Monday, March 26, 2012

west side story

I love different neighborhoods of New York City for their distinctive personalities. The Upper West Side (UWS) was one area I hadn't been acquainted with until two Saturdays ago, on St. Patrick's Day, when I ventured up with my two favorites Jessies: my best friend Jess who was visiting from Arizona for her Spring Break and my favorite film photog and philosopher Jessie Roth.

Jessie had mapped out some must-see spots and we made our way further up Manhattan with each new destination. We hit all of the vintage shops in the neighborhood and as we were walking towards the  cafe of my dreams we stumbled upon an incredible bookstore where we spent time thumbing through books and records. West Side Books embodied everything you'd ever want in a bookstore, from its twenty-foot high bookcases to its chatty shop owners.

We found a collection of Walt Whitman's poetry and opened right to "To a Stranger" which truly encapsulates living in New York, where brief encounters with strangers are frequent. 

Afterwards, we hurried over to our most anticipated destination of the day: Cafe Lalo.  I am in no way sugar-coating this experience when I say that Cafe Lalo is one of my most favorite places in the world. I may have been swayed by the crisp weather and airy light flowing from the open windows, but Cafe Lalo is truly a site I believe would warrant a trip to NYC. 

If you're a romantic comedy fan, like myself, you may remember Cafe Lalo from You've Got Mail in the scene where Meg Ryan's character is stood up by her cyber soul mate, Tom Hanks. This movie has a special place in my heart, it was the only VHS I ever remember owning as a kid at my mom's house. We watched it over and over, back to back. The soundtrack, too, was the one of the very few CDs my mom kept in the car and we spent countless hours driving to it. I now realize that You've Got Mail was likely the first perspective of New York City that I came across, which makes sense why I'm slightly obsessed with the idea of NYC in the 90s, sad to have arrived here a decade too late.  I still listen to the album often as a way of mustering up feelings of nostalgia, so having this real-life You've Got Mail experience was especially exciting.

We enjoyed a delicious brunch, wonderful food and conversation mixed with the pleasant atmosphere of the cafe. 

Jess and me, taken by Jessie!

We finished off our Cafe Lalo experience with one of Lalo's famed desserts, Tiramisu. 
I only hope my photographs do the cafe justice, if you do have the chance: check the cafe out for yourself (I'd be happy to join, wink wink).

The day did not conclude after brunch, though. We strolled a few blocks over to Central Park where golden hour was at its peak. We stopped by some flowering trees and snapped away, naturally. 

As we walked through the park, we made our way from the West side of town to the East, eventually ending our day with a visit the Guggenheim to see the Francesca Woodman exhibition. The exhibition was far more extensive than I had expected, it's incredible how much prime work she was able to create in such a short life.

Listening To:
Dark Dark Dark- Daydreaming
(a beautiful song that makes me wish I could play the piano)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

field trip for grown-ups

Two Fridays back, the photo crew gathered for a grown-up field trip planned by the ever-wonderful Sandy. The weather reports warned us of impending thunderstorms, but we sought adventure in spite of it all. With our cameras, snacks, and open minds in tow we went into the depths of Brooklyn in search of a secret beach which had once served as a dump. After a leisurely trip on the subway and a bus ride filled with some amusing characters, we came upon our desired spot. Because we're the cheesy types, we entered into a little huddle, putting our hands into a circle before setting off in small groups along on the beach.

We spent the hours looking at and collecting foreign objects buried in the sand. It was hard to discern how long some of these items had been on the shore, each seemed to have their own sort of ghostly story attached to them.

My best friend, Jess, was visiting for Spring Break and I was glad she was able to experience this non-traditional New York site. 

Walking along a deserted beach just hours from hurrying through the busy streets of New York City, it was weird to have this instant sense of comforting isolation. 

You can guess that many photographs resulted from our field trip. I loved watching the way that Tara worked with Sandy as her model. Tara later set up her camera and took some incredible self-portraits on a whim. 

