Monday, April 11, 2011

7. Explore Freshkills Park

69. Explore Freshkills Park
Since 2001, the city has worked on transforming a ginormous landfill on Staten Island into a public park more than twice the size of Central Park. While work continues, your only chance to see the wetlands, meadows and birds of Freshkills Park is on a free two-hour tour (by bus and foot). Last year, killdeers, ospreys and even a bald eagle were spotted, so keep your eyes peeled. Register at www.nycgovparks.org to secure a place. Meet at Eltingville Transit Center, 90 –98 Wainwright Ave at Richmond Ave, Staten Island (212-788-8277). Next tour Mar 27 at 10:30am; free






3/27/2011 - My Take


*Doo-doo...do-da-do... do-do-do-do-do-do-do...do-da-do (my alarm goes a little something like that)..."Dismiss" (why can't my blackberry just call it "snooze" like every other alarm clock?)... <alarm repeat>... "Dismiss"... <alarm repeat>... Phone, you win. I'm up. You suck. It makes me even angrier that you try to wake me up politely. I hate you.


*Author's Note: I revised the first verse of my exact alarm sound approximately 20 times. That's 30 minutes of my life I'll never get back so you're not allowed to move on until you get the tune right. Say it out loud. Some of you may even have this exact alarm! If you do, you know how bad you hate it!


I can't believe I'm actually waking up THIS early on a SUNDAY to visit STATEN ISLAND for a BIRD TOUR.  I don't even wake up this early during the week for work.  In my college years, I didn't even experience daylight on Saturdays and Sundays (how far I've come in life).  My alarm was set for 6:30, leaving me 2.5 hours to get to my 10 am bird tour (assuming an on-time departure of 7:30) and giving me plenty of buffer time to pick up a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich along the way - vegetable bagel toasted, 2 eggs, shaken not stirred.


Google maps told me it was 1.5 hours by bus (if I take the bus leaving from Manhattan, which is more convenient but costs more). Reluctant to shell out the extra coin and given my travel expertise, I plot my own route, telling myself that I'm saving both time and money by doing it MY way.


I make it out of my door at 8:00 am (30 minutes late), catch the 6, transfer to the 4/5 and then transfer back to the 6 because of construction.  By the time I get off downtown, it's now 5 minutes until 9:00 am.  To get to Staten Island, I have to take the ferry, which runs approximately every 30 minutes. That means I have approximately 5 minutes to get there or else I will have to wait another half an hour for the next ferry.  I sprint through the park and make it to the ferry just as it's boarding. Phew. Made it. Barely.

I fight through the crowd of young, hipster french kids and sprint off this mother$#^# boat (I'm OFF a boat!).  It's now approximately 9:30 am, and the bus leaves every 20 minutes.  I figured that I already missed it, but that didn't keep me from trying to make it anyhow.  I make a mad dash that would've given Michael Johnson a run for his money in the '96 Summer Games over to my the bus stop. Ramp B (where my stop is supposed to be) - closed. Shit. Where do I go now? Now, I'm running around as if I'm a contestant on the Amazing Race asking everyone in sight "Where is the bus to Freshkills Park?" They look at me like I'm nuts. One guy tells me that it's behind a couple pylons. Ok?  I sprint across the parking lot, and as I get to a series of buses, one pulls up right in front of me. Yes, it's my bus. Dude. Sweet. I proceed to board the metal beast, and the bus driver stops me - only disabled and elderly people can cut to the front of the line, kid. You'll have to wait your turn. I wait for my turn impatiently, knowing that I've come this far, timed everything perfectly, and I'm not missing this bus. MADE IT.


It's now a little after 9:30 am, and I've been traveling for over 1.5 hours (and according to Google maps  I should be there already - had I taken the bus from Manhattan).  I have to be close.  All right.  I've been patiently riding for 10 minutes now. I should definitely be there already. What's going on? Did I miss my stop? I can't take it anymore. Time to spring into action. I un-wedge myself from the enormous lady that keeps falling asleep on top me (yes on top of me), fight my way through the crowd of people and strollers to the front of the bus and do the unthinkable - I break the "golden rule" of commuter transit - I attempt to communicate with the bus driver WHILE the bus is in motion. How close are we to the Eltingville Transit Center, I ask. Bus driver: about 50 more stops... 50?!!?  Maybe they're short stops? They have to be. It can't be that far. In my most polite Mr. Roger's voice, "Thank you, sir, and do you know how much longer that'll be?" His reply, 30 minutes. No way. Really?


