Review: Orange is the New Black

The 63rd book I finished this year was certainly among the most intriguing. I never had much interest in the show of the same name, and only added the book to my library wish list after watching Pablo Schreiber as Lewis in SVU Season 15. Some 700 people later, my turn came up in the waiting list and I figured Why Not? I’d just finished the really good (review TK) The Pious Ones by Joseph Berger. I’m really glad I read it as it was an amazing, albeit dated, read.

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Review: Daniel Silva’s The English Spy

Guilty. Guilty as Charged

Guilty. Guilty as Charged

AKA, Daniel Silva, you make me absolutely crazy but I love every word you write. Oddly, this is the first one in a few books where I’ve read the book as soon as it came out. Usually I save Allon for my December beach reading binge, but I couldn’t wait. A lot of that came from going to Daniel Silva’s book signing last Monday and it was only being in the middle of a book for book club next week that kept me from starting it instantly. As it was, I started it Sunday and finished Wednesday-it’s not a four day read, I just had no reading time. Reading it while the Iranian nuclear talks were being held in Vienna were eerie.

From here on in there are spoilers for both The English Spy (July 2015) and The Defector (2009).

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Q2 update: 2015 Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge

I fell off on my challenge updating, but as I briefly noted earlier, I’ve read 56 books this year. Together with the 23 I didn’t finish (or saved for later as a friend said), that’s amazing. I’m slightly ahead of my Q1 pace and have the following letters still to go:

O
Q
U
X
Y

Not bad at all. I’ve been reading a lot of fiction (I declared amnesty, they’re books) so haven’t done many reviews. Sally, I’m in your same rut. I’m not sure about my March comment about going twice through the list as I’ve been bad about updating it, but we’ll see.

In the mean time, I’m just enjoying my reading.

 

about the million step goal?

On June 2, I set a “kind of ridiculous but possibly attainable June goal” of 320,089 steps. On June 27, I beat that goal, although I didn’t realize it until June 29.

FInal June totals:

  • 347,231 steps
  • 143.14 miles walked
  • 42.68 miles biked

Final Q2 totals:

  • 1,027,142 steps
  • 422.97 miles walked
  • 85.43 miles biked

I got my 50 gym visits and just need to file the paperwork for my reimbursement.

Looking at my 2015 goals:

Here’s where I am at the mid point of the year:

  • 1,954,731 steps
  • 807.42 miles walked
  • 306.96 miles biked

On a percentage basis (can you tell I love my spread sheets?) that is:

  • 57.4 % of steps goal
  • 53.8% of mileage goal
  • 61.3% of bike goal

I’m in a good place especially as I expect August to be another challenge due to travel.

My July/Q3 goals are as follows:

  • 333,333 steps (yes, going to try for 1m again in Q3)
  • 400 miles walked

On a non-walking related note, I’ve read 56 books this year. I need to go look at the A-Z challenge but wow. I’m very happy with that.

Welcome back, NYC’s High Bridge

A year to the day after I finished my “last major bridge crossing“, I got to walk across the one that has teased me for most of my #GreatManhattanLoop – ing.  After 40-45 years (depending on who is counting) and some $61m, the High Bridge reopened this week.

“The High Bridge is the city’s oldest bridge, dating back to 1848, and stands 140 feet tall, 2,000 feet long and stretches between about West 173rd Street in Manhattan and West 170th Street in the Bronx” ~Zoe Rosenberg

and I’d venture to guess, it’s least known until the press around its reopening hit this week. I couldn’t make it up for the opening on Tuesday (due to an amazing EmptyMet Tour), but knew I wanted to do it as soon as possible. With a walk up Broadway occupying yesterday, today was it.

Tip: Google Maps doesn’t yet know where it is without the coordinates, so use those provided by the Parks’ Department to get to the Park. Failing that, if going from the Manhattan side, High Bridge Tower will get you close enough that you’ll see the stairs.

After a few false starts in getting past 106th St, the m101 took me practically to the Bridge’s door step. Entering High Bridge Park at 172nd, the new signs are immediately apparent-and exciting! While it’s possible to cross between the Bronx and Manhattan on some of the Harlem River Bridges (Macombs Dam likely the most famous), it isn’t as pleasant when there are cars mere feet away.

