W0D3 – Melter Skelter

The Rubin Museum

I visited today. My mind is blown. It is simply the most mind expanding “art” museum I’ve ever been to. I stayed about two hours, and didn’t make it off the top floor, and it is not a large museum. In a few words, Tibetan art given a theme: The Future is Fluid.

So many things. As you enter, you receive a letter from a previous guest to guide you through the museum. I waited to open mine, and headed right straight to the place that prompted me to become a member of the museum, the Om Room. I wrote about that last year. Now I knew the room wasn’t there anymore because the museum changed exhibitions just before the new year. I headed there anyway, and was not disappointed. The Om Room was gone, but in its place in a darkened corner where you wouldn’t wander was an image of Vajrakilaya (whose practice is designed to remove obstacles to compassion) which revealed itself as you approached. The light came on steadily brightening just enough to reveal the image.

They had a couple of really cool augmented reality exhibits where you point an iPad camera at an artwork, and it highlight portions of the artwork that you can click on to learn more. It’s like having a tour guide point and say, “By the way, did you notice this?”

There was also a beautiful video that I caught only the last 10 minutes of, but even that snippet was moving. The whole video is 81 minutes long, and I plan to go back to see the rest of it soon. There was a credit for “the late, great Dolly the dog”, who I must absolutely see.

Union Square Farmers Market

I walked back to the farmers market after the museum. Yes, back. I didn’t want to carry the food into the museum. Also back because sometimes you run into a farmers market when you guess what subway stop your supposed to get off at to get to the museum then wander around the area looking for the museum and find the farmers market first. I could’ve summoned Google maps at any time, but where’s the adventure in THAT?

I bought cheese, apples to go with my cheese and popcorn. I just need to mention one of the cheeses. I was waiting to buy Melter Skelter by Valley Shepherd Creamery, when the person in front of me bought half the remaining supply of “Valley Thunder”, which the proprietor described as the “sharpest cheddar you’ll ever taste”, and when the chunk kicked off a little piece of itself, I knew I had to have some (the rest, as it turns out).

I grabbed (purchased, I don’t steal) some Empire apples at the next stand over, and some unpopped popcorn (I’m a glutton for good popcorn – perhaps gourmand is a gentler term), and found the first open park bench to feast on my booty. I paused momentarily to take this picture of Valley Thunder for you. Well, that’s not quite true – I distracted myself with a piece of Melter Skelter (I love cheese names) so I could take this picture for you.

*OK, I THOUGHT I took a picture. Sorry about that. Here, I’ll take a picture of the remaining piece.*


I know. You’re thinking, “That’s not even cheese. That looks like it USED TO BE cheese.” I promise you, a year in a cave wrapped in a cloth line drum works magic. Really. Can a cheese be smooth and creamy and boldly sharp at the same time? Yes. Fortunately, I had just experienced an exhibition about Padmasambhava and how he enabled Buddhic traditions to transcend time, so time was feeling a bit relative right then.

B & H photo

Stomach satiated, I hiked up to B and H photo, to replace my phone screen protector, which had valiantly given its life to protect my cell phone screen. (The brand was GadgetGuard. I’ll never buy any other brand.) B&H was amazing. Just amazing. To say it was frenetic is an understatement – I felt I needed to go to Times Square just to unwind a bit from the sensory overload at B&H. Frenetic, but ultra efficient. Person 1 pointed me to the right part of the store where person 2 used a computer to internally order the part. I recognized the font – a real old school font:



I think their inventory system is still running on an old IBM PC. Anyway, he printed a receipt for me, which I took to the cashier (there were 7, but the area could accommodate up to twenty five cashiers) who stapled my payment information to the receipt which I took over to the order fulfillment station, where someone filled it in about 30 seconds. There was an elaborate conveyor bucket system backing the whole thing up. Holy cow. Then the nice employees in the customer lounge installed the protector for me. Boom. Done.

So I headed home, 22,585 steps richer.


