Friday, April 18, 2014

{This Moment}

A Friday ritual inspired by Amanda Soule & many others.
Please feel free to share a link to your own moment in the comments.

Recap of this week on Not Intent On Arriving:
  • A rare Sunday post wished the best partner in the world a Happy Birthday.
  • On Monday I recapped our weekend, including a great little day trip to New Haven, CT from NYC, and our day wandering around Queens.
  • Tuesday's Weekday Wanderings was a little post about the first fire drill I participated in at work. Silly, but I had such a great time during it.
  • Writer Wednesday featured one of the first bloggers I read, Steerforth from Age of Uncertainty. It was so great to be able to feature someone I've been reading for almost a decade and I hope you'll check out his interview!

This weekend we're heading up to Putnam County. I'm looking forward to visiting my friend Tess and her family, kayaking, and seeing our families. I don't celebrate Easter or Passover, but if you do, I hope you have a blessed one!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Writer Wednesday - Steerforth from Age of Uncertainty

I can't say exactly when I started reading The Age of Uncertainty, but it was, I'm almost 100% sure, the very first blog I ever read.  I think I somehow stumbled upon it when I was living in the UK, and because it is, at its very heart, a love letter to books, I was instantly hooked, and I've been hooked for going on seven years now.  My very favorite features are the Ladybird Books and the Derek Diaries (or you can find it a bit condensed at The Dabbler here); both are at turns funny and sad, and both have haunted me for years.  In addition to the books and ephemera he finds in his business as a bookseller, Steerforth writes about his daily life and travels.  His writing style is unassuming and careful, and I hope you'll read more after you finish his interview, below.

"I resisted the strong temptation to add a photo taken 10 years ago and have attached a recent one."

Who are you?  I’ve been asking myself that question for many years. The simple answer is that I’m a forty-something Englishman, born in SW London. In my 20s, I got a job in a bookshop as a temporary expedient, while I decided what to do with my life. 25 years on, I’m still selling books.

If I could live my life again, I’d concentrate on composing, as the most enjoyable thing I’ve done was writing the music for a Lorca play.

I’m married with two sons, one of whom has ‘special needs’ – something that has made life rather complicated during the last ten years.

I have many interests but can’t stand sport, which rules out a lot of male small talk.

I grew up surrounded by people born in the 1890s and still catch myself using words like ‘jolly’ and ‘chap’, but I’m also fascinated by contemporary culture and am very wary of nostalgia, even though my blog is largely about the past.

My idea of happiness is going on a long walk in the countryside which ends in a teashop that serves the perfect fruitcake. My idea of unhappiness is being stuck in a business meeting with people who have no sense of humour, which is one of the reasons why I became self-employed.

Where can you be found online?  Do you have a blog or other online receptacle for your work?  If so, how would you describe it to a stranger you've just met while on vacation?  Remember, you're in a hot tub with them on a clear cold night, stars twinkling above you.  They want all the details.  If not, tell the hot-tub-stranger about your writing in such a way that makes them urge you to get an online receptacle for it.  One of my ambitions is to spend a winter afternoon in a hot tub drinking champagne, but under the stars would be even better.

If I had to describe my blog – - to my tub companion (preferably not an overweight, middle-aged man), I’d say that it’s a book-related blog that frequently meanders off in different directions, with features on old photographs, historic places, amusing anecdotes and, occasionally, personal stuff. The range of subjects may seem a little random, but they’re all things that I’m passionate about. 

Its main aim is to amuse, because I think that’s the best way of engaging people’s interest in often serious issues. I generally assume that readers don’t want to spend more than a couple of minutes reading a post, so I try to keep them short, with plenty of images to break up the writing.
What inspired you to start writing/blogging?  When did it happen? Seven years ago I had an extremely unpleasant bout of food poisoning after eating some bad oysters. My wife and sons were away for two weeks and I was becoming increasingly bored with being stuck in bed all day. After hours of surfing the internet I stumbled on Blogger and wondered how difficult it would be to create a blog. I wrote a post, with no intention of actually becoming a blogger, but then somebody read it and posted a pertinent comment. From that moment, I was hooked.

Why do you write? I like the sense of being part of a global community of like-minded people. In the past I wrote as an act of catharsis, with no expectation that anyone would ever read my words. I didn’t mind that, but occasionally felt frustrated that I couldn’t share my thoughts, particularly if I’d just read a book that I felt was unjustly neglected.

