Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Exporing Manhattan: The West Village


Got up at 7, and met Bill downstairs at 8. Class didn’t start until 9, and it was only a few blocks away, so there was no need to hurry. We explored Midtown a little, then eventually decided on a place for breakfast. I ordered a ham, egg, and cheese on an onion bagel and a black coffee, but got ham, egg and cheese on a Kaiser roll, and a coffee with cream. Yuck! Who would put cold cream in hot coffee? I exaggerate. It wasn’t that bad.

We found the Oracle Training Center at 540 Madison Avenue, got badged, and went up. Class was a full 24 people or so, and they only had computers for every other person, which I found extremely odd based on a) Oracle’s bottom line revenues, and b) the fee for the two day course could have in itself bought two computers for each person. Minor annoyance, I guess. The class was really good, and right away Bill and I were picking up some really useful stuff that that we’d be able to incorporate when we got back. We also realized that the Discoverer Administrator training is something we should’ve considered too, as it was being taught in the same classroom Wednesday through Friday.

We had an hour for lunch, so we walked around, blowing most of that time not really finding anything, until we came to Smiler’s, just around the corner from our training. It was a good sized deli with a huge salad bar. Chicken Parm Hero for me, since I knew this town has a pretty high standard for them. It was fine. Nothing amazing. We sat in the upstairs dining room right on the corner of 54th street and Madison Avenue.

Back to class for the remainder of the afternoon. On the way back to the hotel, I stopped in a gift shop and found a cool “I ♥NY” shirt, but written in Chinese, for Zoë. I also got something cool for Dad, that I can’t mention here, and some postcards. I want to get Tristan a miniature Statue of Liberty, because he was really admiring them in Chinatown a few weeks ago, but they didn’t have any there. For the others I may buy something for, I don’t have a good clue yet.

Relaxed in the hotel for about an hour when Jerry called and gave me some directions on how to get to where he, Truck, and I were meeting for dinner, Tavern on Jane, at 8th Ave. and Jane Street in the West Village.

I bought a metro card, as the one I had was about empty, and took the short train ride to the 14th street station on the E train. The restaurant was easy to find. It’s amazing at how the character of the city can change from one neighborhood to the next. It’s pretty easy to see why the Village is so popular too. It’s very comofortable.

Truck showed up shortly, and we went inside and had a drink. For Truck a gimlet, and for me a Brooklyn Lager that I really enjoyed. Jerry showed up a few minutes later, and ordered himself a Stoli on the rocks. We debated over whether to go somewhere with outside patio dining, as the weather was incredibly nice, but decided on staying there to eat, and then finding a patio for drinks.

We started with some calamari. Both Jery and I had the hanger steak with some kind of potatoes and spinach, and truck had something I can’t recall. It was really good, and too much to finish. Another lager for me, vodka for Jerry, and wine for Truck.

The White Horse Tavern (567 Hudston St. at 11th St.) was our next destination. They had plenty of sidewalk seating, so we picked a table and got a round of beers; Yuengling Lager for Jerry and I, and a White Horse Ale(maybe) for Truck.

It's always been great to hang out with Truck and Jerry (and Buick, not that he was here). They all have excellent senses of humor, in addition to being extremely intelligent, so when you're conversing with them, you feel like you can use 100% of your brain. With too many people, I feel like I have to turn my brain down to 60% or so, then at places like WalMart or the grocery store, I just leave my brain on 'Idle'. These guys are also very skilled musicians, not that we were doing any of that at the time, but that was the reason we all met.

After a second round of beers (White Horse Ale all around) we finished with shots of Scotch, whose name I can't remember. We said our good-byes, Truck and Jerry headed back to Hoboken, and I headed for the E train, half-lit and with Ben Folds Five cranked on the iRiver. I'd bet I blended in pretty well here.

I'll see these guys again in about three weeks at Truck's wedding in Cambridge, Massachusettes.
Monday, July 24, 2006

Hoboken or Bust

It turns out I did not get bumped. Oh well, maybe next time.