W0D2 – The Truffle Shuffle that wasn’t

For reasons I shall not go into here, except to say, Beverley, why did you poke the Kraken? What did the Kraken ever do?, I needed a worthy destination to walk to this evening. In dog training, they would call this a “high value reward”, because if you want your dog to really do something that’s what you use. My high value reward was Mikey Likes It Ice Cream. Now sure, Ben and Jerry’s and Haagen-Dazs are closer, and Baskin-Robbins are practically ubiquitous in this neighborhood (Hamilton Heights – Broadway and 151st), but why would I want to give my money to a national chain rather than setting it free here in Harlem?

So, I set off into the heart of Harlem at about 8 o’clock. I know, you’re thinking, “Umm, Joe?” Really, though, Harlem is not the place it once had the reputation of. There are people out all over the place here. As I did in Chicago, I assess the safety of a neighborhood by the number of people who appear to be more vulnerable than I am, and I saw a lot of them along the length of my walk. I did have some doubt, based on the website, whether Mikey Likes It (you get the reference, right?) was a wholesale or retail establishment. Thank you Google Street View for the heads up: retail; so I headed out.

The picture of the place is here (you can even see someone standing behind the counter), but WordPress does not support the file type.

As I walked, I came across a few street names which don’t conform to the Manhattan standard streets and avenues: Amsterdam and Convent, in particular, but I spent the most time on Saint Nicholas Avenue, and began wondering why old St Nick had his own street in Manhattan when so few other streets are named after people, and the ones that are (Frederick Douglass Blvd, Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd, and Malcolm X Blvd) are relatively recent (except for Lenox Ave 1887). I mean, people know more about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln than they do about St Nicholas, but he got his own street. Turns out (I had forgotten this) that jolly old St Nick was Dutch, and they did a whole lot of stuff around here back when this island was young.

I crossed the street toward the shop and was thinking of making a joke about how the ice cream had better be good because I had just walked 3,325 steps to get here. Instead, I looked at the flavor menu and did a private “Uh oh”. As I read up from the bottom of the list (because the bottom was at eye level) I noticed that one flavor after the next had some sort of baked good swirled in: brownies, cookies, cheesecake, you get the idea. A year ago, I’d have had my pick of flavors, but now, due to a recently uncovered gluten allergy, those flavors are a no go. Even the small amount of wheat in them will set off my allergy, leaving me weak and achy for a several days. Even though the ingredient list on the Truffle Shuffle (chocolate ice cream with chocolate chips and chocolate covered mini marshmallows) seemed safe, I asked (I do that now), but it was not safe for some reason. Finally I reached the top of the list: Triple Vanilla. That one was safe. And creamy and subtle and delicious.

So, I’m getting the lay of the land (literally, actually), and it’s shaping up to be a great summer.

W-4D5 Atlanta

I arrived a little early for GWC training yesterday, so I had a little bit of time to poke around the environs of Atlanta which were within easy travel, by which I mean walking distance, or maybe an easy public transit ride away. I had no particular destination, so I set out in the direction of the biggest green thing on the map – Centennial Olympic Park, which was about half a mile away. There are a few attractions there – I visited the Georgia Aquarium last year – and I thought there might be some other interesting things in the area I hadn’t seen on my previous trip.

I arrived at the park to find it hot, bright and largely under construction. I glanced around the perimeter noting a couple of hotels, but not many “points of interest”. My better self saw the College Football Hall of Fame and offered me one of my personal axioms: “Any museum is interesting to a curious person”. (I know I’m using “museum” in an unconventional sense there, but technically, a hall of fame fits the definition.) Given how little I know about college football history, this would be a good test of that rule. Alas, that plan was foiled as I turned around in response to a bell (#bellringernation) and saw the Atlanta Streetcar pull away from a station just about a hundred yards away. The thought of sitting down in an air conditioned vehicle which would take me who knows where was immediately appealing, thus my baser self won out. It was a pyrrhic victory at best.

I quickly crossed the street (not wanting to miss the next streetcar), and mounted the station platform. Now, I’m a fairly technically savvy person. As you may already know, my superpower is that technology tends to work better when I stand next to it. In fact, just this past Monday I went into a local filling station to use the ATM. After I put my card in, the person behind the counter told me that the ATM wasn’t working, and hadn’t been for two days. Some kind of “communication error”. Great, thanks. I put my hand on the ATM and joked that I was going to do a Vulcan Mind Meld on it, and maybe that would work. It did. I retrieved my cash and left.

