Sunday Cycling

People enjoying the day at Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, New York City

It’s been quite a while since I’ve gone out riding on my bicycle. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we basically resolved to stay home as much as possible, like most people did, I imagine. After a few months, we managed to get an indoor stationary bicycle, but it just isn’t the same experience as going out and riding around other people.

Check out my activity on Strava: https://strava.app.link/7kNEokWlhjb

Yesterday, I literally knocked the dust off of my bicycle, pulled the bike rack out of the trunk of our SUV, and went down to Central Park. My wife went with me, but she’s more of a jogger than a cyclist, and she wanted to go for a run. She’s got a few marathons under her belt, which is pretty cool, so she ran and I rode, and we met up later to get take out for dinner.

Riding around the park, I saw that there were people everywhere. It’s still not as crowded as it used to be, mostly I think because there aren’t as many tourists around. But, there were a lot of joggers, casual and serious cyclists, walkers, sunbathers, and sight seers.

People boating in The Central Park Lake

When I was done with my ride, I spent some time by Bethesda Fountain. There was a woman giving an opera performance in the covered area below the roadway. By the fountain there was a public dance class. There were artists painting pictures of the scenery and some painting pictures of people for money.

It was really nice to see the city coming back to life again. Central Park was really depressing during the pandemic the few times we went because it was so empty. It felt dead. I didn’t even mind the smell of the horses as I rode around the southern loop of West Dr. and Center Dr.

Updates 6.27

There’s a whole lot going on in the US right now but I’m at the point where I’ve started to tune it out. I’ll probably drop some rambling posts about the social unrest and venture into fringe conspiracy theories later, but not right now. It just gets so tiring, you know? Like, why should I try to carry the weight of the world’s problems on my shoulders (or in my head) 24/7? It’s a constant burden and it can weigh a person down.

So, I’m trying to get back to focusing on things that I actually enjoy, like manga, movies, studying Japanese, and cats. And I’ve been working more now that things are starting to get back to normal in New York City, which is nice.

This past Monday, businesses started opening back up. There’s still no dining in, which is a good thing honestly, but it was super nice to be able to get the car washed, drive downtown, and get takeout from Thai Terminal and Veniero’s. I really missed their food, especially Veniero’s cheesecake. It was so good that I didn’t even bother to take a photo of it before gobbling it down.

Hopefully, COVID-19 doesn’t spike. I’m not really interested in another shutdown, but with all of the protests and rioting, it could happen. I wasn’t really prepared last time, so if there’s going to be another shutdown I’m not going to get caught with my pants down again. I picked up my Mom and we went to New Jersey to shop at Walmart. My cart was overflowing. LOL. I didn’t hoard TP or paper towels, but I picked up quite a few canned and frozen items along with olive oil, honey, canned soups, and other staples.

We stopped by Mitsuwa Marketplace in Edgewater and the grocery was open (which was great because we needed Yakult) but the food court was still closed. Daiso was open and we wound up picking up some nice dishes with cat designs:

So, I’ve moved on to memorizing Japanese kanji. It’s actually more fun than I expected. I’m starting to remember the component parts of the kanji and it’s making it easier to start guessing at the meanings of other kanji. I’m hoping that by the end of the year I can read simple kid’s books in Japanese.

Speaking of Japanese, if you haven’t read Dungeon Meshi / Delicious in Dungeon, I highly recommend it. The last chapter was especially good. It’s probably the best chapter in the manga.

And speaking of reading, I’ve plowed through about 50 books so far this year, including the entire Witcher series. That one is really hit or miss and The Last Wish, which the Netflix series is based on, is definitely the best of the bunch. It was worth the time, though, as someone who really enjoys fantasy novels. I’m reading a book about Israeli history right now and it reminded me of why I was so fascinated with Middle Eastern history while I was studying it in college. I’ll probably go on a run of books about modern Middle Eastern history next. I also want to get around to reading The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. I’ve been putting it off, even though I’m really interested in it.

