Friday, April 30, 2010

The High Line

One of my favorite things about New York is the park space. Maybe it's just because it's so nice to get off the sidewalks and surround yourself in some greenery for a change, or maybe New York just has really awesome parks, or maybe a little bit of both. Regardless, I just love the parks in this city. Bryant Park is probably my favorite, with their holiday market at Christmas and fun events on the big grassy lawn in the summer. Central Park is always lovely, of course, and there's so much of it to explore. There are also tons of gorgeous park spaces along the Hudson River that we've spent some time at, as well as many, many others.

Last weekend Eric suggested we check out another park, a new one that just opened last year: the High Line. The High Line is actually an old elevated railroad line that was built in the 1930s to keep dangerous trains off the busy streets of the Meatpacking District. The High Line has not been in use since 1980, and New York was set to tear it down until a group called "Friends of the High Line" intervened. The abandoned railroad tracks have now been repurposed as a park in the sky, which I think is pretty cool. What a neat way to "recycle" a part of New York history, and create a new park space in the process!

I really liked this park, too. It was interesting to still be able to see the old railroad tracks along the sides of the walkway, although now they are covered in greenery and flowers. It's cool to have a park elevated above the street, with great views of both the street below and the skyline, including the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building in the distance. There are lots of places to sit and relax, including an amphitheater area sunk below the main walkways, looking out over the street. There were also wooden lounge chairs to relax on and art installations to enjoy, plus places to get some lunch should the mood strike.

Me on the High Line - it actually runs through that big building in the distance!

Old railroad tracks

Looking out over W. 14th Street

Old tracks running directly into a warehouse for deliveries

Amphitheater seating

Leaning against the glass over the street at the base of the amphitheater

Relaxing in the amphitheater

Views of the city

The park is actually still a work in progress. The second half of the railway is still being converted, and is scheduled to open in 2011. For now, the northern part of the High Line is fenced off and adorned with this really cool art piece.

"Autumn on the Hudson Valley with Branches" by Valerie Hegarty (2009)
The High Line website describes this: "Hegarty's painting is based on Jasper Francis Cropsey's Autumn on the Hudson River of 1860, a bucolic landscape that shows none of the affects of the Industrial Revolution. Hegarty's canvas is tattered and frayed, and the partially exposed stretcher bars appear to be morphing into tree branches, as if reverting back to their natural state."

To-be-completed portion of the High Line

After wandering through the High Line, we debated how to spend the rest of that gorgeous afternoon. We ended up walking east to the Flatiron Building and Madison Square Park, passing a street festival on the way. Welcome back, street festivals! That means spring is here! Oh, how I love a good street festival.

At the Flatiron Building, we saw a new art installation - statues of naked men perched on the edges of buildings in the area. A little Googling tells me the artist is Antony Gormley, and the statues have been placed around Madison Square Park, on the Flatiron Building, and also on the Empire State Building. These statues look a little freaky - at first glance it would be easy to think they are real people contemplating a jump off a rooftop.

One of the naked men statues on a rooftop east of the Flatiron

And of course, the Flatiron itself

And that was our fun Sunday afternoon last weekend!

Today I am off to the dermatologist to get my last set of stitches removed (freedom, hooray!), then I'll be spending the day with an out-of-town friend. Tonight Achilles must be dropped off at camp, because tomorrow we're heading to L.A.! We're really excited. We have a tentative itinerary worked out: we'll arrive in L.A. mid-morning, get to our hotel to drop our things off, and then head into Hollywood to see touristy things like the Walk of Fame and the Hollywood sign. On Sunday, we'll be going to the Dodgers game so Eric can see another baseball stadium. Monday is pretty open, we'll just see what we feel like doing that day - maybe a studio tour, maybe a museum, who knows? Then Tuesday, we'll be back in New York by mid-afternoon to rescue the dog. I also have some work next week, so right when we get back I'll be diving into jury questionnaires. All in all, it sounds like a pretty awesome week.

