Written by Cantin2 on 19 Jul, 2007
You've decided to cruise on the QM2 - you've chosen a date, decided on dining early or late at a smaller or larger table - now you must choose a cabin. Too many choices...lots of things to consider and #1 may be your budget -…Read More
You've decided to cruise on the QM2 - you've chosen a date, decided on dining early or late at a smaller or larger table - now you must choose a cabin. Too many choices...lots of things to consider and #1 may be your budget - #2 your itinerary, and #3 the time of year.PENTHOUSES: In this luxury category are a few two story penthouse suites with butler service overlooking the aft pool. These have a super sized deck, his and her bath and dressing rooms, King master suite, office and now amble on down the spiral staircase and on the lower level you'll find a living room, dining room another bath and a butler pantry. Even an elevator to take you directly into the Queen's Grill dining Room.SUITES: Suites with butler service are mainly located on Deck 9 and 10 - Many have a separate living area and all have balconies and butler service. Depending on which category suite you choose, you are assigned to either the Queen's Grill or Princess Grill Dining Rooms - the best advantage with these private dining rooms is that you are assigned a table for the evening - you may dine at any time between 6:30 and 9pm and these two dining rooms feature specialty items - lobster, truffles and foie gras on a regular basis. You also have access to a private cocktail lounge, pool, and club room with free Internet and small food offerings throughout the day.VERANDAH ROOMS: The best of the category (deluxe) are on Deck 11 and 12 - These rooms are good sized and have a pull out sofa and sliding glass doors opening on to a plexiglass balcony with cushioned, teak lounge furniture. Booked into these rooms, you have the advantage of seating in a separate section of the main dining room with a flexible schedule to dine - anytime from 6:30 - 9pm. Verandah rooms other than on Deck 11 and 12 are assigned to either an early or late seating in the main dining room (Brittania).PREMIUM BALCONY ROOMS: Don't be fooled by this name..."premium does not mean better...it means better value "aka" cheaper... These are also known as "hull balconies". If you look at the QM2's deck plan, you'll see that the decks below the life rafts have rectangular opening - this is the "window" that is cut out of the hull for the balcony...so...if you are sitting out, you feel enclosed by the metal. You cannot see the water unless you stand up, but you do have a view of the sky. This hull also makes your room quite dark. Balconies above the life boats have plexiglass rails allowing unobstructed views. I do not recommend these verandah rooms. Some guests were "upgraded" from an oceanview to this type of balcony and they were not happy... Beware!OCEANVIEW: These rooms are spacious and have large windows and most have a pull out sofa. The price varies according to the deck they are situated on. These are blow the lifeboats but have a good view and brightness in the room - recommended...OBSTRUCTED OCEANVIEW: The least expensive of the oceanview rooms, but on this ship the view is truly almost totally obstructed...I walked in and thought we are in a dockyard! The lifeboats are very large and are truly an eyesore. A hint...If you look carefully at the deck plan (Deck 8 )...there is one smaller life boat - so that cabin may be more acceptable. ATRIUM: Only a few in this category...the newest kind of room in the past few years. They overlook the atrium. A nice idea instead of an inside cabin...but...basically, you have no privacy. Nice to look out and see what is going on on the floors below...but...people can see in because the glass elevators run alongside the 12 or so rooms on each of three decks. Of course there are shades that you can draw - but it's not the same feeling as looking out at the water and knowing that no one will see inside without the draperies drawn.INSIDE: We chose an interior room on our trans-Atlantic cruise because of the "special pricing". We rationalized that it would be fine because it was April and the ocean waters were cool, the ship travels at a high speed and that there were no views of land for 6 days...but I was still skeptical, because we usually opt for a balcony. We were pleasantly surprised. One of the better interior cabins that we've had, both in way of size and decor. The interior rooms on the QM2 have their own corridor, making them very quiet, since there is no traffic, except for the guests in the five or six cabins around you.HINTS: On a trans-Atlantic crossing, there is nothing to see but water - (yes it is nice but you'll see it all day long), you won't be coming into ports daily and you won't see islands, other ships or any lights from shore. The QM2 sails at 25 knots, making for a very breezy sailing - your balcony or any outside deck will be quite cool. Traveling in winter months in the Atlantic or Mediterranean, it will be very cool because of the water temperature. If you ever need to sail on a budget - this is the time...In the Caribbean - a different story - at least an oceanview cabin would make your vacation more interesting and a balcony would be worth the splurge...Cappuccino when you come into port and wine on your deck as you depart make for wonderful memories. Close
Written by ripplefan2 on 27 Jun, 2007
I had the pleasure last night to go to the Museum of Sex for a lecture and booking signing from a woman named Barbara Carellas who just wrote a book called Urban Tantra. When I arrived at the museum, we were ushered into the first…Read More
