Prospect Park Zoo & Lakes


The main reason I visited the Prospect Park Zoo on my day off was to see the Pallas Cat, a species which hails from Central Asia. Cute, fluffy and small, its accompanying descriptions had to reinforce the fact that the breed is far from a domestic cat, and definitely a wild one — but I still admired the seemingly pensive feline, and its wise stares, nonetheless.

IMG_1051[1]I made some new friends, though, with the more domesticated creatures. Although I think this one’s love is conditional, based on the presence of goat feed in my hand.

IMG_1042[1]Not all attempts at friendships worked.

IMG_1040[1]But you can still admire a peacock’s color scheme regardless of your personal encounter.

IMG_1050[1]This one is a type of pigeon that dwells in the tropics. Perhaps they placed him there to provide viewers perspective on the common urban pigeons we see here.

IMG_1049[1]Red panda, startled.

IMG_1053[1]Out of the zoo and near the Audubon Center, branches made interesting formations in the water.


IMG_1057[1]If the melting ice and cold weather weren’t telling enough, park keepers make sure to float buoys in the water to tell you not to enter the wintry lake.

IMG_1055[1]At least pedestrian bridges were erected  in the 1800’s to solve that problem.






Around in Autumn

Sometimes, you can forget simple things — like how the 7 train runs express.

On a cloudy October evening, I made this mistake myself, and ended up in Woodside, Queens, rather than the intended Sunnyside, where, en route of my unintentional backtracking transfer, caught glimpse of the Long Island Railroad Tracks. While waiting the arrival of a Manhattan-bound local train, I witnessed below a separate commuter rail network that was transporting passengers greater distances than my meager cross-Queens journey.

IMG_0876[1]And because of the Woodside stop’s proximity to LaGuardia Airport, I was also able to view another vessel overhead, transporting passengers much longer distances than around the immediate New York area, from wherever that may be.

IMG_0880[1]The following day, while exploring the wetlands of Staten Island, I caught a fuzzy view of the Goethals Bridge into New Jersey, packed with slowly-moving automobiles, perhaps en course of courageous journeys, or, most likely, en route of some usual stroke of life or commercial activity.

IMG_0883[1]Beyond those Staten Island wetlands, did not embark on any serious journeys that day, and eventually returned to my neighborhood, where, the only unusual thing I noticed was the discarded sushi on the sidewalk.

IMG_0887[1]Out at the Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, you can observe graves, tombs, hills, paths, trees, and, depending on location, local water bodies or semi-distant skylines.

IMG_0888[1]Up and away from the city’s upwardly stacking financial, commercial and residential skylines exists a far more peaceful place, Harriman State Park, where plant life is far more abundant.

IMG_0892[1]To take yourself upward (without any constructed stairs or engineered elevators) you can scramble through the rock formations littered with crunchy, fallen leaves.

IMG_0896[1]After climbing to top heights of the hill to an open-air clearing, you can see further beyond, off into the other highlands and lowlands of deciduous plant life, a sight, which, in mid-October, offers a fine collage of shades.

IMG_0898[1]Closer into the accessible entities of the regional plant life, you can gauge your environmental education to estimate whether a designated specimen is a shrub start or wilted flower — but then realize how you lack substantial knowledge on the surrounding flora whose aesthetic pleases you so.

IMG_0904[1]As autumn will ultimately turn winter, and you prepare to hibernate, you must make sure to stock up on as much seasonal offering that is at hand. For instance, as many gallons of apple cider as your trunk can fit (adjacent to its resident furniture and linens).





State of New York, City of New York

Recently, I was talking about how I hadn’t updated my travel blog in a while, as I hadn’t been traveling so much. I then discussed how that shouldn’t prevent me from updating my blog with observations from my usual surroundings and everyday existence.

After I expressed this, I did travel somewhere, and while I was away, I kept thinking about how the new scenery differs from what I have grown used to in my regular life.

This thought is probably one of the most common themes in travel, comparing new things you encounter to what you are familiar with — whether it’s convenience stores, pizza, train stations, electrical outlets or squirrels.

When I went on this particular trip, I thought of how things look different in rural New York State as opposed to urban New York City.

For instance:


A dirt road in the country.

IMG_0715[1]A paved road in the city.


Gardening with a lot of space.


Gardening with a little space. IMG_0703[1]Country cat.

