Friday, August 12, 2016

Local Expeditions Prospect Park Tour

A few weeks ago, my friend Meredith asked if I wanted to come with her on a Local Expeditions tour of Prospect Park. Did I ever!

The Vale of Cashmere

Local Expeditions is a unique and intimate tour experience. Founded last year by the wonderful Nancy Blaine, it's the sharing economy's awesome answer to a stale bus tour of your favorite cities (and some more rural locations, too!). Locals take you around their favorite areas, giving a small, personal tour of the very best their city has to offer and ending with a treat at a spot they love. And, on top of that, 5% of every tour goes to charity. The guides all have different focuses (because they're real people, and real people love different things), from photography and gardening to architecture and history. Nancy's focus on our tour was history. *Heart eyes.*

The Rose Garden, where we saw goats!

Our tour was the Prospect Park Power Walk, a fun jaunt through some of Nancy's favorite spots in the park. Meredith had never been to the park, but since I live nearby, I was already very familiar with it, and expected to know a fair amount of what Nancy would tell us.

But, I was totally wrong. After meeting at the arch, we immediately went somewhere I've always been too nervous to check out on my own: one of the Prospect Park nature trails. Although I've run around the main road about a hundred times, and have friends who run on the trails, I've always been too worried about finding a body/becoming a body to run on them myself. I've maybe seen one too many episodes of SVU, but there it is.

One of the wooden archways in the park.

Walking with Nancy, though, made me realize how safe they are, and how cool. Although for many years I have thought that people who say, "Being in Central Park is all the nature you could ever need!" are flat out crazy, it was actually nice to be in "the woods" a bit, and feel a little separate from the city. Prospect Park was very much designed for the people of Brooklyn, not for a tourist population, and it shows in its less manicured areas.

The pond near the boathouse.

We stopped at the Vale of Cashmere, which I'd heard of but never seen before. The fountains were unfortunately off, but we did see a few people hooking up. Apparently it's a big pick up spot for gay men. This is something I would literally never have known, and a place I likely never would have seen, if not for Nancy telling me. We also visited the Rose Garden, where we saw some goats eating away at the poison ivy and other invasive species that came after Hurricane Sandy knocked down many trees in the park. (Roger and I had actually gone to see the goats with my cousin earlier in the summer—maybe one day I'll actually get around to posting about it.)

Meredith outside a water stop (which also has water for puppies on this dog-friendly tour).

We also saw some of Olmstead and Vaux's original designs, and talked about what they were hoping the park would be, and what spots they most disliked. (The overtly manicured areas, it turns out.) The duo was famous for designing parks across the country, and Prospect Park was one of their very favorites. (Olmstead also designed the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, and is one of the topics of Devil in the White City, if you're looking to learn a bit more about him.) It was especially interesting to see some of the oldest trees in the park, and to learn more about the arches in the park, how they were built and what purpose they served (originally they were meant to be outdoor rooms).

A waterfall near the Long Meadow

At the end of the tour, Nancy bought us apple cider donuts from the farmers market, which is the perfect way to end the appetite-building jaunt. Because we're all friends, she also invited us up to her gorgeous apartment to have the last of the civit coffee she'd bought on a recent trip to Bali. It was delicious, and I'm sorry to say that if you go on a tour, you probably won't be offered the same, but you will have a wonderful time nonetheless!

Nancy Blaine, tour guide and small business owner extraordinaire!

I had such a great time on the tour with Nancy, and I would absolutely recommend Local Expeditions to anyone visiting New York for the first time. At just $40 for a 2-3 hour tour, they're a fantastic deal and a really excellent way to see parts of the city that even locals might not know about. The site is always looking for new guides, so if you have a corner of your city you've always wanted to share with others, have a look at the site and apply now. And, their offerings are always expanding (right now there are tours in New York, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts), so have a look back frequently, or request a custom tour the next time you're looking for something great to do.

I can't wait to take the On Golden Pond or Photographing Coney Island tours soon! Thanks so much for an amazing tour, Nancy!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Sad Don Draper Watching The Wilderness Downtown

Crazy that this was five years ago, isn't it?