In spite of that technical prowess, standing before the ticket vending machine I couldn’t figure out how to actually purchase a ticket, which the signs explicitly said was necessary to ride. The screen on the machine gave me only two choices, “F” – “Check the balance on your MARTA card” (I had one ride left, which I plan to use to get me back to the airport on Sunday) and “J” – “Help”, which didn’t. The other nine choices (A-E and G-I) were all blank. As a last resort, I read all the instructions and signs, but to no avail; I was not getting a ticket here. I glanced at the map and saw that the next stop was about two blocks away, and in the general direction of my hotel, so I began walking in that direction.

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, then you’ll not be surprised that I never made it to that stop. I got to the end of the first block, took a slight right following the streetcar tracks, glanced up and “SQUIRREL!” OK, not an actual squirrel, but a sign that said “Atlanta-Fulton Library”, which translates as “squirrel” in my mind. As a touristic (that’s a real word) veteran of the main branch of the New York Public Library and Chicago’s Harold Washington Library (blogged here), I know the value of big city libraries as “points of interest”, and was easily diverted from my original plan. I saw the next sign, and took a right where it indicated, but that’s where the signs ran out. I wandered around a bit, looking for the library, when I heard the bell again. The streetcar was coming up the road behind me. OK, no library – back on the train. I began to follow the tracks again toward the next station. I walked about two block when I saw signs again – Atlanta-Fulton Library, only now the signs were pointing in the opposite direction. I had walked right past the library! Subsequent research has uncovered what happened: I was following signs designed for cars – they can’t go the wrong way down a one way street, so I had turned right a block before the library.

I finally spotted the front entrance and jaywalked – jaywalked I tell you – right across the street up to the entrance. I walked in, and was immediately struck by the rows and rows of empty book shelves. There were no books on the first floor. None. I thought, “Maybe they’re remodeling, and storing the empty shelves here”. I wasn’t sure where to start exploring, but thought that in order to see the whole library, I should start at the top (the 7th floor) and work my way down. Previous experiences in library spelunking have suggested that this is a good strategy. The most interesting stuff is sometimes on the top floor.

I’m not sure what was on the seventh floor of the A-FL, except blue carpeting and white hallway walls. There were no signs or pictures or anything to suggest that this was an area open to the public, so I ducked back into the elevator, and rode it down to six: Library Administration Offices. Back into the elevator. There was a poster inside the elevator indicating what was on each floor, but I refused to read it. What’s the sense of exploring if you have a map?

I almost got off at five, which I have subsequently learned is the Special Collections floor. I wish I had taken time to explore it, but it didn’t have the feel of a public space, so I popped back into the elevator and down to four, which was a floor dedicated to computing, although it seemed to have only about twenty or thirty computers, almost all being used by patrons. No books. Down to three, where I saw mostly CDs, DVDs and best sellers. (Books! At last! Though not a lot of new looking ones.) I walked down to two and browsed the periodicals. Current Anthropology is current as of 1996. Business Week is up to date though. Back down to one and out.

I left feeling disappointed and rather sad. And thirsty. Very thirsty – the flight and walking around in the sun had taken their toll.

I found the next streetcar stop (the vending machine’s letter buttons ALL had menu items on this one), bought a ticket,  and waited about ten minutes for the next one, which I didn’t notice approaching, because it wasn’t ringing its bell. I rode it round trip, stopping off only at the Sweet Auburn Market in search of a beverage. I didn’t find any to my liking – most were commercial bottled beverages. I’d have gotten a smoothie, but the proprietor at the smoothie shop seemed to be smoothly wooing a customer, so I didn’t interrupt him.

The streetcar loops out to the east as far as the Martin Luther King National Historic Site, which will be a destination (hey, maybe I’ll even make it to a destination some day) during my next undesignated time in Atlanta. I rode back to the the stop closest to my hotel, but not without noticing the high quality and number of murals throughout the Sweet Auburn neighborhood.

Next time, I’ll come more prepared for adventure.