Methow Valley, NYC and Berkshires (June-July 2021)-Part 2, NYC

After a wonderful long weekend in the Methow Valley mountain biking with Dave, we were off to NYC.  We were lucky with our timing-a record setting heatwave was on its way to the Pacific Northwest; even in the Methow Valley, temperatures rose up to 100 degrees, heat-stroke risking territory. It was hot in New York, but tolerable.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

I woke up unusually early, given how late we arrived from Seattle the night before, so I headed out clad in shorts to procure bialys and bagels from Orwasher’s.   Their latte was not up to their baked goods standard.

I tuned into the CureMetrix standup meeting, which rolled over into an impassioned discussion of how to proceed with a reader study for cmAngio. Meanwhile, Steve procured groceries.

We met in the afternoon with our design team of John, Mollie, Benjamin and Dragan, making good progress in looking at the possibilities for our proposed apartment combination.

After an early dinner at nearby Sfoglia (pancetta salad with cherry tomatoes and watermelon for me, chilled asparagus and spring pea soup for Steve, with pasta dishes for entrees), we finished watching the second season of Lupin (fantastique!), then rolled into a movie Good on Paper featuring a caustic comic, Andrea Singer.  The film stars Iliza Shlesinger, who also wrote the screenplay, with Ryan Hansen and Margaret Cho.  Andrea meets a man too good to be true on a plane,  a tale based on a real-life prior relationship with a pathological liar.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Ferry travel on the East River on a sunny day during the summer 2021 lull in the coronavirus pandemic was a nice alternative to being enclosed in a subway car!

Under the Triborough Bridge on the Soundview ferry.

The Manhattan skyline, from the ferry to South Williamsburg.

Adventures in transportation was the theme of this day.  I had made an appointment in Brooklyn to test ride Van Moof e-city cycles for 11:30 am. It was in Williamsburg, not far from the ferry stop, so we determined to add another transportation mode to our repertoire.  A ferry terminal opened at 90th street on the East River in August 2018, but this was our first foray. The Soundview boat took us swiftly to 34st Street, where we caught another ferry to North Williamsburg.  The views and fresh air were a delightful alternative to a long underground subway ride.

Along the waterfront in Domino Park in Williamsburg, a great day for picnics al fresco.

At the shop, we were oriented to the bikes and set free to check them out for 15 minutes.  We probably abused the privilege, but the bikes were a blast!

Steve on our test ride over the Williamsburg Bridge of Dutch city e-bikes: our conclusion, Van Moof bikes are fun!

We promptly decided a pair of bikes would make perfect 32cd wedding anniversary gifts for each other and impatiently await their arrival in September.

Post-Van Moof test ride Mediterranean food lunch at 12 Chairs in Williamsburg.

The Queensboro Bridge, on the other side of Roosevelt Island.

In the evening, we attended our first in person concert in over a year, at Fotografska, a jazz trio led by saxophonist and clarinetist Stuart Bogie, accompanied by bass player Spencer Zahn and Jeremy Gustin on drums.

Late afternoon light picks out the details of a beautiful building across the street from Photografska.

Live music at Fotografska: Stuart Bogie plays the saxophone, accompanied by Jeremy Gustin on drums.

Live music at Fotografska: Bass player Spencer Zahn from the Stuart Bogie Trio, joined by a  lanky museum liason with his green trumpet.

We love the 1894 renovated former Church Mission building in which the museum is housed and the 6th floor is an intimate event venue.  Our ticket included admission to the museum for the day, so we went early to take in the exhibits.  We particularly enjoyed the surreal tableaux of British photographic artist Miles Aldridge, entitled Virgin Mary. Supermarkets. Popcorn. Photographs 1999 to 2020. His work seemed to have a sinister undercurrent of the Stepford Wives to it, despite the glaringly cheerful palette. I found Adrienne Raquel’s portrayal of black strip club workers an interesting look into an alternate universe.  The show’s title ONYX refers to Houston’s Club Onyx on which Raquel trained her gaze and found her subjects. Pixy Liao’s depictions of her relationship with Japanese musician Moro were more playful, in a show entitled Your Gaze Belongs to Me, upending conventional gender role depictions. A colorful show we had seen in April entitled Vogue: The Arab Issue of British-Moroccan Hassan Hajjij was still up, using fashion photography sensibilities to train a lens on Moroccans.