I arrive at an abandoned parking lot at approximately 10:15 am (15 minutes late). No cars in sight. I missed the tour.


While I was on the bus though, I did get some local knowledge passed to me from the driver:


**Just before arriving at the Transit Center Parking Lot, the bus driver, who was really cool, asks me what I'm doing ALL THE WAY OUT HERE.  My reply, I'm going to Freshkills Park (I left out the bird tour part so that he didn't lose ALL respect for me).  His reply, "YOU MEAN FRESH KILLS DUMP? THERE'S NO PARK ALL THE WAY OUT HERE." Dump?  "Yeah, it's the largest garbage dump in the world.  There are 8 land features on earth that you can make out from outer space. You know, like the Great Wall [of China] is one. Fresh Kills dump is another one."   


**Author's Note: I checked his claim, and according to earth911.com, he was right: Freshkills Park was once was the world’s largest landfill (almost three times the size of Central Park and the largest park developed by New York City in more than 100 years.) During its peak, the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island received 20 barges carrying 650 tons of garbage each day; by 2001, it was 225 feet high and could be seen from space.


What do I do now? I'm here already, so I explore of course. The only way of getting a better vantage point of the inside of the "park" is to walk up the highway (literally I'm the only pedestrian IN SIGHT at this point).  As I get closer to the "park", the beauty overwhelms me...

DANGER! KEEP OUT!                          

"Up sludge crick
without a paddle."
(There's probably
a paddle buried
in here... somewhere,)



Plastic... everywhere.
Is that stuff, "plastic",
 recyclable? Nah, I don't
think so.




Phew, I'm glad I went with the "specialty"
eel roll today at the nearby sushi joint...
contains less Mercury than the sea bass.





"The water"
that the sign is referring
to. Anything that can
survive here (aside from
the plethora of bottles
and Swamp Thing) would
kick any man's ass if
he attempted to catch
and eat it.





The same body of "water"
that the Health Dept.
advised "limiting" my
consumption of eel from.
It'll be hard, but I'll
try not to overdo it.







Takeaways:
  • All right, needless to say, this place is a mess - a total dump - literally. The good news: they're doing a tremendous job cleaning it up. Transforming the largest dumping ground in the world into a park is no easy task. Someday this place will be beautiful I'm sure.  Maybe there are some parts of the park that are ready for the public? If so, I didn't find them on today's visit. If you know where they are let me know, and I'll check them out sometime.
  • It's not until you pay a visit to the largest landfill in the world that you realize the effects of your wastefulness. When I'm too busy to take 2 minutes to separate the recyclables from the disposables, it doesn't seem like a big deal at all to just throw everything away in the garbage. 75% of all of the garbage I saw today were plastics or other things that COULD HAVE BEEN recycled. Big wake up call. Everyone should pay a visit to Freshkills Park before they clean it up just for the shock therapy. Trust me. You will do a complete 90 degree turn and change from being a nature-dissin' jerk like me before my trip to a more eco-conscious jerk like me now.
  • If you decide to go on a bird tour in Staten Island and have convinced yourself that you're a better navigator than Google maps... trust me, you're not.
  • DO NOT FEED THE CATS: When I got back to the Eltingville Transit Center, I waited 20 minutes to catch my bus back to the ferry.  As I'm sitting outside on a bench checking my e-mail, I glance up... there's a kitty sitting in the woods. Cute. I go back to checking my e-mail. I glance up again... there's another kitty. This must be a kitty respawning zone. Every time a kitty loses one of it's 9 lives anywhere in the world, it reappears here in the woods behind the Eltingville Transit Center. I swear it. I finish reading my e-mail. (If I look up and see another kitty, I'm going to lose it.) Here it goes... another cat! I need photographic evidence to document my theory. It has to be a sign. After I take the picture, I glance over at a shed around the corner, and there's a sign that says "Do not feed the cats." For some reason, I thought this was hilarious. Where do you even buy a sign that says "Do not feed the cats."? And why not just take the cats to a shelter or something? Isn't that easier? I snap a photo of the sign, put my phone away and as I'm walking back over to the parking lot, my bus pulls away.  30 more minutes of my life that I'll never get back, but stumbling upon a kitty portal IS a pretty rare event. This was by far the most important find of the day. I don't know how I'm going to top this one.






