Friday, June 30, 2006


Celebrate Brooklyn has yet to get me in the mood to celebrate anything. As a second attempt to appreciate the free performances that are Celebrate Brooklyn (after Savion Glover's intese yet uncaptivating performance last weekend) I journeyed out to the park for Celebrate Indie Rock night. It looked like a good lineup and was certain to impress even the most savvy critic of the modern music scene. As a sidenote, I took quite the detour on the way out to the park and found a great cemetary where the graves are just as crammed in as the people in Manhattan. I only snapped a picture from the subway, but I'll have to go back and explore more later.
So, when I finally arrived at Prospect Park, I was not alone. Megan, Jessica, Natalie and I were surrounded by every hipster in town (and an otherwise electic mix of father and son couples and women strangely sporting tin foil ponchos when it started to drizzle). We started out on the lawn, but a huge group of people standing behind the seated section kept us from seeing anything.
So we joined them on our feet. The crowd was full of hecklers and complainers. Voxtrot was very upbeat, but I couldn't really focus. There was so much going on around me the entire time, it was not my favorite concert experience. People were particularly impatient by the time Matt Pond PA hit the stage, which was my favorite performance of the night. I loved the cello. I think strings add so much to rock music. It's like falling in love.... You're just marching along to this great beat and beautiful strumming guitar or maybe a keyboard and suddenly - enter violins and cellos - everything just gets better. It started raining towards the end of the performance and several people started to leave. Megan and I got seats and anxiously awaited TV on the Radio. Everyone around us was so astonished. "Wow! They're so innovative." If the fact that they are black people playing alternative music is innovative, then yes. But as far as the music itself - nothing too cutting edge in my opinion. So we left early. And that's when we got to see our favorite performance of the night. A bassist, a saxist, and an onlooker pretending he was the drummer on the subway platform of Broadway and Nassau. I love New York.

-The Frames-

Thursday, June 29, 2006

I Turn My Camera On

I got a new camera. I love it.


Carry This Picture

I have been thinking about my life in a suitcase. It has pretty much been that way for the last six years. Between college, study abroad, a mission, and internships all over the place, I have spent a great deal of time doing my best to keep my most sacred belongings to a limit of 50 lbs per suitcase (or 70 lbs if you're lucky enough to fly on jetBlue). When this is the case, I always find it intruguing to sit back and really analyze what I have decided to bring with me - what I find essential to my existence. Generally this is mostly shoes and clothes, camera, laptop, scriptures, journal. But today as I was sitting at my desk, I noticed the books, movies and CDs I had decided to schlep across the country. Here were the winners:
So, books first:
  • address book - to keep in touch (I'm generally good at that, though more via the internet in recent years)
  • Bonds That Make Us Free - still need to finish it
  • However Long & Hard The Road - for hard days... Elder Holland is my favorite and these talks always make me happy and help me have perspective
  • The L Magazine - latest happenings in NYC (I picked this up here)
  • two spiral bound journals
  • Freakonomics - currently finishing on the morning subway rides
  • Jane Austen's Guide to Dating - ok, it was a gift and it's highly entertaining... right up there with Elder Holland for cheering me up, only in a different way.
  • To Draw Closer to God - just finished a re-read of this favorite on the subway

  • Sabrina - yet unopened, but a favorite. Maybe if I were in a city other than New York I'd find some spare time to watch it
  • Tae Bo - so I can feel like I'm making an effort to be healthy (I have the dvd, right?)
  • Jean de Florette, Manon of the Spring - two of my favorite foreign films (right after Life is Beautiful) that I got right before I left BYU. I haven't had a chance to watch 'em