The plane was some model of Embraer Jet, N725AE. The flight took off at 11:05, reached a cabin altitude of 4880', flew for 1:05, and landed at 12:10. A little bumpy, but in a fun, rollercoaster-ish sort of way. Generally, I'm pretty comfortable on airplanes, since with my average height and weight, it's like the seats are designed for me. But this flight I was sitting next to a woman with "big hips" (which is really just a euphamism, admit it.) So between my wide shoulders and her wide "hips,", I had to scrunch pretty far against the window to avoid touching her. She was not as concerned with this.

Making my way to ground transportation, and consulting my Not For Tourists Guide to NYC (with thanks to Peony, who had one I got to consult a few weeks ago) I decided on the New York Airport Service Express Bus, $12 one-way from LaGuardia to Grand Central Station in Manhattan. It was fast and direct. From the train station, it was about seven quick blocks north and one block east to my hotel at 51st and Lexington, The Metropolitan Doubletree.

It was still a little early to check in, but they had a room ready, so I got my key and cookie, and headed up. The room is tiny, but clean. My room faces North, toward 51st street and a big office building. It's not spectacular, but it was the most reasonably priced place I could find within walking distance of the Oracle training center at 53rd and Madison.

I put away nearly everything, keeping my shoulder bag with my GoreTex jacket, and my film camera, and headed out. The first stop was Zam's Panini Tozt at 44 E 50th street. Panini is an Italian pressed sandwich. For lunch I got a Cuban sandwich made by an Arabic guy. Regardless, it was awesome. I went west to 5th avenue, then headed south to 38th street, then west again to the NY Waterway ferry terminal at Pier 78. I bought a one way fare to Hoboken North.

Why Hoboken North, you're wondering? Years ago, Truck and Jerry, two good friends of mine from college (and the Blue Band Drumline) moved to Hoboken, and since then had relayed to me on many occasions what an awesome town it is. I'd been meaning to check it out since the '90s, but never had. Now was my chance. I had Jerry's address, and Truck's phone number (coincidentally, Truck had just moved back to Hoboken after living in San Francisco for several years.) So armed with my trusty guidebook plus a tourist map, I headed into Hoboken.

It turns out those two were absolutey right about the city. It's very cool. Plenty of neat shops and ethnic food places, and parks, etc. Plus they have easy public transportation with two ferry stops, a PATH train, and buses that can take you right to the Port Authority station for less than $2. I found Jerry's house pretty easily, and rang the buzzer. No answer. Crap. I had his home phone number. No answer. I had Truck's cell phone number, so I called that. That's right, no answer. I left him a text message. They didn't know I was coming, as I wanted to surprise them. Figuring that a day exploring Hoboken would be a worthwhile pursuit in and of itself, I wasn't too terribly concerned that it wouldn't work out. I was having a good time anyway, but seeing those two would've been a bonus.

I picked up a cold drink at the bodega right below Jerry's apartment, and set out to do some more exploring. On the door of the place was a sign advertising the St. Ann's Italian Street Festival at 7th and Jefferson, so I walked that way.

The festival was awesome, and at this point I really wished that I hadn't already eaten. They had all the usuals; Italian sausage, Italian ice, plus a couple of less usuals; a creperie, a pulled pork bbq place (in New Jersey?), a place selling some kind of melted mozarella on a corn cake thing, and a tent selling zeppolis where the line was at least 100 feet long. There was a big stage, a beer tent, a couple of carnival games and some kiddy rides. The Traveling Roths would've totally dug it.

I went back to the south side of town and took a break at the beautiful Stevens Park right on the water, with tremendous views of Manhattan from downtown (where the WTC used to be) to Midtown. The weather completely cleared up, and it was comfortably cool and very dry. Like September weather. It could not have been nicer there.

I bought my return ticket to Manhattan from the South ferry terminal, and took a seat on the floating dock to wait. Just as the ferry was pulling up, Truck called, and instantly my plans changed. I got his address and started walking to the 1000 block of Garden street.

Truck and Debbie (his fiancee) had just bought this apartment. It was very cool, with excellent floors, front and back windows, and a couple of sweet brick fireplaces. They've been back from California for maybe a month and a half, plus they're getting married in Massachusettes in three weeks, so needless to say, they've been busy.