Have a great weekend, all! I'll be back to tell you about our L.A. trip as soon as I can manage!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Another Addition to the List

Last week Eric and I added another celebrity to our Celebrity Sighting List, and to quote the sighted celebrity himself, it was "a big f---ing deal." Ha!

Yup, we saw Vice President Joe Biden.

I mentioned in my NFL Draft post that I met Eric for lunch last Thursday. We met up out by Radio City Music Hall, where they were setting up for the draft. Eric suggested we walk past NBC Studios, because there were a lot of fancy cars parked outside, and that usually means celebrities are afoot. Sure enough, there were people crowding in behind barricades - another tell-tale sign that something big is going on.

As we passed the "fancy cars," we realized that they weren't just regular ol' celebrity transportation. These cars were more of the motorcade variety! I knew that both President Obama and VP Biden were going to be in NYC that day, but Obama was giving a speech down at Wall Street. That made it pretty easy to figure out who this motorcade was waiting for. The police were blocking off the streets, Secret Service was milling about, and NYPD helicopters were circling Rockefeller Center. Somebody even came out and dusted off Biden's car (how do you get THAT job?). We figured that meant things would start happening relatively soon, so we found a spot behind a barricade and waited.

Motorcade waiting outside NBC Studios

Secret Service looking Secret Service-y

NYPD helicopters hovering over Rockefeller Center

This guy makes me ask a lot of questions: How long was Biden in there that his car got so dusty? How does one get the job of Car Duster? Is he a regular Secret Service guy who just drew the short straw? Do they take turns dusting the car? Does Biden get mad if his car isn't dusted? Doesn't the wind just blow off the dust when the car starts going? Where do they store the brush? You see what I mean.

After a while, there was movement and out he came with a crowd of people. Everyone went crazy snapping pictures, and Biden stepped up on the side of his car and waved to the crowd. Then he got in the car, and off they all went. Unfortunately, I kind of sucked at taking pictures, so this is the best I could do:

He's small and blurry, but I promise that's him.

Biden's car driving past us

So now I have seen a member of each of the last three Presidential administrations in person: I shook President Clinton's hand when I was a child, when he came to eat at Parma Pierogies, a restaurant just blocks from my childhood home. I saw President Bush speak at Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day 2008. And now, I saw Vice President Biden leaving NBC Studios. I think that's pretty fancy!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

California Dreamin'

Cheesy title. Sorry about that.

This morning I checked my Twitter feed, which included some "tweets" by JetBlueCheeps, which has been my source for cheap last-minute airfare on more than one occasion.

Today they also had a weekend getaway to Los Angeles listed, including airfare and hotel.

That led to the following text message exchange between Eric and me:

Me: Want to go to L.A. this weekend? JetBlueCheeps, $X/pp, incl. air and 3 nights hotel.

Eric: Wow. Kind of, yes. we're booked. We're leaving for L.A. early Saturday morning and will be back in New York Tuesday afternoon. Everything just worked out: Eric could take off work, I could reschedule my dermatologist appointment from Monday to Friday, the dog could get his shots updated and his doggy "camp" had weekend availability. Done, done and done!

So, we're off to L.A. this weekend! I've never been further west than South Dakota (and yes, I have been to South Dakota), so I'm pretty excited over here. Hollywood, here we come!

Monday, April 26, 2010

NFL Draft 2010

This past weekend was the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall, as many of you know. A few weeks ago, we were contacted by the Gotham Gators (the NYC Gator alumni club) with the opportunity to get tickets to the second round of the draft. At that time, it seemed like my beloved Tim Tebow would likely be drafted in the second round, so the official draft peoples (I assume that's what they're called) offered the Gotham Gators a block of seats at the second round of the draft, under the condition that we would all wear Tim Tebow/Gator gear and cheer our fool heads of when he/other Gators were drafted. Done and done.

Eric and I hadn't even considered trying to go to the draft until we got that email from the Gotham Gators. Tickets to the draft are free, but you have to camp out in line, and you know how crazy New Yorkers are with being early for things. I mean, people were camping out Wednesday already, when the draft didn't begin until Thursday night. We just weren't that interested. But this opportunity for guaranteed tickets, with no sleeping on the streets of NYC required, plus some Gators camaraderie sounded pretty good. So we signed ourselves up!