Friday, June 25, 2021

After a morning call with Suma for CureMetrix, I lined up readers for the upcoming 3D cmDensity study, then we walked up Fifth Avenue to the Museum of the City of New York, with an exhibit examining the impact of the 80s on the music scene.

We stopped at Yura’s on Madison to pick up lunch on the way home.  They did not have the salmon BLT offering which drew us in, but we ordered take-out asparagus soup, a sandwich and a slice of cherry pie.  The sandwich was made to order and brought to us outside in a brown paper bag, which we didn’t think to inspect. Back home, surprise!-delicious fried chicken fingers instead.  Poor Samuel who actually ordered the fingers may have gotten the raw end of the switch.

We decided to break another transportation barrier by taking the bus to Morningside Heights for the walking tour we booked for 4 pm through the Museum of the City of New York.  Google maps said the M4 bus would take us directly to Sakura Park, an offshoot of Riverside Park. What it didn’t tell us was the bus would change identity with 12 blocks to go, with the driver saying (in a muffled and indistinct tone) that the bus was no longer a local and that if a local stop was needed, there was another bus behind.  I jumped out and whirled around, expecting Steve to be behind me, but he had moved to the front of the bus to confirm with the driver what we thought he said.  I stepped back onto the bus through the rear entrance to ascertain this, meanwhile Steve stepped off the bus from the front.  I turned around and the rear door was now closed.  I had to call the driver to have him release the door.  Finally united, we hoofed it north the 12 blocks to Sakura Park, arriving just on time.

Sakura Park itself is named for cherry trees which were gifted to New York by a  Japanese American citizens group.  It is bordered by Grant’s Tomb to the west, the International Student House to the north and the Rockefeller funded Riverside Church to the South. One of the interesting historical footnotes we learned was about was at Straus Park, a small triangular pocket of greenery honoring Ida and Isidor Straus, who went down with the Titanic. He was a Congressman and co-owner with his brother of the Macys department store.  Ida could have saved herself, but refused her place in a lifeboat, insisting on staying with her husband, while wrapping her maid in her fur coat for the lifeboat. Our walking tour terminated at an interesting stretch of Riverside Drive, in which the New York Buddhist Church occupies one of a row of notable townhouses stretching between 105th and 106th Streets, the Seven Beauties.  331 was purchased by William Randolph Hearst for his girlfriend, actress Marion Davies. 333 was occupied by writer Saul Bellow in the 1950s, during which he wrote Seize the Day.  It was later acquired by Duke Ellington and used as headquarters for his music publication business.  334 was once the home of Jokuchi Takamine, a Japanese scientist and chemist who would now be considered an early biotechnology innovator, who married a white woman from New Orleans, Caroline Fitch, in 1887,  a time when inter-racial marriages were definitely not the norm.

Takamine’s life and career are a fascinating rabbit hole.  He developed an alternate method for distilling whiskey, recognizing that use of Koji (a rice fungus used in the manufacture of miso and soy sauce) and sake-brewing techniques might be a more efficient method of whiskey production. Effectively, he came up with a Koji-based fermentation process as an alternative to the traditional malt-based process. Based on his work in Japan, he was invited by the Illinois Whiskey Trust (then the dominant whiskey consortium) to Peoria to set up a lab in 1890. He might have revolutionized that industry, until threatened competitors broke in to his lab in 1891 and started a fire which burned it down.  He escaped by hiding in the basement and went on to patent an enzyme he called Taka-diastase, which catalyzes the breakdown of starch.  He was the first to patent a microbial enzyme in the United States, in 1894.  His licensing of this agent in the US made him a wealthy man.  He was also the first to patent a hormone, epinephrine, in 1901. Working with another Japanese chemist, they were the first to isolate a crystalline form from the adrenal gland.  His fortune made, he later devoted his life to improving relations between Japan and the US, paying for the cherry trees which now grace the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.

We rode the subway all the way to the foot of Manhattan, disembarking at Wall Street for a quick stroll down it to Westville Wall Street, meeting up with Sarah and Aaron.  It was surprisingly cool.  We dined outside in a wind tunnel, with breezes whipping off the nearby East River.  Westville is noted for its vegetable selection and preparations.  Aaron elected the Hebrew National hotdogs, with roasted honey dijon brussel sprouts and walnut and goat cheese garnished beets as sides. Steve went for the teriyaki salmon and Sarah the citrus-glazed mahi-mahi. I had the market plate, a selection of 4 sides (garlicky broccoli, tahini coated cauliflower, watermelon and feta salad and kale with spinach, shallots and pumpkin seeds).