A few minutes later, Jerry, Mary (his wife) and Kate (his daughter, who is ~16 months old) arrived. This is the first time I'd met both Mary and Kate, and the first time they'd seen Truck and Debbie's apartment. So the coincidences were astounding. Mary's pregnant with deuce, and due in December.

We all went back to Jerry and Mary's apartment on Willow Avenue, and hung out there, and eventually got Thai food and enjoyed several fine selections from the Smith-Sullivan cellars. Ironically enough, the last time I'd hung out with both Truck and Jerry was back in September 1998 when Jennifer was pregnant with Tristan.

It got late, but Jerry hooked me up with a bus ticket, and Truck walked with me to the bus stop on Washington street where I took the bus directly to the Port Authority terminal in Manhattan. From there it was an easy transfer to the subway, where I had a Metro card from three weeks ago with two trips on it, so I took the E train toward Queens, getting off a stop or two early, and having to walk a few blocks back to my apartment, around midnight. No problem whatsoever. I may be a little tired tomorrow (today) though.
Sunday, July 23, 2006

Manhattan Deja Vu

I first went to New York City in 1977, and didn't return for 26 years, save a couple of times just driving through. Since I did make my return in 2003, I've been there three times already, and today will be the fourth. At this point I'm thinking, "What took me so long?"

I'm definitely not any kind of NYC expert, and I barely feel like I know what I'm doing when I'm there, but I have to say that the city is far, far less intimidating than I think I was giving it credt for all those years. I still don't think it's the cetner of the universe, but it is a cool place to visit.

I was supposed to get there at 12:25 today, but my flight is oversold, so I volunteered to get bumped. If that happens, I'll supposedly be flying through DC now, and won't get into LaGuardia until 5:00. That all is subject to change. If I do get bumped, I'll get a $200 flight voucher. That could come in handy. I'm flexible, I have no checked baggage, and I technically don't have to be there until 9 am tomorrow. So we'll see.
Saturday, July 22, 2006

I Need a Traveler

Andy has a rubber duck that has accompanied him on his travels for many years. Duck Brown has been photographed in Canada, Europe, and all over the USA. Here's a recent picture of Duck Brown with a Klingon in Las Vegas.

Anyway, I figured I needed something similar. For many years my de facto constantly photographed item was the red camera case that housed my Fuji DL-400. I'd take the camera out of the bag and toss it on the table, and then take the picture. So needless to say, we ended up with a lot of pictures of that camera bag all over the place.

But how clever is that? Who wants to see a camera bag all over the world? So after much contemplation, I thought I had it; Buddy Christ.

No, I didn't think Buddy Christ was sacreligious or discrespectful, but carrying a statue of a white version of Jesus seemed a little, I don't know, Catholic? Anyway, the only store around here that I knew carried them didn't have any. They had various interesting rubber ducks, but that seemed too derivative. Then after an exhaustive search, I found it.

Meet Bart Blue Bender

Actually, I think we'll just go with Bender. Look for Bender's first road trip in the days to come, as he and I are heading to Manhattan tomorrow morning. Since I'm taking the aforementioned Fuji DL-400 which captures its pictures on 35mm film, it could be quite a while before the trip's pictures make it to the web.
Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Big July Adventure: Part 3: Four Roths in Three States

Back to work at my office in North Carolina on Monday for me. Day camp for Tristan and Zoe at Harmonyville Church of the Brethern in Pennsylvania, where my brothers and I attended camp as kids, and full-time+ school for Jennifer in Vermont.

Since everyone is away, I decided to participate in another clinical trial at my unethical ex-employer, aaiPharma. This is probably the eighth or ninth study I've done there since 2002.

For those not in the know, here's how they work. They're testing generic formulations of name-brand drugs to see if they're released, absorbed, and eliminated in roughly the same amounts and timeframes as the already on the market name-brand drug. It's realtively safe as these are already approved, marketed drugs, and their generics. No first-time-in-man stuff here. I wouldn't touch that. You have to be healthy, normal weight, and not on any medication to participate. One weekend you get the generic, the other weekend you get the name-brand.