It’s just a quick five minute walk through Manhattan’s High Bridge Park to the EVIL stairs down. One look at them and one limp down and I knew I’d be using the accessible exit to leave the Park. While many comparisons are made to the High Line, the comparison I most found myself drawing was Poughkeepsie’s Walkway Over the Hudson. The High Bridge is much shorter at about 2,000 feet but with it’s north and south views and virtual panorama of NYC, it was stunning.

I took my time lingering both on the span and in the small park on the Bronx end for reading and photos, but even with reading and photographing all the historical markers, the bridge itself takes about half an hour to explore. The markers are by far my favorite for the way they tell the span’s history. That will be especially helpful once the re-opening press dies down and people search out the history.

TIP: Some more great historical photos here and the best writeup I’ve found of the Bridge’s history.

Although it doesn’t appear that the bridge will ever be open at sunset, I’d like to be there closer to sunset as I think the views will be amazing. With the afternoon sun, walking toward Manhattan is a challenge and photos just don’t seem to work. However I love how it looks when overcast – layer of eeriness and history to it.

Although the restored bridge links Manhattan and the Bronx in a way that hasn’t been possible in generations, I think its relative inaccessibility (an hour plus from the Upper East Side) will keep the numbers down. There’s something to be said, however, for the restoration of High Bridge Park on the Manhattan side as well. Without that and the increased visitation that came with it, I don’t think the Bridge gets done.

Much like the Saunter, I ended my wander up to the High Bridge at Coogan’s Bluff. Partially due to avoiding climbing back up the stairs into High Bridge park and partially to see if going via the M2 was any quicker than the M101. Mostly as an excuse to see the Brush stairs again when my feet didn’t hurt as much as they did at the end of the Saunter. Yep, still magical. Still living baseball history.

The M2 wasn’t any faster especially as the first bus randomly went out of service at 110th, but it was a nice end to an exploratory day.

Ambitious June #GoTheDist goal

I was so antsy while away to see if I’d hit my stretch goal of 310,000 steps. Well, I didn’t. I blew it out of the water.

May totals:

  • Steps: 359,946
  • Miles Walked: 147.9

Wow. Easily my best month ever. Thank you, mostly, to the Great Saunter and its 50K+ steps. More than made up for limited steps while on the train/in the LA area.

So I’ve set a kind of ridiculous but possibly attainable June goal pace because I revised my Q2 personal goals up after an amazing April/May. Both my #GoTheDist and personal goals were too easily attainable.

June goals:

  • Steps: 320,089 (would make 1,000,000 for the quarter)
  • Miles: 120.17 (would make 400 miles walked)
  • Bike: 50 (this is really gym visits. I need 10 to hit 50 over six months for gym reimbursements. I’ve got one down so that’s something. It should also help me get back on track while not losing my steps).

The steps goal is about 11K/day, but I think I can do that in good weather. Will depend on some weekend/family plans, but I think it’s within range.

After all, what’s a goal without a little pressure?

exploring New Amsterdam

aka another beautiful Sunday with the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy on their Colonial New Amsterdam tour. Until they added some new public tours this spring, this was the last one I hadn’t done so I was pleased to see it offered in the spring as I generally don’t do tours in November and December. I think the seeds of this tour were planted in my brain at Shorakkopoch Rock during the Great Saunter and further while reading James and MIchelle Nevius’ Footprints in New York.

While blissfully shorter, today’s tour started at Fraunces Tavern whose 300th birthday is coming up sooner than I realized. For as many times as I’ve been to the Museum & eaten at the restaurant, I didn’t know that much about the building or its history. Even if the current building only dates to 1904, it’s still amazing history happened here. [[NB: I learned the year of the current building and a lot more on the Lovelace Tavern from this Forgotten NY Tour, whose only clue as to its age is the comment on the planned rebuild of the Staten Island Ferry terminals. So much has changed in this neighborhood since 2005!]]

From Fraunces Tavern we headed south (or “under water”, as I learned that Pearl St. was the shoreline and where it drew its name from. We passed the old Battery Maritime Building which is slated to be a hotel sometime soon. I wonder what will happen to the ferry service to Governors Island once that happens. From there it was on to Peter Minuit Plaza, whose history  I learned more about recently. Somehow I never noticed the topographic map that allows you to “walk” New Amsterdam with your fingers, nor the Jewish Tercentenary Monument at the flagpole’s base.