  
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Saturday, April 2, 2011

6. Shop at Eataly and Picnic on the High Line Section 2

23. Shop at Eataly and picnic on the High Line Section 2:
Have an outdoor feast by combining the ultimate destination for Italian foodstuffs, Eataly (200 Fifth Avenue between 23rd and 24th Sts; 212-229-2560, eataly.com), and the much-anticipated green space at the High Line Section 2 (enter at 14th or 16th St; thehighline.org; opening date TBA), which will feature a lawn, a steel walkway and a wildflower field alongside Manhattan's west side. Pick up chees and charcuterie at Eataly spot La Piazza, or made-to-go sandwiches from Paninotca or Rosticceria (or browse our Eataly guide for more options), and settle in on Section 2's built-in seating for an afternoon of gorging and gazing.





3/19/2011 - My Take

High Line Section 2
If you commute into the the Big Apple for work every week, then odds are you cross the High Line at some point in your trip.  The 1 train (as in Section 1) runs through it from Gansevoort Street to West 20th, and if you're not good at numbers, it's the green line (as in grass... not that kind... and yes I know it's the high line).  The 2 train will be coming shortly. It's no Grand Central Station today, but in the 1800s it used be 3x the size of Grand Central, and it had 10x the amount of foot traffic running through it everyday. April Fools. Saying the words "April Fool's" today can get you out of any situation, and I've been using those magic words liberally while I still can.  There are 12 minutes left in the day so I had to get that out of my system. Now for the review...

The High Line was actually built in the 1930s for goods transport (sorry no people were allowed unless you were the Grateful Dead or Mumford & Sons and ONLY if you were on major tour at the time).  Its unique feature is that it rises well above the city streets, contrary to the other train arteries that run well below all of Manhattan's hustle and bustle.  According to highline.org, this train route used to be located at street level, but there were so many crashes between the freight trains and "traffic" (leaving that ambiguous because I don't know what they drove around back then - I assume mules) that they decided to move it up off the street.  10th Avenue actually became known as... DEATH VALLEY, which is a generous nickname by today's standards (you know what I mean if you've ever driven that section of 10th Ave at rush hour before).  The last train to run on the tracks was in 1980. In recent years it has been transformed from an industrial railroad track into an amazingly architected park and public space.

I'm no historian (nor do i like facts or the truth in general) so I'll leave the rest up to the pros: check out highline.org for yourself. They do a fantastic job outlining the High Line's history from start to finish, and they have a ton of photos and other interesting things to check out.  Section 1 has been completed for a couple of years now and is open to the public. Section 2 will be opening shortly.  Below is a picture that I took comparing old vs. new.  The right hand side photograph is the entryway to Section 2 at West 20th St.


Eataly
Up to this point in my life, my "family jewels" of fine food stores were 1) Harrods and 2) Dean and Deluca. I should know food. I eat it everyday. How did I never even hear of Eataly until I started this challenge? I must have walked by this place a million times and never even noticed it.  Maybe my eyes/ mind just filtered it out of my vision/ reality because they thought it was too classy for me. That's the best explanation I have.

This is the Rolls Royce of grocery stores as far as I'm concerned. I didn't buy anything today, but my new aspiration in life is to have a personal chef that my wife can send here once a week on trips to pickup obscure and expensive things like $800 truffles and $15,000 olive oil. Absolutely amazing quality for Italian food specifically. For Manhattanites who are used to going to tiny bodegas for their groceries, this place will blow your mind. The whole time I was there my mind was running millions of intricate calculations based on the square feet and location of the store, and I blue screen of death'd after about 19 seconds of processing. After doing a hard reboot, I came back to my senses and one thing hit me: every single customer is European. Apparently they are the only people in New York that can actually afford Eataly. Screw you, weak dollar.

DO THIS
Disclaimer: These things below are not really the types of things you want to do with your brocifer. Save tossing the pigskin around for when you're at Central Park, and bring your girl with you for this one. For girls reading this, follow my date ideas too - just substitute "bro / brocifer" for "chic / best friend'', convert the points into smiles and giggles, and you'll find that it still works.