Last thing I want to mention before putting things away so we can eat dinner is that there are new kittens in the apartment. Here’s one of them:

The toilet paper drought is finally hitting the Bronx

Since this COVID-19 thing started in New York City, people have been panic buying. One dude buying 20 jars of spaghetti sauce, every shelf in the store is now empty, kind of panic buying. Or at least, that’s how it was down in Manhattan near my mom’s place.

At the two grocery stores near our apartment in the Bronx, everything has been pretty regular in terms of availability. For a few days, the grocery stores were out of ginger. The liquid hand soap was gone from one of two grocery stores for a week. The TP was gone for a few days, but then was restocked. Now, one grocery store has TP and the other doesn’t.

It doesn’t seem like a hoarding issue so much as a supply issue at this point. In the last month, people bought three or more months worth the toilet paper instead of what they would normally buy, so there’s just a shortage coming out of the factories. A self-fulfilling TP shortage.

The food shelves were never totally emptied here. I can tell sales are good though, because I haven’t seen a damn thing on sale at Key Foods for two weeks. I’d like to go to Walmart in NJ, but with the way people are talking, I’m not sure there’d be anything there to buy. Or maybe there’s a line? Or maybe it’s going to be full of people passing the virus around to each other?

I get why people hoard now, though. When they first started, I didn’t understand it. It looked like people were just being stupid, but I’ve been thinking about it and I realized that some people must literally have bought enough so they could go in their house and not come out for weeks or months, because they have the money for it and a job that allows them to work from home. And, given that almost 300 people are dying a day in New York City right now, maybe that was the right move after all. The more you limit your exposure, the more likely you are to not die in the next few months.

Not dying due to exposure to the pandemic has become a class privilege. Just like Cuomo freezing mortgages but not rents. Apparently, renters are supposed to magically pull rent out of their butts even if they haven’t been working, but home owners have to be protected. Even though they’re in the minority.

It doesn’t seem like people in this part of the Bronx are as prone to hoarding as people in other neighborhoods. We’ve discussed whether it’s because of culture, not recognizing the seriousness of the pandemic, or because people in this area just can’t afford to buy multiple weeks or months of groceries all at once in advance. Maybe it’s a bit of all three.

Only the off-brand stuff is left.

Anyway, the shelves are finally starting to look a little bare in the TP section now. Paper towels too. We still bought the same was what we’d normally buy. We have actual towels that we can use instead of paper towels and if we run out of TP, we can wash our butts in the shower.

So, totally not worried about that.

Coronavirus Journal: Day 25 – #coronavirusUSA mascot?

So, I was sitting at the dinner table, trying to get some remote work done and I saw something moving out of the corner of my eye, out the window. I looked over and saw a black bird, a crow, standing on the antennae of the neighboring building.

Ok. Great. A crow. I felt like it fit really well with the current mood in the city and the country. We are the new Italy. We are the new global epicenter of death and coronavirus related destruction, so a crow seemed really appropriate. Hell, the scientific name for a crow is even “corvus”. Coronavirus.

But then he turned and looked at me and I realized the fucker was holding half a hotdog in his beak.

He hopped around, turning this way and that, as if he was gloating over his prize. He must have realized I was watching him because he stopped and starting eyeballing me. He tipped his head back and forth and then decided to move to safer ground, just in case I felt inclined to go out the window after him to challenge him for his hotdog.

The crow turning and preparing to take flight, like the number of coronavirus related deaths in the US.

The fact that the crow was holding half a hotdog in his beak just made the imagery better for me. Here was a representation of death holding a hotdog and chilling outside, the American coronavirus mascot.

I could almost hear him screaming, “HOLD MY BEER! USA! USA! WhooooooOOOooo!” as he flew up and away, out of our control.

Finding things to do while stuck at home during the coronapocalypse

De Blasio was throwing around the idea that there might be a “shelter in place order”, basically restricting all movement except essential services I guess, but Cuomo said De Blasio was basically full of crap and there was no such plan. Apparently, shutting down New York City is off the table, probably more for logistical and enforcement reasons than anything. How do you shut down a city this size? Would the police even attempt to or be able to check everyone still out to see if what they’re doing is authorized?

Maybe? I imagine it’s easier to have the NYPD crack down on businesses that aren’t following the shutdown order than it would be to try to police millions of people out on the street.

