Architecture of Doom

A few months ago, or maybe half a year ago now, I came across a Tumblr blog called “Architecture of Doom“. As it’s name suggests, the blog is home to images of terribly uninspiring and depressing architecture. The effect is elevated by the clean, minimalist white blog theme that seems almost cheery by comparison.

Every time I walk past this set of four buildings in Upper Manhattan, I think of that blog:

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These buildings literally straddle I-95.

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That’s a highway, running below them. Is it an odd feeling, I wonder, knowing that every day thousands of vehicles roll beneath your feet, under your apartment? What would happen if there were an earthquake? Though I suppose if there were an earthquake in New York City it wouldnt’ matter if there were a highway under most of these buildings or not. They would almost all collapse anyway.

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There’s something terribly depressing about this facade. It radiates poverty, depression, and despair. Whether that is true of the people that live there or not, I don’t know.

I walked past these buildings on Tuesday because I was going to the library on 179th Street. I discovered that there’s an app called Overdrive Media Console for iOS that makes checking out digital copies of the New York Public Library’s collection a snap. I hadn’t used my library card since I got it 3 years ago, so it had been canceled. Maybe they thought I was dead?

The Merchant’s House Museum

There’s a building on 4th Street in Lower Manhattan that is a museum. It doesn’t really look like a museum. Not when you’re standing there in front of it and mentally comparing it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Guggenheim, but it was well worth the time I spent inside looking around. It takes about an hour and a half or two hours to look at everything. Maybe a bit longer if you want to just hang out and soak up the atmosphere. It’s not pricey either. 10 bucks for adults, 5 bucks if you have a student ID.

The building was built in the early 1800s and the furnishings and personal effects in the home were the property of the original owner, who bought the place in 1835. There have been a few modifications, like the addition of a fire escape for safety, bars on a few windows for security, and the removal of the outdoor latrine for sanitary purposes. Part of the garden was paved over with additional marble paving stones. Two indoor toilets were added for museum visitors. But, most everything else is authentic, like the cooking implements, clothing, hats, wash basins, and furniture. There’s even a pail of coal in the kitchen that one can pick up to experience the carrying load of a household servant or slave.

It’s a cool place and I’m looking forward to going again with my wife. I went by myself on a weekday afternoon. We’re particularly interested in attending one of the summer evening lectures in the outdoor private garden.

Visiting Historic Richmond Town on Staten Island

Guyon-Lake-Tysen House c. 1740 with kitchen addition in 1820s.

Before this month I’d never heard of Historic Richmond Town on Staten Island. The place isn’t heavily advertised and the carpenter in the recreated shop there told us that he wasn’t surprised, because a lot of people that live there in Staten Island have never heard of the place either. You almost wouldn’t know it was there if you rode by on the bus or in in a car. Maybe that says more about the quality of buildings on Staten Island in general than it does about the site, though, that it’s hard to tell buildings that are almost 300 years old apart from the rest of what Staten Island has to offer.

Getting to Richmond Town from Upper Manhattan was a little bit of a struggle. The A train kept stopping in the tunnel and then went local below 59th Street. I know they’ve been doing some construction on the tunnels during the week, at night, but it would be nice if the city could keep the trains running on time when they’re not doing work on the tracks, otherwise what’s the point of the new construction schedule the city pushed? The ferry ride was nice, at least. I always enjoy the views of the city from the boat. The bus ride from the ferry to the town was about 25 minutes, which isn’t too bad.

When we got to Richmond Town we were afraid it was closed because the place was so quiet and empty. I guessed that it was because this is Memorial Day weekend and most people probably stayed home to relax or went out of town for barbecues. When we got to the ticket counter in the gift shop, the clerk there said that Memorial Day weekend is usually really quiet and cited the same reasons I suggested. I didn’t really care that the place was empty of people. Getting away from the crowds in New York City, seeing some trees, grass, fresh air and open spaces was just fine with me.

The fact that most of the buildings were closed was a problem, though. No one there was in costume. When we went on the 3:30 tour, our guide used a set of keys to open up each building we went into and had to take time to open the shutters so there would be light inside. She kept mentioning that the buildings saw regular, period-style use during the week. I wonder who has time to go out there during the week? I’m going to have to do some research and make some phone calls to find out if we can go back on another weekend and see the place completely up and running.

That being said, the tour was really good and our guide knew quite a bit about the houses she was showing us. She was also ready to answer random questions about the facilities and other buildings we were walking by. I was not disappointed at all. It was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Here are some of my favorite photos from the place:

Better quality images and more details can be found in my Historic Richmond Town Flickr gallery.

