Happy International Peace Day

Love. You’ll find references to it everywhere you look: on walls, with family, inside a fortune cookie, and in latte art.

Love is the antidote to fear. I’m sending a generous dose of feel-good your way to amp up the peace quotient across the world. I hope you’ll pass it on…

Street art, El Paso, Texas, October 2012

Street art, El Paso, Texas, October 2012

Shadows: me and my little sis, San Francisco, February 2013

Shadows: me and my little sis, San Francisco, February 2013

Street art in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, April 2012

Street art in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, April 2012

Close up of the above street art

Close up of the above street art

Strawberry Fields in Central Park, Manhattan, NY, July 2012

Strawberry Fields in Central Park, Manhattan, NY, July 2012

Coffee at Brooklyn Roasting Company, DUMBO, Brooklyn, October 2012

Coffee at Brooklyn Roasting Company, DUMBO, Brooklyn, October 2012

Pasted poster, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 2012

Pasted poster, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 2012

Downtown Los Angeles, July 2014

Downtown Los Angeles, July 2014

Staten Island September 11 Memorial with view of Lower Manhattan, Staten Island, NY, August 2012

Staten Island September 11 Memorial with view of Lower Manhattan, Staten Island, NY, August 2012

Chocolate = love, Red Hook, Brooklyn, May 2012

Chocolate = love, Red Hook, Brooklyn, May 2012

Love locks on Brooklyn Bridge, January 2012

Love locks on Brooklyn Bridge, January 2012

Near the Red Square, Moscow, July 2014

Near the Red Square, Moscow, July 2014

Fortune cookies at Jade Island, Staten Island, NY, August 2012

Fortune cookies at Jade Island, Staten Island, NY, August 2012

Street art, Bushwick, Brooklyn, July 2012

Street art, Bushwick, Brooklyn, July 2012

A kiss from my husband, Sedona, Arizona, November 2012

A kiss from my husband, Sedona, Arizona, November 2012

A Sunday in West-Ho-Burg ~ NYC

Summer in New York.

It’s when life takes on a slower pace. Manhattan wakes up later. On Sundays, the streets are uncomplicated and easy to navigate given the lack of foot and car traffic. This is in large part due to the island’s residents escaping the heat of the concrete in favour of shorelines in far-flung Jersey Shore, Rockaway Beach, or The Hamptons.

Summer – a perfect time to appreciate the city. Starting with breakfast in the West Village, meandering in the quieter and more industrial parts of Soho, then cooling down in my home ‘hood of Williamsburg. This is what Sundays are all about.

Sunday, summery Sunday. My pictorial of New York, today. Enjoy!

Caffe Reggio on MacDougal Street. An institution since 1927 – apparently the first cafe in the US to serve a cappuccino.

Sidewalk breakfast dining…

Tableside cab spotting, pop art style

Traditional is always good when it comes to breakfast

Dave Chappelle, Gary Shandling, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Ray Romano, Robin Williams… they’ve all got this place in common.

Not a bead of sweat in sight.

Waiting for the late rising brunchers.

Sunday news, sidewalk style. By the way, Alec Baldwin got married.

The streets of Soho decorated with pasteups and fire escapes.

One World Trade Centre – its construction is visible from Williamsburg, Brooklyn to Central Park, Manhattan. Seen here from Soho, at 1,776 feet, it will be America’s tallest building.

Graffiti isn’t exclusive to Manhattan’s walls.

A true delight in summer: blend a few cups of watermelon, add a squeeze of lime… maybe a splash of vodka. This is the season’s easiest cocktail to make – effortless, and one of the most delicious!

Historical sticker street art.

My husband took this photo. He thinks it’s a cool angled shot – I feel it is a little misaligned. What do you think?

Tourist shops of New York can be so rude sometimes, but I love them anyway. Only NYC could get away with such shenanigans.

Old-school.

The coffee bean aroma of the Porto Rico Importing Company can be smelt stores away.

