Sibling Road Trip 2011 Video

Dearest fellow travelers, I’ve put together a video of the first part of the grand road trip Heather, Em, and I took in late September. The video has some silly inside jokes, a few nice shots of the misty scenery, and far too much of Timbaland’s dumbest but most earworm-y collaboration.

I had a lot of fun putting it together, and you’ll see that we had even more fun filming it. Enjoy!

Update: Part 2 is up now!

Destination: Brooklyn

New York City. It’s one of the capitals of the world, a city teeming with sights to see, performances to take in, restaurants to savor. Of course, when we think of all the wonders of New York, we think of Manhattan. While there are certainly many years’ worth of things to see and do there, other boroughs have their own, less frenetic, charm. Since my sister lives in Brooklyn, I’ve spent a good portion of my two New York trips there, and I’m here to tell you it’s easy to make a whole visit out of Brooklyn alone. Here are some ideas:

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Prospect Park

Saturday was the first nice day in a long time, and we went for a walk in Prospect Park, which stretches along over twenty city blocks, topped by a giant statue in Grand Army Plaza. The whole park was full of kids and their families playing catch, flying kites, and riding scooters all over, and we strolled along past cyclists and joggers on our way to the farmer’s market. A perfect afternoon!

Cocoa Bar

I whiled away an hour or two at this Park Slope café, drinking a tasty hot chocolate and eating a divine piece of cake called Death by Chocolate. It involved cake, pudding, AND mousse, and no, I did not perish (but I didn’t finish it either). They have a garden backed by a colorful mural, which makes it even more appealing in warmer times.

Park Slope Food Coop

(No, I’m not sure why they don’t hyphenate.) One of the most established co-ops in the country, this place is highly organized. You can’t shop there unless you’re a member, you can only visit if you sign in and wear a visitor’s badge, and if you’re a member, you have to work at least one shift a month or find yourself no longer allowed to shop there because you aren’t contributing your part. The rules make sense for a small place that has over 14,000 members, but it is a bit daunting. Pro tip: don’t go at 5pm on a Sunday. It’s a little scarring. But! The food is cheap, and so much of it is local and organic, and it sure does beat giving your money to a giant conglomerate. Plus, just this week they were raffling off a classic Schwinn, so, y’know, hipster cred is always maintained. So find a friend who’s a member and head on in.

Brooklyn Bridge and Original Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory

Back when I visited during the summer, Emily took me to Brooklyn Heights, where we had delicious ice cream at the Original Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory while strolling along the pier right under this giant bridge that I hear is being sold for a really good price. (Aw, poor NYC, maybe we shouldn’t make Brooklyn Bridge jokes when their mayor is renaming other bridges nearby.)

Coney Island

Just take the F train all the way to the end of the line and ta da! You’re at the beach, complete with an old-timey carnival and boardwalk. When my flight was delayed on my summer visit, I spent a couple hours sunning in the sand, eating a hot dog, and peeking at the Ferris wheel at Coney Island. This place was a resort destination as early as the 1830s, back when it was still an island and landfills hadn’t connected it to the mainland. Nowadays it’s a bit run-down, but you can still buy an ice cream, a useless souvenir, and an amusement park ride ticket for under $20, so what else could you ask for?

Outpost

Outpost seems to be one of those places that can be a little bit of everything for everybody–café, bar, restaurant, gallery, performance spot. When I visited during Gay Pride Weekend in ’09, a queer party group called Banned threw a delightful fête here with cupcakes, dance music, and burlesque performers who stood on tabletops and set their tassels on fire. It was pretty exciting. Also, there is a charming garden in the back with cozy seating to share a beer or three with your friends.

Park Slope shops

This neighborhood has a well-deserved reputation for being full of yuppie parents steamrolling over the sidewalks with their giant strollers, but as long as you stay nimble and avoid getting run over, there are a lot of neat shops to see. Emily and I walked along 7th Ave and poked our heads in many independent stores, places built up by locals and supported by the same. I think after a few hours I’d find it all a bit precious, but until then, the many stationery, framing, book, jewelry, and boutique pet stores are a fun way to while away an afternoon.

Re/Dress

Emily found out about Re/Dress through a friend and knew it would becomeo an immediate favorite of mine. It’s a used and vintage store for women sizes 14 and up, and unlike most thrift stores, it’s huge. (Puns!) The staff is friendly and affirmative, the décor is zany and bright, and the clothes are affordable and good quality. Emily found me the perfect LBD there, and I stocked up on summer dresses in ’09 that get me compliments every time I wear them. Highly recommended if you’re in the size range and in the neighborhood (which I think is Brooklyn Heights?).

