Cue the Blooms and Buds

Spring’s just started. While some are still bare, certain branches are delightfully speckling.

The subtle buds are now budding on select trees, while lavish petals embellish the branches of others.

On the ground, it appears that park gardeners have determined that daffodils were the botanical species best suited to welcome spring to NYC.

Even under the pre-dusk overcast, the vibrant pastel petals brighten the scenery .

They are an appetizer for the colorful, pollen-full main course to come.

Snow Week

It was one week ago that Winter Storm Jonas came to NYC. Two notable forbiddances have occurred in this seven-day stretch: on the roads, there was a temporary motor transit ban, and in Brooklyn, a resident who constructed an igloo on his property and tried to rent it out on Airbnb had his listing taken down within several hours.
After the precipitation had settled and things were more or less back to normal, I took the chance to travel north to a wooded area where I could try snowshoeing for the first time.
While there were some traces of human impact along the trails of Anthony’s Nose, on Monday, we had the whole hike to ourselves.
The lack of leaves on the trees on both sides of the Hudson made views of the snowy Bear Mountain grounds much clearer.
After a taste of nature it was time to remove the snowshoes and return to civilization, the designated outpost being Peekskill, NY. The town itself is as friendly as the sign suggests (but not as creepy as its overall appearance suggests).
Back in NYC, the snow has been gradually melting.
SnowgrossSome mountains have amassed on street sides–some prettier than others.
Snowshoes aren’t needed, but still, proper footwear is required for urban snow navigation.
Crocs are not recommended.

Minor Water Bodies


At times, ordinary household objects are taken out of their context, where they look deliberately removed. For instance, a small coffee pot I purchased at a Halal supermarket in Bay Ridge looks entirely different along the perimeter of a campfire bed. Perhaps the novelty of the vessel’s removed presentation makes it look even more attractive than when placed atop a domestic stove top.


Alas, a natural pond looks different from whatever micro pond a faucet may create in a kitchen.


The first use this tent received was to keep us high and dry in the Catskill Mountains, in an area close to Livingston Manor, NY.


Water flowed around the field.


Removed from distractions of society, aquatic motion is always a go-to for nature’s entertainment.


Though, when more water fell from the sky, that’s a different story.


Out of the woods we fled, another water universe we found: a fish hatchery. It might be hard to see in this photo, but the image placed on the truck was meant to promote tours by writing “Fish are Photogenic”. I wonder what the fish would think.


Off to another camping spot, we purchased a gallon of water to avoid the iodine process the adjacent stream would require.


Though the stream’s water appeared to offer its own feedings for local life forms.


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).





Late Fall Around Brooklyn: Gardens, Record Cleaning and Light Shows


Friday will mark the end of Fall 2012. The end of the college semester for some. Others even claim it’s the end of the world.


Whatever the case, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden is a pleasant place to venture to in the late Fall. Especially on Tuesday, as they allow free entrance. You can observe how Bonsai trees shed their little Bonsai leaves.


You can also admire gardens with seemingly delicious displays and read signs about how they do not use any of plants as food.


Even with the absence of flowers and most leaves, these grounds are still scenic.


Another way to enjoy the late Fall in Brooklyn is performing volunteer work.


Norton Records was flooded during Hurricane Sandy. They have been holding events where volunteers can come down and help de-sleeve, wash, dry and re-stack the records.


The record-cleaning event I attended took place at the Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg. It is normally a bowling alley/venue/bar/restaurant.


Never before had I cleaned off records, or engaged in volunteer work for a record label, but these were good firsts.


Down South, in Dyker Heights, the Christmas lights are in full flare.


Although there are grandiose electrical illuminations and immense blow-ups of Santa, Snoopy and Mickey Mouse, I only felt like recording these strange dolls dressed in white.

Harriman Hike

Yesterday, I appeased my urge to get out of the city. As much as I like it here, I do need time to appreciate breathing in fresh air and observing a view free of humans and buildings.

The determined destination was Harriman State Park. I purchased a trail map at a local hiking store in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The man who worked there said that these maps are turning into something of the past, but I think they are still quite helpful. The paper will not easily fall apart, plus I’d feel like a jerk if I pulled my phone out in the middle of the woods to figure out directions.

Driving out of New York City to head upstate through the usual route brought back memories of driving that same set of roads in that same car on many occasions. Though I’d been absent from New York State for some time, the Bear Mountain Bridge, Palisades Parkway and Route 6 will forever remind me of the downstate-to-upstate haul of journeying to and from Binghamton, the Carousel Capital of America, where I attended university.

On such roads, I know where to slow down for the traffic circles, stop at the annoying yield signs and go about the sketchy lane merges in order to ride efficiently.

Past all that, focusing on the present, right now is a fine time to travel to Harriman State Park. But reflecting back on yesterday, it was a cloudless day, and a perfect occasion to view foliage, making such a hike even more pleasant than usual.

Having lived on the West Coast, I cannot help but constantly compare the mind-blowing nature of places like Oregon and Northern California to wherever I go.

But that was another episode, and this is the nature I can access at this point. Even if there are no impressively grandiose rock formations, ancient Redwoods or snow-capped peaks in these woods, one can still greatly appreciate the subtle, deciduous beauty that is offered.

Although there are no intensely challenging climbs up dangerous peaks, there are several satisfying hills that work to elevate the perspective.

The rocks also serve as a nice clearing deck to take breaks from the trek.

During this adventure, I did have to cross some streams, which involved engaging my mind and feet in executing effective rock-hopping techniques.

So far, I’ve always made it to the other side!

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.

Around Town: Above, Below, Outskirts and Animals

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.

Back to Familiar Grounds

While I was back East, I decided to break my Tri-State habits and actually make the 2.5-hour drive upstate to Binghamton, New York.

Making the journey there doesn’t particularly feel like traveling, but more like going to another home. The drive up route 17 is more than familiar to me, having memorized the speed traps on the journey where cops like to hide, as the road winds through the rolling hills of rural greenery with exits every 15 miles or so.

Upon reaching my destination, Binghamton was a lot smaller than I had remembered. Getting around places was easier than I expected. Some of this probably has to do with the fact that I was visiting during summer, rather than my college years in the dead of winter when it gets dark at 4:30 and you take outdoor study breaks where you have to slip over ice on the crumbled sidewalks and catch yourself falling,g or accidentally step in a huge pile of snow that you must clear off your insulated boots before tracking it into a sheltered establishment. Nevertheless, there are just a few general landmarks or destinations in Binghamton that everyone has in their minds and has memorized the routes to get there, rather than being in a city where you get confused with your range of options.

It was nice going to a place I had not been in a while and knew where everything was more or less, the food stores and the cinema savers and the on-ramps and cafes and ways to wherever. Not a bad thing to know where to drop my friend off at work, where to fill up on the cheapest gas and where to park for the Salvation Army. A good comfort in missing a place and then going back to see all the people you care to see and still having an ever-lasting place in the general social sphere of those who remain and return to this place.

The houses in Binghamton look as ever uncared for and rusted as usual. I passed my old apartment building on Walnut and Main and it looked like it had not been updated at all, and even appeared like this entire boxy three-story structure was even tilting to a side.

Of course, there is always going the laundromat for endless entertainment.