That being said, I’m stuck at home anyway, because my work requires me to be in venues of 50 or more people and gatherings that size are currently banned. I could go out and screw around and hey, maybe I will, but today I was at home using the time to try to catch up on some things.

Basically, I was just cleaning and doing chores. Laundry, sweeping, mopping, sanitizing surfaces, dishes, cooking for my wife who is working remote. Digging out old Christmas hand sanitizers and Wet Wipes from the closet.

Small containers of holiday scented hand sanitizer from 2018. LOL. And some Wet Wipes. We ordered 4 of those when the pandemic was first getting started.

I spent time with my cats. I even stayed in bed for an hour this morning after waking up because my cat Dapper was resting on my arm. Why not? Not like I had anything that pressing to do and she always gets upset when I leave.

Dapper snuggled in next to me on the bed this morning

I updated my resume, Indeed, and LinkdIn. I transferred downloaded photos from my phone to my laptop.

I finished The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath and started reading East of Eden, by John Steinbeck.

I put a bunch of extra time into studying Japanese and Spanish on Memrise.

I want to do some more reading tonight. Maybe I’ll play a video game. I’ve been meaning to get back to The Witcher III on my Switch. But really I’ll probably wind up shitposting on Twitter, Pleroma, and Facebook.

Now what? I need to get out of the apartment for a while tomorrow to work out. While that’s still allowed. The gyms are closed. I guess I could do something here in the apartment and go for a bike ride.

I’m not sure how I’ll feel if this goes on for a few weeks, but right now, I’m set. If the chores run out (and with the tax deadline looming and plenty of other cleaning to catch up on, that’s not likely to happen) there’s always Netflix, video games, board games, and books.

Coronavirus in New York City

Image of old Independent Subway Downtown-East Side-Brooklyn tile sign at 6th Ave L/PATH station in Manhattan.

Reactions to the threat of coronavirus in New York City seem to vary by neighborhood. Out on the street where I live (the Bronx), you would hardly notice that anything different is going on.

No one is wearing masks. No one is keeping their distance. No one is doing the “wuhan shake”. No one is panic buying toilet paper or cleaning supplies. I don’t know if that has to do with ethnic background or socioeconomic class. Maybe just a culture of not panicking when it doesn’t seem like there’s a reason to panic yet. That’s an interesting idea. Are certain ethnic groups more likely to buy in to Armageddon panic buying than others?

Anyway, don’t take this the wrong way, but maybe coronavirus is doing some good too. Of course it’s horrible that people are dying, but it’s illuminating some issues and making people do things they should have been doing already. It lowered pollution in China. It’s got the MTA actually cleaning trains every 72 hours. God knows how long they were going between cleanings before that. The MTA is cleaning train stations more regularly too. The mall in Jersey City almost reeked of cleaning fluid. And now it’s got people apparently finally cleaning their homes and their hands, given the shortage of soap and hand sanitizer in stores.

Or at least they’re pretending to. I do see a lot of dudes not washing their hands in public bathrooms still. Or just wetting their fingers with water, then wiping their hands on their dirty pants and walking out, like that accomplishes anything. They probably went right out and started putting their dick-fingers on items on the shelves.

Anyway, I was in Jersey City earlier today and both there and on the way back to my Mom’s place in Manhattan I noticed a lot of people wearing masks. I saw some people wearing latex or other types of gloves too. No gas masks or full on respirators, though. It was mostly Asians. I think they’re used to wearing masks because it’s something that’s already common in Asian culture. But I did see a few white people wearing masks too.

I was pretty disappointed that I forgot my mask. I was around a lot of people today in buses and trains. With the number of diagnosed cases jumping so high so quickly in New York City and New York State, I’m going to be worried for a while now.

I wish coronavirus would make wearing masks to prevent getting or spreading illnesses more of a thing in the US. I know health professionals are saying that they don’t work and you shouldn’t wear them if you’re healthy, but I don’t believe that. If that were true, health professionals wouldn’t wear masks either. I’m certain they’re not foolproof, guaranteed protection, but at least they’re something. If viruses are traveling on moisture particles from someone’s nose or mouth, at least they help stop that.