  • Wild Animus - someone on the street gave it to me on Monday for free
  • Glen Phillips - bought it last night *signed*
  • Keane - bought it last week *signed*
  • Corrine Bailey Rae - got it for free at the Keane concert
  • Landon Pigg - bought this ep at a show in DC about two months ago. I can't get enough of this kid.... not signed, but I did meet him and have a somewhat meaningful conversation
  • Pink Martini - a gift from my sister. Love them!
  • Josh Ritter - bought it at his show in Portland *signed*
  • Lucas Reynolds - ep I bought at the show (same performance as Landon Pigg) . Again unsigned, but I did meet him. :)
  • Brandi Carlile - bought it at Millenium Music in Portland
  • Camera Obscura - bought it at Millenium Music in Portland
  • Madeleine Peyroux - gift from my sister. Love her!
  • Ed McBand - seth's album :)
  • Pink Martini - bought it online, burned the CD so I could have it in my car (when I had a car)

So... looks like I mostly have recently purchased music here. And books I either know will make me happy, or I need to finish. I'll surely get some new reads while I'm here. I do have that summer reading list I created a while back. I suppose that would be a good place to start. I'm always frustrated by the lack of time I have for reading, but now the subway gives me a great little chunk of time. Ah, the blessings of city life.

-Dashboard Confessional-

Pleasure and Pain

Ever wonder what the subway does for a migraine? Last night I found out. I'll admit, I was starting to feel it come on before I even went to Madison Square Park for the concert, but it's a sacrifice I was willing to make for good music. But as I sat on the subway somewhere in the shadowy hollows between what felt like life and death, I wondered if I owed my agony to the infamous (yet delicious) Black and White cookie. We all know that it was the Black & White cookie that forced Jerry to break his 14-year vomit-free streak. But there's something about seeing that cookie in virtually every Manhattan bakery that had me craving it, even if there were a smiliar price to pay. I had to experience "two races of flavor living side by side" for myself. It's a wonderful thing isn't it? As Jerry's favorite method of consumption, I also tried to get a little black and a little white in each bite, but the sheer size of the cookie makes that almost impossible.
"Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate And yet somehow racial harmony eludes us. If people would only look to the cookie all our problems would be solved." -Jerry Seinfeld

-Ben Harper-

All I Want

Tonight I attended yet another great concert and had two more brushes with reasonably famous people. Tonight Glen Phillips and Jonathan Kingham (of Seattle) gave a free show at Madison Square Park. Happily, 'Toad the Wet Sprocket' was not attached to much of the propaganda that went out, otherwise I may not have had my front-and-center positioning at the show so easily. There were definitely a few die-hard fans there. While Glen did play a few Toad songs, he gave us a heaping spoonful of purely Glen stuff. He started his solo career a few years ago. Despite Glen having to re-tune between virtually every song in his set (dang this humidity), I was entertained. I was impressed. It was free. I was happy. After the show I got to meet both performers and add yet another CD (I bought Glen's EP, Unlucky 7) to my fast growing pile of autographed albums. Bonus.
The die-hard Glen Phillips fans one hour before the show.
Don't worry, more people came.Glen.Jonathan.
I loved how he looked so happy as he played.Jonathan and Me. Glen and Me.

-Toad the Wet Sprocket-

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Strawberry Fields Forever

It was supposed to be a quiet afternoon at home. Maybe I'd go for a run, play the guitar a little bit, read... But then I decided that I'd stop by Lincoln Center to see if I could get a ticket to A Light in the Piazza, and I did. Which means I didn't get home until about 11:30. So much for a quiet evening at home. But it was worth it. When I got my ticket I had some time to kill so I called Seth for suggestions. I lazed through Barnes & Noble for a while and then headed to 72nd Street. I walked past the Dakota building on Central Park West, a place that John Lennon called home during the later part of life, and where he was shot (on my birthday - December 8th) and killed.

In Central Park, Strawberry Fields is a garden that has been dedicated to John Lennon. There is a mosaic shrine dedicated to him in the middle. Right when I arrived, there were two guys quickly gathering all of the cash that had been "donated" on the memorial. I can only imagine it will be used for drugs. John would probably be proud.