On Thursday I met Eric for lunch at Rockefeller Center, and on my way out there I was able to catch a glimpse of Radio City getting ready for the first round of the draft. They were setting up the red carpet, the works. And of course, there were crazy football fans everywhere. When I passed by at noon, some fans were already camped out by the barricades across the street to watch the red carpet action. New Yorkers, man. They're crazy.

Radio City Music Hall decked out for the draft

Setting up the red carpet

Thursday night, we watched the first round of the draft on TV. This was probably definitely the first time in my life I've ever been even remotely interested in the draft. I assume that comes from becoming increasingly more "into" college football each year, especially during the last four years of the Tebow era. Eric has had quite an impact on my football knowledge, and stalking Heisman candidates/winners for the past two years has helped me know the big names in college football. So, I was actually interested to see where people might be drafted.

Add to the fact that word on the street was my hometown team, the Cleveland Browns, had expressed some interest in my beloved Tim Tebow, and I was riveted. I was convinced that if the Browns drafted Tebow, I might actually fall over dead of happiness.

Sadly, that did not happen, although the Browns did pick up a Florida Gator with their first pick: Joe Haden. Yay! Go Gators! Go Browns!

Joe Haden, a former Gator, drafted by the Cleveland Browns!
(photo taken from here)

Although the Browns did not make my dreams come true by drafting Tim Tebow, Tebow did shock many analysts by being drafted in the first round, 25th overall, by the Denver Broncos. We were so pleased that Tebow proved so many wrong and was the second quarterback drafted, despite so many people saying others would go long before him! Selfishly, I wished he was drafted in the second round so I could be there to cheer for him when his name was called, but that's okay. I enjoyed watching the footage of him celebrating with his family in Jacksonville on TV.

He isn't a Gator anymore, but he'll still be sporting orange and blue!
(photo taken from here)

Unfortunately, I have been reminded that in no uncertain terms can any loyal, self-respecting Browns fan cheer for the Denver Broncos. This goes way back to the days of John Elway and "The Fumble." I am left feeling conflicted and confused. I cannot root against my dear Tim Tebow, but can I turn my back on the Browns? Is it possible to cheer for the quarterback of a team but not the team generally? Maybe Tebow will be to the Broncos what Lebron James has been to the Cavs - our star, incredibly talented, practically unstoppable, but yet no championships for the team. Is that possible? (Geez, being a Cleveland fan is depressing sometimes. Also, I hope Lebron James makes this analogy obsolete this year! Go Cavs!) I will have to find a way to reconcile my conflicting loyalties. Regardless, congratulations, Tim!

On Friday, Eric and I met up to pick up our tickets for the second round from the Gotham Gators around 4:45 p.m. The draft started at 6:00, so we had some time to enjoy the atmosphere and explore the things they had set up inside Radio City. They had some memorabilia from the Football Hall of Fame, the Vince Lombardi trophy and a bunch of Superbowl rings, etc. We did a little wandering around, took some pictures and found our seats. While we were walking around, we got quite a few "Go Gators" comments, and some positive responses from Broncos fans. It seems they are excited about Tim Tebow!

Eric outside Radio City with our draft tickets

Chomping outside Radio City! Go Gators!

Eric with the Vince Lombardi trophy

Inside Radio City

The stage

Eric in front of the action

We're ready for some draft fun!

Our seats were really good - at least, better than any seats we've had for the Radio City Christmas shows we've seen there! We were in the first mezzanine level, four rows back. Our view of the podium was a little obscured by some cameras, since we were right behind the desk/crew (is crew the right word? Analysts? Reporters?) for the NFL Network. But, we were able to see plenty. We also could see the ESPN people to the right. It was funny to be able to watch all of them! You could tell when they were on a commercial break because they would play to the crowds, check their Blackberries, or even pull out a bag of McDonalds for a snack!

