Friday, September 29, 2006

Cold Spring, Warm Food

Okay, so that headline makes no sense, but it's all I can do right now. We (my boyfriend, Ryan, who is visiting from Minneapolis and I) just arrived back in the city from Cold Spring, NY, a town that can only be described as "quaint." It's about an hour trip on the Metro-North commuter train, just north of West Point.

Cold Spring's downtown consists of Main Street, which extends from the train depot uphill towards Route 9. This main drag comprises less than a quarter mile of "charming" cafes and "adorable" shops where you can buy knick-nacks and doo-dads that you don't need or want but think somebody must be buying them because these shops stay open all year round. Ryan's favorite was a little painted plaque that quoted this line from the Wizard of Oz: "Nobody Sees the Wizard. Not no body. Not no how."

We found our B & B, the Pig Hill Inn, and were greeted by a young innkeeper who bounded up the three flights of stairs faster than I could follow, and disapeared soon after showing us our room. More about him later.

We explored pretty much all we could of the town and chose a decent lunch joint, where the Ruben sandwich was crispy and had just enough dressing to keep the salty corned beef nice and moist.

After spending the afternoon walking, sitting by the Hudson, and reading in the room, I decided the only way we were going to find nightlife in this town on a Thursday would be to create it ourselves. I suggested we do a two-person pub crawl from the top of the hill to the bottom. We started at the place we had lunch, whose name escapes me, and had beer and "onion petals" (basically, onion rings in the shape of chips instead of circles). Then we walked downhill a bit and crossed the street to the Tuscan Grill, where Ryan said his orichette with gorganzola and walnuts was "The best pasta [he's] ever eaten." My gnocchi with lamb ragu wasn't too shabby either.

Then it was down to McGuire's (not sure if this is the real name, but "insert generic Irish pub name here" didn't seem right), whose best attribute was the old-school Ms. Pacman/Frogger arcade game that only cost $0.25 a pop. If you ask Ryan, he'll tell you who won our two-game championship, but I don't care to mention it here.

After two beers, the inaugural Ryan & Suzanne Pub Crawl came to a sputtering finish, as we decided we'd rather light a fire in our b & b stove and sleep off the meal than try to drink our way down main street (which, by the way, had only one more establishment to offer us that we hadn't tried yet).

Sleep came quickly, but my bladder woke me up in the middle of the night. I flipped on the light in the bathroom and was horrified to find a large, shiny, black insect awaiting me. I silently freaked out and crept into the room (not wanting to be one of those prissy girls who wakes up her boyfriend at 3 a.m. to kill a bug but secretly hoping I would be) and grabbed the hardest shoe I could find. I snuck up on my creepy nemesis and attacked him as he tried to get under the bath mat. His leg remained on the floor and the rest of him got smushed under the mat (I assume, but didn't dare to look).

After doing my business, I slipped back into bed, heart racing and mind conjuring up all sorts of possible creepy crawlies waiting to feast on my nocturnal flesh. It didn't help that Ryan had told me he'd seen a cockroach-looking thing earlier in the evening, or that I had somehow acquired an itchy bite on my arm since initially going to bed. Needless to say, it took me a while to fall back asleep.

The complimentary breakfast of fruit, waffles and sausage, though slowly served because of the 9 a.m. rush and lack of servers, was almost enough to make me forget about the buggy incident of the night before. Almost.

At check-out, I mentioned my encounter with what I thought had been cockroach and was surprised to hear the innkeeper vigorously dismiss my complaint. "We've never EVER had cockroaches here. You say you're from New York? Maybe you brought them with you." I'm not kidding, those were his exact words. I told him to go look under the bath mat. He didn't offer any discount, and I didn't offer any tip (for which there was an optional line on the credit card slip). I thought it was an awful lot of money to pay to share a room with insects. What's more, there were strange brown stains on the bedspread and blanket, and I saw some little bugs in the netting above the canopy bed. He told me to call the front desk later when Vera, the proprieter would be around, that maybe I could "squeeze a couple of dollars out of her."

Back in the city, I called up Vera, but the innkeeper answered. He informed me that the bug I had squashed under the bath mat was not a cockroach, but a cricket, and that he knew there was no way they could have roaches there. I said that's all well and good, but that I'd like to speak with Vera. When Vera finally called me back a couple hours later, she was equally defensive on the phone. "You didn't recognize it was a cricket?" she asked when I said I was freaked out to find a cockroach in the middle of the night. Despite the fact that that was not the point, she didn't seem to be bending over backwards to apologize for what was an unacceptable experience, in my book. She said that the Inn is in the country, and that sometimes critters get in. Fine. But they don't usually get in to the places I pay good money to sleep in. And as for the strange stains on the bedspread, she explained that about a week ago, a guest had spilled red wine on the "very expensive" comforter, and that they had washed it thoroughly and were waiting for a replacement. She was sorry that I didn't know that ahead of time. Me, too.

If this were any other high-end B & B with a certain class of clientele, the management would go out of their way to make the customer want to come back. There would be no argument. They would either take some money off the bill, or waive the price entirely. Not so at the Pig Hill. And that's why I'm not going back. Not no way. Not no how.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Bad blogger! Bad! Bad!

My apologies to my three loyal fans out there. I haven't been feeling very blog-worthy lately. But the whole point of this thing is to force myself to write every day, so that's what I'm doing right now.

It's 12:33 A.M. on Friday (Saturday) and I'm sitting at home after a very exciting evening of lamb shawarma, Season 4 of Alias on DVD, a load of laundry, and the beginning of a reading for class. I'm trying to get over a persistent cold and not feeling very New York-y tonight.

