A Dance Parade, Protesters, Painters & People Stealing Garbage

People protesting something going on in Turkey.
People protesting something going on in Turkey.
A crazy guy dancing with a toilet seat. He usually does this by the large black cube at Astor Place.
A crazy guy dancing with the molding from a van window, I think. He usually does this by the large black cube at Astor Place.
This guy was taking a break from dancing to the tune of a nearby Buddhist meditation group. Shortly after this, he took a bag of trash from the public bin and walked away with it.
This guy was taking a break from dancing to the tune of a nearby Buddhist meditation group. Shortly after this, he took a bag of trash from the public bin and walked away with it.
This is Francis Virella. He wants to make it big as an artist.
This is Francis Virella. He wants to make it big as an artist.

Today, there were all sorts of things going on in Union Square. We just happened to be walking through and saw a crazy guy dancing, another crazy guy stealing a bag of garbage from a public trash can, had a conversation with a guy that wants to make it big as an artist, and then wandered into a dance parade. It was a lot of fun, and the random, amazingly entertaining things that you can just stumble into is one of the reasons I love New York City.

You can see the rest of the parade photos, in a higher resolution in my Flickr gallery by clicking HERE.

Clarke’s Standard (replaced goodburger at Union Square)

It was with great regret that my wife and I saw that goodburger at Union Square had closed. We used to eat there frequently because the food was good, fairly quick, and it was convenient. It was somewhere between McDonald’s and Wendy’s, which was too junky, and a sit-down, pricey restaurant. Not that it wasn’t a little on the pricey side, but it filled a need we had.  I guess not enough people needed a good burger at that price, though, so one day we went there for dinner and found the place boarded up.

Interior of Clarke's Standard at Union Square
Interior of Clarke’s Standard at Union Square

About two weeks ago, we were shopping at Petco and I decided to go around the corner and see if anything had replaced goodburger yet, and we saw that Clarke’s Standard was open. A new burger joint. We decided to try the place out, hoping it would be our new goodburger. Unfortunately, this place is not going to fit the bill.

Clarke's Standard Menu
Clarke’s Standard Menu
Brooklyn Au Poivre, Honey Mustard BBQ Grilled Sandwich, French Fries, Sweet Waffle Potato Fries
Brooklyn Au Poivre, Honey Mustard BBQ Grilled Sandwich, French Fries, Sweet Waffle Potato Fries

The biggest problem we had was that the sauces used on the burgers are either made with mayo or ketchup (or something with a very similar taste to ketchup) that we didn’t care for. If you want a burger without mayo or ketchup here, you lose most of the flavor of the specialty burger. Besides that, the sauces are very runny and soak into the bun, making them mushy and sloppy. Some people may like their buns saucy and squishy, but I like my buns firm.

I had the Brooklyn Au Poivre. Besides my sauce and bun problem, I found the meat to not have any real taste to it. It seemed to be too wet and slightly undercooked on top of that. It didn’t have a grilled or “real” flavor to it. My wife said the honey mustard BBQ grilled chicken sandwich was good, but the flavor was drowned by the ketchup, which was leaking out of the bottom of the sandwich in gobs.

The only redeeming things about our meal were the French fries and sweet potato waffle fries. They were both outstanding, but they aren’t enough to bring us back for more.

Huge roach on the floor at Clarke's Standard
Huge roach on the floor at Clarke’s Standard
Huge roach on the floor at Clarke's Standard
Huge roach on the floor at Clarke’s Standard

Finding this giant roach on the floor under our table (waiting for leftovers?) after we finished eating finished killing our meal experience. Honestly, the price isn’t that much different than goodburger and the quality and variety of the sandwiches isn’t that impressive. We won’t be going back. There are plenty of other restaurants in the area. We’ll just have to walk a bit further to get to them.

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.

NYPD Overkill: More Police than Protesters

What ever happened to the Occupy movement?  Reports about the activities of the group used to be on television on a daily basis.  Did people lose interest after the eviction from Zuccoti Park?  Was that the end of the high drama that could keep viewers coming back to tune in to the news reports?

Or did the Occupy movement kill itself off?  The Occupy movement’s most touted feature could also have led to its own downfall.  Without a single leader to unify the movement and the ideology, the movement was just a static mob occupying nothing but time and space, but presenting no social change or even a unified list of demands that I ever remember hearing about.