I had a screening physical on Wednesday where I signed the papers, had a physical with height, weight, blood, urine, and EKG. Saturday night I checked-in to the clinic at 7:00 where my stuff was searched for unauthorized items like food, candy, gum, medicne, automatic weapons, etc. I gave another urine sample to make sure that I haven't been rockin' the ganj since Wednesday, and that I'm not pregnant. From there I make my bed. In my particular room there are nine twin-sized bunk beds, all but one of them with occupants. I have a bottom bunk, fortunately, as the top bunks suck, being directly under the fluorescent lights, in some cases. The rest of the night is spent hanging out, with a "light snack" of fairly awful chicken fajitas, and an orientation meeting where the self-important clinic manager chides us and speaks to us like children, which is not entirely undeserved in the case of many of these people. There are a couple of TV rooms, a study room, a big dining room, and wireless Internet access (which is a fairly recent development). Lights out at 11:00. I'm in bed by 10.

Sunday morning wake-up call is at 5:30. I get up at 5:15 to get a jump and avoid the lines. There are 52 people in this study, which is half the number of my last one, so the crowds aren't bad at all. Blood pressure and temperature check. I'm in the fasted half of the study, which means no breakfast, which isn't entirely bad if you've seen the breakfasts here. At 6:45 I have my first blood draw. At 7:30 I take the medicine. The next few hours are really busy. I have blood draws at 10, 20, 30 and 45 minutes, 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, and 4 hours, lunch consisting of a turkey sandwich with cheese and lettuce, a bag of chips, a can of soda, a small cup of honeydew and canteloupe, and an oatmeal cookie, blood draws at 5, 6, and 8 hours, dinner consisting of fried chicken, mashers with gravy, corn on the cob, steamed squashes, horrible dinner rolls with butter, and a can of soda, a blood draw at 12 hours, then snack, which I think is strawberries and pound cake...and a can of soda. Then it's free time until my final in-patient blood draw at 7:30 monday, followed by discharge from the clinic. I come back Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30am for my 48 and 72 hour blood draws, respectively. The whole thing is repeated on the weekend of August 5th.

In case you're curious, all the blood draws are from the same spot in my left arm. This is known as "The Money Vein" in my house, as it has provided some wonderful things like TiVo, a refrigerator, and trips to Italy, The Grand Canyon, and Lake Tahoe, among other stuff. If you have the stomach for it, this really is a decent way to pick up some extra money.
Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Big July Adventure: Part 2b; The Rest of the Week

Thursday. I actually went in to GSK's Upper Merion site to work with GSK's Pennsylvania version of me, Bill. I'd never met him before, but coinciendtally, he's a long time friend of my uncles Roger and Bernie, and married to a distant cousin. Jennifer and the kids went to meet Tricia, a friend from PSU. In the afternoon, we met up with Dan Flickinger and his daughters Emma and Grace at the REI in Conshohocken. We hadn't seen them in a year and a half, and my, how they'd grown. The weather had finally gotten nice after all the rain and humidity earlier in the week.

After picking up a snack at Genaurdi's in Conshohocken, we went to Tee's, a mini-golf, batting cages and driving range in Plymouth Meeting. I think Tristan and Zoe had played mini-golf maybe once before, but on this very nice course, they were like old pros, or a foursome of elementary school students at least. The air was cool and dry. The summer breeze was light, and the evening sunlight was just perfect, but you'll have to take my word for it because somebody left our only functional camera back at the folks' house. When we finished there, Jean met us and we proceeded to Pizzeria Uno.

Jennifer and the kids had never been to Uno's, so I made Jennifer get Chicago-style pizza, which we shared with Jean. It was filling. Between the three of us we ate four of the six pieces. They have cool kids stuff for the kids to play with while they wait for their food, and the "make your own pizza" menu item for them was pretty cool too. I'd bet we go back just for that.

For dessert we headed down the road to Rita's [Water] Ice. This is a pretty popular chain in those parts, but we had never been. At Dan's encouragement (which is what Dan does, in case you don't know Dan), I got their "Gelati", which is not to be confused in any way with gelato. (Gelati would be the plural, in Italian, as in Due gelati, por favore. ("Two gelatos please") a phrase I could speak like a native in Italy.) Their "Gelati" was a big cup with a layer of frozen custard on the bottom, a layer of Italian ice in the middle, and then another layer of frozen custard on top. For the ice part, I chose wild black cherry. It was really good. The kids used the walkway as a playground where they created their own entertainment, that I think would've eventually evolved into "make the cars entering the parking lot think we're going to run out in front of them. " I mentioned to Dan, Jean, and Jennifer that our four kids could eventually really be a handful, owing to their superior intellect and well-developed sense of mischief.