After looping around and through Stone Street, home to approximately four billion and twelve historic signs, we ended up nearly where we started, diagonally across from Fraunces Tavern. As many times as I’ve walked that block, I never noticed that I was walking on top of Lovelace Tavern and somehow never even saw the above-ground signs to the Stadt Huys’ history. In my defense though, the potholes are mostly condensed over and nowhere near as visible as in the Forgotten NY link above. There’s some more fun history here.

the first Shearith Israel Cemetery

the first Shearith Israel Cemetery

From there we headed north on Pearl and out of the Financial District/New Amsterdam to Shearith Israel’s first cemetery on St. James south of Chatham Square and practically in the heart of what is now Chinatown. It’s amazing how far outside “the city” that was when you walk uphill from Wall Street to the Brooklyn Bridge and then back down. Walking past the Seaport is just sad with the recent news and more-or-less permanent closure of the museum’s galleries. There are some great images and maps of the cemetery’s history and it was a pleasant surprise to find it open. It turned out it was for a Memorial Day dedication and so we got a nice bit of history about those who were buried there. The 2006 restoration was done with some amazing detail to find new pieces of history.

The guide said, and I agreed, that this tour was a hard one because with the exception of Shearith Israel’s cemetery, we were talking about things that there’s no trace of. It’s not like the other tours where the buildings’ purposes may have changed but they still remain. I found it amazing that there are only two manmade structures that date back to the 18th century: the fence at Bowling Green and (maybe) Fraunces Tavern.

The end of this tour segued nice with Eric Ferrara’s Bowery tour, which I did two or three years ago. I especially liked accidentally finding Collect Pond Park on my way to the West Side after the tour.

Further reading:

Review: Life on Foot by Nate Damm

It’s been a while since I read a walking book. I’m going to take a gander that the Saunter inspired it.   I can safely say that the walk Nate Damm covered in his Life On Foot: A Walk Across America book is one I’ll never undertake. But I loved reading every word of it. I could also identify more with Nate than I could with Ffyona Campbell when I read about her walks. Nor did I want to smack him as I did Josie Dew while reading about her life on wheels.

Damm’s walk started in Delaware in late February 2011, and he was inspired by the walks of John Francis.  The American Discovery Trail was the first of many named roads that he walked. Some like the Lincoln Highway I’ve driven, others such as The Loneliest Road had me heading to Google.

Like Mike McIntyre’s Kindness of Strangers, I love the people that Nate met — from Serinda on his first days of the trail to Maureen in southern Ohio where Nate learned of the “Hobo Spirits”

I’m a big historic site traveler and in addition to the books it put on my list, there are also a number of sites I want to see:

  • Mason-Dixon Line, sure I’ve crossed into and out of Maryland but never got a photo if it’s marked.
  • Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia
  • French Lick, not because I’m a Bird or Celtics fan but legends of people and towns like the “Hick from French Lick” are just too fun to pass up.

It was William Least Heat-Moon’s River Horse that whet the road trip appetite last year. While I hope Amtrak quells it some, I feel the need of a “see America” road trip sometime soon. In the mean time, I enjoyed the America that Damm and Wilson saw.

19.5 miles of the Great Saunter

as I’ve touched on before, the Great Saunter was the idea behind the #GreatManhattanLoop when I first started walking Manhattan. Due to a combination of not being in town on that Saturday and knowing I wasn’t up to that distance, I walked the Loop in segments before finally finishing in May 2013.

In May 2015, the stars finally coincided for me to attempt the Great Saunter. I didn’t finish it (and apparently most don’t), but I (mostly) enjoyed the 19.5 mile walk around Manhattan’s shoreline including some places I knew of but had never gotten to photograph, like Pumpkin House.

Historical markers on the Broad St. side of Fraunces Tavern

Historical markers on the Broad St. side of Fraunces Tavern

Saturday, May 2, came bright and early-especially early with registration beginning at Fraunces Tavern at 7am. As I learned later from a Shorewalkers volunteer, there were 1,070 folks preregistered and they expected that 3-400 had joined at various points along the route.