I had the pleasure last night to go to the Museum of Sex for a lecture and booking signing from a woman named Barbara Carellas who just wrote a book called Urban Tantra. When I arrived at the museum, we were ushered into the first exhibit that the museum has to offer where dozens of folding chairs set up in a half moon formation. At the forefront of the chairs, there was a small table and a high chair waiting all waiting for the speaker to take the reins of this sled. After a brief banter from the crowd, we were all hushed by the speaker’s partner and told a short introduction of who the speaker was and what we were to expect. Then the speaker, Barbara, took the stage and opened our eyes to the world she (and others) had created. She started with a brief history of Tantra and how no one really knows when it started because it was forced underground for so many years through years of religious oppression. Then she transitioned into how and when Urban Tantra came to be. She had been working as an actress in New York in the early to mid eighties and a lot of her friends were dying from the GRID (AIDS) disease. She had sought out a support group that she had heard about for people in different avenues of life who were facing the same problem of losing multiple friends a week to the disease. Through this group, things started to seem better and people with the disease attending these groups were actually living longer than doctors had suggested. She then somehow hooked up with a former sex professional named Annie Sprinkle and went to a seminar where sexual exploration was added to the group feeling, making everyone feel that much better. Her obsession to feel better and make others feel better was an all consuming power that gave her the feeling of the super human power of healing. She ending up traveling to Australia for five years to explore further in her ideas of adding sexual exploration with group consciousness to make everything flow better internally and externally. The reason she pick Australia was because it was a country founded by convicts instead of the US where we were founded by puritans. It was a cool premise to think that response would be better there than here; and she was right. While in Australia, they were giving a seminar to heterosexual men about sexual pressure points in woman when the two instructors and one test body started to be overwhelmed with unknown possessions. They initially thought they had gone too far and now were possessed by the devil. When they reached their hotel, they received a phone call from America asking if they were ok. Baffled, they asked what they were talking about. The response was that there was a 35 person massacre in Tasmania at the same time while they were freaking out. In hind sight, they surmised that their energy was so high that the passing souls passed through them like conduits to the other side. It was a freaky story. After seminar was over, the "live art" exhibitions started. Barbara had two guests who were going to perform two live art exhibits based off concepts in Urban Tantra. The first demonstration was from a man named Corey Alexander and his partner, who were both huge Tantric fans and students. Their demonstration was a BDSM demo using knifes and intense slapping. The second demo was given by a women named Isis Phoenix who was yoga specialist specializing in Naked Yoga. Her presentation was amazing; she got naked and orgasmed in front of everyone using Fire breathing techniques explained in the book. It was an interesting hour since people were just roaming around watching and talking as people were being beaten and orgasming all over the place. Strawberries and chocolate penises and vaginas were passed and wine was served in large quantities. As people intermingled, ideas and connects were made and nurtured. Writers of prestigious sexuality books were here mingling around asking as many questions as everyone else. So, apparently, there are workshops that were rated number one by Time Out New York magazine that Barbara performs. How to find these workshops eludes me, but I imagine you can Google it. But, if you can, pick up Barbara’s book, Urban Tantra (www.amazon.com/Urban-Tantra-Sacred-Twenty-first-Century/dp/product-description/1587612909) and give it a thorough read. Also, you should hit up the Museum of Sex’s website (www.museumofsex.com/) for the different lectures that are given all year long. They are a real jaw dropper and eye opener and completely worth it. Close
Written by Jose Kevo on 08 Nov, 2006
Thanksgiving Eve A favorite with New Yorkers is to watch while the giant balloons are inflated. This extravaganza takes place on side-streets around the Museum of Natural History on Central Park West. Don't expect to catch much action before 11pm. Crews work through the night…Read More
Thanksgiving Eve A favorite with New Yorkers is to watch while the giant balloons are inflated. This extravaganza takes place on side-streets around the Museum of Natural History on Central Park West. Don't expect to catch much action before 11pm. Crews work through the night as Betty Boop and comrades swell under streetlamp spotlights.
Disregard risk-myths about being out after dark. Not only is there safety in numbers, mashed within the masses provides extra body heat; this night was always frigid as well as exceptional.If fighting crowds isn't your thing, don't bother!The local blue and orange subway lines, which have a CPW-stop at the museum, should be avoided due to congestion. I highly recommend taking local red lines up Broadway, exiting in the 80's and walking east to the museum.For those staying in midtown, consider walking back to your homebase by heading south down Central Park West. The night was always charged with excitement and energy that invites prolonging the occasion. Crowds have dispersed within a few blocks, giving way to magic of the night as leaves crunch underfoot and breath hangs heavy in the frosty air.
At 62nd street's Central Park entrance, Tavern on the Green is the perfect nightcap whether stopping for a drink, or simply walking around the exterior. The grounds are always lit year-round, but special holiday decorations are spectacular. Be sure to venture around back to the courtyard, which also allows viewing of elaborate decorations inside the dining rooms.Whether returning to the sidewalk or snuggling under the streetlamps of Central Park's loop, it's a short 3-block walk to Columbus Circle at 59th & Broadway, where subways and taxis are available.The Best of... NYC's HolidaysGlimmers of Christmas begin appearing the week of Thanksgiving, but the Big Apple doesn't fully deck its halls until the following week. Nothing used to conjure the holiday spirit better than this walk through my old midtown neighborhood.