Friday. Back to GSK Upper Merion for me. Jennifer was finishing up her packing. At lunchtime, I insisted that my coworkers and I go to The Boathouse on Fayette Street in Conshohocken. This was my favorite restaurant in town when I worked for Quaker Chemical Corporation - my first "real" job after college, in 1993-1994. Jennifer got sick after eating there once, so short of going solo, I almost never get to go back. I won't go into a lot of detail about the lunch, but I got my favorite: Cajun Tuna Steak Sandwich. Highly recommended.

By the time I got home, Jennifer had left for New Jersey to meet up with a fellow student to share the ride to Vermont. In case I hadn't mentioned it, Jennifer's in grad school at Bennington College. She's pursuing a Masters of Arts in Teaching of a Second Language (MATSL). She spent three weeks up there last July, and took probably four courses during the school year. She does the same again this year, and then has a one-week residency there next July, and then Graduates. It's a really tough program, and pretty unique, as there aren't too many programs for elementary school foreign language teachers. Jennifer is nailing it though.

We had hoagies from The Ice House for dinner. These were our first for this trip (unless you count the Grinder Jennifer and I split on Monday). I'm proud to say that Tristan and Zoe are both fans of the true Hoagie, and can differentiate it from a "sub", which is about all we can find in the south. Subs are inferior.

On Saturday, Tristan's #6 tooth (upper right side central incisor) was really loose, so after some very conscientious work on Tristan's part with a piece of celery, it finally came out! Tristan was extremely excited as this was his first baby tooth to fall out, which is somewhat rare for a kid his age. Later in the morning, Andy, Alex, and Ella arrived. The kids were ecstatic to see their cousins. We all went to the pool at French Creek State Park for a day of swimming. They have a really nice setup there. The pool is huge with a big lawn, a good sized shallow area, plus space outside the gate with picnic tables and grills. It overlooks the lake, where we were able to swim when we were kids, until the Canada geese ruined that. The pool's much better anyway.

After a couple of hours of that, we headed to Matt and Dawn Lambert's, more friends from Owen J., and their kids Anne, Peter, Jane, and Laura, stopping first at what used to be Farmer Browns for some cookout stuff to bring. It's always fun to go to the Lamberts. They are excellent hosts, and all the kids get along great. The kids wore themselves out playing everything imaginable.

(Tristan, Ella, Anne, Peter, Alex, Zoe, Jane)

Sunday. We went to Sunday School and church at Coventryville United Methodist Church, on what would be the last summer day in the church's 232 year history without air conditioning in the sanctuary. Dad and I were wearing shorts anyway, even though it was actually comfortable in there for a change. I couldn't imagine what would happen at Mebane Presbyterian Church if the air conditioning wasn't working. I doubt anyone would come, because as a largely suit-wearing congregation (save myself) it would be unbearable in there. But I digress. Dad cooked some burgers and hotdogs on the grill for lunch, then Andy, Alex, and Ella left for Maryland, while Rabin and I left for Mebane. We departed around 2pm, stopped once around the I-85/I-95 merge south of Richmond, and made it home around 10 pm. The lawn was reasonably high, but there were no huge mold patches on the living room ceiling like last year.

Now it's back to the normal routine for Rabin and me, three weeks of grad school in Vermont for Jennifer, and two weeks of day camp, followed by a week at the beach with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins for Tristan and Zoe.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Big July Adventure: Part Two: This Thread Is Useless Without Pictures

We returned home from NYC to start our last week all in one place, stopping at Uncle Bernie and Aunt Mary Ellen's house for a cookout.