Twitter Banner on New York Stock Exchange on IPO Day

My wife took these photos this morning. She said it was ok for me to try to take credit for them. ūüėČ

Twitter Banner on NYSE for IPO
Twitter Banner on NYSE for IPO
Twitter Banner on NYSE for IPO
Twitter banner close-up.
NYSE with Twitter Banner
Around 4:30 PM.

I’ve seen a lot of people saying they think Twitter’s stock is overpriced, but didn’t a lot of people say the same thing about Facebook? I was under the impression that turned out ok. Maybe the difference is that Twitter hasn’t found a very effective monetization method, yet. But, I think they’ll do ok. I wasn’t really keeping up with this until my wife sent me these photos. Now I wish I’d planned ahead and jumped on the bandwagon early. Maybe next time around.

Ripped Books

I’d like to take some time later to write a long post about my experiences over the past week in Lower Manhattan in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, but I want to mention something I saw today that made me realize that some things in New York City never change.

When I was on my way home, I saw an older man pushing shopping cart down the street. He stopped by the trash can, peered in, and then reached into a box in his cart.  He pulled out a book, looked around as if he were making sure no one was watching him, and then ripped the front and back cover off the book and tossed it in the trash can.  He then reached into his box and pulled out another book.  At this point, he saw me watching him and turned away from me and hid clutched the book to his chest.  He looked over his shoulder at me and then ripped the covers off the book.  He tossed the remains of the book into the trash can along with the first one and then hurriedly crossed the street, where he peered briefly into the trash can on the corner before moving on, presumably to find more suitable trash cans to receive his defaced books.

I had stopped to watch this guy, so I’d missed the light to cross in the direction I was going. ¬†When I did cross over to the other corner, I found a man in dirty, rumpled clothing singing to a pile of dirty clothes in a shopping cart.

Last week, Lower Manhattan was very dark and the streets were relatively deserted. ¬†Thinking about it now, I don’t remember seeing anyone … weird… out there. ¬†Not weird by NYC standards anyway. ¬†But now, the power is back and the crazies are out again. ¬†Some things just don’t change.

Occupy Union Square?

Yesterday I went to Petco at Union Square to pick up two 20 pound boxes of cat litter while they were on sale. ¬†Carrying that cat litter was a pain in the ass because I couldn’t get a cab and had to take the bus, but that’s another story.

On the way to Petco, I noticed a lot of people standing around the 14th street side of Union Square with signs. ¬†I’m not surprised. ¬†It seems like there’s a protest there at least once a month or more. ¬†There was a protest there over the Trayvon Martin incident, for example.

Union Square

I can only assume this group is protesting police brutality, but I didn’t stop to ask for specifics. ¬†There was something about the way most of the people looked, the way they carried themselves, that screamed low class and potentially dangerous. ¬†One guy looked homeless and the girl in the purple tube top (just to the right of the pink tree on the left of the photo) kept pulling her top up and down, like she was moments from stripping naked to add flavor to the protest. ¬†I wondered if they were drunk or on drugs. ¬†I know it’s not good to just throw a judgment out there based on how people look, but on the other hand, if you want to be taken seriously, you should look serious.

Union Square

The group of people protesting wasn’t actually that large. ¬†It’s hard to tell from the photos where the protesters end and the normal Union Square crowd begins, but they mostly seemed to be huddled into one corner near that pagoda subway entrance.

Union Square

There were police hanging around and I had things to do so I just minded my own business and kept going. ¬†The reason I wonder if these people are trying to ‘occupy’ Union Square is because I saw them there again today, including the guy that looks homeless. ¬†He had a ruck sack with what looked like a yoga mat. ¬†Maybe he slept on it? ¬†Also, a few of them seemed to have luggage with them (right side in above photo). ¬†The police were still there today too.

Classic New York City Taxi

Old fashioned New York City Taxi.

I saw this old fashioned taxi cab parked on the side of the road.  I assume it’s still being used, but I could be wrong.  Maybe someone bought it and is using it as a personal vehicle and they enjoy the novelty of driving it.

I don’t ride in taxis much here.  They’re way too expensive.  With a little foresight and time management, you could save yourself 20 dollars or more and just take the bus or train.  I guess a lot of people do use them though, because sometimes I get the impression that there are more taxis on the roads here in the city than any other types of vehicles combined.

Haagen-Dazs Boutique Ice Cream Stores in Singapore

Haagen-Dazs Boutique Ice Cream

Singapore was the first place I got to sit down at a fancy restaurant that was designed just for the purpose of serving ice cream, like the Haagen-Dazs restaurants that are so common here in Singapore.

There are, of course, places like this in the US, but they’re mostly in major cities like New York City. ¬†I wasn’t aware of them, so I never went to visit one. ¬†I thought the ice cream you get in the grocery store was only available in the grocery store.