I wish I lived on Minetta Lane. It is perhaps NYC’s quietest street – but so central!

What? Exactly.

Teary street art in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

July 1: Happy Canada Day….

The (above) swimwear and briefs brought to you courtesy of:

Attacked by a friendly pet.

See, very friendly, pawed out, and perhaps a little thirsty.

The Empire State Building, freeze framed by Strawberry, Ginger, and Rhubarb pops.

Couldn’t have said it better myself. This is what life is all about.

Downtown LA Scenes ~ California

Oh LA, why do you keep trying to woo me back?

I know, I know… You’ve got the glorious Pacific Ocean. I agree, there’s really nothing better than starting the day with a glimpse of its sparkling blue, and inhaling its salty air. I hear you: the Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most awe inspiring drives as you head towards a tucked away Malibu. But then, you’ve got the idyllic Hollywood Hills; I would love to live in one of their Neutra designed homes, or anything modernist architecture for that matter.

In all honesty, I am sold on living in one of the beach fringing neighbourhoods – Venice Beach, or Santa Monica; in a cute little shack and a garden brimming with bougainvillea, red hibiscus, and some roses, too.

On the other hand, a little further inland, there’s that Brooklyn-esque vibe of your downtown area. I’ve been reading about its revival; less Skid Row, more loft and (unfortunately) condo. When I visited, about 2 months ago, the Arts District was alive: its graffiti-decorated streets fringed with manufacturing and lofted warehouses, punctuated by railway tracks of an industrial past. I loved the bustling dining culture with lively spots including Wurstkuche, Church & State, and an outpost of Urth Caffe. Simply say, “Urth’s green tea matcha soy milk latte,” and I’m there.

I’m steps closer to being wooed back, LA. Here’s one reason: a glimpse into the Arts District, and the area around Hewitt Street. Enjoy!

Molino Street Lofts

Line at Wurstkuche

Urth Caffe

Financial District in the background

The Price of Fame ~ Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY

I was enroute to yoga class, when my Zen bubble was burst; I had spotted a sign by a prominent Manhattan based restaurant pointing in the direction of their newest location. Painted in bright colours on a side street wall that intersects with the neighbourhood’s main artery, Bedford Street, it looks more advertising than street art.

I was overcome by a combination of sadness mixed with compassion and loss. Flourishing, this artist enclave that I so enjoy for its grit-and- arty glam is now code for ‘goldmine’. Don’t get me wrong, the group behind the new restaurant has a very good reputation. The sign simply added to an already built-up set of emotions attributed to a general sense of protectiveness towards the Williamsburg community; I resist significant change from fear that it might change the fabric of a neighbourhood I have grown to love. Reading the sign, the discourse in my mind ran along the lines of, “Don’t run out the small businesses. They’re creating something good here. Please don’t mess it up.” But, then again, it’s already too late.

Vines cultivated in 'treasure'-cans

Williamsburg, reflected

Street Art is the norm in this 'hood

I moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn when it was in the throes of gentrification; since the recession, things have been looking up. I knew it before its skyline was punctuated with the large-scale developments of today; I was drawn to its artisan culture and rich creative community. What I find most alluring about the neighbourhood is its shabby-chic vibe. Here, (most) everything old is new again: in a nod to the past, former barrel making warehouses house café cum coffee roasteries; vintage clothing stores dictate trends on the street; old school looking diners stand in the midst of streets decorated with torn posters, playful street art, and FAILE wall stencils.

Wyeth Diner

A FAILE work, mimicked. On Wyeth Street

Old factories, decorated

In a labyrinth of independently owned storefronts, I remember being baffled when a large-scale Duane Reade opened a location directly across from a long standing mom n pop pharmacy. It didn’t feel right and I wondered how the council permitted it; I now think it was a subliminal message. Manhattanites have caught wind of this new ‘hot spot’ and clamor here on the weekends.  Just recently I read that Whole Foods will be setting up shop in the area; I can’t say I won’t take advantage of the shorter distance to buy produce but I am in no way advocating their choice of new location.