It feels so emblematic of that moment. I remember 2010 like the back of my hand. I was living at home, we had a party for the premier of the show in my parents' living room. I used my grandmother's china.

And The Suburbs—maybe the last album I loved—and this video, oh it was the coolest, most nostalgia-inducing thing you could think of, for a girl from the suburbs back in the suburbs for a temporary stay. So strange, now, to feel nostalgia for something that made me feel nostalgic.

When I was in fourth grade, I had a calendar that said, "Just remember, one day, these will be the good old days." I suppose the good old days always have been a bit dubious. In any event, I've been thinking a lot about this meme, what its individual components meant to me then, mean to me now. I think of it often, like so many other things from the past. I suspect, five years hence, I shall be feeling the same way about Pokemon Go.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Three Kings Tattoo Photos on High Snobiety

I was pretty thrilled when a friend texted me this screenshot and said, "Is that Roger?"

It is indeed him. I've recently been trying to convince to become a male model, so maybe this will give me some ammo! I took this photo about a year and a half ago, when Roger was getting his second tattoo.

I just started taking a photography class a few weeks ago, so you can imagine how excited I was to see a few of my older photos featured on the site. Below, you can see the originals, and one that wasn't included on the site, of the tattoo itself. If you'd like to see them in their new habitat, visit High Snobiety's list.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Independence Day 2016

As you might have already realized, the Fourth of July is kind of a big deal in our house. Our town used to have a big fireworks display at the high school every year, and so my parents and all their friends would tailgate there and then watch the fireworks. Once it was eventually cancelled, my parents took over hosting it, and so we've been enjoying Independence Day together with this group for 25 years.

It is, of course, bittersweet that our 25th Fourth of July in Mahopac is also likely the last. With their move to Florida impending, it's unlikely they'll be around to host next year, so saying goodbye to everyone on Monday night was especially hard. I don't see these people nearly as often as I'd like, but they were all formative in making me the person I am today, and I'll always love them and cherish the memories of our time together.

I suppose your 30s is that very sweet spot where it's possible to have four generations together in one room. It was really special to me to see family friends' grandparents at the same party as some of our other friends' baby. They aren't related, of course, but it still felt meaningful to me to have so many different generations together.

Elvie, in addition to being our very good family friend, was also my lunch monitor all through elementary school. When she left the barbecue, she said, "I think of you often, Kristin," and it touched me so much. I wrote last week about feeling connected, and this was exactly what I meant. I think of her often, too. It was really comforting to know it's reciprocal.

I had to miss my beloved Putnam County Classic race again this year, because I never got it together to train for it. I felt really sad about it, but putting on our patriotic finest and eating delicious barbecue was a pretty good consolation prize. I don't think my dad's famous ribs have ever been quite so delicious before.

I'm almost 100% sure that no one who was at the barbecue will read this, but in case anyone does, I just wanted to say thank you for all your years of love and support. I really do feel like we were raised by a village in many ways, and I am in large part who I am because of who each of you is.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Weekend Wanderings - Danielle's Birthday at the Beach

A few weekends ago on June 11th, we headed to Jacob Riis Park to celebrate Danielle's birthday and take in some sun. I'll be real: the forecast called for rain and it was a little windy when we first arrived. The five of us who traveled in together huddled for warmth, not knowing if we'd made the right choice to continue.

But, before too long, other guests joined us and the sun came out! It was still too cold for swimming (although a few members of the group did take a quick dip), but the weather turned out to be that perfect early summer beach weather that makes picnicking so wonderful. Danielle's dad even joined us and brought a tremendous (and tremendously good) cake!

The beach is usually pretty quiet, as far as NYC beaches go, and so it's one of my favorites in the area. Plus, on weekends, they have a great little bazaar with lots of food stands and live music. It's a lot of fun!

After a beautiful day at the beach, a few of us continued the adventure at Athena, a really great Greek restaurant in our neighborhood. So glad to have celebrated Danielle in this way, and I can't wait for next year's beach trip!