Castle Clinton in Battery Park

Castle Clinton in Battery Park

One World Trade behind the Winter Garden

One World Trade behind the Winter Garden

The first miles of the walk go around the southern tip of Manhattan through Battery Park and up the west side through North and South Coves and Battery Park City. I’m pleasantly surprised with how relatively construction-free Battery Park is and it looks like the SeaGlass carousel might finally become reality. I enjoyed the quick view of Castle Clinton aka South West Battery in this National Parks’ Centennial year. Amazing to think that was once in the harbor. The opening of One World Trade last fall for office space and the Observatory later this month is amazing. I also can’t believe this was less than three years ago but that site will never not be arresting.

 

New York Central Railroad 69th Street Transfer Bridge

New York Central Railroad 69th Street Transfer Bridge

Treelined Cherry Walk in Riverside Drive

Treelined Cherry Walk in Riverside Drive

White and pink cherry blossoms on the same limb

White and pink cherry blossoms on the same limb

I didn’t take many photos along the early part of the route in part due to wanting to keep pace and, in part, because I had many from my May 2012 walk. The only exceptions were the New Whitney and the fairly new North River Lobster Company. Alas, it was too early in the day for lobster and we walked on through Riverside Park which is the stretch of the Greenway I feel as if I know the best. I walked it in February and two weeks ago in a premature attempt to see cherry blossoms. The no photo thing-which I knew I’d need to keep up if I wanted to keep up with the group-died as per usual when I saw cherry blossoms. Aka why there’s a whole Flickr album dedicated to them. Plus the whole stretch from W. 89th up to the George Washington Bridge is gorgeous in all seasons.

Alas, it was at this point when I started to drag after maintaining pace for the first 11+ miles or so. At West Harlem Piers Park, I changed my socks and repacked my bag* in an attempt to keep my water bottles from stabbing me. I slugged past Riverbank and into Fort Washington. I was already dreading the walk up from the Lighthouse, even though it’s one of my favorite spots in the city.

Pumpkin House, north of Castle Village

Pumpkin House, north of Castle Village

Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point

arches of Fort Tryon Park

arches of Fort Tryon Park

I limped through this stretch of Fort Washington despite being eager to see the Pumpkin House and Fort Tryon Arches now that I knew what they were and normally loving Castle Village and being fascinated by Inspiration Point. In short, I still didn’t get the appreciation feeling I was after back in 2013. I thought the end was in sight when the greenway ended, however I didn’t know the route that the Saunter would take through Inwood as the Greenway is a bit of a myth at this point. It was a slog, and by this point I mostly decided I was done.

Shorakkopoch Rock

Shorakkopoch Rock

On the final limp to the flagpole and lunch break at the 16 mile mark, I finally found Shorakkopoch Roch (full name & details). The whole story is little more than a fanciful myth, but it’s a fun market to NYC’s history. While I broke for lunch-and to change to my flip flops-I gave some thought about how far I really wanted to go. Now that I knew I wasn’t going to finish, I wasn’t concerned about pace.

Coogan's Bluff

Coogan’s Bluff

the John T. Brush Stairs up to Coogan's Bluff

the John T. Brush Stairs up to Coogan’s Bluff

I won’t lie-as I left Inwood HILL Park at Isham the A train at 207th was tempting. But I’d made the decision to go as far as 155th for three reasons:

  • that’s the end of the Greenway. So much of the rest (save for 116-59th which I’ve done more time than I can count) is city streets and I’m no more interested in that then I was in 2013.
  • It was a commitment. Once I was on the Greenway (aka the Speedway) I was going to 155th as there was no out.
  • I wanted to see what changed on that section as well as with the HighBridge‘s continued construction

I had forgotten about the biggest upside – cherry trees! – which made the northern stretch of the Speedway gorgeous. Their soft soil a nice treat under my super sore feet. As I moved toward the southern end, I thought about something else that would be near 155th. The restored Polo Grounds Stairs had reopened in 2014 after years of talk and being “a mystery” as recently as 2010.

While walking along a portion of the Greenway that paralleled the “Harlem River Driveway” and trying to figure out whether Coogan’s Bluff was truly accessible, I turned to the right and there they were! I just had to figure out how to get there with a cement barrier in my way. This portion of the Greenway was either new since 2013 or a portion that I never found since it carried me above the street level of the Polo Grounds Houses.