Taking a stand through art

A typical street scene

I can’t speak to what Williamsburg was like before I discovered it over 4 years ago, and subsequently relocating, though evidence of its roots abound. The Williamsburg Bridge, opened in 1903, brought with it a new population of people: second-generation Americans and immigrants including Hasidic Jews, Dominicans, and Puerto Ricans. Renovated warehouses survive their industrial days of glass blowing and metal smithing; the now defunct Domino Sugar Factory is symbolic of a former glory – in the late 19th century, it was the largest sugar refinery in the world.

Backdrop of the Williamsburg Bridge and Domino Sugar Refinery

A game of dominoes

After WWII, trade and industry deteriorated, and about 30 years ago the creative community took over a neighbourhood in despair. Disenchanted with the rent hikes of their reinvigorated SoHo, they crossed the Bridge to the ‘burg to settle and establish an alternative to the downtown art scene. One of my yoga teachers’ remembers stumbling over passed out drug addicts on the steps of her Bedford Street apartment just 15 years back.

Kent Street's warehouses and condos

A storefront

Do tattoos count as street art?

From Williamsburg, you can catch killer views of Manhattan’s skyline – they span downtown and past 42nd Street. Recent waterfront rezoning laws bring to mind a quote by Jackie Onassis when, in opposition to Grand Central Station’s potential wrecking ball fate, she’d stated:

this is the time to take a stand, to reverse the tide, so that we won’t all end up in a uniform world of steel and glass boxes.

Thankfully, the terminal was saved. On the other hand, these 3-year old East River fringing condo towers are hard to miss as are the gaping holes within the grid of streets, which will eventually be occupied with something of the same. I must admit though, I do enjoy sitting in the new waterfront park at their base, to watch the sun cloak the Empire and Chrysler Buildings with a shimmer of copper-gold as it sets.

Scaffolding hide gaps. In turn, they are a canvas for street art.

East River Ferry dock; Empire and Chrysler Buildings in distance

A new take on 'Park n Ride'

My love for the Williamsburg community is unwavering yet coming to terms with inevitable change of the neighborhood is a double-edged sword. As easily as I forget, I must just as quickly remember to embrace the present moment and ride its wave of success, for I too moved here during its early stages of gentrification. Whilst I do find solace in the ability of the artist community to revitalize an otherwise faltering neighbourhood, I can’t help but wonder what will come of Williamsburg in a year’s time.

It’s Always Sunny in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

It is true that nothing is permanent; that some things are more temporary than others. As for moments – well, they are altogether fleeting.

After a period of hibernation, blooms symbolise the start of a warmer season. Their pinks, yellows, greens, purples, and whites brighten a landscape that may have at one time looked wintry bare. The sun may shine today, adding warmth and a zest indicative of an upcoming spring. But, what of tomorrow? (The weather channels have been proven wrong many times…)

In some parts of the world however, the streets are always splashed with colour, regardless of the day or the season. Williamsburg’s street art may be temporary, but it is always there. In an urban landscape constantly undergoing change, what you see one day may be gone – or replaced – the next. Nevertheless, the artwork persists; every piece the product of an expressive soul who is part of a creative, fearless, and diverse community.

I am reminded of how lucky I am every day when I walk within the neighbourhood’s maze of murals, paste-ups, graffiti, words, stencils, and paintings. Even a passing glimpse of colour through the car window can bring about a change in mood, attitude, or an aside to a conversation.

I hope you’ll get to see this part of Brooklyn soon. Until then, enjoy this curation– some of the artworks are old, some are new, and some are no longer in existence.