-The Beatles-

Monday, June 26, 2006

Strange Currencies

Perhaps many of you remember when I landed an interview with a company in Belgium several months ago. On a telephone interview that lasted well over an hour, I found myself in perhaps the scariest dialogue of my life. At the end of the interview, the employer said that hopefully I would hear from him again soon. I didn’t. And to be quite honest, I forgot about the entire possibility of moving to Brussels. Today I was sitting at work and I checked my email. Much to my surprise, I had an email from the company in Belgium. Apparently they are expecting me in about six weeks. I honestly don't know what to do... but I'd love a really good reason to stay. ;)


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Everything In Its Right Place

Last night Seth, Megan, Jason and I took the train to Brooklyn to explore Prospect Park and enjoy the feet-tapping talents of the world famous Savion Glover. It took us forever to get there, but since we were in good spirits we provided ourselves with plenty of entertainment. Among other things, Seth enlightened us all on his theory about the high concentration of chicken stores in dominantly African-American neighborhoods. I'm not sure if it could really be proven, but I did see KFC, Popeye's, and some no-name Chicken and Pizza shop within a three-block above ground subway transfer in Brooklyn...
Savion is a native of Newark and has developed an expertise that has taken him to the stage and the silver screen as he's starred in Bring In 'Da Noise, Bring In 'Da Funk and... Sesame Street. I am not passionately aware of much that goes on in the tap dancing world (I took the class for two weeks and dropped it before I even bought the shoes) but I was excited to see him perform. All I can say is that his legs and his heart must be in pretty good shape, because I didn't know it was humanly possible to do rhythm tap for 2 hours straight. And I don't think I've ever seen someone sweat that much. Ever. The man was dripping like a leaky faucet. Or a faucet that's not even leaking, just turned on all the way. To be honest though, as a spectator I could only take so much. The jazz band that was following his lead got in a groove and pretty much stayed there. The best part of the performance as far as I was concerned was the no name opening jazz band's cover of Radiohead's Everything In Its Right Place. Of course, how could a little Radiohead not make any night better?

So then we hit Junior's for "the best cheesecake ever" and started a debate about whether or not cake is bread. Is there really anything to debate? The two are entirely unrelated except for the presence of flour. Are you with me? The cheesecake was good, but not spectacular. Maybe I was just wasn't in the mood to be impressed that night.-Radiohead-

Let It Die

Feist recently played the Central Park Summerstage in celebration of Canada Day. I don't have time at the moment to post a full review of the show -- suffice it to say it was incredible. She has this sultry voice that is one of a kind. She gave a pretty intense live show; not nearly as mellow as her album, but I appreciated the energy. I couldn't help but comment multiple times on how her guitar was about three times her size. My favorites were Secret Heart (I once knew a secret heart...) and the tragically heartbreaking Let It Die.

"The saddest part of a broken heart isn't the ending so much as the start"


Saturday, June 24, 2006

New York State of Mind

Some of my favorite moments of realization that I'm not in Kansas anymore:

The other day I was in a meeting at work and we were discussing different media for advertising. I had an insight and spoke up. Since I'm generally not too vocal in most meetings, I glanced around for confirmation of my idea as I began, "So, you know at Target when you're getting married and you register...?" Blank stares. Empty gazes. Their looks spoke for themselves, "Target? Well, I think there's one in the Bronx... But as a place to register? Me and my fiancee are planning on Crate & Barrel and Williams-Sonoma to start." Some things from the suburbs just don't translate.

A gallon of skim milk costs $3.69 at my neighborhood grocery store.

Yesterday I went down in front of my building to make a phone call on my lunch break. While I was obviously talking on my phone, a man came up to me, held out his cigarette and said in a thick New York accent, "You got a light?" Do I look like a smoker? Or someone who otherwise carries a lighter? I don't think so.

Two days ago Seth and I were walking down Seventh Avenune looking for a place to have lunch. In one of those awkward sidewalk encounters where neither party knows exactly which route the other will take to move forward, Seth paused. Then the woman said in a husky and loud yell, "DUH!!"

I paid $30 last night for a bowl of lo mein and a chocolate cupcake ('molten chocolate cake' in its smallest form).

I ran to the top of Manhattan island with the Hudson on one side, me on the other, and about a dozen baseball fields inbetween filled to capacity with Hispanic young men playing the all-American sport.