Two cones from the Marble Slab Creamery in Columbus, Georgia.
Two cones from the Marble Slab Creamery in Columbus, Georgia.

There were ice cream places I went to like Baskin Robbins, Brewster’s and Marble Slab Creamery, but these places are set up as fast food ice cream parlors. ¬†The seats, if there were any at all, are the hard plastic kind that encourage you to enjoy your ice cream, but to do it quickly and make room for the next person.

Since I’ve never been to a Haagen-Dazs restaurant in the US I have no basis for comparison but the experience here was a good one. ¬†The seats were cushioned and comfortable, the table we chose was low-set, and the dishes and silverware were good quality. ¬†The ice cream was served with presentation in mind too. ¬†So, eating Haagen-Dazs ice cream in Singapore can be a very luxury experience.

Haagen-Dazs Boutique Ice Cream 2

Unfortunately, it comes with a luxury price tag as well. ¬†The two plates shown in this post came up to around 42 SGD (about 29 USD) and I remember being stunned at the bill. ¬†In the US you can get a half-gallon of premium ice cream for about 13 or 14 bucks. ¬†Or at least you could the last time I was there. ¬†I’m finding out that a lot of foods I took for granted as being cheap in the US are a lot more expensive abroad. ¬†I think it has a lot to do with how the corn industry is subsidized by the government in the US. ¬†Ya, that’s kind of a weird stretch, right? ¬†Watch Food Inc. and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

Anyway, it’s still a nice way to pamper yourself from time to time, if you have the money to spend.

The Search For Great Pizza in Singapore Continues

One of the things I’ve been unable to do since moving to Singapore is locate a great pizza. I mean a great pizza that tastes like a slice of pizza I could get in New York City. I know that’s not likely to happen, but man, I was hoping for something close at least.

There are Pizza Hut franchises here, but they’re just not the same. They use a different type of tomato sauce and they use a lot of weird ingredients that you’d never find on the menu in the US. I never liked Pizza hut anyway, since it’s so greasy. The last time I ate at a pizza hut was in Alabama and I literally used a napkin to sponge the grease off of it before I ate it.

In the US, my preferred pizza, as far as franchises go, is Papa John’s. That stuff is just plain good!

Here in Singapore, I’d take just about anything.

There’s a Sbarro’s in the Philippines that I ate at. It was great! There’s another restaurant there that looks good too, an Italian place, but I just can’t remember the name of it. I haven’t been able to try it yet, but hopefully the next time I’m there I will. I have a craving for Mexican food too, so hopefully we’ll get to stop by Mexicali. Not sure when that’ll be though, since my next trips are lined up for Phuket and maybe Bali or Sabah.

But… my quest for great pizza in Singapore is still incomplete. I thought I might have found a winner at a restaurant called ‘New York, New York’, but it wasn’t quite up to par either.

To start off with, the pizza was really greasy. You can see that in the photo. The second problem is that the sauce was put on so lightly they might as well have just excluded it from the recipe, and what sauce was on there wasn’t very tasty. I guess they missed the whole part about pizza sauce having spices and being more than just tomato sauce.

The worst part is that we had to pay 13 SGD for this disaster and it was only 9 inches in diameter.

Oh, and speaking of ‘diameter’, our waiter didn’t understand what the word meant. He got so confused that he wound up telling me that they only sold pizza by the slice and that the slice was 9 inches long, and cost 13 SGD. I told him to go get a manager and the manager was able to clarify for me. Plus, I just wanted to point out to him that his waiter should at least know what’s on the menu.

So, ya, ‘New York, New York’ was another fail.

The closest I’ve seen so far is that ‘Canada Pizza’, I think it’s called, but it wasn’t good enough to make me want more.

On a positive note, I heard from another person’s blog (An American Girl in Singapore) that there’s a Dunkin Donuts in the new Ion Mall down on Orchard. That’s GREAT news. The donuts at most shops here in Singapore are just… too much I guess you could say. They’re overdone with icing and overdone with fillings and way too sweet to the point they’re not even good anymore. Some of them are so bad you might as well just be eating a big ball of sugar. The mom and pop bakeries here, on the other hand, don’t put enough and you wind up feeling like you’re just eating plain dough. Dunkin Donuts is a franchise though. They should get it right, because it’s a standard recipe. I can’t wait to get down there and check to see if they have Bavarian Cream!

(A photo of the last Dunkin Donuts we had in Kuala Lumpur’s airport a few months ago)
If you enjoy reading articles about pizza, you might enjoy THIS great article about a Singaporean’s search for good pizza in Italy. It’s quite enjoyable and funny!