Without a leader, everything was voted on by the entire group.  That sounds good in theory, but fails in implementation, which is why the US is a representative democracy and not a direct democracy (which is what they were implementing in Zuccoti Park).  A quick search of the web shows a recent Wall Street Journal article that talks about the Occupy movement and their current financial woes.  It also mentions that issues are being decided by a General Assembly now, so maybe problems associated with a lack of leadership became apparent even to them.  Or, maybe the problem was that when large sums of money started being handled, it required some sort of leadership and accountability.

Either way, when I think about all of the important movements in history, there have always been figureheads for movements, charismatic leaders that drew attention and promoted the desires of the masses.  South Africa and India had Gandhi.  The Civil Rights movement had MLK.  Who does the Occupy movement have that can present a unified ideology and a unified front, that can actually form a coherent ideology and set of demands to place before the US government and the people?  It’s fine to have a lot of issues under one roof, but without some set of concrete plans or desires, the whole movement begins to feel like a waste of time, and no one likes having their time wasted.

Soap boxing aside, I happened to run into a group of protesters on Monday at Union Square.  The group seemed tiny compared to what I remember seeing on the news and the only thing that really made the moment memorable was the absurd ratio of police officers to protesters.  In fact, I think there might have been more police present than there were protesters.  Perhaps it wasn’t without reason, since there was some commotion that caused a lot of them to run into the crowd before they even crossed the street into Union Square, but I can’t help but feel that more than anything, the police presence was exaggerated and a waste of tax payer money.

Unmarked police car.
Unmarked police car. It wasn’t the only one in the area.

Large group of police at Union Square

Large group of police at Union Square 2

Two rows of motorcycle cops

Small group of protesters being herded by the huge showing of police in the area

Group of protesters at Union Square

Police following a group of protesters at Union Square

Maybe they expected more people to be there?  It’s always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared, but … they even had half a dozen of those little Interceptors lined up waiting, as well as additional units stationed around the park…

Mini police cruisers.

Trail of Faces and a Chalk Dust Flower

There were plenty of people at Union Square yesterday with tables set up, trying to make a buck off of their artwork.  Two artists were using a method of making art that you can’t really buy and take home, though.  One guy was making a trail of faces on the pavement and another made a flower pattern out of chalk dust.

Felix Morelo, drawing a Trail of Faces.
Felix Morelo, drawing a Trail of Faces.

I had seen Felix Morelo’s artwork before, last Fall I think.  I’d almost forgotten about it and I don’t know why I didn’t take any photos of the faces, because the work he did then was a lot better than what I saw yesterday.

What he does is he gets himself a bag of chalk and a crate to sit on.  He draws a face, moves back, draws another face, etc. etc.  What he winds up with is a Trail of Faces, with each face a bit different from the others.  It doesn’t sound like much, until you look down the long line of faces and realize the sheer quantity of his work.  Quantity isn’t the same as quality, but overall I think it was worthwhile to stop and admire.

Right next to the Trail of Faces I saw a flower design made out of chalk dust.  I don’t know the story behind this.  I’d never seen it before, but there was a pail sitting nearby for money donations.  The bags on the ground around the design are full of chalk dust of different colors.

It’s nice to see something going on in the park.  After a quick burst of activity in the Spring, things have really died off, but I’m not really surprised.  It’s getting hot out there!

The Andy Monument at Union Square

The Andy Monument at Union Square, Manhattan, New York City.

Andy Warhol, born Andrew Warhola, Jr., was an American painter, printmaker and filmmaker and a leading figure in the pop art movement.  His monument stands at the Northwest corner of Union Square outside Petco.  I’m not going to pretend to know anything about Andy Warhol, but his wikipedia entry says one of his paintings sold for 100 million dollars, so it has to be pretty good stuff.  I can’t say I like the statue though, or the building that sits adjacent to Union Square on Broadway that I was told he designed.  If you’re wondering, the bag in his hand says, “medium brown bag,” which is a reference to Bloomingdales.  Their shopping bags are brown paper bags that have ‘big’, ‘medium’ and I think ‘small’ “brown bag” printed on the sides.

Broadway Street Fair, 14th Street to 8th Street

A street fair on Broadway near Union Square Park.