IMG_0667[1]City kitty.


Getting fresh strawberries from the farm.


Getting fresh strawberries from the store. IMG_0699[1]Rural basketball hoop.


Urban basketball hoop.

IMG_0712[1]Back view in the country.


Back view in the city.IMG_0710[1]

(Delaware) River in New York State.


(East) River in the New York City.

IMG_0696[1]Sunset over the hills.


Sunset Park at sundown.

Of course these photos are only a visual gloss-over of what they represent, and showing single shots does not account for the complex life that surrounds them in actuality. Nevertheless, from such photos, we can see that different versions of the same species, berries or times of day can look starkly dissimilar depending on their placement in New York State or City.

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.









Buddha, Bird and Laundry Cat

I saw Buddhas all over Asia, but never one that was inflated, floating on the water.

It was only in the Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens did such a placement occur.

It was also at this park that I saw hair glued to an old Mustang for the first time. Fortunately, I learned the hair was fake, as that is not the best use for such a fine braid.

Out in Manhattan, many stories up, pleasant views are difficult to miss.

Down in Manhattan, on ground level, in Bryant Park, the sparrows take dust baths.

They burrow in and fluff around thoroughly.

These birds all look the same, even close up.

During laundry day, cats make a great assistant.

They will make sure everything is hung up correctly, despite their usual fur-shedding on precious articles of clothing.

Nostalgia Conquered

I’ve been back living in New York City for over four months.

Life was strange at first, but I became adjusted.

Being in the United States of America, especially here, its biggest city, it is possible to get so much exposure to the rest of the world. Apart from the international scale, the traditional US lifestyle and set of customs for those of us whose lineage has been here for generations does possess its own unique factors that can be considered truly American.

Since this is such a big, diverse and complicated country, you can also feel like you fit into your particular region, and the rest of the country and world will always be compared to from that perspective. I’ve always considered everything in the perspective of being from New York and from America, and since I’ve recently returned, I’ve gained insight as to how to compare many other places to here.

As predicted, I do miss many factors about life and travel in Asia. However, being so close to 8th Avenue in Brooklyn, I simply need to walk a few blocks to have bits of my nostalgic cravings shortly appeased.

For instance, I can get all of the cutesy kitsch I want, no short of any glitter or pastels or big eyes.

(Though I don’t usually want it).

Of course I’ll get reminded of some less desirable components, and this brings me  flashbacks of such interesting markets I passed through in Asia.

But then I can just walk into one of the 8th Avenue bakeries, and be reminded of something I enjoyed in a different country, thought about how much I would miss it when I departed, and then just be able to obtain the same thing in New York City.

If I get too caught up in Asian references and travel memories, I can always just head down to Sunset Park, take a pause, observe the Manhattan skyline, and realize my surroundings.

Good Fortune, a local Asian supermarket, also calms my desires for edible consumer goods from the East. When I lived in Daegu, South Korea, I would become excited when the pasta selection in the tiny “Foreign Foods” section of the hypermarket, E-Mart, would offer more noodle options than just standard spaghetti, or if there was more than one version of canned baked beans. In New York City, I can have an entire market of my missed overseas options, plus some new ones.

From Korean rice dumplings to Taiwanese chewy sweets to Southeast Asian fruits, I can access all of the exotic treats within such easy reach.

Again, I can always just step out and realize where I actually am. Biting into any of these foods will take my mouth and mind back to foreign lands, and I am satisfied that I can achieve such a phenomenon in local settings.

Early mornings at Leif Eriskson Park always have something new to offer.

The most consistent practice is Tai Chi, but I’ve also seen sword dancing, coordinated pop-music choreography, exercising on stationary machines, erhu playing, Chinese newspaper reading and general socializing.

But apart from bringing me back to where I had been, it’s nice to have things that look truly American and truly New York. When you travel elsewhere, you are sometimes met with a line of imitations of your own culture that never seem to match up to the feeling you get from where they originate.

It’s even  pleasnt to have the surrounding New York City scenery when you are presented with the urban environments that represent instances of foreign cultures.

And then to get away to experience other places, I don’t need to turn on the television or read a book, but simply to walk down the street.

I enjoy being back. I enjoy being reminded of my travels. I enjoy having left, gained the perspective, returned, reminisced and been reminded.

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.

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.