I've put together a real right plan for a date night when I meet the next girl I like. If things go well, then I'll possibly throw in a McDonald's frosty later on. Here it goes... feel free to use:

First stop, Chelsea Market:
*Explore. Don't plan this part at all. Just wander around and find interesting stores. +5,000

*While she's looking at fancy artisanal

*Remind her that this building is where the magic happens. It's the home of the Food Network.  +1,000

*Bear in mind that you're now obligated to buy her that million dollar Cuisinart if she asks for it since you pulled the Food Network card. -3,000

*Orange cream milkshakes at Ronnybrook Milk Bar. Lactose intolerant? Then, go for coffee instead at Ninth Street Espresso. +2,000


High Line:
*"Walk the line" +2,000

*Crash in one of the big wooden lounge chairs. +4,000

*Kick back. +1,000

*Catch up with each other. +7,000

*Enjoy the view. +1,000
Eataly Part 1:
*Double down on the chocolates. This way you get to eat some too after dinner. Trust me, she's saving those truffles for a) herself to indulge in and b) to show off to her friends for bragging rights. +1,000

*Option 1 - Eat at Eataly. +6,000

*Option 2 - Buy some fresh pasta, a little marinara, some meatballss'aaa and top it off with some mozzarella di bufala... +15,000
Eataly Part 2:
*Finish off your grocery list with some red wine. +1,500

*Get it all to go. +20,000

Option 1:
*Have your girl cook it for you, while you watch Sportscenter. As tempting as this sounds, this results in instant GAME OVER.

Option 2:
*Be Gordon Ramsay. Let her be sous chef. GAME, SET, MATCH.



Takeaways:
  • Avoid bringing up the Death Valley or anything "death" related on your date unless you're going out with an Emo chic. In that case, add 900 points to your total.
  • The High Line is really cool. Check out Section 2 when it opens.  I know I will. Why does it have so many rules though? No walking on rails, tracks, gravel or plants. No picking flowers or plants. No throwing objects. No sitting on railings or climbing on any part of the High Line. No bicycles. No use of skateboards, skates or recreational scooters. No amplified sounds, except by permit. No solicitation. No commercial activity, except by permit. No littering. No obstructing entrances or paths. No drinking alcohol, except by permit (author's comment: there is hope after all!). No feeding birds or squirrels.
  • Now you're screwed and have to abide by the rules too. I told you not to read them.


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    Tuesday, March 29, 2011

    5. Bronx Zoo Part II: Egyptian Cobra Hisssteria - My Scare



    I was one of the few patrons that was actually at the Bronx Zoo on 3/26, and I'm "lucky" enough to be a part of this whole fiasco to this day. Last Saturday, the Zoo was pretty empty and calm because it was 1 week before the Spring season began (i.e. it's too cold for most animals to be outside). My day at the Zoo was completely normal. Or so I thought...

    When I got home later that day I read in the news that a deadly Egyptian cobra had been on the loose, WHILE I WAS THERE. That would've been nice to know at the time, but anyhow... I called my dad later that night to talk and just catch up. He asked me how my day went, and I casually mentioned: "Yeah it was okay. I went to the Zoo. Took a lot of pictures. And oh yeah, a deadly cobra was on the loose apparently." Okay, sounds good, talk to you later...

    No big deal right? I thought it would blow over pretty quickly, and that they'd find it within a day or two. I mean, come on, a snake has to eat sometime. Whenever the Bronx Zoo Cobra started twittering, that's when I realized the severity of the situation.

    On 3/26 I distinctively remember passing a snake on the grounds of the park itself, just off a footpath. At the time I was 100% sure that it was fake, just a part of the exhibit. It had to be. I remember looking at it and thinking, "What if this thing were real?" I stared at it, there was no movement, and this was all the affirmation I needed at the time to tell myself it wasn't real. Then, as time went on and they had still not found it, I started doubting myself.  Was I within striking distance of a deadly snake but just too oblivious to realize this thing was the real deal and not just a part of the exhibit?  Why was a snake part of the Congo Gorilla Forest exhibit anyhow?

    Then, I started to think, should I e-mail the Zoo, or should I just spam the web with all my questions? What if the snake was fake, and they evacuate the entire Zoo because of me?  Even worse, what if the snake I saw was the escaped Egyptian cobra, and the public is still wandering around the exhibits, thinking they're safe because this thing is confined to the World of Reptiles? Worst case for me, what if this whole thing was just a figment of my imagination? I go to the Zoo. I tell them I'm 100% sure I saw the snake outside on a footpath, it's not where I remember seeing it, and they assume that it left the park. The Zoo opens up the World of Reptiles, I'm wrong, it slithers out, bites some little kid and I live in eternal guilt. This is killing me. What do I do?