Whether you set-out in the daytime under a wintery gray sky, or wait until after 5:00pm when twilight prevails, no place in the city shows-off the season better! If time permits, see it by day and by night.From anywhere in the lower 40's, head north along 6th Ave and be prepared to cross back-and-forth; especially for taking photographs. Streetside courtyards and fountains are ablaze as precursors to illuminated lobbies of the towering office complexes. At night, brilliance is magnified with lights reflecting off both sides of glass and water in fountains.
The animated feature outside Radio City Music Hall is a sidewalk stopper. Other massive displays loom within these few blocks, closely guarded by Nutcracker soldiers, standing at attention while knee-high-to-a-grasshopper pedestrians rush by.Depending upon time, walkers can head east once reaching the New York Hilton, or round-up the tour by continuing to 57th St. and turning right.This block has plenty of shops and remains decorated with white lights year-round. Nighttime walkers should look above illuminated trees for buildings which mirror skylines.The intersection of 57th and 5th is embellished with a multi-dimensional snowflake. It's a NYC blizzard all-in-one flash, suspended over the center ready to take-out a city bus just as quickly if falling as the real thing.Turning right, heading south down 5th passes along exclusive stores the Avenue is known for. Whether entering heavily armed with plastic, or simply browsing from the sidewalk hoping Santa is monitoring mental wish lists, no place represents the economic boon of Christmas better than this stretch.
Holiday Window Decorations are one of the city's oldest traditions that have since fallen to marketing tactics. Seasonal displays are now mostly compromised with merchandise ranging from provocative to ostentatious.Lord & Taylor, located along the right-hand side between 37th/38th streets, were my annual all-time favorites maintaining the observances of yesteryears. Shoppers and pedestrians gather around the frame-sized windows depicting nostalgic images and animated scenes like you'd expect to find.In passing along this far, the 5th Ave. segment also includes opportunities for taking-in the decked interior of Trump Tower, tasteful trimmings of St. Patrick's Cathedral, and the angel-adorned walkway, ice rink and Christmas tree of Rockefeller Center.The New York Public Library and Bryant Park, which border 42nd Street between 5th & 6th Ave., is adorned with giant wreathes, including the imposing lions out front. The location is great for warming-up with a cup of hot chocolate at one of the parkside cafes, and is convenient for catching public transportation as an end to this tour.If still wanting more, The Empire State Building is nearby at 34th & 5th. For all the streetside twinkles, nothing compares to the city lights which sprawl in all directions for as far as eyes can see. Whether as part of this jaunt or done separately, holiday visitors definitely should monitor weather when planning ascents. Clouds, wind or precipitation determine whether observation decks are opened. Going to the top without getting outside is hardly worth the effort.From here, head west across 34th Street one-block to Herald Square where 6th Ave. and Broadway converge, and the world's largest department store is across the street. Macy's is the other must-see when it comes to holiday window decorations.Since this institution takes up an entire city block, coming here is like a full tour with decked perimeters along Broadway, 34th Street, and 7th Ave. Interior decorations are just as astounding as are holiday bargains for shoppers.Yet in thy Dark Streets Shineth... Here's a downtown recommendation loaded with inexpensive shopping and an ethnic twist. Take one of the local green or yellow subway lines to Canal Street and the heart of Chinatown. This thoroughfare is jammed with boothes selling a bit of everything, including designer knock-offs.When ready to eat, Excellent Dumpling House at 111 Lafayette between Canal and Walker, is my Chinatown favorite but Italian is just around the corner.
What's left of Little Italy can be found on Mulberry Street, a few blocks east, off the left of Canal. Street decorations pale in comparison with how restaurant owners adorn establishments, including hand-crafted decorations from the homeland. It's worth a holiday stroll even with no intentions of dining, though sidewalk maitre de’s are hard to resist.The real treats, regardless of season, are found inside Ferrara's Bakery, on the righthand side, just off Canal. You'll likely smell this place before seeing it. During holidays, they specialize in old-world Italian favorites that compliment pastry cases and to-die-for gelatos. Over-indulging is inevitable so here's to walking it off!On Canal, head south down Centre Street which passes along the City's impressive court buildings. Beyond on the right, City Hall and its Park are lit-up with decorations. At the tip where Broadway converges, take a left heading east on any sidestreet. Nassau Street is a pedestrianized shopping area, but Fulton Street is where you're headed.
This eventually feeds into South Street Seaport, which has the authentic New England ambience as one of the city's oldest neighborhoods. Compared to midtown, this is like entering an entirely different world. Aside from streetside adornments, Christmas trees are attached to overhead masts of ships along docks.