I walked down to 155th and doubled back – only sports history could make me do this at this point – up Edgecombe and Coogan’s Bluff came into sight. Climbing up on the exposed rock was beyond me at this point but I sat at the top of the stairs before gingerly making my way down where i rested on a picnic bench and communed with the ghosts.

“This is the last piece of real evidence that the Polo Grounds existed, other than the plaque that indicates where the approximate location of home plate was,” said Gary Mintz, president of the New York Giants Preservation Society. … “This is historic ground and should be preserved and treasured any way possible. The Giants’ history in New York was tremendous and judging by the legions of fans today, the New York Giants and San Francisco Giants haven’t been forgotten in New York.” ~ Gary Mintz

It was the perfect place for my saunter to end – and end it did when I boarded the M2 Bus and headed south. I have no regrets. I stopped enjoying the walk somewhere between miles 14 and 16 and there is no shame in walking 18+. It’s always the west side that I’ve found prettiest and the city streets of the east side – which I know well – don’t appeal to me in the same way as the Greenway does. Maybe I’ll finish when they finish the Greenway.

the John T. Brush Stairs from Coogan's Bluff

the John T. Brush Stairs from Coogan’s Bluff

*I looked like quasimodo. I was in awe of all the slim line packs people were carrying. Some of mine was exacerbated by shedding my fleece at the start. I vow not to look like a turtle if I do this again. Eight sandwiches and a box of granola bars were six too many

2015 walking related goals:

  • Visit the Little Red Lighthouse when it’s actually open.
  • Walk the High Bridge (and explore High Bridge Park) if/when it finally opens
  • Finish re-reading Philip Lopate’s Waterfront which I’m super primed for now
  • Read Walking Manhattan’s Rim, despite the mediocre reviews. Manhattan’s Greenway has changed since I started this walk and want to know more about the last decade of change.
  • Read The Power Broker, if I can get my hands on a copy, or something else on Robert Moses and/or Jane Jacobs.

Second Hand Rose

The Lower East Side Conservancy Tour‘s meeting site, “the former Yiddish Arts Theater (now a multiplex)” is Second Avenue in a nutshell. And while the tour of the Jewish Rialto is one I’ve wanted to do for about three years, it felt even more timely in light of the recent fire.

The arts & culture of the neighborhood was the draw of this tour for me, but in the end it was the architecture & history that I found just as appealing and intriguing. The tour began at the aforementioned former Yiddish Arts Theater. The 2000+ version of Joni Mitchell’s Taxi appears to be “they tore down paradise and put up a multiplex.” Or in NYC, a Chase Bank or a Duane Reade. On this half mile of Second Avenue alone that applied to:

  • the Yiddish Arts Theater
  • the original Second Avenue Deli
  • the Filmore East, among other theaters in that building

I fear the same may ultimately true of the vacant lots formerly known as 119-123 2nd Avenue.

The buildings and stories I found most interesting along the tour were:

  • the former Loew’s Commodore, later the Filmore East. “The neighborhood died hard: drugs, thugs, murders and so did the Fillmore. It will live forever in my memory.” The Apple Bank that now stands there was closed today, but I’m definitely going back when it’s open to see the ghosts. I truly wonder if the Lower East Side/East Village has undergone more change than any in the city
  • the Saul Birns building, the site of Ratner’s 2nd Avenue (history and Delancey ties here). Although I’m an NYU grad, I’m glad they  didn’t win that battle. More on the man here and the building here.
  • the Community Synagogue, former St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church whose congregation was decimated in the Slocum Disaster but which partially lives on in Yorkville. While this is generally considered to be an unknown disaster despite being the largest loss of life until 9/11, I was familiar with it. I don’t recall where I learned about it, but I’ve thought about it in the last few years since I moved to Yorkville and walk past the “new” church nearly daily. I was pleased to find the plaque a few weeks ago when I discovered the Community Synagogue. After the tour, I walked to Tompkins Square Park in part to see its memorial to the sinking (easy to miss) as well as to cross it off my NYC Bucket List. For some reason it retained its 1980s status in my brain. Nope, oasis definitely fits

Oh and the blog’s title. She and Sophie Kalish aka Sophie Tucker, the Last of the Red Hot Mammas.

Everyone knows that I’m just Second Hand Rose
From Second Avenue