Today, Broadway was closed down from 14th Street, where Union Square is, down to 8th Street for a street fair.  The road was lined on both sides with stalls selling everything from costume jewelry to barbecue pulled pork.  There were even stalls set up by The New York Times, trying to get people to buy subscriptions, and a booth promoting Islam.  This is a story best told with pictures:

Costume jewelry for sale at a street fair in New York City.

This costume jewelry was laid out in a huge pile across a few tables.  It was on sale.  A closeout sale in fact.  Only $3.00 apiece.  Doesn’t seem like much of a sale to me.  I’m sure if you looked hard enough you could find this stuff for a dollar apiece.  It’s pretty to look at though, especially when it’s laid out together like it was.

Kettle Corn NYC.

Some $9.00 bags of kettle corn.  If you’ve never had kettle corn, it’s sweet.  It tastes awesome and smells great.

Shirts for sale at a street fair on Broadway in New York City.

Japanese balls.  Yum!

I stopped by this booth to look at what they had to offer.  The sign on the front of the table says that everything on the table is free.  The guy in the blue jacket on the right spoke fluent English and Spanish, and the Korans he’s putting down are translated into Spanish.  The Lower East Side has a lot of Hispanic families, so maybe that’s the demographic they were mostly prepared for.  I took a few of the flyers.  I’m sure they’ll make great reading material for the train.  The guy in the blue jacket seemed encouraged by my interest in the flyers and asked me what I know about Islam, so I started talking about dates, like Mohammad’s birth, death, the first revelation, etc.  I know these things, since I just learned about it in an Art History course and I’m taking a test over it tomorrow.  He asked me if I wanted to spend a few minutes learning about the basics of the Islamic faith.  I thanked him, but said no.  It’s not that it wouldn’t be interesting, but given recent events, I don’t want to hang around anything promoting Islam.  Some nutball might show up and do something violent.  Besides, I have a feeling he was going to tell me about the 5 pillars of the Islamic faith: Attestation (“There is no god but God, and Mohammad is his prophet.”), Alms, Prayer (5 times a day), the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), and fasting during Ramadan.

Marrakesh: Moroccan Bazaar and Decor booth at a street fair on Broadway.

There were even Moroccan rugs!

Funnel cake stand.

And funnel cakes!  I love funnel cakes.  I didn’t get one though, because I was on my way to meet my mom for lunch.  It was Mother’s Day, and I didn’t want to spoil my appetite.

I saw a LOT more than just this street fair today, including some Asian cultural festivities, but I’ll save that for a post tomorrow, or the day after.  I hope you enjoyed the photos!

Union Square Park (Photos)

Union Square Park, facing south along University Place.

I haven’t tried to keep up with what days each market is held on, but there was an art market yesterday.  This is a photo of the cobbled area along the west side of the park where the stalls were set up, with people selling homemade artwork including oil on canvass, photography, sketches, etc. in various styles.  One day I might even buy something from here to decorate my apartment wall.  Maybe.  I remember hearing people haggling over a price for something that looked like it was about a foot square.  The starting price was 500.  Ouch.

Two men being interviewed on camera in Union Square.

I’m not sure what the interview was about, but the guy to the right in the photo was pretty animated while speaking.  Maybe this was part of a project being done by students at the New York Film Academy, which borders Union Square.

People sitting on a fountain in Union Square.

A group of interesting looking folks, sitting on the edge of a fountain in the southwest corner of Union Square.  On warm days, Union Square is packed with people who are just hanging out and enjoying the good weather, at least so far.  I wonder if that will change when the weather turns from warm and pleasant to hot and scorching, and the cement gets hot enough to sear your ass like a burger on a grill.

A group of people doing a large painting in Union Square.

There was a group of people working on this painting.  I think it had something to do with a project sponsored by Keds shoes.  The old man there was taking a photo, like I was doing, and then went right into the middle of things to ask what it was all about, or at least I assume that’s what he was doing.  That’s one of the good things about being old.  People are more forgiving when you do stuff like that.

Union Square Park, facing the Beth Israel Phillips Ambulatory Care Center.

Union Square Park, facing the Beth Israel Phillips Ambulatory Care Center.

Union Square is even more crowded on weekends.  This was a Thursday afternoon, around 5 PM.