I know there’s much, much more to see, but next time I visit Brooklyn I’m sure I’ll have even more suggestions to bring back for y’all. In the meantime, enjoy!

Better Than Expected

Dearest fellow travelers, how often have you been obligated to do something that sounded dreadful, only to find yourself having a wonderful time? Or maybe it wasn’t even going to be dreadful, merely kind of dull, like a coworker’s wedding or your second cousin’s bar mitzvah, but the DJ played MIA and ABBA and other artists whose awesomeness requires that their names be in all caps, and the buffet had those tasty bacon-wrapped dates and slabs of Gouda (none of that cubed stuff), and you spent the night dancing with a highly attractive friend of the family who was very willing to share their hotel room with you at the end of the evening? In these situations, you might look back on the experience and conclude, “Well, that was better than expected.”

My mom is very fond of the phrase “better than expected,” and it’s become somewhat of a thing in our family to admit our pessimistic outlook was proved wrong and we were pleasantly surprised. Why, just a few weeks ago, when I was visiting EL, H and I went to a church party with our parents and had so much fun talking to people we hadn’t seen in months that we stayed an hour and a half later than we’d planned to. Better than expected.

When I went to New York City this past May, it was a classic case. I was, of course, immensely excited to visit my sister E, but that was separate from how I felt about visiting the city itself. See, I’ve had a bias against the East Coast for over ten years now, based on all the literature and movies that assume everyone is aware the Midwest is for uncultured oafs, and the only place to be, if you’re going to be anybody, is New York (followed by Boston or DC if you have to settle). Unfortunately, many of the people I’ve met from New York support this theory, and I can’t stand their smug superiority.

I’ll be damned if people are going to tell me my city is second rate to any other, especially a city as overblown and overdone as New York. People in New York are proud to be assholes to tourists, whereas people in Chicago might get annoyed at having to point out the Sears Tower over and over, but we’re still going to say excuse me when we bump into you on the street. Everyone in theater knows that there are two towns for theater in the US — New York and Chicago. New York has a giant park and a dirty ocean, but Chicago has miles of park running alongside a lake you can actually swim in. Bands might move to New York when they need to cut a record deal, but they’re just as likely to record that album in Chicago. And if you’re a hip hop act, Chicago is the place to be. If you want to eat at one of the hot restaurants in New York, you have to make reservations before the place even exists. In Chicago, I’m pretty sure I could get a reservation at Alinea or the Publican a week or two out, and in the meantime, there’s Kuma’s Corner. Chicago has the perfect combination of Midwestern manners and big city excitement, and I honestly don’t want to live anywhere else for at least a few years.

Oops. I got off on a tangent there. But that’s exactly what I mean — I get so defensive about Chicago when I’m talking to East Coasters, and New Yorkers in particular. Of course I still wanted to go to New York. It’s not that I think there’s nothing special about the place, or that it’s inferior to Chicago, or that I wouldn’t enjoy myself. Not at all! New York has many unique sights and a fascinating history. That’s what I had to keep reminding myself as I prepared to go there. I had a mental block about the people I’d meet and the city’s relation to my city, but if I could just get past that, there was a world class city waiting for me.

Indeed, I had a wonderful time. Granted, E introduced me to her friends, so everyone I met was friendly, but I was kind of expecting to get straight up shoved into the street for walking too slowly on the sidewalk, and that did not happen. I was also fairly confident that I’d get “tourist” hurled at me as an angry epithet when I stopped to take my 400th photo (in five days. not kidding.), but instead, I was twice stopped for directions from other tourists who took me for a native. And the sights did not disappoint. I am a firm believer in seeing lots of tourist sites when visiting a new place, since you never know when you’ll be back, and there’s usually a reason something got famous enough to be a tourist destination in the first place. Accordingly, I packed it in: Empire State Building, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Staten Island Ferry, Central Park, Greenwich Village, Little Italy, Chinatown, a show on Broadway, Times Square (for ten bewildering and terrifying minutes), the Modern Museum of Art, and even Coney Island when my return flight was delayed by several hours.

 

Central Park

Central Park

 

 

Chrysler Building

Chrysler Building from the top of the Empire State Building

The Classy Tourists

as touristy as possible, and mighty happy

 

 

What’s that? Okay. Yes. I’ll admit it, and gladly. New York was better than expected.