View from our seats

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

NFL Network table, including Rich Eisen (left), Brian Billick (middle), and Mike Mayock (right)
(Note: Eric knows these people. I have no idea who they are. I just write what he tells me.)

Four of the five people at the ESPN table: Mel Kiper, Jon Gruden (I do recognize him! He wins!), Steve Young, Tom Jackson
(not pictured: Chris Berman)

VIDEO: The view from our seats

We really had a lot of fun. There was a huge group of Gator fans there, and we were able to see four Gators actually get drafted (Jermaine Cunningham, Carlos Dunlap, Brandon Spikes and Major Wright). Each time they called a Gator player's name, our whole block of seats erupted in cheers, chomps, and chants of "It's Great to be a Florida Gator!" It was great fun. The whole thing was just really an experience - it was very casual and there was lots of waiting around, of course. Then whenever a pick was announced, the crowd would react like crazy, boo-ing, cheering, what have you. We had a very loud, boisterous, "Cleveland-y" Browns fan right by us, which made it fun for me during the Browns picks. Honestly, I saw more Browns fans at the draft than I have EVER seen anywhere (outside of Cleveland, of course). It was great! I was also glad to see the Browns finally pick up Colt McCoy, the quarterback from Texas who has seen me walk into a parked car. I like to imagine that he's very excited about going to Cleveland now because he has seen how graceful and elegant Cleveland girls are. That's likely, right?

The Browns are on the clock, and I'm excited!

VIDEO: Browns draft Colt McCoy

In our seats, enjoying the action

Overall, we had a great time. We stayed until just about the very end of the third round, and we were actually the last Gator fans there! We were so excited to have the chance to do another cool New York-y thing that we never would have thought of. Big thanks to the Gotham Gators for getting us there!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Gold Stars

How many of you out there are fans of the show Glee? It is one of my most favorite new shows, and I look forward to it every week. My cousin Molly and I have even started having long-distance Glee-watching parties via Skype. Then, I rewatch that week's episode on my DVR over and over all week long until the next episode. It's an obsession, I tell you!

Glee announced a few months ago that they will be holding a nationwide talent search for new cast members for Season 2, and my sister has submitted an audition video! I think she's awesome and would love to see her get on that show - unselfishly because what a life changer that would be for her, and selfishly because then she could get me tickets to the Glee tour (which I was unable to get myself this year). Ha! Seriously, though...what an amazing next step in her career this would be. And I think she would be great at it!

Part of the process includes having her audition tape published online, where people can vote for her by giving her gold stars. If you are my Facebook/MySpace/Twitter friend, you already know I have been shamelessly begging for gold stars for Heather for a couple days already. And now I'm bringing my plea to my blog. Please click here to view Heather's full audition and give her a gold star. You have to sign up for a MySpace account, but it will only take a second and you can vote as many times as you like through this weekend. I have no idea what the "votes" really mean for her in terms of improving her chances, but if there's any possibility that it could help get her considered for this show, I'm willing to do it. Please help me! Click here and give her a star!

In case you're still not convinced, here is the musical part of her audition. Feel free to watch it here, then click here to go vote for her!

Glee | MySpace Video

Go Heather! You can do it!

Thursday, April 22, 2010


When we lived in Washington, D.C., spring was our favorite time of year. More specifically, we loved cherry blossom season. Of course, cherry blossom season meant the Cherry Blossom Festival which meant even more tourists blocking the escalators and generally being in my way, but it was worth it. Those blossoms were gorgeous, particularly around the Tidal Basin and around the Washington Monument. We tried to take them in as much as we could during our three years there, and even had our engagement pictures taken at the Tidal Basin during cherry blossom season.

A few of our D.C. cherry blossom pictures, including one of our engagement pictures

We also loved the spring in D.C. because of the tulips. There were tulips everywhere! I grew up with tulips in my yard, but this was Eric's first tulip encounter and he is now a big fan. Everything was just so pretty in the spring.

Tulips in D.C.

