time I reached 6th St. I stumbled upon a block of Indian restaurants, nearly all with cheap lunch specials. Since all I was really looking for was walking fuel for the rest of the afternoon, I figured I could stop for a quite bite and have something more substantial for dinner. I flipped a coin and wound up at Taj Mahal, which offered a set course lunch for $6.

The meal started off with a bowl of mulligatawny soup, more accurately described as tomato garlic soup. The radioactive glow was frightening, but it didn't taste too bad, due to the healthy amount of chopped garlic. This was followed by a well-spiced, densely-packed samosa and average pappadum.

Chicken Korma Rice and "Naan"
I nearly ran out of room at my table when the rest of the meal arrived. The main was chicken korma, which had a strong hint of crushed almonds. The chicken was not full of bones or gristle, but the chef had been in a hurry to add yogurt, as I found some that hadn't been fully stirred in.

The korma arrived with a large platter of perfectly-cooked basmati. Unfortunately, it also came with "naan" that might have been a supermarket greek pita. Welcome to the price tradeoff.

Next time, I'll let my tummy growl a little longer.

Gem Spa (1)
I can't verify if Gem Spa (8th St and 2nd Ave) lives up to its billing, but their egg creams have hit the spot for years. Milk, vanilla syrup and seltzer...mmmm. Check out a primer on the egg cream.

Gray's Papaya Gray's Vats
Further west on 8th, at 6th Ave, is Gray's Papaya, home of frothy fruit drinks and the long-running "recession special" (two hot dogs and a drink, now up to $3.50). Shiny vats behind the counter hold the promise of fruity goodness.

Gray's Papaya Drink Revitizer?
I opted for just a drink, the namesake papaya concoction. Cold, frothy, vaguely like a Julius but not as creamy. Part of Gray's charm are the signs plastering its walls, proclaiming their drink's revitalizing properties.

Sushi Lounge (1) Sushi Lounge (2)
Dinner found me back in the East Village, this time at Sushi Lounge (St. Mark's Place and Ave A), one of a number of Japanese places in the area advertising 50% off their menu items. I'll also fess up to being lured in by an ad in the Village Voice. It appeared to be bustling and noisy, so I grabbed a seat.

Sushi Lounge (3)
Since this was the only day I wasn't going to be behind the wheel, I ordered a small sake, which proved larger than expect. Despite a bowl of miso soup, I suspect I was on my way to inebriation by the time my order of rolls arrived. Top to bottom: Fancy Naruto Roll (shrimp tempura, eel, fish roe and asparagus), Dragon Roll (avocado, eel and cucumber) and Shrimp Cucumber Roll. The rolls held together well and the asparagus proved a tasty addition. No complaints, though the sake ensured a woozy walk for the rest of the evening. Total damage: $20.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

the nature of things

Vintage Ad #237: The Nature of Things in '68
This time out, a promo from the first decade of the long-running science show The Nature of Things. Can you fill in the answers to these burning questions?

Source: Time, November 1, 1968

Monday, May 28, 2007


Previously on Roadtrippin': Dead presidents and stuffed Adirondack wildlife.

Day 3, Part 1: Newark, NJ and New York, NY

Since it was a beautiful morning, I walked down McCarter Hwy to Newark Penn Station instead of taking a cab. The stroll was longer than I expected, but great for picture taking.

Bishop Womack Says... Looking Towards NYC
Left: Bishop Womack-El's face dominated Newark's billboards. He bills himself a "prophetic physician", which seems to involve a mixture of herbal remedies, religion and methods to accumulate wealth. Had Newark's expressways been equipped with wider shoulders, I would have taken at least half-a-dozen Womack-El signs, all with different pictures and messages, though somebody else found the same sign in another location.

Right: looking east into Manhattan. How many buildings can you name?

Barbed Wire Everywhere! Barbed Wire
One element of Newark that is hard to ignore: barbed wire everywhere, whether it's protecting businesses (right photo) or freeway underpasses. This does not enhance the city's reputation - some friends thought I was crazy to stay here instead of Manhattan. Driving was the key to the decision, since I didn't relish the thought of facing NYC traffic...though access to quick transit to NYC and a large room at an affordable price don't hurt.

Downtown Newark (1) Downtown Newark (2)
Two shots of the north end of downtown Newark. From here, I took the PATH train into Manhattan. Imagine a subway train winding its way through industrial wasteland and you have the Newark branch of the PATH system.

World Trade Center Site (1) WTC Remains
Left: I got off at the World Trade Center, the train entering via the construction site for the Freedom Tower. Leaving the station, one can look out at the project.

Right: The route to the subway. Note the rip in the ceiling - it and the flooring in this section remain from the original WTC buildings.

Museum of Modern Art Lineup School Group
I had not been to the Museum of Modern Art since its overhaul a few years ago. The lineup stretched outside, but it moved swiftly. When I showed Mom the left picture on my small camera screen, she thought the bearded dude was me. Being a weekday, school groups were out in force, including this one admiring a classic.