Jessie, playing in a rusted box floating on the shore. 

A photograph of the polaroid that Derek took of me on his Mamiya.

By the time we were on the subway home, we were all sleepy & delusional, taking turns jokingly napping on one another. We headed back to the West Village, where we enjoyed bagels & tea at a cafe before heading home to rest. 

Here is a photograph of the whole crew taken by Sandy
(from left to right: Jess, Jessie, Derek, Kenneth, Tara, Myself, Metin, Sandy)

Be sure to check out everyone's take on our little field trip!

and of course the incredible video that my dearest Metin put together
(it encapsulates our adventure so well)

Adventure from Metin Fejzula on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

hello darkness, my old friend

I've been meaning to make my way to the East River for months now, but I've always managed to put it off. This Tuesday, I finally accomplished this goal of mine. My friend, Luka, had told me of a beautiful little park called Sutton Place that overlooks the water and we decided to make the trip uptown. Before leaving, we listened to Simon & Garfunkel's "The 59th Street Bridge Song", very fitting for our adventure. We took the subway from Union Square and exited early at Grand Central to marvel at the terminal's architecture and its magnitude.

We had the eventual goal of reaching the river, but we walked at a casual pace, stopping on various streets and at overlook points to take in different views of the city. We made a complete circle around the Chrysler Building by the end of the evening. 

Funny thing is we never did end up at Sutton Place, but we did find a park that led us right to the river and a view of the Queensboro Bridge (The 59th Street Bridge). 

I stared in amazement as I captured the scene in photographs and Luka played the guitar. The view and sound of the calm water mixed with the cars streaming below was surreal to take in at once. It was surely one of those moments where I cannot believe I live in New York City and it's strange to grasp how much my life has changed in just the last six months. We spent quite awhile there, unworried about the passing of time unlike most denizens of New York City. 

There's something strange about experiencing a place for the first time in almost complete darkness, you focus on the little details: the little ripples in the water, the reflections of headlights, the plants swishing as cars whizzed by. Behind you is this massive metropolis, in front of you: a body of water. I love the juxtaposition.

Luka played "The Sound Of Silence", coincidental because it's originally from the album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M, which wasn't too far off from the current time.

We headed out a few hours later and made our way back downtown.

Currently listening to:
 Lights Out, Words Gone by Bombay Bicycle Club
(been listening to them on repeat for these past few weeks)

Friday, March 16, 2012

spring gathering

Whenever a fellow Flickr friend is in town, the group gathers for the event...and it's always an adventure across different neighborhoods. Ann He was visiting this past weekend so we planned a dinner for Monday evening in the East Village. Sandy chose the quaint Yaffa Cafe located on St. Mark's, a spot I had always wanted to try but hadn't found the occasion to. The decor was a mix of glamorous and outrageous, funky wallpaper and lighting added to the eclectic vibe of the cafe. It was wonderful to catch up with everyone, especially people like Shriya and Tara and Kenneth whom I hadn't seen in awhile.

The lovely Ann!

After dinner, we spent some time in a bookshop next door, looking through stacks of books and boxes of prints of photographs and art. 

Walking towards Soho we stumbled upon the cutest, happiest little dog I ever did see. This little pomeranian's fur was shaking wildly in the wind but its smile was so bright in spite of its obvious aversion to the cold. Sandy started petting the dog only to find out a few minutes later that the dog's name, too, was Sandy.

Kenneth led us to the Little Cupcake Bakeshop in Soho and Shriya and I split a scrumptious piece of Blueberry Cheesecake (Jessie described it as "extremely photogenic"...and who would I be if I didn't point-and-shoot?).

The night ended with an exciting trip to Kenneth's roof where the seven of us (myself, Sandy, Jessie, Shriya, Kenneth, Tara and Ann) sang covers of Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, and Regina Spektor while staring at the beautiful, brightly-lit skyline.

Tara, twirling on the roof.