Hurricane Sandy

On Tuesday, we drove down to Brighton Beach to take a look at the damage left by Hurricane Sandy. Here, it shows that the wind’s force had transported a great deal of sand from the beach. These large apartment buildings had been mostly evacuated and some windows were smashed.

Many others also came down to take photos, slipping and sliding around the muddy paths.


It was quite surprising seeing so many damaged luxury cars.

Over into town, power was completely shut off. No traffic lights, but people were driving respectfully to one another. This crowd stood in line to use the payphone. Perhaps these devices are still up in case of such disasters.

Streets were incredibly muddy, and shops were all closed. It’s going to take great efforts to get these businesses back to normal.


One person took advantage of the strong winds in an athletic way.

Turning away from the water, you could see many items had washed ashore.



You could not help but wonder where they had originated.

I’m relieved Coney Island wasn’t demolished. I’ve usually gone there during sunny summer months and experienced it as a quirky, jovial gathering point. However, this post-hurricane, cloudy view was quite eerie to say the least.









Simmering Back: New and Old

So, it’s been about two months since I’ve been back. At first, it was strange adjusting back to this culture. The weirdest thing was the dimensions of space-to-human usage.

In most of Southeast Asia, people got around by low-powered motor scooters. Here, scooters are usually luxury products (unless used by food delivery service drivers), and huge cars aremore abundant.

Rather than hundreds of drivers crammed into the same road going about in every such direction at low speeds, there are big cars driving along wide, multi-lane streets at high speeds. The American highways were at first a huge shock, but I am at the point where they are becoming normal again.

Some things I’ve been doing seem like they’ll always be the same. For instance, Grand Central, as long as I’ve known it, remains static. Maybe during times in the past it was grittier or more accessible to the public, but today, it is the same luxurious, crowded, semi-long distance train terminal I’ve always known.

There have also been some changes around town. I’ve noticed that the 99-cent pizza craze has taken off on a new level. A few years ago, they were few and far between, but now, some places even conduct price wars where they reduce the price to 75 cents to compete with their neighbor! While this cheap pizza may not be top-notch, the regular pizzerias have graced me with the beloved style of slices that I will forever compare all other pizzas to.

Readjustments have been made to American household appliances. I messed up using a drip coffee machine for the first time, but was able to figure out a clothes dryer again right away (such dryers were pretty much non-existent in Asia). Though I barely ever use an oven, it is pleasant to have that as an option once again.

Being American, it is also hard to match the endless consumer options we have at home with those abroad. Though many people live in excess, as it’s so easy to do, I can basically access any food or other useful product I’d desire.

Some things I’ve been doing have been the same. Riding the subway, going to Central Park walking around the East Village have all been similar.

The Union Square Greenmarket is an exact replica of what I remember it as. Walking around it is aesthetically pleasing, but all of the smells can’t help but make me incredibly hungry.

I’ve been to Bryant Park dozens of times, in the past and present.

However, this is the first time I’ve embarked on the carousel cat.

New things are always a treasure. I’ve ventured to Astoria Park in northern Queens. On a nice day, this is a great place to bring some Greek groceries from one of the local stores and relax on a bench. I also embarked on Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, and discovered where a high concentration of live-action cricket-playing is located. I walked along with High Line, and decided that as beautiful as the view is, it is better to go on in bad weather, when it is not flooded with tourists.

The Staten Island Ferry ride is also a new thing I’ve done. The smell of the water, views of the Statue of Liberty and sight of planes taking off and landing into the Newark airport are all pleasant.

In the Coney Island/Brighton Beach area, some of the businesses I remember have shut down to make room for new development, but the people and overall feeling of the place remains the same.

I mean, real estate developers could never kill the integrity of one’s ability to walk around the boardwalk with a cat on the shoulder!

Though I have not been itching to travel long distances lately, there are still many places to explore that are not too far away.

Back to Coney

I somehow found myself back in Coney Island and Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, the second time in the 5 days I’ve been back.

Except yesterday it was different. It was about 95 degrees, and full of people. I was unable to step on the sand because I cut my foot pretty bad the day before, so I stayed on the boardwalk to examine the people of all sorts: young, old, families, couples, clothed, in swim trunks, in bikini tops, fair skinned, light skinned, too skinny or too fat, showing too much skin or looking too hot with all their clothing on. With such an interesting diversity I kept wondering what exclusive beaches must look like. I think this place is the only beach in the world where you can have such a blend of contrasting demographics.