Comic Abstraction 50 Years of Helvetica (2)
Two current exhibits: Comic Abstractions and 50 Years of Helvetica, the latter including a surprising piece of CanCon.

What Happened To Us?
The eye-catcher was Projects 85 (What Happened to Us), an amusing look at modern America by Dan Perjovschi that covered several stories of wallspace.

What Happened To Us? (3) The Padded Wagon
Left: life in a nutshell? Right: Looking out the window on 54th St, I noticed this moving van. Feel free to invent your own slogan for this company.

Corner of Many Names Unnecesary Noise Prohibited
Left: Signage gone wild! It feels like every corner in midtown Manhattan bears at least 2-3 sets of names - in this case, the alternates are "the father of the blues" and a longtime local radio DJ.

Right: This plea for silence was found near Cooper Square, which has never struck me as a place to keep down the noise.

Next: Afternoon and evening in the Big Apple - JB

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Previously on Roadtrippin': The journey begins with a long drive across New York state and a cordial conversation on the Niagara.

Day 2: Albany, NY to Newark, NJ

After a good night's rest, I packed the car and headed down the road that would be my main route down the Hudson, US 9, the old Albany Post Road.

Hoffman's Playland
First picture of the trip: an amusement centre just north of Albany. First of many scary clown drawings seen over the next few days. Almost made me wish I had this tune on the radio while driving by.

Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza New York State Museum (1)
New York State Museum (2) Into the Museum
First stop: the New York State Museum, located on the south end of the government plaza in downtown Albany. Naturally, I used the underground entrance.

American Elk Sneaky Moose
Left: one of many animals permanently captured in mid-stride in the Adirondack Wilderness exhibit. Right: Hey guys, don't you notice the moose behind you? He's coming this way! Run! RUN! (now you know why the photo is blurry).

The first exhibit I looked at was a gallery of art by Alex Katz drawn from the Whitney. I didn't linger long, as a security guard stuck to me like glue, which drained any motivation to look at the work. Maybe I radiate something that instinctively makes enforcement officials dislike me.

9/11 Firetruck Here's How to Get to Sesame Street (1)
Left: from the 9/11 exhibit, one of the fire engines involved in the tragedy. Right: At last, I found the way to Sesame Street...or a replica of the set in Metropolis Hall.

Van Buren's House (2) Van Buren's House (1)
Next stop: the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site in Kinderhook. I was a week early for the official tourist season, so I strolled around the grounds of the home of the eighth president (1837-1841).

FDR and Eleanor Should The Horse on the Left's Name Come as a Surprise?
It was an afternoon full of dead presidents, as I rolled into Hyde Park to wander around the Franklin Delano Roosevelt National Historic Site. I caught the Roosevelts in the middle of a leisurely afternoon read. I just missed one of the tours of the home and library, so again I strolled the grounds. The name of one of the horse pens in the stable did not come as a shock.

Dead Presidents (1) Dead Presidents (3)
Time to compare presidential burial sites. Martin Van Buren (died 1862) lies under a tall pillar in a tightly-packed Reformed Church cemetery. FDR (died in office, 1945) rests under a white slab surrounded by grass, with a garden lining the edges of the plot.

Except for a SUV following me so closely that I had to run a red light in Hyde Park, the drive down river was relaxing. I stayed on the east side of the Hudson to Tarrytown, crossed the Tappan Zee bridge, then hopped on the Palisades Parkway to meander my way down to the Comfort Suites in Newark. I arrived around 5:30, checking in just ahead of a busload of teens from a bible college.

Staten Island Signs Tick Tock Diner
After rest and a quick call home, I hopped back in the car and wandered around. This led to my first drive in any of the five boroughs - a quick trip over to Staten Island. The photo on the left is the only prooof I was there, since traffic was heavy, the sun was setting and my route took me mostly by residences or strip malls (for the curious, I went over on the Goethals Bridge, then circled back via Forest Ave, Richmond Ave and Victory Blvd). I suspect I should have gone over an hour or two earlier.

Back on the mainland, I got lost looping around the many bridges in the industrial areas east of Newark, winding up on the Pulaski Skyway twice. After a drive through the Ironbound district of Newark, I ended up heading north to Clifton, stopping at a few stores along the NJ 3 strip. I ate a late dinner at the Tick Tock Diner, which had the classic silver siding. I had a corned beef sandwich (piled thick, likely knife-carved, slightly fatty but tasty), with a side of potato salad and a vanilla egg cream.

I headed back to the hotel and flipped on the TV. The lowlight was The 1/2 News Hour on Fox News Channel - imagine a bad installment of Weekend Update stretched out, with a pronounced conservative (not mock-conservative) bent. Not a laugh. Not a chuckle. FNC is much funnier when it sticks to its "fair and balanced" regular news coverage.

More pictures from the day are in the ever-expanding Flickr set.

Next: Manhattan - JB