-Billy Joel-

Friday, June 23, 2006

Is It Any Wonder?

Today had some significant highlights. And none of them involved the subway elevator operator's soul music sing-along session. Shocking - I know. They involved a little British band called Keane. And me. Keane+me=very happy version of me. Keane came to Borders in Colombus Circle today, just a few blocks from work and since I already had VIP access (and because I love their music) I had to go. Since it was mostly to promote their new album (which is totally growing on me, by the way) they played a short set of four songs: Nothing In My Way, Crystal Ball, Is It Any Wonder?, and they indulged us all with Somewhere Only We Know from Hopes and Fears. As if hearing a great band at lunch weren't enough, I got to meet them and they signed my CD. I'm getting quite the (smallish) collection of signed CD's. It's quite exciting. I asked Richard (the drummer) about the song Bedshaped and was a little let down by his superficial answer, "It's a song about getting old." Yeah, I know that. I've noticed that as a theme through several Keane songs... a fear of aging. Is there a word for that? If not, I think we should invent one.


Great Expectations

Well, the day finally arrived. After nearly three months of hearing all about him, I finally met the infamous Mr. Darcy. Dinner with a Harvard graduate who writes for a conservative publication and is a musical genius, is an interesting experience. I mostly listened intently as the discussion led into topics such as stem-cell research and inheritance taxes. Questions I fielded ranged from, "So what do you do for fun?" (the friendly ice-breaker) to "What's your view on.... [fill in anything on the political/moral spectrum]?" (to test my political savviness) to "Why aren't you married?" (to see how I deal with uncomfortable situations) to "Why did you go to BYU?" (either because of extreme skepticism toward my "social involvement" with my religion, or to understand my rationale on making major life decisions). I held my own; I could do it again.

Only twelve hours until the Keane concert!


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Asleep On a Sunbeam

On the Fourth of July (which I'm especially looking forward to, since we get the 3rd and 4th of July off this year) there will be many happenings in the city, as there are virtually every day. One of the things I've been looking forward to is a Belle & Sebastian concert here in New York. And on Monday, I won two tickets that are already in my hot little hands. The admission to the concert is actually free, but I just got lucky to have received two of the first 1,000 tickets distributed, thus ensuring my attendance at the show. Wahoo!

To pick up my tickets, I had to go to a little booth outside of the World Financial Plaza. For those of you who don't know New York very well, that is downtown. It's a beautiful setup, really. On my way, I decided to walk all the way around Ground Zero, where the World Trade Center towers once stood. I was planning on stopping to read the signs about different heroic efforts, or the memorial they are working on building... but it was really just kind of too emotional; I had to keep walking. Sometimes I wonder if people from other parts of the country really feel the same connection to those events as those from New York or D.C. I really don't know.

When I finally arrived at the Financial Plaza, I got to sit through an entire song of Son Volt's show, before I had to catch an uptown train. I don't know much about them except that they were one of the front-running bands on the alt-country scene. The lead singer was reminiscent of Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket. I would have liked to see and hear more of them, but I had to leave for a great reason. My friend Hilary was in town and I was meeting her for dinner! We went with her family to The Stardust Diner on Broadway (very touristy, but very fun) where the waiters spontaneously break into song. It's one of those restaurants where you are mostly paying for the atmosphere. As we were there, I was thinking about those waiters. I wonder of people who don't make it on Broadway aspire to work there, where they can still showcase their talents and hope to be discovered. They'll probably be waiting tables anyway, might as well do it some place where they can also do a little of what they really love.

Hilary came with me to my apartment and we barely slept -- we had 5 years to catch up on! Here's a sleep-deprived picture of us:If anyone is thinking about coming to New York for a visit, the Fourth would be a great time. Like I said, I've got an extra ticket!