    There's only one thing that I can do. I have to go back to the Zoo, retrace my steps and collect the evidence for myself...

    Today, I arrive back at the Zoo, and it's surprisingly empty. I was expecting to see media swarming all over the place. The snake must have eaten them. Here are my tickets as evidence to show that I was actually at the Bronx Zoo on 3/26 and 3/29. 


    Now, it's time to retrace my footsteps. I have to walk up to the Congo. I'm starting to get really nervous right now, and all of my questions are playing over and over again in my head - all at the same time. Please God, let there be a snake where I remember seeing one before, and for my sake, please let it be fake.


    I walk down a path that's all too familiar. I'm getting closer now...


    By this time, I'm looking at this fence, and I feel like I'm about to enter Jurassic Park. I look at the attendant and ask the same question as before - "Is this thing free?" At this point, I'm really just delaying the inevitable. He nods in approval, and then, I move in.


    In my mind, I remembered 2 things 1) the snake and 2) this sign. For the life of me though, I could not remember WHAT it said because I breezed by it the first time. I knew the general idea was to look for fake things hidden in the brush, but I couldn't remember what all of those fake things were specifically. I was hoping one would be "snake". "Snake" was not one of the items listed.


    There's the skull...


    and the dried fruit...


    and the dung. Ahhh, and I can't find the last one. Screw it. Let's move on.

    The snake is right around the corner, at least that's where it was last time I was here. I begin to walk CAUTIOUSLY but not too cautiously because I don't want anyone to see me creeping around and get freaked out OR worse yet, think I'm an idiot...

    AND...


    The snake is still here!!!


    ...BUT Phew, it's not REAL! Thank you God. Now, I can sleep tonight without having a guilty conscience. My mind must have blocked out that telescope because I do not remember it being there. When you're at a Zoo all day and see so many interesting animals, you forget these little details.  The sensationalism of this story has obviously gotten to me. Personally I'm relieved, but it still doesn't change the fact that the Egyptian cobra is STILL out there somewhere...dum dum dum...

    Takeaways:

    • April Fool's Day is around the corner: If you want to scare someone beyond belief take them to this part of the Bronx Zoo.
    • Even when you do mundane stuff, always make the best out of it. Sometimes you end up with the most exciting experiences just doing normal things. It's all about being in the right place at the right time and putting yourself out there.


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    Sunday, March 27, 2011

    5. Bronx Zoo Part I: Visit Madagascar in the Bronx Zoo

    38. Visit Madagascar in the Bronx Zoo:
    Explore the Bronx Zoo's permanent exhibit dedicated to the African nation, the fourth largest island in the world. The indigenous creatures on display include lemurs, mongooses, a pair of Nile crocodiles, geckos and a tree boa constrictor. Weirdest of all is the colony of hissing cockroaches, each one capable of reaching 90 decibels in volume (that's the same as a hairdryer). 2300 Southern Blvd at Fordham Rd, Bronx (718-220-5100, bronxzoo.org). $15, seniors $13, children 3-12 $11, children under 3 free. Wednesdays pay what you wish.


    3/26/2011 - My Take


    A SNAKE!
    First off, let me say that the people at Timeout NY must be trying to kill me. I'm thinking about adding a DANGER scale to each one of these challenges. Don't worry. It's not you. It's me. I could go to a park, a musical (Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark not included), or Church and somehow find a way to put myself in danger. Xbox 360 and my fridge are probably nature's way of telling me to just stay inside my man-cave.

    What dangers am I referring to? Well, today I went to the Bronx - the first and most obvious element of danger on my trip. Once I got into the confines of the Zoo I thought it'd be a little safer. "Thought it'd be."

    The one thing I wanted to see today were the snakes. I don't know why. I hate them, but I've been really interested in them after watching this show called Venom in Vegas. The premise of the show is that this herpetologist locks himself inside a glass cube with 100 snakes (including venomous ones) for 10 days on the Vegas Strip - to promote protecting snakes (still don't get how the 2 things tie together, but that's besides the point). Cheesy, yeah, but entertaining nonetheless. I was hoping to spy a black mamba, but I was down to see anything that slithered...

