Taking A Second Look. . . Up!

Every other Tuesday is #LetsBlogOff day, when participating bloggers write posts on the same pre-determined subject. Today’s topic: “Taking a Second Look.” Feel free to join in, by the way: it’s all explained here: http://www.letsblogoff.com.

The thing about New York is that you have to remember to look up from time to time. Everybody knows this, but still we tend to look straight ahead or slightly down, so determined are we to cut a path, to stake a claim — to a swath of sidewalk, to our place in the world. In a city so stuffed with distractions, you have to narrow your focus or you’ll never get anywhere. But looking up is essential, for that’s where the gargoyles are, the Art Deco details, the inexplicable romance of the water towers. Up is where the clouds are, where the stars are, and where our heads should be at least some of the time.

I’ve lived in my current home for nine years now, and estimate that I’ve walked by one particular nearby building about 1000 times (a rough guess, but it’ll do). Here’s a reasonable approximation of how I normally see this building when I’m rushing from here to there or back again:

The other night my romantic husband sat me down on a bench across the street from that building for no good reason other than that he wanted to extend the nice evening that was ending what for him had been a stressful day, and just sit, together, in the night. I’ve passed this bench about as many times as that building. Sitting there, for the first time, I saw everything from a slightly different perspective. The bike rack, the Thai restaurant, my romantic husband. Looking up, I saw something I’d never seen at all before: the charmingly-angled second floor facade of an otherwise nondescript building.

And so I saw the charmingly angled building. So what? It’s hardly architecturally significant; at most I suppose it qualifies as cute. And yet it tickles my fancy. And for some unanswerable, ephemeral reason — maybe for no reason, really — my life seemed the smallest bit better for sitting on that bench with my romantic husband, drawing out the evening just a little longer, looking at the shiny moon, feeling the air while I wasn’t moving through it. Better for the act of noticing, and for the things I noticed.

There’s so much to see when you look up. . .


Update: The Best $37.50 I’ve Ever Spent

It’s been one of those weeks. No. It’s been many of those weeks. I’m feeling rushed and stressed and way behind the eight ball all the damn time. And I’ve nothing to complain about: it’s all good. Just too many deadlines and decisions and errands and tasks all at once, and though I’ve known people who thrive, who actually do better, when they’re over-scheduled, I’m not one of them. To break the stalmate of decision-making and shake off the oppression of a to-do list that’s mysteriously self-replenishing (how?!), I gave myself an hour to get to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It was blissfully uncrowded. Not to mention green and floral, and rejuvenating and refreshing as always. Even the fish and turtles in the Japanese garden pond seemed less crowded, more unhurried, than usual. I did, however, witness a fish attempt to kiss (or bite?) a turtle’s face; the turtle lazily flippered the fish away, and all was well.

The Best $37.50 I’ve Ever Spent
I’ve lived in Brooklyn since 2002, but I only just joined the Brooklyn Botanic Garden this year. It’s the smartest thing I’ve done in quite a while. Now I get in free, which means I’ll head over there even if I only have an hour to spare. Sure, the regular $8 admission would be well worth it even for only an hour, but let’s face it, I wouldn’t do it. Eh, I’d think, I only have an hour; I’ll go when I have more time. And then I wouldn’t. Now that I’m a member I’ve gone there more times in the last 3 months than I’d gone in the entire previous 7 years. And here’s the thing: when I step into that garden, everything else seems to fall away. Whatever’s bothering me, nagging at me, waking me up at 4 in the freaking morning — gone. $50 individual membership. $85 family/dual (somehow, when we joined there was a $10 discount, so it was $75). If you can’t make it, go virtually: here are pictures of my 2008 visit with my niece, Sharon, during the annual cherry blossom festival (heaven!). And here’s a list of botanic gardens throughout the world.

just a few more pictures (click on pix to enlarge)

“The Best Thing I Ever Done”

You might know these two things about food in New York:
1) Pizza is everywhere (as is Chinese food, but that’s another story).
2) The question of who makes the best pizza in New York is one that has been studied and debated by scientists, scholars, think tanks, government agencies and international consortia.
Well, maybe not. But people are passionate about their pizza. Some are absolute devotees of a particular shop. Others search and compare margherita after margherita, uptown, downtown, east, west, borough to borough.
Complicating matters is the trend in recent years toward artisanal pizza shops. I’m of the opinion that these new “fancy” places (some of which are excellent) are different animals than the old style pie shops, and there’s no sense comparing, say, Donatella to Grimaldi, Co. to Totono’s.
A popular contender for the title of best New York pizza is Di Fara, where Domenico DeMarco has made every pie by hand for close to 50 years. Obviously, Di Fara falls into the old style “it-ain’t-fancy-but-it’s-good” category. I’m not sure it’s my personal favorite, but it’s great pizza, and worth the wait, first in line to place your order, then for your hand-made pie to be served up by DeMarco, who puts his bare hands into the oven to make sure each pizza looks exactly right before he takes it out. You can put the wait to good use, praying that one of the few tables will open up at exactly the moment your pizza is ready, and that nobody else will grab it first.
Someone named Margaret Emily MacKenzie has made a short film about DeMarco and his pizzeria. It’s entertaining and worth watching, this testament to one person’s dedication to his craft, to the extraordinariness of the ordinary, the poetry of pizza.
Tell me (by leaving a comment): who do you think makes the best pizza?

Randomy Photo Album, continued

Brooklyn snow day photo by Ken Filiano; all others by me. Click on any thumbnail to enlarge.