Don’t feel like actually traveling all around the five boroughs to get your sense of New York City geography?
The Queens Museum offers the condensed, climate-controlled answer. They’ve recently reopened, and fortunately, retained main spectacle of this comprehensive 3-D map.
Of course, they’ve taken efforts to keep the institute current, such as displaying modern living arrangements for anthropomorphic cheese graters.
It was quite the worldly experience.
Hiking, I approached this cave to observe what looked like upside-down ice stalactites. Not exactly sure how they formed, but I would estimate there being some kind of repetitive drip from a just-above-freezing melt — that turned freezing soon enough.
This ice formation was last week so it’s probably all melted by now…
Elevated heights offer fine vantage-points of the Hudson River, partially frozen.
Bare deciduous plants this time of year definitely offer enhanced visibility of what’s beyond.
And look interesting up close and personal.
The Museum of Art and Design is currently displaying a 3-D printing expo.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
A dirt road in the country.
Gardening with a lot of space.
Getting fresh strawberries from the farm.
Urban basketball hoop.
(Delaware) River in New York State.
(East) River in the New York City.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rooftops are always a way to see a place. When I lived in Portland, I enjoyed a wonderful view of Mt Saint Helens from my rooftop. While I have not been granted rooftop access where I live, some of the apartments I’ve been to offer fine perspectives of their neighborhoods and beyond.
Several stories up in the air, rooftops offer a delightful breeze in the balmy summer, and of course the sunsets never get old.
One way to spend free time in the city is to frequent museums and public exhibits. This photo was taken at an exhibit about lunch hour in New York City at the New York Public Library in Midtown. While I did not particularly crave any of this depicted food, I did learn about historical school lunches and the development of today’s many culinary options.
Another accessible public spectacle is Socrates Park, where anyone can go for free to view the large-scale outdoor sculptures.
It is a relaxing place to enjoy the East River from the western side of Queens.
There are also countless landmarks, public displays and clustered, yet orderly, pieces of scenery that I’ve overlooked throughout the years, and I am just beginning to notice.
Taking it to the outskirts, I went to Rockaway Beach for the first time last month, and have returned, as well as made plans to return in the future.
Under the ground level, riding the subway can be a learning experience. Last week, in the tunnel, I was even enlightened as to what the inside of a payphone looks like.
These particular museums, sculpture parks, beaches and subways are there to please, educate and transport the public. However, on a personal level, to connect with the beings in my surroundings, I believe I am destined to find the cats of each town, city, country and continent.
Whether they are on scratching posts, in the grass, on a bench or someone’s lap, I will notice them.
Walking around the streets, I’ve even had some encounters with some unexpected animals.
And, there is always more to learn, see and find.
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.
One of the big landmarks when I think of going home is the Metro North Railroad. It is a commuter train that links a good portion of the New York City Metropolitan area to Manhattan.
I always know this transit system will be an inevitable part of my time going to the East Coast at this point in my life, and often tend to vaguely daydream about it during my flight to New York.
The Metro North public transit network is utilized by thousands of people daily. It is foremost a commuter line frequented by career people who pay peak hour fees and read the New York Post or Times or Wall Street Journal or endlessly check their Blackberries or iPhones. It is also a weekender-frequented line that is ridden by obnoxious teens with fake identification cards, all done up in high heels and make up and impractical clothing to check out the clubbing scene. Many sports fans also ride Metro North, particularly Yankees fans in popped collars who have no problem offering Scoal chewing tobacco to their fellow riders at ungodly hours.
For me personally, I think of my teenage years, when I would dread the trapped suburban cave of Westchester County, and spend all of my hard-earned money from my several pointless jobs on the train tickets to take me to a more magical place. I have countless memories of paying for tickets into the automated ticket dispensers and being angry at the gradual increase of their prices over the years. I also spent lots of my time living there standing on the platforms of Pleasantville station, the closest to where I’d lived. Or scenic Scarborough Station, where I got to watch the Hudson splash waves.
The Ossining Station is where I spent my old morning commute to Riverdale, which is in the North Bronx, where I had worked as an ESL instructor. I would wake at 6:00 AM daily, be driven there by 7:00, and wait for the 7:08 train. I would often buy the coffee from the small convenience half-store set up there in the upper deck’s shelter, then walk down the stairs, wait for the train to arrive and and watch the other commuters load onto the platforms. On the way back to Ossining, sometimes I even caught the view of the Rockland County commuters boarding their ferry to take them back across the Hudson. I would ride the Hudson Line back and forth daily, in a pre-peak hour where I would sit alone and drink my caffeinated beverage without a cup holder and correct tests and essays, or sometimes get the opportunity to daze off into the Palisades cliffs of where New York State ends and New Jersey begins (or vice versa on the return train). It was my only time being truly alone and at peace at that point in my life.
Today, I face no commute, and Metro North trains are something I always take when I’m back in New York, still having the same feeling of anxiousness to leave the suburbs and be in the city. I have pretty much memorized the Hudson Line, that goes along the river, and the Southeast Line, that goes through inland areas through the backs of many different towns that gradually turn more urban.
On both of these routes, I’ve memorized the slow-down when the train goes southward from the Bronx and crosses the bridge into Manhattan Island, where it then inevitably docks at 125th Street in Harlem.
After Harlem, the silver bullet then drives through a long stretch of underground tunnel and slows down even more, eventually weaving into the bowels of the Upper East Side and finally into Grand Central of Midtown Manhattan.
I am so familiar with the routine of getting off the train, and entering the dirty and dark, brown and grey platform station with trash cans full of hundreds of old newspapers, where all of us now-walking passengers are completely jammed and crammed through our gradually ascending exodus out of these sub-city track bowels, like some entrapped troglodyte creatures instinctively heading for the light, into Grand Central, a dome trap universe of hustle and bustle and travel and commute and overpriced fast foods and boutiques.
The final step is to either exit out the doors of Grand Central and enter the commotion of 42nd street, the reaching skyscrapers and yellow cabs and the drift-off of tourists from Times Square mixing with the thousands of commuters dressed in pressed collared shirts and shoppers carrying an abundance of brand-name store bags. Either I walk to my destination, or go underneath ground once again to the MTA subway, and ride up, cross or downtown and begin the awaited adventures.
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!