    I shell out my $16 for a Fall/ Winter ticket, and I ask the lady what attractions I should visit. She replies to me with a "Well, not many are open right now. Most of them open up during the Spring season." Me: "Ok, when does the Spring season begin?" Lady (cheesin' it): "Next weekend." All right, so now I'm thinking to myself that I screwed this one up pretty badly (and I'm usually really good at winging things), but hey, at least I can see the snakes and amphibians because that should be an indoor exhibit. Right? I don't like following directions so I take my map, tuck it into my pocket and start wandering. I think to myself, whenever I stumble upon it ("it" being the World of Reptiles), I'll go in.

    I walk past some camels "in training" on a dirt racetrack. A slew of eager kids and their pleading parents are trying to bribe the trainers into letting them take one out for an ol' spin around the track. Sorry kids, you're a week too early. You can't race the camels until Spring. I laugh inside and take some photos. The early bird doesn't always get the camel, I guess.

    For the most part today though, I didn't have to deal with kids and their parents since most families come to the Zoo just to see the Diego and Dora show ("Come inside and join the Adventure"). I never made it to that exhibit. Must be the lion feeding.

    I walk around a little more outside, and then I make my way into Jungle World, where I meet Geoffrey, the goofiest turtle in captivity. I named him that.

    Afterwards, I hike through the African Plains, and there are no animals. They must be hiding. Oh wait, they're not allowed out for another week. There are no monkeys outside. No zebras. No wild dogs. Ok, great, whatever. I'm going to the World of Reptiles. I've been waiting for this...
    I'm finally here, and...wait, what?...
    IT'S CLOSED TOO!

    Seriously? This is indoors. Why is this exhibit closed? Maybe it has something to do with Fall/ Winter thing.  Let's check and see what the sign says: "We are sorry but the reptile house is closed today." Hmmm... that's pretty generic. Maybe they're priming it for a spectacular Spring debut.

    Now what am I going to do? Great. Now I'm going to have to look at birds and bison for the rest of the day...

    I walked around for the rest of the day, enjoyed myself, and it wasn't until later that I found out the REASON why it was closed. Read about it for yourself: http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2011/03/26/missing-cobra-shutters-reptile-house-at-bronx-zoo/
    Here's an excerpt from the press release on the Zoo's web site if you don't like clicking links:
    Bronx, NY – March 26, 2011 – The Reptile House at the Bronx Zoo was closed yesterday after staff observed that an adolescent Egyptian cobra was missing from an off-exhibit enclosure. After learning the snake was missing yesterday afternoon, we immediately closed and secured the building as we took steps throughout the evening to recover the snake. Based on our knowledge of the natural history and behavior of snakes, we know they seek closed-in spaces and are not comfortable in open areas. We are confident that the snake, about 20 inches long, is contained in a non-public, isolation area within the building. We are informing the public out of an abundance of caution and will continue to take whatever steps necessary to ensure public safety. We are making this information public through the media, bronxzoo.com and at our ticket windows. The Reptile House will be closed until further notice. 
    Thankfully I got to the Zoo after lunch time (a.k.a. feeding time).

    Hmmm... Bronx Zoo, are you sure the snake was confined to the World of Reptiles? In unrelated news, the Mouse House was also closed. Seriously.

    It's been too long now. They're definitely going to DEFCON 2 if they don't find this thing soon: calling upon the snake-tracking experience of J-Lo, Ice Cube, Jon Voight and Owen Wilson. If that doesn't work, the only option remaining is DEFCON 3. I shutter at the thought of DEFCON 3. DEFCON 3 has only ever been used once before. It calls for the complete annihilation of all snakes within the Bronx Zoo and potentially the entire state of NY. The protocol is as follows. Once the President of the United States of America pushes his big red Bad Ass Mother#$%^& button, Samuel L. Jackson will be parachuted into the mutha-#$%^& Zoo on a mission to wipeout all mutha-#$%^& snakes (and anything that gets in his way of wiping out all mutha-#$%^& snakes) by any means possible. When asked in an interview whether he was prepared to drop his current movie gig and serve his country if necessary, this was his response:
    Enough is enough. I have had it with these mutha-#$%^& snakes in this mutha-#$%^& Zoo. Everybody strap in. We're about to open some -#$%^& windows. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLaX8UvVUQw)
    For the sake of the public, I pray that we don't have to go to DEFCON 3. There may not be any Spring Season (not only at the Zoo itself but in general) if Samuel L. Jackson gets involved.