Blogging is a benign form of self-publishing that doesn’t involve any harm to trees or booksellers. It also demands a new style of writing, in which less is definitely more. I particularly love the multimedia aspect of blogging, in which the words can be complemented by photos and videos.

Your writing inspires me.  Who inspires you? My favourite blog is The writer is a self-employed graphic designer who lives with two dogs in a house that sounds as if it’s on the brink of collapse. Many of his posts are just gripes about daily life: the lack of money, the stupidity of his neighbours, his incontinent dogs and the frustrations of dealing with clients. In the hands of a lesser writer, it could be a depressing, monotonous read, but Grey Area sparkles with wit.

I remember a post in which he wrote about a piece of slightly burnt toast and marvelled that someone could make such a trivial incident amusing and significant. I love lines like this:

"I've just made the most disgusting cup of tea imaginable - but in the spirit of austerity - I've drunk it."
It takes courage to write about toast or a cup of tea. Grey Area pulls it off.
In keeping with the admittedly loose travel theme of Not Intent On Arriving, if you could have an all-expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?  I don’t know why, but I’ve become terrified of flying, so I’d probably opt for a trip on the Trans-Siberian Express, or a train journey to the far north of Norway. However, if I could get over my phobia, I’d like to explore Australia and New Zealand. I also have a hankering to explore islands like Kerguelen, Pitcairn, St Helena and the Azores.

What is your favorite place on earth? 
I don’t really have one and I’ve noticed that if you return to a much-loved place, it can sometimes feel very different on the second visit. I’d say that Yosemite National Park is the most beautiful place I’ve visited, Chile the most appealing country, Stockholm the nicest city and Iceland the most extraordinary. But some of my happiest moments have been closer to home.
Anything else you'd like us to know?  Just a quick recommendation for anyone who loves ‘Revolutionary Road’. Try David Karp’s ‘Leave Me Alone’, which is one of the most unjustly-neglected novels I’ve read for a long time. Secondhand copies are still available on Amazon.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Weekday Wanderings - Fire Drill

Clearly a little into panoramas at work lately.

We had a fire drill and evacuation at work last week. It was pretty amazing. Even though we do this annually, I have somehow managed to be out of the office every time we've done one in my previous five years here.

It's silly to say it was so cool, but it was so cool. We wandered down the 12 flights of stairs, and it was really interesting to see where our part of the building connects to the other organizations we share it with. I'd always expected our emergency exit stairs to let us out on the northern side of the building, but actually, we came out of what I'd always thought was a wall in the library!

It was disorienting and fascinating and I'm really glad I got to participate in it. It's funny, because I used to hate fire drills at school, but this one led me on an interesting little tour and then out into the beautiful sunshine. Our building is a New York City Landmark, and once housed one of the very first department stores on Fifth Avenue, B. Altman. If you're as interested in our history as I am, you might be interested in reading this description of the building and its past.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Weekend Wanderings - Day Trip to New Haven

We celebrated Roger's birthday with a day trip to New Haven. Roger's wanted to go to see the Yale University Art Gallery for years, and we finally made it up when Danielle suggested she'd like to go to the birthplace of the hamburger.

New Haven is about two hours outside of New York City, and easily accessible by MetroNorth. A round-trip off-peak ticket cost $32.50, and once we arrived, we found it easiest to take a cab into town, which cost about $8. We arrived in Union Station at around 11am, and it was just gorgeous. I ride the MNR in Westchester a lot, and I don't think I've ever seen such a lovely station outside of NYC.

Union Station

We took the cab to the free Yale University Art Gallery, which was more impressive than I could have expected for a university collection. The museum has four floors and such an incredible collection. My favorite section covered the modernists, but each section had really stunning pieces. My only disappointment was that the African and IndoPacific galleries were so crowded with art. The pieces were incredible, but they were practically stacked on top of one another. I understand wanting to show off a great collection, but the curator of the modernist galleries really understood that it's easier for the public to process a few very good examples than multitudes of them, and that was something that didn't come across in the other galleries as much. We wandered around the museum for about two hours, at which point I was incredibly hungry and getting a little cranky.