Pier 17, a 3-story waterfront shopping mall, is rather hit-and-miss with expensive shops and restaurants frequently going out of business, but it's worth going to rear of the upper level for observation decks which have magnificent views of the Brooklyn Bridge.For returning, the closest subway stops are half-way back along Fulton, or the rest of historic downtown is easily explorable from here.In Memory of...Holiday anxieties were realized early-on when some went separate ways while others stayed in NYC. Homesick for the islands, I promised eating, drinking and dancing just as if we were all back in the Caribbean, together. Parties at the Winter Garden became annual tradition, where towering palms reigned over Christmas trees as thick as a holiday rainforest.The World Financial Center barely survived 9/11, just across the Westside Highway from Ground Zero. The refurbished complex is assuredly bigger and better, but I've had no desires to revisit any of this fateful area. However, that doesn't mean holiday happenings in this heavenly enclave aren't available. It's probably still one of the city's most unique, hidden finds of the season. Close
Written by gorboduc on 24 Jun, 2006
It stuns me to think that as recently as the mid-50s, the way most people got to Europe was on an ocean liner. Jumbo jets have become so common, they are so fast, and tickets on them are so cheap, that it seems a million…Read More
It stuns me to think that as recently as the mid-50s, the way most people got to Europe was on an ocean liner. Jumbo jets have become so common, they are so fast, and tickets on them are so cheap, that it seems a million years ago that booking passage on a liner was the inevitable beginning of a tour of Europe. So when my mom suggested that we make a crossing on the Queen Mary 2, I was intrigued, especially as I have never been on an ocean liner or cruise ship before.How would it be to arrive in the UK without jet lag? In Southampton rather than at Heathrow or Gatwick? Most importantly, could I keep myself entertained for the 5-sea days that make up the bulk of the crossing?I started to research, and soon my Mom and I had found a good deal--a late May sailing from Manhattan with a balcony cabin (obstructed view, but view seems unimportant when you see nothing but fog or open ocean for the majority of your time on board), one way airfare back to New York, and a $125 per person on-board credit. Total cost: $1,550 per person.Now all we had to do is wait for departure—and make some additions to our wardrobes, so that they would support the 4 formal dress nights that they would have on board.Finally, on the last week in May, our departure date arrived. We took the train into Manhattan, and then grabbed a cab to the new cruise terminal at Red Hook in Brooklyn. Our cabbie (in fact, most cabbies, since the terminal is quite new) didn't know precisely where the terminal was, but Mom had come armed with directions and we found the terminal without incident. It's hard to miss, once you get to a place where you can see the water—the ship looms over the waterfront.Arrivals are staggered in two hour intervals, a good thing considering that the ship was totally full when we sailed. The line to check in looked daunting, snaking back and forth through the terminal, but it moved quickly. As we stood in line, we filled out cards about our health, then proceeded to the check in area, where we had our pictures taken and were issued an ID. The ID was both our room key and a charge card for any services that we purchased on board. The whole check-in process took perhaps 20 minutes.From the check-in counter, we headed towards the gangway, past photographers who snapped a singularly unattractive picture. Fortunately we weren't obliged to buy it.You enter the ship on Deck 3, in the mezzanine level of the Grand Lobby. The lobby itself is vaguely art deco (as is most of the ship's decor), with floral arrangements the size of shrubs surrounded by small sofas and chairs for sitting (while you wait for the line at the nearby purser's desk to subside, I suppose). The most impressive element is the two-story tall stainless steel art piece that is mounted in the atrium—a bas relief of the prow of a huge ocean liner, lit in gold.From the lobby mezzanine, we passed the champagne bar (a nice view, if you want to splurge on a glass of champagne and some caviar), and headed to the main bank of elevators. These, strangely, seemed not to be running at full bore, but nevertheless, we were in an elevator and heading for our cabin on deck 8 within 15 to 20 minutes.The cabin itself was surprisingly spacious, done in light woods with cream walls. There were two twin beds, a small sitting area with a sofa and table, two built in wardrobes, a safe, a small but well designed bathroom with shower, and a glass wall that led out to the balcony.Deck 8 is the lifeboat deck, so the view from our balcony was obstructed by the lifeboats, but we didn't find this an issue. The fact that deck 8 houses the Todd English restaurant and a fine 8,000-volume library, and is directly above the Canyon Ranch Spa, the casual dining, and the promenade deck more than made up for a view of boats and davits.When we arrived in our cabin, we were surprised to find a bottle of champagne (courtesy of Cunard—my Mom had sailed with them before) and a bottle of chardonnay and plate of canapes (complements of our travel agency, Moment's Notice). We opened our champagne and ate our canapes on the balcony, finishing just in time for the safety drill, and departure.Leaving Manhattan was a highlight of the trip. It was a lovely sunny day, and the skyscrapers glistened in the afternoon light. We sailed past the Statue of Liberty, and, most impressive, underneath the Verrazano Narrows bridge and out to sea. The ship only clears the Verrazano by about 10 feet, so if you look upwards as you sail under it, it seems as if the funnels will be knocked off. No such trouble happened to us, though, and we sailed uneventfully into the Atlantic.On our first sea day, my Mom