-Belle & Sebastian-

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing

We got to Bryant Park at about 5:45. The movie started at 9:00. We used Megan's camera to kill some time.
-Jack Johnson-

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Too Darn Hot

On Sunday I attended my new ward, the Inwood 3rd ward for the first time. My roommate Megan and I walked to church together, which is just at the opposite end of Fort Tryon Park. I've been told that the Inwood building (at least at one time)was the most expensive chapel property that the church owned. It's a lovely little building -- actually it is quite large. The ward is much smaller than the mega Manhattan 8th ward, but very friendly and welcoming. By the time we got out of church for our linger longer on the front "lawn" (a space that's about 3'x12') it was scorching and we all just stood there and kind of melted together in the shadows of sizzling skyscrapers.

-Ella Fitzgerald-

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Ice Cream

Ice cream was pretty much a theme of my day. I am not complaining. It was a lovely day in New York -- it's Friday so who can really complain? I got out of work an hour early so I decided to check city search in search of the city's best ice cream to cool off on this warm summer day. Who knew it would be in China Town? I love New York because you can get on the subway in the middle of the suits and structure and stress of Seventh Avenue corporate america and emerge three stops later in the middle of China. It's like everywhere you go, you're in a new world.

I wandered through Chinatown, just soaking it in. There was so much activity; it was incredibly busy with people calling to each other in ambiguous thick asian dialects while silks and porcelain swirled around me in a blur and I felt like a foreigner. It was fantastic. A few blocks into my trek, I spotted a restaurant named Luigi's across the block. I thought to myself, "Didn't anyone tell them that this is Chinatown?" But I kept walking and before I knew it, voila! I was in Little Italy. Manhattan is a little globe filled with diverse international treasures.

But my intent was not only to wander and people watch... I came with a mission. And it didn't take long before I found it: the renowned Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. This place has a sweet take on the traditional flavors, but also sends your tastebuds for a loop with flavors like lychee, ginger, green tea, etc. I got a cone with a scoop of red bean and a scoop of black sesame. Oh, so good!

By the time I took an accidental trip to Brooklyn and got back to the lower east side, I thought I had missed my planned event of the evening, for sure. But luckily I caught up with Seth and other LDS friends in just enough time to catch the Lower Manhattan church history tour. We walked near the place where Martin Harris received the certificate from Charles Anton, where Joseph Smith stayed on Pearl Street, where some of the printing presses were originally housed (printing three newspapers by early members of the church), and the Joseph Smith statue that was installed just in time for his 200th birthday last year. The statue will be taken down tomorrow, so it was neat to visit it today.

Seven of us (mostly interns from BYU) enjoyed a fabulous (and cheap!) Vietnamese restaurant for dinner. Jason, Seth and I decided to spend the evening exploring... which naturally led us back to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory for dessert! (Sesame seed and Peanut Butter & Jelly this time.) We walked around SoHo and Greenwich until 2 am, and I was surprised at how the world was still so awake at that hour. Washington Square was a fantastic spot to sit and soak in the early morning street performers, impromptu soccer game, and a girl doing ballet as she bicycled. We saw a man (who appeared to be homeless) leave the park and come back with a huge oriental rug over his shoulder, which he unrolled and then plopped his pillow onto. We figured after the ballerina on bike it couldn't get any better, so that's when we called it a night. And the streets were still alive and kicking when we left.

-Sarah McLachlan-

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Dance All Night

Quick Recap (I'll update later): Seth and I went to Fulton Ferry State Park in Brooklyn to watch the Brooklyn Ballet perform a captivating outdoor show, cast against the beautiful Manhattan skyline at dusk. It was a photographer's dream come true. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera, but Seth grabbed some fabulous shots.

Dinner was at Bubby's. Yay for good ol' American goodness in the heart of Brooklyn.

I ran into Mike O'Brien from high school. Of all places to see someone you haven't crossed paths with in seven years!

I have got to get some sleep. Casual Friday is just hours away. Can't wait.

-Ryan Adams-

Where Are You Going?

For all three of you who avidly read my blog (and any other willing participants) - please take the time to help me with possibly the most important decision of my life:

-Dave Matthews Band-

Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream

Last night I dreamt that I had two job offers. One in Portland for $34,000 a year and one in Seattle for $45,000 a year. And I didn't know what to do.