Correctly for my idiom, I'll mention food in this post too. Bernie has shouldered the mantle of making homemade ice cream in the tradition of, and using the recipe from Granddad Roth. I think Bernie also inherited Grandad's ice cream maker. The ice cream is an uncooked, custard (or French) style, the recipe for which Grandmother says comes from one of her cookbooks. Regardless, it was excellent. When it was ready, Bernie gave Jennifer, Tristan, Zoe, and Mike (a friend of Bernie's,) and me spoons and the dasher to clean off. I'll happily add this recipe to my collection, as the Roth/Prizer traditional family recipes cookbook is embarrasingly thin.

Monday it was back to work for me, via VPN software that makes working from just about anywhere with a stable Internet connection possible. At lunchtime, Jennifer and I went to Chris's Pizza Pie in NorCo for a grinder. After dinner, Jennifer, Tristan and I went back to the Gelateria in Kimberton, since J & T had never been there. I got Tiramisu and Nocciola (hazlenut) and Jennifer got. . . . . Since two larges comes to nine bucks and change, Tristan had to sponge of Jennifer and I.

Tuesday was Independence Day, so everyone had the day off. We started at the Goodwill Fire Company's pancake breakfast. Evidently, this is a long-standing Roth tradition that we just heard about this year. We met Grandmom, Bernie and Mary Ellen, Uncle Roger, Aunt Linda, and cousins Laura and Julia. There were plenty of pancakes, french toast, and sausage to go around. I sat with Tom Mattingly, a friend from Owen J. who is now the chief engineer and fire truck driver for one of the local fire companies. We also got to check out the giant heavy rescue truck they call "Da Heavy" (don't get me started on this) that is dedicated to Grandad, and features a sweet plaque with Grandad's likeness on it. We also checked out the Ahrens-Fox, which was Grandad's favorite fire truck.

The weather was fairly warm and muggy, but we sat under the shade of the old firehouse's awning. The kids enjoyed the parade, especially the costumed Star Wars characters. This was the first Pottstown Independence Day parade I've been to since 1976, I believe. Of all the parades I've seen in my life, this was one of them.

For the second year now, we went to Ludwig's Corner to see their fireworks. It's $10 a car, and since all of us (and Mom and Dad) can fit in Dad's truck, we took that again. (Note to self: get there at 8:00 next year). It was while we were waiting there that I discovered that my Minolta Dimage 7Hi had a faulty sensor, and would be inoperable until I could get it repaired. That's part of the reason for the dearth of pictures here. For me, being camera-less is very uncomfortable. I did my photography with the Canon on "fireworks" mode, and enjoyed the impressive high and low-altitude show they put on there. Afterward, when we were maybe 100 meters from the car, we heard an incredible growing "hiss" sound, followed by the feeling of the sky opening up on us. From that short distance to the truck, we all were completey soaked. I don't think we could've been wetter.

Wednesday, July 5th.

Back to work for me, once again from the folks' house. That evening, Jennifer and I went to Philadelphia to Monk's Cafe at 16th and Spruce for Jennifer's birthday dinner (her birthday is the 13th.) It's a Belgian pub that was highly recommended by my GSK manager. I started with a traditional Belgian red ale that tasted a little Worcestershire-y to me. I thought it would go great with steak. Jennifer had a Hoehgarten, a biere blanche with hints of citrus peel and corriander seed. For entrees, Jennifer had the charcuterie (sausage) platter, and I had my favorite Belgian food; Moules Frites (mussels and fries). The mussels were Brugges-style, and Belgian fries are generally regarded as the best in the world, these being accompanied by homemade bourbon mayonnaise. These were followed with a second order of fries. For dessert we had something claiming to be creme brulee, but was really kind of a chocolate and custard torte. It was excellent regardless. On the way out of there we saw a chick on a scooter almost get T-boned by a Honda on Broad Street. No trip to Philly would be complete without a visit to South Philly, so we went to Pat's King of Steaks to pick up a "Pizza Steak-with (onions)" for Dad, and a regular "Wiz-with" (cheeze wiz and onions) for us for later.
Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Big July Adventure: Part One: I Love Da Hood

July is going to be a big month for all of us, with the four of us being in as many as three different states at once. Tristan and Zoe will be staying together, to have each other's backs, Jennifer will be up in Vermont at grad school, and I will be back in North Carolina most of the time, doing what I do there, albeit with more quiet.