But here are a few highlights from my last couple of days:

*My first belly dancing class;
*a salsa dance lesson with the NYU ballroom dance team (a group of people I never quite felt obliged to know as an undergrad, but now appreciate that such a thing exists);
*the Lower East Side Price is Right (with a woman wearing pixie ears as Bob Barker, an obese drunken cross-dresser and a homely pale mustached girl as Bob's "lovely" assistants), an event that goes down monthly at Mo Pitkin's;
*last weekend in Boston with the fam;
*biking all over town and remembering that most drivers have a deep-seated antagonism towards anything that can't go as fast as their cars;
*coming to the realization that even though people (professors, intellectuals, peers) expect you to be reading everything, there's barely enough time to get through the newspaper most days so I don't see how people can be so well-read unless they never sleep, eat or socialize;
*Lawrence Wright, Gay Talese, and Ron Suskind (all on separate occasions through the Distinguished Speaker Series at the j-school):

...and probably lots of other things that don't seem that important at now 12:57 am on a Friday (Saturday). Oh, and I just realized that my apartment building is Party Central on the weekend, making my seemingly peaceful room over the courtyard fountain a conduit to all kinds of celebratory sounds in the late evening hours. I've already invested in a box of earplugs. But what do you do when the sound goes through those? Horse tranquilizers?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Filling in the Gaps

No class today, so I spent the last 14 hours taking care of stuff around the apartment. The to-do list at the beginning of the day looked something like this:
1. Call Cable/Internet Company
2. Call SHS for appointment
3. Read
4. Go to Gym/Pilates
5. Open up a house bank account (with roommates)

By the end of the day, it looked like this:
1. Call Cable/Internet Company
2. Call SHS
3. Read
4. Go to Gym/Pilates
5. Open up a house bank account

Plus I added on to-do's as I went, like getting random stuff at Bed, Bath & Beyond, Cooking Dinner, and constructing a couch I had ordered. I'm telling you all of this to say that I filled my entire day with NOT reading the newspaper, NOT reading for class, and NOT exploring my beat (the Lower East Side). But, anxious reader (i.e., Mom and Dad), don't fret. Despite the fact that I have the whole day off tomorrow, I am up at 11:08 PM with the goal of plowing through some of my reading for Friday. Tomorrow I will read at least two newspapers (NYT and a local one), finish my reading for Friday (about and by Nellie Bly), and start reading another book (one on Castro by the man teaching my Latin America course--see below). That's my pledge to you. I will find one newsworthy thing to report to you by the end of the day.

I thought I'd give you a glimpse at the people who are teaching me the trade this semester. I'm taking three classes: Writing & Reporting I, taught by Craig Wolff, A Brief History of Women Critics, taught by Ms. Katie Roiphe, and The U.S., Latin America & The Media, taught by Anthony DePalma. A pretty nice lineup, in my opinion. It's fun to google your professors and see what people (critics) have to say about them.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


In my six hour-long Writng & Reporting seminar today, we were assigned geographical beats to pursue for the rest of the semester. I managed to get the Lower East Side. I say "managed to get" because my East Village/Alphabet City apartment is only about seven blocks away from the border of the LES. I guess it would be smart to branch out and cover an area that I don't see that often, but it's also kind of neat to explore an area closer to home, because ultimately I'll be able to spend more time there. And most every neighborhood in New York is new to me since I've only lived here for short periods of time.

Hey, do you like what I did to the piece below? It's kind of raw, but not a horrible first attempt, in my opinion. Lacks a bit of direction, but I spent the first 20 minutes of my allocated writing time redoing the first line. My professor came up to me while I was writing and asked if I had thought about making some kind of outline before starting the article. Now there's a novel idea. The answer was no, of course. But there's always next time.

September 11th Russian Memorial Brings Clinton, Others to Jersey

BAYONNE, NJ—As thousands flocked to Ground Zero Tuesday to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a mayor, a governor, and a former U.S. president dedicated their afternoon to a memorial of a different sort. Directly across the river from Ground Zero sits a former military base that is the new home of “The Tear of Grief,” a monument designed by Russian artist Zurab Tseretelli.

The 100-foot tall, bronze-clad structure, which encloses a 40-foot steel teardrop, is a gift from President Vladimir Putin and the Russian people to the people of the United States. Standing in front of the giant tear, with both the Statue of Liberty and the Twin Towers-less skyline in the background, speakers as illustrious as President Bill Clinton and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff reflected on the lessons still to be learned from the tragedy.

“There are all kinds of victims when people believe that our differences are more important than our common humanity,” said Clinton, referring to the Muslim Americans who have experienced discrimination from their fellow citizens since the attacks. “I have been grateful and proud that Americans have reached across party and other lines to rebuke that idea."

After reading a message from President Bush, who was unable to attend, Chertoff referred to Ground Zero as a “giant scar in the earth,” but suggested that it is “not a spiritual void,” because it is filled with “the spirits of people who perished on that day.”

Most spectators sat behind the podium, but certain friends and families of victims, friends of the artist, and those involved in constructing the monument were invited to sit in a special section in front of the podium. All present were somber as Leann Rimes sung “Amazing Grace” under a clear blue sky with seagulls calling overhead, but many seemed upbeat after the ceremony.

The statue represented something “so real” to Madeline Kerek, a retired Bayonne Administrative Assistant. “The tear coming down from the two towers [makes you] want to shed your tears also.”

The monument is to be the focal point of a park that is supposed to be accessible to the public within the next year.