Last time I had biked, but this time I was in a car, and finding a parking space was quite an adventure. There are the tiniest little driveways along the jam-packed streets and small urban houses behind their steel fences, with lots of the curbs painted yellow or with no parking signs, all somehow crammed within an area infested with Odessa’s former population and Russian-inspired developments. My boyfriend had made the observation last time that it was the only beach he knew of where one can purchase a fur coat in the summer.

I had the pleasure of eating at a Russian restaurant that was misted from the awning and tucked away in the shade, but had to experience others eating certain foods that smelled vile and looked very scary.

We then walked down the boardwalk from Brighton Beach to Coney Island, to the red steeple and past the Cyclone and famous Ferris wheel, with humans everywhere eating mangoes with hot sauce or Nathan’s hot dogs or  fried shrimps, passing NYPD men in uniform goofing around by their scooters looking chubby as ever. The restrooms were full of families crammed together in front of the far and few between running water outlets, washing the sand of their ankles and feet, while the sandy water dripped out to the long line of women waiting for the indoor facilities.

Stopped off in a bar to cool off the madness from the heat and the crowds and relax by the bikers rocking their black leather. I could once again hide in the shade under an umbrella with my sunglasses.

Always an interesting time!

New Times in Old Places

My much anticipated trip has been set, and now I’m in a state of half-doing and half-reflecting. I think back on my first 12 hours as the most interesting time so far.

I took the red-eye flight out of PDX. Unfortunately I was unable to sleep because some inconsiderate people thought it would be a great idea to bring their babies on the 5-hour plane ride. I kept checking in with the air map to see what state we were over, from Idaho to Minnesota to Pennsylvania, and finally the slow-down and gradual descent over Long Island.

Upon finally landing, I gathered my half-conscious state to wake up in the aircraft. The flight attendants said welcome home to some of us, or enjoy your visit to others, I guess I was somewhere in between.

I waited to be picked up, and watched people caravan themselves and their luggage into the line of yellow taxi cabs to take them to whatever metro-region location they needed to go. After getting picked up and then driving along the pothole infested highway roads, we somehow got lost and ended up in Nassau County, Long Island, and determined we should go the other way.

We drove back into Queens and then into Brooklyn, where we were supposed to be. Walked out and walked around the boro, observing the scene just past the rush of 9-5 commuters who had already boarded the subway and were off to their air-conditioned offices. It seemed now the time of shipments, where trucks full of cargo were unloading themselves into the many convenience and other crowded retail stores.

Brooklyn was a fun escapade, in contrast to JFK and then ending up in Long Island. At a friend’s apartment, an interesting technique to kill time is to sit at the edge of the building’s rooftop and watch pedestrians, coming and going and observing their range of surroundings, but never looking up. And then turning your personal range of vision upward from the street to take in the vast New York skyline.

The next task was a bicycle journey to Coney Island. We started off in Bushwick, and cycled our way through about five or six different neighborhoods. Biking in New York City is definitely a different universe than biking around Portland, full of taxis and jaywalkers and a whole lot more one-way streets which you cross and navigate anyway and try to figure out the correct arrangement of traffic without obvious red and green lights.

The most interesting part was the bike path down on Ocean Parkway, which was lined with benches of senior citizens, dressed up in scarves and strange floral patterns that were apparently in style 30-some years ago. Trying to guess their ethnic background, not sure if they were new immigrants that brought over something from their home culture, or old immigrants who never really left the neighborhood or learned English, but stayed in some sort of static existence that they will probably never leave.

Brighton Beach and Coney Island certainly have their own thing going on. We locked our bikes on the boardwalk, then walked on the sand which was covered in green and brown broken glass shards and assorted cigarette butts from angry New Yorkers who make a choice to pay $11 a pack.

We set down in front of two overweight young men and listened in on their conversation, one asking the other if a girl would like him if he had a nicer car. The lifeguard sat above us on a high chair, watching the panoramic make-up of people set down on the sand for a few hours, all the while wearing an uber sun-protective outfit of a heavy rubber jacket and baggy pants, their way of beating the necessity of sunscreen re-application. I took a walk above the boardwalk and Russian-speaking voices elevated up and echoed from the below, through the voids between the wooden boards. In the woman’s restroom, all of the women in there over 30 were having a slow grooving dance and sing a long to Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” and I had to stand back and wait to exit to not ruin anyone’s moment.

This southernmost tip of Brooklyn was quite an extreme concentration of stimulation, considering I was still delirious from no sleep, worked by the 12-mile bike ride and fried by the hot sun above.