and I headed to the library—handsomely paneled, with comfortable chairs to sit in and computer to use if you don't want to go to the Internet area on deck 2. We each picked out a book, which we could keep out until noon the day before we arrived in Southampton. Then we went to the desk at the Canyon Ranch spa to reserve treatment times for the next morning.Thereafter, the trip fell into a comfortable, relaxing routine. We would wake at 8:30am or so and head to breakfast—either a three course meal in the main restaurant, or a quicker self-serve breakfast from the food court on Deck 7. Then we would walk a mile around the promenade deck--three laps is just over a mile. I would then head upstairs to read for awhile, or just explore the ship. My Mom would keep walking until she had finished four miles. Then we'd meet up for lunch, head back to our cabin for a nap and see a show or watch a movie. At 3:30pm, we would stop what we were doing for the formal tea, served in the elegant Queen's Room by tuxedoed waiters who carry trays to the strains of a string quartet. After tea, it was up to our room to shower and change for dinner. After dinner, more reading, or a show, or some peaceful time in the mostly empty pool and Jacuzzi up on Deck 12.So things went for a very relaxing 4 days, until we arrived in Southampton. That required waking up early, but it was worth the break in routine to see the ship glide up the Solent, crawl to a halt, and slowly slowly slowly turn around in preparation for docking.Docking turned out to be the easy part—it takes a good long time for 2,600 passengers to disembark. If you are in a rush, your best bet is to carry your own luggage off. This way, you will be off the boat about 45 minutes after docking, as opposed to 1 to 3 hours for the passengers who are having their luggage removed by longshoremen. Close
Written by PabloDiablo on 15 Jun, 2000
Though I was slightly dissapointed that I did not end up going to a comedy club with my friend on Friday night, my fortunes were completely reversed the following day. Another friend of mine (yes, I''m amazed I have more than one also) happened…Read More
Though I was slightly dissapointed that I did not end up going to a comedy club with my friend on Friday night, my fortunes were completely reversed the following day. Another friend of mine (yes, I''m amazed I have more than one also) happened to have an extra ticket to Yankee Stadium.
If you've ever been to Yankee Stadium, then you know that rooting for another team is probably not the smartest thing to do in the House that Drops 500-Pound Concrete Chunks on Fans. In the bleachers, the mere suspicion that you do not bleed Yankee navy can get you hassled or worse.
Now, I am not a Yankee fan. In fact, I hate the Yankees with every fiber of my being; it's possible that I take more pleasure in hating the Yankees than I do in loving the Mets. So needless to say, I would not have been all that excited to go see a baseball game in the Bronx were it not for the fact that the Mets and Yankees were playing one another. While interleague play may not produce very exciting matchups in most of the rest of the nation, it has revved up the New York baseball world tremendously. Since interleague play has arrived, all six Mets-Yankees games have sold out completely.
The only thing better than seeing the Mets beat the Yankees at Shea Stadium is seeing it happen at Yankee Stadium, in front of 55,000 of the proudest, most stubborn, and most misguided people in the country. And, of course, that's what happened on the previous night while I was eating sushi. The Mets rolled to victory 12-2, completely overwhelming their feeble opponents.
So spirits were high, and I relished the opportunity to be in Yankee Stadium, a cadre of Mets fans backing me up, to see the same thing happen again. Plus I'd be able to scream and rant about how much the Yankees sucked without actually getting my butt kicked. Things went pretty well for the first few innings, and a 5-3 Mets lead helped to shut up the home fans. This was beneficial for two reasons: first, it's rather satisfying to see Yankee fans rationalizing the situation which their team faced, and second, chants about Yankee ineptitude really tend to hit home when they are losing.
Suddenly, a dark cloud came over the stadium, the Yankees took the lead, and my fun was over. Luckily for my friend (who is also a Mets fan) and I, we had to leave early so he could get to work on time. While we stayed long enough to see the Mets fall behind, we were spared the indignity of seeing them get blown out, which they did. Leaving early also, in all likelihood, saved us from getting spit upon.
The moral of the story is this: if you want to go see a real baseball game in New York, go to Shea Stadium. If you absolutely must, go to Yankee Stadium, but don't say I didn't warn you. And one final thing...if the Yankees start winning, get the hell out of dodge! Close
Written by Constance on 17 Jul, 2000
We arrived at 7:00 a.m. armed with our large bag of unsalted peanuts. We knew they were out there, but they were cleverly hiding for now. They wanted to see if what we brought was worth climbing down from the treetops for.…Read More
We arrived at 7:00 a.m. armed with our large bag of unsalted peanuts. We knew they were out there, but they were cleverly hiding for now. They wanted to see if what we brought was worth climbing down from the treetops for.
These are tricky little animals. You have to actually find one and throw him a nut to get him interested. His crunching is a call out to all the other squirrels out there. At this point the fun begins.
They appear from EVERYWHERE! Out from around benches, down from the trees, out of the bushes. Soon you'll be in a 360 degree squirrel festival. Some are timid but many will come right up to you and take the nut out of your hand. Hold it carefully, (see photos). Don't put in in your palm and expect them to take it. Your finger tip looks a lot like a peanut to them and that's the first thing they reach when walking over to you.