So, we walked down Sherman's Alley, which Danielle claims was named for her:

And arrived at Louis' Lunch, the birthplace of the hamburger! As the story goes, "One day in 1900, a gentleman hurriedly walked into Louis' Lunch and told proprietor Louis Lassen he was in a rush and wanted something he could eat on the run. In an instant, Louis placed his own blend of ground steak trimmings between two slices of toast and sent the gentleman on his way. And so, the most recognizable American sandwich was born."

We each ordered a cheeseburger sandwich with tomato and onion (served on the most delicious white bread toast!), a potato salad, and a birch beer. The wait was long, but we had a nice little corner seat, and the food was delicious. I'm not sure if it was because I was so hungry, but it felt like I'd never tasted something as wonderful as that white bread before!

Satiated, we headed on a bit of a walk through the city, stopping for a delicious honey brandy vanilla cake at Maison Mathis. It was pretty nice to rest for a bit, and the coffee shop was open, light, and beautiful. It was so easy to find a table, and we even had an outlet to charge Roger's phone! Basically, it was the opposite of all the coffee shops in NYC.

We tried to get into the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, which has enormous panels of mother-of-pearl to let the sun shine into the building in the most beautiful way, but sadly it had closed just a few minutes before we arrived. Next time, New Haven!

We continued our walking tour, passing the original J. Press (closed for renovations) and a lovely church, and ended up walking through some of Yale's lovely quads. We took a rest outside this particularly beautiful residence hall:

I love this photo of us.

Our final stop was a little rushed. We ordered a pitcher and an apizza at Bar, but quickly realized we could make the 6:46 train back if we rushed a bit. I wasn't totally in love with the drinks or the food, but since apizza is apparently a New Haven tradition, I was glad to have tried if. If we'd had more time, I think we would have gone to Modern Apizza, which I've heard is one of the best places there.

Overall, it was a fantastic day trip, and a wonderful way to start the first really beautiful weekend of spring!

On Sunday, after my long run (finally, I got in a good long run!), Roger and I headed out to Astoria to meet Rob for Roger's birthday brunch at Queens Comfort. There was a wait, and I was pretty hungry after that run, but this little BYOB place was 110% worth it. Every dish we ordered was incredible. I tried a little of everyone's (of course), and the chicken and waffles Rob ordered were better than any chicken and waffles I've ever had in my life. Roger's "Hobbit salty pork" eggs benedict were also delicious. But, I think my dish, the biscuits and gravy, really took the cake. I've been a big fan of biscuits and gravy for years and years, but nothing has ever tasted this delicious before. The gravy was maple cheddar sausage gravy, and it puts all other sausage gravy to shame. We shared a bottle of cheap champagne and ordered one orange juice, and I swear it's one of the best brunches I've ever had in my life. Highly recommended!

After that, we wandered around Astoria and Long Island City. We stopped at the Socrates Sculpture Park, which seemed cool, but was between exhibitions at the moment:

View of the East River from Socrates Sculpture Park.

And then wandered and wandered for what felt like hours (okay, for what actually was hours) until we arrived at Dutch Kills an hour before it opened. Everything around that area is closed from 4pm to 5pm on Sundays, it seems, so we ended up sitting outside and enjoying the sunshine (and a really awkward view of a couple making out on a park bench across the way) until the bar opened. We enjoyed a few birthday cocktails, and then Roger and I headed home to have one final birthday surprise: Fudgy the Whale cake!

Overall, I can't think of any way I would rather have spent this weekend. It was just perfect.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Happy Birthday, Roger!

Today was Roger's 26th birthday, and as you can see from the picture above, we had a whale of a celebration! I hope he enjoyed the weekend, with its long, sunny walks around New Haven and Queens, as much as I did.

This is the tenth birthday we've celebrated together. When he turned 16 and I had a massive crush on him, I bought him Candyland, since he'd told me once he had always wanted it as a child but never actually played it. I'm pretty sure it sealed the deal for our relationship, since he was so pleased when he opened it and we starting dating a few months later. Since then, he's mentioned about a million times how much he wanted a Fudgy the Whale Cake, so a decade on, I finally made that happen. I think he was pretty happy with it.

I can't imagine having a better partner in life than this guy. He's brilliant, incredibly hardworking, and hilarious. There isn't a day that goes by that isn't better because he's in it.

To my favorite art historian, dining companion, and cat-parent, happy birthday! I can't wait to spend another 365 happy days with you.