May 21st, 2012

old gm building

mini road trip 2012

This year's annual/semi-annual New York trip was trimmed down to a mini-vacation for financial and time-related reasons. I was on the road by 6am on Saturday morning and arrived in New York in a little over nine hours. And YES I downloaded the About Schmidt soundtrack and listened to it there and on the way back--who the fuck do you think you're talking to?! Other albums that got more than one listening were Godspeed You Black Emperor's Lift You Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven and Tom Waits' The Black Rider.

I booked a room in Astoria (a neighborhood in Queens) on The apartment's renter ended up having to go out and leave a hidden key for me. I actually never even saw the guy the whole time I was there, although I did hear him come in late both nights. Nothing against the guy, but you know me--I was oddly relieved to not even meet the person whose home I was staying in. The apartment itself was very clean, comfortable, and quiet.

My room is through the open door.

After getting settled in, I met up with Liz. We were both too tired to go far for dinner, so we just walked to a nearby Indian restaurant. I picked this place because I was amused at driving over 600 miles to eat at Seva.

It's also the name of the one vegetarian restaurant in Detroit. That's the joke.

The following morning, I walked around Astoria for about an hour to oggle the houses. The residential parts of the neighborhood consist of very densely packed, mostly wood-frame, flat-roofed houses. Unfortunately, most were covered in vinyl, aluminum, or asphalt siding. I went around undressing them with my eyes imagining what they'd look like with their original clapboard siding restored.

Some places had built-in garages entered from the street. I don't think these blocks have public alleys running through them.

The neighborhood seemed very peaceful, although I was exploring it early on a Sunday morning. I loved the postage-stamp front lawns most of these houses had. I couldn't get a photo of the best front gardens because they tended to have people working in them. The area reminded me of certain parts of southwest Detroit, with all of the Hispanic people and homes decorated with wrought iron. Those Hispanics love their wrought iron.

I met Liz around 11am. Even though she and I aren't super close friends, I wanted my visit to express the value I place on the friendship as well as express solidarity and support after all she's been through lately. But first I decided to buy some donuts.

The first place we went to on our vegan food binge was Dun-Well Doughnuts, a 100% vegan donut shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. At first I got overly excited, declaring that we would buy ONE DOZEN donuts, but Liz calmly explained that two for each of us was more than enough. I got one chocolate and one sprinkled vanilla--she got one peanut butter & jelly and one banana-cream. Both of mine were great, but Liz didn't really like the banana-cream one.

We ended up driving my car to Brooklyn because it was a lot easier than using public transportation. Apparently, we would have had to take a train west into Manhattan, then go south, then come back east over the river into Brooklyn. In fact, we drove everywhere the whole day and did not use public transportation once. Liz enthusiastically praised the speed and convenience of the automobile several times, which was really weird to hear from someone who has lived her entire life in a city with a public transportation system so advanced that she has never needed to obtain a driver license. I decided to interpret her praise as a flattering compliment on Detroit.

Next we had brunch at Champs, a vegan diner also in Brooklyn. (It turns out that every place we ate at that day was in Brooklyn.) I got the French toast slam, and she got biscuits and gravy. Everything was awesome.

Our breakfast dishes came with salad. Because, you know. Veganism.

Later I asked Liz if it was misogynist of me to enjoy the fact that the waitress' shirts were pretty much transparent. She said I wasn't misogynist, just sleezy.

We had to find something touristy to do while waiting for our food to digest and kill time until dinner. So where do a vegan and vegetarian who became friends while interning at an animal sanctuary go between stops on a vegan food binge? To a *zoo* of course!

I think I'm asking why it's taking so long to take this picture.

The main building at the Bronx Zoo was designed by George L. Heins and Christopher G. LaFarge in 1897. Heins & LaFarge also designed the impossibly beautiful (and no-longer used) City Hall Subway Station.


We drove back Brooklyn to visit Foodswings, a vegan fast food restaurant.

I guess this would look charming without the garbage bags.

Foodswings is definitely a place you go to for the novelty of it and not for actual nourishment. I got three barbecue "drumsticks" with a side of macaroni and cheese and a chocolate milkshake. The food was very greasy and unhealthy, but it was a worthwhile experience. I should have gotten a burger instead, but I didn't because they weren't reviewed well.

Yeah, I guess that's framed good enough.

We tried going to a nearby place for pie or cake, but they were all out--so we just came back to Foodswings for mint chocolate milkshakes. Then we walked around and complained about how irritatingly "cool" Brooklyn is (and Corktown wants to be). But of course we made these complaints wearing our black plastic glasses, with Liz in her army cap and me in my size-small American Apparel t-shirt. No, but seriously, fuck those people--with their beards and their "ironically" ugly clothing and self-infantilizing internet memes! Give me your delicious vegan mint chocolate chip milkshakes and get out of my sight! Just kidding, you guys are all right. No, seriously, go away.

Even though I skipped the upstate New York portion of the trip this time, I might do that in the fall. Possibly. But first I have to visit my family in Arizona this year for sure.

Driving back home through Pennsylvania.

P.S. I stole the line "But first I decided to buy some donuts" from "Weird Al" Yankovic's song "Albuquerque".