They'll grab the nut and run into the trees or at least venture a safe distance from you to begin their meal. The treetop eaters will shower you with peanut shells and skins so don't look up unless you want a face full of squirrel trash.
These little animals are precious, although most are a bit worn and rough looking.
Where else can you have this much fun for an hour for a $1.99 worth of peanuts? Close
Written by GenghisJohn on 06 Jun, 2006
This is almost more important than the Korean BBQ experience. Drinking is very popular in Korea and among Korean expats. The first and most important thing to know is that you are never supposed to pour your own drink. When you finish your drink, someone…Read More
This is almost more important than the Korean BBQ experience. Drinking is very popular in Korea and among Korean expats. The first and most important thing to know is that you are never supposed to pour your own drink. When you finish your drink, someone will probably offer to pour you another one. Even if you don't want one, it's best just to take it and then not drink it, or just drink a bit of it. They probably won't "top you off".When pouring a drink, you pour with your right hand and put your left hand under your right elbow to support it—this is very polite. Even among close friends, you're still going to see this. If you're much higher "rank" than the other person (ie, older), you can just pour with your right hand and you don't have to worry about your left hand. When receiving a drink, it's best to hold your glass with both hands. If you see that someone's glass is empty, offer to pour them some more. Even if they say "no", pour them some anyway. Drinking customs are very polite among Koreans.Drinking to excess is also the norm. I've carried a number of friends out of restaurants in Korea, and if you drink too much yourself, it's no big deal to casually get up, walk to the bathroom, vomit, and then go back to the table and drink and eat more. The more casual you are about things, the more people respect you (especially if you're male). Women can get away with refusing drinks more easily than men can. Korean culture can be very macho at times, and drinking is an expression of that machismo.On to different types of drinks. The first is beer (mek-chu in Korean). In Korea, it's best to stick with Budweiser, which is pretty ubiquitous. Local Korean beers are OB and Hite, of which OB is the better of the two but still not really that good. You can get beer in sizes of up to 5 liters in most bars in Seoul. You read that right, 5 liters. Think of two-and-a-half 2 liter bottles of soda and imagine that being full of beer. If that sounds like a good idea to you, you'll fit right in in Seoul.The most common form of alcohol (called sul in Korean) in Korea is soju. It's basically a lower-powered vodka that tastes like what I imagine unprocessed window cleaner would taste like if mixed with industrial solvent. The trick is to drink a shot or two really fast and then you stop tasting it. In Seoul, you can get a bottle of this stuff for around 80 cents at most restaurants and convenience stores. It's commonly drunk while eating, and especially while eating pork. There are many types of flavored soju, with lemon soju being the most common. Actually, lemon soju seems better here in New York than in Seoul. The best places to get it are Temple Korean Cuisine on St. Mark's and Li Hua on Grand Street.There are two basic types of soju. Charm soju and Jinro soju. Charm is the more common and also the easier to deal with. Jinro is only for people who don't learn from negative reinforcement. I firmly believe that if I wouldn't have gone drink-for-drink of Jinro soju with my wife's mother, she never would have respected me enough to let us get married.Another drink that's becoming more popular in New York is bok-bun-ja, which is a berry wine. It allegedly doesn't give you a hangover, although one of my friends disagrees and claims to have had a bad morning the day after she drank this. It also is reported to make men more virile, but the jury is out on that one. Again, Temple on St. Marks is a good place to get this (they were one of the first to carry it) as well as a couple places in Queens. You can get this from liquor stores in Koreatown if you want to drink it at home.The next kind of Korean drink is Baek-sae-ju. It's more palatable than soju but less "hipster" than bok-bun-ja would be if hipsters could speak Korean. It's a rice wine with a tangy taste. I've introduced about a dozen people to Korean liquor and this is the most popular among them.I will leave you with a couple of tips on Korean drinking. When you hear "one-shot", it's time to make an attempt at finishing your drink. Mashi-go chuk-ja is a common toast (literally translated, it means "let's drink and die"). Bars in Seoul typically don't close. I've found myself going out with coworkers on a Friday night only to leave the bar and stare down a fierce Saturday morning. The subway in Seoul stops running between around 11:30pm and 5am. If you don't like taking taxis in Seoul (understandable, since only about 60% of taxi drivers speak English, making it difficult to give them directions... also, late at night, traffic laws are interpreted as low-to-medium strength suggestions), plan accordingly. If you're not Korean and you're drinking with Koreans, they'll typically REALLY appreciate it if you try to follow their drinking culture. They'll also usually understand if you don't. Of course, your mileage may vary depending on the people you're with and your opinion of their culture. Close
Written by Elenitasan on 15 May, 2006
A certain measure of routine is part of everyone’s life and mine is no exception so recently I made the momentous decision to have a little fun every day. Life is too short and a life of pure routine is far too boring to contemplate.…Read More
A certain measure of routine is part of everyone’s life and mine is no exception so recently I made the momentous decision to have a little fun every day. Life is too short and a life of pure routine is far too boring to contemplate. I needed to get out there and have some fun. I live in New York, a city that gives so many people so much pleasure and yet, when you live here, you tend to get a little blasé about places that our visitors rhapsodize about. So my decision to have fun included pretending to be a tourist in my own city and visit old places with a new attitude. My first adventure took me to Arthur Avenue in The Bronx. The first time I visited, my dear friend Francesca who grew up there, took it upon herself to educate me on where to buy the perfect components for any Italian feast. What did I want? Procciuto? Mozzarella? Fresh anchovies? Arugula? Oh my! I wanted it all and at the end of our first visit there I felt that I could have opened my own Italian restaurant.