-Simon & Garfunkel-

How To Disappear Completely

Radiohead has officially left the city. They played two shows at Madison Square Gardens, but I really just couldn't justify $350 for the worst seat in the house. Maybe next time... They have got to be the most elusive band that ever existed.

Since Radiohead was a little out of my budget I opted to see Mark Geary at the Mercury Lounge on Tuesday night. It was quite the toss up since Smoosh and Eels were giving a free show at the World Financial Plaza. But Mark put on a nice show and a lot of his friends were in the smallish audience, so it felt pretty intimate and friendly. Tom Freund played after him. While I don't know that I am completely in love with his style, I'll have to admit that he is quite musically diverse and talented. He played at least five different instruments during his hour long set.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

So Tonight That I Might See

I feel like it has been forever since I have posted. I left the office today wanting to do three things: write, run, and play (my guitar). I want to post events of the other days separately, just to keep things organized. New York has surprised me. It has surprised me because I haven't been as captivated by it this time. I haven't been as scared of it. I almost feel like I have become a part of it. I have already seen a huge difference in living versus visiting this place. You can see it on the faces of the people in the streets. I might even be starting to see it in my own, but I hope not.

Visitors and tourists are wide-eyed and curious about everything, just taking it all in. But when it comes down to living here - even with all the fascination around you - the day-in, day-out routine of it all is much like any other place except for the fact that you're in a big, dirty city with tall buildings, lots of people, and a subway. But really, work is work. If you're in a cubicle (or office, as is my case - woohoo!) on Seventh Avenue or on Bowerman Drive it doesn't make a whole lot of difference, because that is how you spend your life. The difference, I suppose, is when you step out of the office and explore the enchantment of the world around you with wide-eyed fascination. I hope I never lose that, no matter where I am. I will admit, that along with my skepticism, I was slightly smitten as I walked through midtown last night. But then again, darkeness forces you to keep your eyes wide open...

Today as I dodged the mystery drips in the subway, I ached for trees. That's part of why I had to come home and go running. To be among the trees. It was one of those archetypal east-coast summer days in New York today. White, hazy sky, with a constant threat of storm, and air so wet you wonder if it is raining. It's been a long time since I've had an east coast summer. And this may be my last for a while.

-Mazzy Star-

Sunday, June 11, 2006

It's Crazy, Man!

On Sunday the Aquabats were at church.


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Welcome to the Cruel World

On Saturday I got to New York. Thankfully, the journey was uneventful. Seth met me at the airport and guided me through the airport, the air train, the subway and eventually we found my new apartment. Although we didn't take much time to chill and explore it, I can just say that I was pleasantly surprised. I have my own enormous bedroom, a queen-sized bed, TV, DVR, DVD player - the works. I haven't even turned on the TV yet... but it's nice that it's there if I wanted it.

Like I said, I didn't really take time to do anything but shower. Then Seth and I hit the town. First things first: New York Pizza! My first photos in the city show how tired I was. If Seth ever sends me the one I like, I'll post it. But I didn't really feel too tired, thanks to the adreneline I've been living on since last Saturday. We met up with Jason and took the train to Queens. First stop: P.S.1. P.S.1 is an old public school that has been transformed into part of the MoMA - housing a good chunk of their contemporary collection.
And if that weren't cool enough, we happened to be going to P.S.1 on the day of Iron Artist. "What's Iron Artist?" you say. I thought you'd ask. Imagine Iron Chef, but with art. That's pretty much the idea. Small teams of artists are given a theme and 45 minutes to create something representative of it. Now, this is all with a contemporary twist, so we're not talking about a mural of flowers and a duck pond. We got there in time to watch Big Room compete with Type A on the theme "man's inhumanity to man." Check out Seth's blog for all the pics.
Next we went to Astoria for "the best Greek food in town." Yeah... so I learned that even at its best, Greek food is still pretty gross. Unless it's a gyro. I love those. But are they really even Greek?

-Ben Harper-