    So, aside from a lot of the exhibits being closed, I did get to see a lot of animals and enjoyed my time here. My original intention for this post was to just put up my photos with a couple captions and let the photos speak for themselves. Something crazy like this always happens to me though - always when I do ordinary things - so I decided to write a little bit more about my experience. (When I do crazy stuff, I always come out with a normal story.)

    Takeaways:
    • When planning trips to the Zoo, remember that some animals (African ones for instance) live in warm climates and therefore get locked up in their cages during the Fall / Winter season.  If you make the same mistake I did by going to visit the Zoo in the off-season, you can always make your trip more exciting by going on a day that a dangerous Egyptian cobra is on the loose. If all else fails, there's always Dora and Diego in 4-D. What is 4-D anyhow? I thought it was time travel? If the Zoo has these capabilities, why don't they just send Dora and Diego back in time to determine when the Egyptian cobra got loose and where it's hiding? That's the real question.
    • If you see an ambiguous sign on an exhibit without any real explanation as to why the exhibit is closed such as "We are sorry but the reptile house is closed today." - run the other way.
    • Always travel in groups of people who are more warm-blooded than you.
    • WARNING** This blog contains Samuel L. Jackson: Contents may explode under pressure.
    • Seriously, I hope they find this thing soon before somebody gets bitten. The employees must be really freaked out. They're the ones that have to go inside the World of Reptiles to feed the other snakes, and they have no idea where the Egyptian cobra might be.
    • Final thought: It would have been nice for the Zoo to let its patrons know that there was a problem WHEN WE WERE THERE, rather than letting us find out about it on the 5 o'clock news!

    Now for the photographs:

    This way...

    Is this It? No.

    It's further ahead...

    Is this it? Nooo.

    Here we are! The Bronx Zoo!

    Going in...

    Can't wait to ride one!

    Not today!

    Normal turtle.

    Geoffrey the turtle.

    Hanging out.

    Monkeys!

    Do you see them?

    Tiger on the prowl! BA.

    Giraffes.


    The #1 reason to preserve the rainforest:

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    Friday, March 25, 2011

    4. Make a Pilgrimage to 5 Pointz

    22. Make a pilgrimage to 5 Pointz:

    Trek out to graffiti mecca 5 Pointz 
    (45-46 Davis St at Jackson Ave, Long Island City, Queens; 5ptz.com), an industrial complex covered in street art, which has displayed work by aerosol artists like Stay High 149, Cope2 and Tracy 168. While you’re out there, stop by MoMA PS1 (22-25 Jackson Ave at 46th Ave, Long Island City, Queens; 718-784-2084,ps1.org; Mon, Thu–Sun noon–6pm; suggested admission $10, seniors and students $5),the contemporary outpost of the midtown museum. For a little LIC love, check out Francis Alÿs’s installation “The Modern Procession,” (on view from May 8) a work that documents a ceremonial procession from MoMA to PS1 in 2002.



    3/23/2011 - My Take


    Today's weather in New York City: Dark. Freezing Cold. Hailing. Lightning.
    Tonight's challenge: Pilgrimage to 5 Pointz.
    Probability of me showing up: 100%.


    I think that my quest to do all 101 things on Timeout NY's list has probably turned into an obsession at this point, but of all the things so far, this is the one I've been most pumped up to do. Bad weather is not going to stop me.


    After work, I get home and throw on the "streetest" clothes I can find - a $250 J. Crew toggle sweater, some beat-up jeans, my logo-less plain grey cap, some big-ass red wing boots, a heavy coat... and my flimsy (yet trustworthy) Duane Reade umbrella to keep me dry. My journey to the faraway land of Queens begins with a 20 minute train ride under the East River Styx.  I pay my coin fare (in the form of an unlimited monthly metro card) to Charon (the MTA), and after 20 minutes I arrive in Hades (no explanation necessary). 


    When I got off at this dark and foreign place, I'm greeted by... well... not much.  There are some shadesters hanging out at the local bodega, a few people sipping on some black coffees in the windows of the local diner, a couple patrons unwinding at the only open bar on the block and that was pretty much it.  Standing out from the rest of the crowd in this typical town is a MASSIVE graffiti- covered warehouse spanning several blocks and providing the only clue to passersby that there is more to this town than meet's the eye.  This is 5 Pointz.  It is as much of a marvel to me as it is a mystery...


    BUT hunger comes first so I divert and head to a SOLID bbq place (http://www.sagegeneralstore.com) where I slam a rotisserie chicken, some collared greens sauteed in bacon and a bowl of delicious mac 'n cheese before heading out.  The whole time I'm thinking about what awaits me...