Brooklyn panorama at sunset, from the ferry terminal at the foot of Manhattan.

Our ride home on the ferry was unusually prolonged and burnished our earlier delight in it as a transportation option.  We were half an hour early for the last north-bound Soundview ferry at 9:15 pm.  The problem was the ferry itself was almost 40 minutes late and neither the ferry app nor the information board at the terminal reflected this until the very last minute.  By the time it arrived, we were thoroughly chilled and more than ready to be home. I made use of the time (until my phone died) by reading half of a script from Joey, Seared by Theresa Rebeck, a play which takes place entirely within the kitchen of a struggling restaurant.  Power struggles dominate the action, with Harry, a genius chef with impossibly high standards, squaring off against Mike, his money partner, who hopes to recoup his investment in time and money.  A waiter Rodney and consultant Emily add to the fiery and delicious conflict.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

One of Central Park’s many delights: Greywacke Arch, a Saracenic type arch, is behind the Met, near 79th St.

We walked across Central Park to the Upper West Side with Marilyn for brunch at a vegan favorite restaurant of her’s, Blossom.  Arriving before their opening at noon, we had no trouble securing a sidewalk table on their pleasantly shaded patio on the east side of Columbus Street. Marilyn ordered her standard (huevos rancheros and an anchovy-free Bloody Mary), while we shared a trio of starters, jackfruit tacos, sweet potato gnocchi and a salad of roasted beets and figs.

Back at the apartment, I headed downstairs to do some laundry.  I forgot to block open the downstairs door when I ducked out to take a peek at the refurbished garden.  This was ironic, because one of the topics at lunch had been about who had keys to the bike room and I was under the impression my front door key was also the downstairs door key.  It wasn’t, so I had to call Steve, who had to get Marilyn to come down with him to let me back into the basement.

At lunch, Marilyn mentioned she enjoyed Kaia’s happy hour.  The South African joint was right around the corner from the apartment.  When we arrived for dinner, I saw how we had managed to whip by it repeatedly without noticing it-the restaurant’s name was visible only as large standing letters inside one of the windows. She also mentioned that Andy Warhol’s long-time residence and studio was nearby, so we made a pilgrimage to see it-faded or obscured letters spelling out The Warhol can still be seen on the awning of the townhouse at Lexington near 89th Street.  It dates back to 1889 and was designed by Henry J. Hardenbergh, who also was the  architect of the Plaza Hotel and the Dakota.  Warhol lived there 25 years, moving in with his mother in 1959 and selling it to his business manager in 1974.

We capped off the evening by watching Nomadland Academy Award winning director Chloe Zhao’s first film, Songs My Brothers Taught Me, which also is set in the West and focuses on the hard-scrabble lives of a family living on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Steve whipped up brunch at home, avocado toast and eggs scrambled with brussel sprouts and broccoli left over from Westville.  We had planned to meet Sarah and Aaron at the New York Botanical Garden, but they cancelled, as it turned out she had to start her colonoscopy prep for the following day hours earlier than expected.  We went anyway, spurred on by the Yayoi Kusama installation, Cosmic Nature.  The elderly Japanese artist’s exuberant work is seemingly everywhere these days, but the Botanical Garden seemed a particularly fitting setting for her large scale polka dotted and botanically derived work.

Yayoi Kusama’s most recent iteration of spotted pumpkins (here at the New York Botanical Garden) is especially animated.

This also seemed a great opportunity to try out another transportation option, a MetroNorth train to Botanical station.  We took the subway to 125th Street and had just a block walk to the train station at 125 St-Harlem.

I was struck by these evocative stain-glass images of musicians at the Metro North station at 125 Street in Harlem by Alison Saar. This is based on a wood block print called Torch Song and is part of a suite called copesthetic.

While chatting with Cliff, a San Diego/New York friend who used to take this station to Connecticut for work, we learned the sad news that a mutual friend and MOPA supporter, Larry Friedman, died.  We had done multiple MOPA trips with Larry, including to Paris, London, Mexico City and Japan. He was a long-time UCSD physician, as well as an art appreciator and photography collector.

It was a hot day and sunny, a good one to spend walking slowly outside.