So the trip started with Jennifer, Tristan, Zoe, and Rabin driving in the Corolla up to PA on Friday, June 30th. They left around 6:45 and got there around 4pm. I left after work, around 3:30, and got to the folks' house at 11:30. Both rides were uneventful, just the way we like them.

Saturday morning, it was off to NYC, on what is now becoming a regular event for us. In only 2:45, we went from the folks' to Jordan's apartment in Brooklyn. After a quick tour of the apartment and the roof, we headed out on foot. Making our way through Prospect Park (Brooklyn's version of Central Park, but smaller and less crowded), we got lunch at a diner called something like Grecian Corner. Most of the people in there were somehow enthralled watching England lose to Portugal in the World Cup. Tristan asked the guy at the table next to us; "Who are the good guys, the white [shirted] guys or the red guys?" The guy, who apparently was British, responded, "The white guys."

After lunch, Jordan took us to a nearby store, that was right up Tristan's alley; the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store. It had everything a superhero could need, from costuming, to utility belt items, to special chemicals. Tristan took the oportunity to test drive a new cape, on their state of the art cape tester.

From there it was back on the kids' favorite ride: the New York Subway System. Wanting to see something new this trip, we went to Chinatown. Jordan does a lot of construction/renovation work here, so he knows his way around. We were on a hunt for a new Chinese dress for Zoe, and something for Tristan to wear at his various Chinese performances at school. We didn't find a dress for Zoe, but she did find a fan she liked. Tristan got a kung-fu jacket and a mask. During the purchase, Tristan was having a conversation with the shopkeeper - in Mandarin. Not bad for a 7-year-old white boy from North Carolina.

We met Peony, Jordan's girlfriend. She's a 26-year-old graphic designer from Alexandria, VA, according to her MySpace profile. She found us while Jordan was haggling over some kung-fu slippers. It was a warm day, and we were parched from our travels, so we made our way to the Green Tea Cafe on Mott street. They had a huge tea menu, including bubble tea, milk, tea, hot tea, and snacks. Tristan ordered for all of us in Chinese once again, and other than forgetting to order his own drink, did a great job. I had the coconut bubble tea, and it was awesome.

It was a quick walk to Little Italy from Chinatown, so we went there on a gelato quest. We found our gelato (Lemon, lemon, pineapple and coconut) and some cannoli, and bought a sandwich (prosciutto, mozarella, and roasted peppers) for later, from the Italian food center we shopped at last year. There were plenty of cute Italian-ish girls, standing on the street outside of the restaurants, beckoning hungry travelers to imbibe in wonderful pasta dishes. I couldn't help thinking that one of them would make a fine wife for Jennifer's brother Jonas.

Back on to the favorite ride to head uptown.

Tristan likes to feign sleeping on the subway for some reason. Zoe had a new best friend, once again.

We saw Rockefeller Center and Radio City, where Jennifer used to make annual treks as a child. But here was the store for Zoe: The American Girl Store. This place is nuts. You can get a doll that looks generally like you, buy matching outfits for the doll and yourself, have a day at the salon, go to a show and dinner, etc. One could drop some serious coin there, but fortunately, we left with our disposible income intact, opting instead for a soft pretzel outside the Disney store, where Zoe did get a Stitch stuffed animal as her "New York Souvenir".

Needing to finally sit down, we took respite on a bench an Central Park South, where Zoe performed her "Fan Dance" that she swears she learned in school.

And Tristan performed some sort of ad hoc kung-fu jacket and scary mask dance.(that's the south east corner of Central Park just behind Tristan, in case you're curious)

From there, it was back to Brooklyn to call it a day, and eat our fine sandwhich, not before T and Z had their picture taken by some apropos grafiti on the roof of Jordan's building.

Post Script, Sunday, 2 July: Had to get bagels and bialys on the way out of Brooklyn. Bergen Bagel on Flatbush Ave. did not disappoint. A bialy for Jennifer, an Everything bagel with jalapeno cream cheese for me, a cinnamon raisin with strawberry cream cheese for Zoe, and a cranberry muffin for Tristan.

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