    I finish up my dinner, and now it's even darker and snowing even harder.  The trains rolling by, with their bright neon green 7s, along with interspersed lightning strikes interrupt the darkness from time-to-time.  The screeching of the trains passing by on the tracks overhead and the absence of human life reminds me just how isolated I am right now.  Now, where do I even begin?  There are no windows where I can purchase a ticket, no museum guides and and no arrows pointing me to the exhibits.  I decide the most logical place to start is down a dark and desolate alleyway under the tracks alongside the river...


    As I walk down the alleyway, I suddenly envision myself as a detective in a movie who is about to stumble upon something very bad that is about to happen (if you can't use your imagination - it involves Danny, Beany and a fine pair of Italian cement shoes).  I hear faint sounds of music in the distance but still don't see anyone.  There's one car at the end of the street with its fog lights on. Shit. He's obviously waiting for someone and that someone is definitely NOT me.  I traveled all this way though so I'm not turning back now.  As I move closer towards the car, I create a plan in my head to duck into an even darker parking lot, where I can see some light emanating from a doorway.  Ahhh, this is where the music is coming from, and this is my best (and only) escape route if some drug lord or mafioso pulls a tommy gun on me.
    As I begin to set foot into the parking lot, the car slowly and methodically begins to roll by.  I hold my ground and my breath (thank you Lord for providing me with such a delicious last meal tonight)...
    and...
    It's a cop car...
    Phew.  What a sigh of relief.


    After I regroup, I start snooping around some more.  I'm not leaving until I meet the master architect behind this work, Meres One.  I delve deeper into the desolate parking lot, using the light of my cell phone to snap some photos and to avoid the massive slush puddles.  Then, as I'm walking around the outside of this big abandoned warehouse, a door starts to open...
    I think to myself: Shit, Why can't that cop be around now? I could be in a world of trouble again.  I hold my breath as the door opens...
    a Spanish woman walks out! Phew x2.  I prop the door open with my hands and begin to say "Is this where M...", and then she cuts me off with an abrupt "No" and closes the door.  Strong-willed senorita I think to myself (those weren't the exact words in my head).  I decide to go back to the lit doorway and do some further investigation.  I do the creep right up to it (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLPZmPaHme0) with the hopes of finding Meres One or some other graffiti artist, but when I get there, what do I find?  A bunch of Mexican workers...and the music?  Salsa.  Damn.  No luck in finding anyone this time.  


    Right before I'm about to pack up and leave, I run into a middle-aged woman.  Trying not to scare her but also not wanting to leave here empty- handed, I approach her and ask if she knows anything about the graffiti scene.  She looks at me, points to a dark corner of the parking lot, and in a thick New Yoyk accent says "Mirraaaahhs usually hangs out over theyyyaa".  I glance over in desperation hoping to find someone magically appear from the shadows...
    and...
    Nas appears...
    in the form of a giant mural.  The mystery still remains.


    For me, 5 Pointz, will always carry that air of mystery - like the Great Pyramids of Queens - not knowing how it was created or who created it.  I've seen amazing pictures of it during the day that really popped with color so I wasn't sure how my pictures would turn out in these conditions, but I ended up with some really cool ones.  Here are my favorites:






    Takeaways:
    • It's always more fun to do things where there is a 99% chance that a white boy will get cut.
    • If I ever go out with a tatt'ed up, emo/ artsy chick, I will definitely take her on a date to 5 Pointz.
    • Queens is cool. I like the grittiness of it, especially this part of town.  Tonight was probably a special night since the weather was so bad, but it definitely added to the mystique.
    • To me, grafitti is about expressing your art wherever and whenever you want.  It surprised me how many rules they have at 5 Pointz and specifically how an artist must first get permission before putting up any of his or her work.  I'm not sure why, but if the purpose is to only allow well-esteemed artists to display their work, then it makes me think of this place more like a museum, except turn it inside out and substitute the Da Vincis and Picassos for Meres Ones and Cope2s.  
    • IT SUCKS THAT THIS PLACE MAY BE BULLDOZED FOR HIGH RISES, RESTAURANTS AND A MALL. GET OUT AND SEE IT WHILE YOU STILL CAN! (http://gothamist.com/2011/03/09/5_pointz_artists_respond_to_possibl.php).

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