This time like a pro, I went to the Mercato (23-44 Arthur Avenue) which is a good place to start. Straight to the Café to have a slice of my favorite plain tomato pizza. Absolutely heavenly, as always. The slice alone was worth the trip!Then walked around and picked up some fresh veggies for dinner. Said hello to the guys at Mike’s Deli and picked up a little antipasto… some roasted peppers, parmigiano and a little truffle oil. Then headed to Mt Carmel to visit the delightful ladies who own the great "imported from Italy" shop where I get my extra virgin olive oil and try to stay away from the cookies beckoning me from the shelves. The pasta at Mt. Carmel is all imported and the best dry pasta you can buy. The herbs that they sell are fresh and plentiful and the owners’ delightful manner and happy disposition matches my mood completely. I just love it here! Its time for my cappuccino and heading home to enjoy all my goodies. Must stop at the bakery next door to pick up a loaf of bread. Maybe before I leave I’ll pick up a little procciuto. I enjoy buying the food as much as eating it. Arthur Avenue makes me very happy and fits in with my decision to enjoy something wonderful every day. Next week, I’ll walk around the neighborhood and leave the market if I can pull myself away from it that is.
Written by rickhowe on 13 Apr, 2006
In early 2004, my wife met a gal who worked at Macy's corporate offices. They got to talking, and my wife proclaimed our family's love of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Her response was, "I have an offer you CAN'T refuse!"At that point, our family…Read More
In early 2004, my wife met a gal who worked at Macy's corporate offices. They got to talking, and my wife proclaimed our family's love of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Her response was, "I have an offer you CAN'T refuse!"At that point, our family evolved from parade fans to parade participants. We filled out the paperwork, and soon learned that we would be handling the "Barney" balloon. This was somewhat of a karmic reaction to an incident a few years before when the Barney balloon had to be removed from the parade, with the help of knife-wielding officials. There were those in the crowd who cried (mostly the kids), and those who cheered (mostly the parents, who had been subjected to "I love you, You love me" for months on end. We were in the cheering section.A few years later we finally had to pay our karmic debt. Handling the ropes on the Barney balloon!We did have to change our usual routine. Instead of staying at the Essex House (on Central Park South), we needed something closer to parade headquarters at the New Yorker Hotel on 8th Avenue and 34th Street.We made the mistake of getting a "suite" at the New Yorker. It was somewhat of a nostalgic trip, inasmuch as I had an office in the same building about 10 years prior. But the spacious office floor bore no resemblance to the cramped hotel rooms. It was cheap, to be sure, but we'll not go back.At 6am on Thanksgiving morning we rode the elevator to the 2nd floor dressing area (at least it was convenient getting there), to pick up our costumes. We hopped on the bus to the staging area at 77th Street and waited for our captain to come give us our assignments. At about 8:45am the crew came and starting taking off the nets, leaving us to hold on to Barney's ropes. We stepped off about 30 minutes later and started the long walk down the parade route.Barney was well-behaved the entire time, and we even got him to dance a bit for the crowds (the handlers on the left pulled their ropes, and then the handlers on the right pulled their ropes). Some folks even found a way to move Barney's hand!Seeing the looks on the kids' faces as we passed was priceless! We walked in front of nearly 2 million smiling faces that morning, and that amount of positive energy can keep you going for a long time.But I couldn't exactly bring myself to sing that song...Barney did fine until we got down to Macy's and turned West on 34th Street. At that point, we were walking into the wind, and Barney decided he wanted to go east towards Long Island! We finally got him under control, and turned back north onto 8th Avenue (in front of the New Yorker Hotel). Inch by inch we wound our plastic rope holders (called "bones") down to bring the big guy to the ground. Then some of us unzipped the helium pockets, and the lighter than air gas lived up to it's reputation, and dissipated into the morning air.We had to fold Barney lengthwise, and roll him into an enormous laundry cart on wheels, at which point his parade was over and he was trucked back to New Jersey.A brief stop at the Headquarters to turn in our jumpsuits, and we went on with our day. Dinner at The Sea Grill in Rockefeller Center, and home.Last year, we were promoted to Chicken Little. Chicken was a bit less bulky than Barney, but taller. A windier day (there was one accident when the "M&Ms" balloon hit a lamp post and injured a spectator) meant a lot more "trimming" of the ropes (note that I learned the lingo in my second year!). But Chicken Little was a blast, and we were a lot more comfortable. Inasmuch as I have a REALLY loud voice, I was appointed chief cheerleader for the group. Every time we stopped to wait to the rest of the parade, I got to lead the group in a sort of spastic version of The Chicken Dance!But once again, 2 million pairs of eyes were on us, all smiling, all shouting "Chicken LITTLE Chicken LITTLE." It's a unique experience, and one that we'll repeat as long as we're invited.Should you ever get the opportunity to serve as a balloon handlers in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, consider it HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Close