Two of my favorite things together, trees and polka dots! The trees were embellished for the Yayoi Kusama exhibition in New York Botanical Garden.

An animated starfish decked out in dots, for the Yayoi Kusama installation at New York Botanical Garden.

Visitors to a Yayoi Kusama’s Flower Obsession greenhouse obliteration room are given a floral sticker to continue the ongoing obliteration process; we tried to keep our stickers as souvenirs but unused, they were politely but firmly collected at the exit.

Yayoi Kusama’s giant floral creatures animate the water lilies in the pond outside the greenhouses at New York Botanical Garden.

A Yayoi Kusama surprise inside the greenhouse at New York Botanical Garden: a giant glittering mosaic pumpkin.

Yayoi Kusama’s polka-dotted giant pumpkins are so cheerful!

We inadvertently stiffed the MetroNorth Train system on the way, not realizing until talking to Cliff that we needed a separate ticket to ride it, but we weren’t apprehended and made good on the return trip.

Monday, June 28, 2021

The crowds were thicker in June than in April with pandemic pent-up demand for art, at the Met, on a hot summer morning.

This was a full and exceedingly hot day. We made it to the member’s entry at Met by the 10 am opening to beat the crowd to see the Alice Neel show. She is known for her portraiture, painting the people in her life and focusing an observing eye on women and female nudes particularly,  including pregnant women.  The subjects of her work are depicted with a clear-eyed, unsparing approach which does not sugarcoat the ravages of age and motherhood but is also appreciative and sympathetic.

At noon, we walked across Central Park to catch a downtown subway to meet Joey for lunch at Ippudo Westside (Goma Q cucumber salad, shishito peppers, rice bowls for Joey and Steve and shrimp tempura roll for me).  Joey is the gregarious face of Sing Out Louise Productions, through which we invested in Hadestown.  It was wonderful catching up with him and talking theatre after so long of a hiatus.

An uneasy juxtaposition-an aircraft and New York skyscrapers, as we approach the 20th anniversary of September 11. This abstracted fiberglass sculpture of a drone on the Highline Plinth at 30th Street is by artist Sam Durant.  Entitled Untitled (drone), it highlights the use of stealthy drones in warfare.


From there, we subwayed further downtown to pick up the start of the Highline to walk south in time for our entry to Little Island, the newest attraction to open in New York and a welcome outdoor option during the pandemic.

The coppery Vessel (right) has been closed because of a spat of suicides, but I thought I saw a few people on it this trip to Hudson Yards.

You run into some strange creatures on New York streets…this one was spotted on the Highline.


Those clouds provided a little welcome cover from a hot summer sun during our first visit to New York’s newest park, Little Island.

Little Island is a park built on concrete pillars on the site of abandoned Pier 54 in the Hudson River.

The perfect pandemic destination: delightful meandering paths and plantings await the visitor to Little Island on the Hudson River in NYC.

We caught an unexpected musical performance at Little Island on the Hudson River.

Since we had a bit of time before meeting Sarah for dinner, I persuaded Steve that it made sense to pick up our Sixt rental car while we were already downtown, rather than chase all the way south the next morning when we were heading north. This worked out fine, at least initially.  We drove the car north to meet Sarah at Macao, easily finding street parking on Church Street a block from the restaurant.  We ate outside, which we had to ourselves, although the action was clearly in the dark, sultry and noisy interior.

Steve let me off at the apartment to pee, then went in search of that rarest of New York commodities, a parking space.  When he hadn’t returned 45 minutes later, I called -he was doing loops around the apartment.  Eventually, I googled ‘parking garages near me’ and called the two closest.  The first quoted me an overnight rate of $70, so I sent him to the second, quoting a rate of $42 for the night. It actually was a more reasonable $28 when he retrieved the car the next morning.  While circling the dark and quiet streets, waiting for a space to open up, Steve tuned into the only station, Doctor Radio, only to hear a familiar voice in the dark, our friend Ellen Dolgen, a menopause patient advocate and blogger, talking with Dr. Miriam Green.  He was circling for so long, he thought about calling me for to take over, for restroom relief, but it didn’t quite come to that. At least he had disembodied Ellen’s voice for company, circling the quiet midnight streets of Carnegie Hill…

We were off the next morning to the Berkshires, which the Wieners had been talking up for years.  We were finally, finally going to make it to the Berkshires… next post!


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