Anyway, the stock market is crashing. The end is nigh. Or at least that’s how it seems from the news. Maybe they’re right. I’ve been wondering how the spread of coronavirus could be stopped in the US considering the political climate and actual limits of government here.

Is it even lawful in this country for the government to forcefully quarantine people? I don’t know. What would that look like? Quarantine camps? Are we going to see trucks spraying weird sanitizing chemicals rolling down Park Avenue? That would be interesting, but considering how poorly the government is doing in even distributing test kits, I can’t imagine them moving on to more aggressive measures like China is undertaking.

Guess I’ll just have to wait and see. If any part of the US turns into a complete disaster from coronavirus, I have complete confidence that it will be New York City. It’s just too dense and poorly managed. But probably nothing serious will happen. Americans have a weird tendency to predict and long for worst case scenarios, like the zombie apocalypse.

Busy little noodle joint – Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles in Chinatown

Duck noodle soup and chicken veggie dumplings at Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles

Doyer’s Street is kind of a weird looking spot, but it has the best noodle shop I’ve been to in New York City: Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles. The location subtitle on Google Maps, “Busy little noodle joint”, sums the place up pretty well. It’s a hole in the wall establishment. You could easily walk by and not even notice it was there. It’s cramped inside. In the summer, it’s hot. And, it’s always busy. Seating is very limited and you have to shift around to let people move past you. It’s totally worth it, though.

The first time I went to Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles, I wandered in by accident while on a break from jury duty. Each time, I somehow wound up at the tiny table squeezed into the corner by the front door. I haven’t come close to working my way through the menu. I usually stick with the noodle soup dishes and I’m really partial to the duck noodle soup, but I find it hard to believe I would be really disappointed by something they prepared. The food just has a good, authentic, quality taste to it without being unreasonably expensive. Most of the soups are about $9 – $10 a bowl, but the portions are large.

Chinatown, New York City//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The only thing that’s a little annoying about the place is that it’s a cash-only establishment. Luckily, there’s a Chase bank across the street with ATMs so it’s not too big a deal. I’ve noticed that a lot of Asian restaurants are switching to cash-only lately. I wonder why? I try to not carry cash. Lately, I’ve even cut down on the cards I carry. My Galaxy S7 has Samsung Pay and it works really well. It also has a rewards program.

If you want dessert, you can stop by Taiyaki NYC over on Baxter Street on your way to the train station on Canal Street. It’s a Japanese ice cream place that is pretty popular. The original, vanilla soft-serve in a fish pastry with warm custard, chocolate syrup, strawberries and a wafer cookie is pretty awesome.

The Water Taxi Ride from Manhattan Pier 11 Slip A to Red Hook IKEA/Fairways

View of the Statue of Liberty in the distance from the water taxi to Red Hook, Brooklyn from Pier 11 Slip A in Manhattan.

On the weekends, there is a free water taxi that travels between Pier 11, Slip A, in Manhattan and piers at Fairways and IKEA in Red Hook, Brooklyn on a regular schedule. It also operates on weekdays but it’s not free. On weekdays, each ticket is $5, but if you keep your ticket receipt and make a purchase at IKEA they’ll deduct that $5, making the ride to the store essentially free.

These are some pictures from the ride there and back:

Water Taxi from Manhattan to Brooklyn and Back Again//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsOn the way out, it started raining right as we boarded, but the boat traveled out from under the clouds and I took a few pictures. On the way back it was much nicer.The boat passes Governor’s Island and the Statue of Liberty is visible in the distance, though I wouldn’t recommend this ride as a good way to get a close, free view of that statue. You’re better off riding the Staten Island Ferry for that, which is also free and passes close to Ellis Island.

The boat passes Governor’s Island and the Statue of Liberty is visible in the distance. I don’t recommend riding this water taxi for a free view of the Statue of Liberty, though. It’s too far away. You’re better off riding the Staten Island Ferry for that, which is also free and passes close to Ellis Island. You just have to make sure you board near the front of the line and stand on the balcony on the correct side of the boat.