Written by brilev on 20 Mar, 2006
My first Dominican breakfast was delicious, and rather unhealthy. The platter consisted of mangú (mashed-up green platano) topped with salami, onions, fried eggs and large chunks of fried cheese.I was eating at a comfortable, friendly place called Mi Concón, on Lenox Avenue (#471) between 133rd…Read More
My first Dominican breakfast was delicious, and rather unhealthy. The platter consisted of mangú (mashed-up green platano) topped with salami, onions, fried eggs and large chunks of fried cheese.I was eating at a comfortable, friendly place called Mi Concón, on Lenox Avenue (#471) between 133rd and 134th streets. Wanting to expand my Spanish vocabulary, I asked the man at the counter, "What does concón mean?""You want to know what is a concón?" Then a female cook came out from the kitchen. "I hear you want to know about concón. I show you the concón?"I said, "Well, I mean it’s not really that important." Images flashed through my head of some man-eating doberman with a dog tag reading Concón.It turns out concón is the hardened rice you scratch off from the bottom of the frying pan. She said, "We serve it with gravy and meat," and then proceeded to do exactly that. Next thing I know I’m up to my ears in mangú and concón and some kind of meat and fried eggs and a lemonade — and it’s only 11 in the morning.My next stop was the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, at 515 Malcolm X Boulevard. (Due to ongoing construction, the temporary entrance is located around the corner at 103 W. 135th Street.)Amateur researchers, like myself, can have a field day at the center. I pulled up old issues of the Amsterdam News from the early 1940s. The articles shine a light on racist violence in the South, and widespread discrimination against blacks enlisted in the Army.You get a real sense of how World War II drove African American identity in two separate directions. Does one fight a war for freedom in Europe when justice at home remains an illusion? On the other hand, this was a war that unified Americans. Not to mention provided them jobs. "ALUMINUM Is the Key War Metal," reads one classified ad, "Help Produce Aluminum and You Will Help Open the Door to Victory."Be sure to check out the first-floor exhibit, "In Motion: The African American Migration Experience." Photographs and documents tell the story of a dozen or so migrations dating back to the 15th century Atlantic slave trade and up to present-day arrivals from the Caribbean. The coolest part about the free audio guides: listen to great migration-minded songs by the likes of Chuck Berry and Harry Belafonte. "In Motion" runs through June 2006.I met up with my friend Joe at the corner of 135th and Lenox Avenue. We walked to Strivers Row at 138th and 139th between 7th and 8th avenues. This fine stretch of brownstones was constructed for upper class whites at the turn of the 20th century. But the developers misread Harlem’s changing demography. They ultimately, and very reluctantly, sold these homes to black families. (Strivers Row, by the way, is the title of Kevin Baker’s latest work of historical fiction. It’s a great read and inspired me to make the trip up here in the first place.)Hunger once again. We caught a bus down to 125th Street, the commercial thoroughfare that accounts for 90% of what most outsiders associate with Harlem. Sylvia’s is the best know soul food tourist trap around here, but the line was too long. We ended up eating very good soul food — fried chicken and collared greens—in a place that doubled as a pizza parlor, and with a Latino guy serving the food no less.We braved the bitter cold and walked west all the way to Grant’s Tomb. What an incredible place, right on the bluffs overlooking the Hudson River. I’d never quite understood why the Ohio-born Ulysses S. Grant was buried in New York City. (Technically, he’s not buried in the ground, which is why this is not called Grant's Grave.)I learned that Grant lived his last years in New York, much of it spent writing his now-famous memoirs. It was a race against the biological clock: to complete the book and ensure financial stability for his family before passing away. He would succumb to throat cancer on July 23, 1885, just days after penning the final word of his masterpiece.On the main floor, there is a small museum that covers the life of Grant, and the history of his tomb. Down below are the massive marble coffins of both Ulysses and his wife Julia Grant, encircled by busts of famous Civil War generals. The scene is eerie but cool. In fact, the whole place is quite cool. According to the National Park Service, it’s the largest mausoleum in North America.We left the memorial and Joe headed back to his apartment in Hamilton Heights. I decided to cross the street and take a peak inside the massive Riverside Church. To my surprise, I walked right into a memorial service for Al Lewis, the man who played "Grandpa" on the Munsters and later ran for governor of New York on the Green Party ticket.Just like Grant’s Tomb, this was a celebration of life more than death, and very nearly a political rally. The pews were filled with engaged young people, grey-bearded hippies, and women with ruffled hair and too many satchels and bags and such. It was a wonderful snapshot. A community of people, interacting and reminiscing. Close