This past weekend we considered going down to D.C. for the weekend. We haven't been back since moving to New York, but still have many friends there. Since we didn't have any plans for the weekend, we thought it might be a good chance to get down for a visit and to see if any of the cherry blossoms or tulips were still in bloom. For various reasons, however, we decided to postpone our D.C. trip until this summer.

So we were still plan-less for the weekend. Then, via Twitter, I learned that the cherry blossoms were in peak bloom at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. What luck! The weather was pretty dreary all weekend, but we made plans to go out there anyway. One thing we definitely learned in D.C. is that when those blossoms are in peak bloom, you better get your blossom-loving self out there A.S.A.P., or run the risk of missing them altogether. If they're in peak bloom today, they'll be gone by next weekend. If you get some wind or rain, they'll be gone sooner than that. We learned this lesson the hard way our second year in D.C., when we made plans to visit the blossoms the following weekend but thanks to a rainstorm, they were gone by then. Bummer.

So, off to Brooklyn we went on Sunday. I have to say, it kind of takes a lot for us to venture out to other boroughs. We're pretty big Manhattan snobs. (Although I will ALWAYS go to Brooklyn for Grimaldi's pizza.) But, this visit proved worth it.

We had a great time wandering through the gardens. The first very exciting part was the tulip display. It reminded us of the tulip garden they have in D.C. every year, with tons and tons of different kinds of tulips all grouped together. It really is beautiful. Eric just loved it and he snapped about a gazillion pictures. What can I say? The man loves a good tulip.

If you look really, really closely you might be able to make out a little white wall way off in the distance. That's how far the tulips stretched.

I liked all the purple, pink and white tulips behind me

Eric in tulip heaven!

So many different kinds of tulips!

After taking pictures of tulips for about three years, we passed through the Fragrance Garden (pretty, but my sense of smell must suck, because I didn't smell anything) and continued on to the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, which was really beautiful. That was also where we started to catch sight of a few cherry trees, including some weeping cherry trees, which are my favorite.

Japanese Hill-And-Pond Garden

More Japanese Garden

In the Japanese Garden

Pretty waterfall

I liked these turtles. That one is laying on his buddy and he's all, "what's up? Like my rock?"
(At least I hope that's what's going on, and not something inappropriate...)

By a pretty waterfall

As we made our way out of the Japanese Garden, we just saw a fluff of PINK in front of us. We had made it to the Cherry Esplanade! And it was so gorgeous. We were so glad we made the trek to Brooklyn for this. I mean, there are cherry trees in Central Park, but we really missed the beauty of them en masse like they were in D.C. But the Cherry Esplanade gave us just that - we walked through underneath a canopy of beautiful pink blossoms, then back down an open grassy area lined with cherry trees. People were everywhere, taking pictures, laying under the trees, running, playing, etc. It was so nice to just relax and enjoy such pretty scenery.

Under a canopy of cherry trees

Eric enjoying the blossoms


Lovely place to spend an afternoon

Me under the trees


VIDEO: A look around the Cherry Esplanade

By the time we finished with the cherry blossoms, we were pretty ready to go. We had seen what we came to see! We did pass through the Rock Garden on our way out, then made our way to the exit and back to the subway.

In the Rock Garden

We had a great time at the garden, and continued our fun afternoon when we got back into the city. We stopped for lunch and did some shopping (Eric got a new golf club, which he was pretty excited about), then we stopped to pick up some Crumbs cupcakes on the way home. After leaving Crumbs we came up on a group of screaming girls, which can only mean one thing - celebrity heartthrob nearby. Sure enough, as we continued on, there were the Jonas Brothers. We snapped a couple pictures, and laughed over how crazy it all is. Not that we're big Jonas Brothers fans (don't bother asking me which Jonas Brother is which - I have no idea), but it just always amazes me when we randomly encounter celebrities in everyday life. You just never know what could happen when you're out and about in the city (and that's why I always carry my camera in my purse)!

There goes a Jonas brother!

Hey, there's another one. We didn't get pics of the third one, but he was there too.

And that was our fun, springy Sunday! I do love this city.