When we exited the boat at IKEA, a lot of families walked straight to the parking lot and got in their cars to leave. It looks like they used IKEA’s parking lot for free parking and the boat for a free ride into the city. It makes sense, from a money point of view. Parking isn’t cheap in NYC and the boat drops you off a short walk from Battery Park and quite a few museums.

I also noticed that when you’re leaving the IKEA pier, you pass an NYPD impound lot on the left. There are hundreds of vehicles there, including lots of motorcycles. The motorcycles weren’t covered and they were right by the ocean. I can’t imagine the salt water spray is very good for them.

Anyhow, the water taxi ride is a great way to have some free fun if you’re on your way to IKEA, Fairways, or just Brooklyn in general and you have the time. Or if the trains aren’t running between Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn on the weekend, which is almost every weekend.

Museum Challenge: The Museum of the City of New York (Feb 2017)

City of New York Quote - New York Evening Post

A few weeks ago I was standing in Barnes & Noble, looking around to see if anything would catch my eye. I didn’t really want to buy anything because I have plenty of books that I haven’t read yet, but sometimes I go to B&N just to look around and get an idea of what’s popular or new. Sometimes I can’t resist and still walk out with a few new books to add to my collection.Anyway, I saw a section for books on New York City and I realized that despite majoring in History and working on an MA in history, I haven’t read or learned much about the history of New York City.

Anyway, I saw a section for books on New York City and I realized that despite majoring in History and working on an MA in history, I haven’t read or learned much about the history of New York City. The only two books that I know I’ve read are City of Women: Sex and Class in New York, 1789-1860, by Christine Stansell and City of Eros: New York City, Prostitution, and the Commercialization of Sex, 1790-1920, by Timothy J. Gilfoyle. I think I read them as part of an American economic history master’s course that was masquerading as a course on historiography and historical methodology. They were both excellent books, by the way.

Not knowing too much of anything about New York’s history struck me as odd since I live in New York City and half of my family has lived in New York City for multiple generations. At some point, I’m going to have to sit down and plow through a few good books on the subject, but my ignorance of the topic was the inspiration for my decision to visit the Museum of the City of New York on 5th Avenue.

A 1985 map of Manhattan, by The Manhattan Map Company Inc.
A 1985 map of Manhattan, by The Manhattan Map Company Inc.

The museum is not exceptionally large. I took the time to look at the special exhibit and read quite a few of the information placards in the galleries and still saw everything in about 3.5 hours, so it’s a great way to spend an afternoon without feeling rushed or having to go back again to see what you missed the first time through. Another bonus is that admission is free if you have a City University of New York student ID card.

A selection of artwork by students of varying ages in New York City schools.
A selection of artwork by students of varying ages in New York City schools.

The building’s collection has a mix of art and artifacts. In some galleries, there are old maps of the city, detailed information on how zoning works, and models to show how buildings were designed to fit the space limitations created by whatever the current zoning laws were. Other galleries have artifacts from the early colonial period, including Native American artifacts. There are galleries describing protest movements and fashion trends. There is a small hall dedicated to Tiffany’s. There is a gallery of contemporary children’s art from city schools. The special exhibit when I visited was on gay New York and the history of the gay rights movement and gay lifestyle in the city.

A selection of Tiffany's fans.
A selection of Tiffany’s fans.

The galleries cover a lot of ground. Some exhibits felt out of place, like the Tiffany’s gallery and the Stettheimer Doll House, for example. The special exhibit on gay New York felt empty. There wasn’t enough on display to make the exhibit interesting. The children’s art exhibit was really fun but also really small. The museum should dedicate more space to current New York City art initiatives and to modern New York City. By that, I mean there should be something that showcases contemporary diversity beyond the scrolling Twitter feed display showing New Yorker’s criticizing Trump’s policies. It should be something positive, like an exhibit on interfaith initiatives, cultural festivals, street fairs, and festivals, for example. It would also be interesting to see an exhibit on historical landmarks in the city and the process for designating a site as a historic landmark.

A gallery of more photos from the museum:

The Museum of the City of New York//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsI probably won’t visit this museum again. It was definitely worth the trip, but I didn’t see anything there that spoke to me, in the way that art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art does. This museum is more informative than awe-inspiring or inspirational.