If we only walk on sunny days, we’ll never reach our destination ~ Paulo Coehlo

Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music – the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people – simply forget yourself ~ Henry Miller

The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see ~ G.K. Chesterton

Every day has the potential to be the best day of your life ~ Lin-Manuel Miranda

But how could you live and have no story to tell? ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously ~ Hunter S. Thompson

Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today ~ Indian Proverb

Postcards from the Edge… of the Manhattan Bridge

Though it was built after the Brooklyn Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge may be perceived as the middle child. Geographically located between them both, it is not as iconic and popular as the Brooklyn Bridge, further south; nor as artsy as the Williamsburg Bridge, to the north (my personal opinion, given its street art and hip connections). The Manhattan Bridge may seem understated yet it is on the cusp of cutting-edge cool. Its sweeping views of Manhattan and Brooklyn are better than those of its suspension-bridge-siblings and it fuses two of my favourite neighbourhoods together – Manhattan’s Chinatown and DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) in Brooklyn – both of which have made homes under the bridge’s overpass in their respective boroughs.

View of Manhattan Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge (far distance) from Brooklyn Bridge

View of Manhattan Bridge from DUMBO

View of Manhattan Bridge from Chinatown

On the Manhattan Bridge, looking at Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO

If looking at a map of East Manhattan, from south to north, you’ll notice four main bridges that cross over the East River. In order, they are the Brooklyn Bridge, then the Manhattan Bridge; followed by the Williamsburg Bridge and 59th Street’s, Queensboro Bridge.

Having recently strolled along the northern and southern walk/bikeways of the Manhattan Bridge, more than anything else, I can easily attest to being mesmerized by the views offered from both sides.

From the graffitied rooftops of Chinatown, and their hanging laundry…

Business shirts and antennas

Graffiti and water towers

A Chinatown streetscape, from the northern side of the walk/bikeway

From Ground Zero towers and City Hall in the background, to laundry and graffiti on rooftops in foreground - from southern side of walk/bikeway

… to the vistas of the Brooklyn Bridge perfectly set as a backdrop, or against the skyscrapers of downtown Manhattan…

A beautiful winter's day, further brightened up by the Brooklyn Bridge - from the southern side

Brooklyn Bridge makes for a perfect backdrop

Up above the traffic

…to the buzz of boat activity on the East River under winter’s sunlight…

Cargo...

Sightseeing boats, downtown

Cargo, from a northern perspective

Sightseeing boat, with Williamsburg Bridge in background

… to the skyline of DUMBO’s industrial buildings and its streetscapes, down below…

A glimpse of a mural on DUMBO's Water Street

Vespas and industrial buildings

DUMBO's rooftops against the Williamsburg Bridge, on the northern side

Rooftops and patios from the southern side of the Manhattan Bridge

View of the Empire–Fulton Ferry Park in DUMBO

… the views from this bridge are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen and enjoyed photographing.

Not only that, but the bridge has no air of pretension… perhaps due to the lack of tourists and crowds (unlike Brooklyn Bridge), which makes for a pleasurable walk across, no matter if you are walking to/from Chinatown or DUMBO. Both neighbourhoods are cool and understated in their own right, just like the bridge that connects them.

Not a bad way to see the Empire State Building. Framed daily, in DUMBO

This is DUMBO! Not many streetscapes can compare to this one

This part of Chinatown, clustered under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass

Street vendors, setting up shop under the Bridge's Overpass, in Chinatown

The Manhattan Bridge was opened in December of 1909, and was the last of the three suspension bridges built to span the East River (after the Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges). Since 1982, it has been undergoing a Reconstruction Program at a cost of $834 million that includes rehabilitation of its roadways, subway tracks, walkways, bikeways, replacement of its 628 bridge suspenders and restoration of the Arch and Colonnade that make for a grand entrance/exit on its Manhattan side. The project is expected to be completed in 2013.

Construction signage that pulls at heart strings

Interior rejuvenation

Barricades either left over from New Year's Eve, or for the construction works

That said, it is easy not to notice the construction going on as your eye is dragged across to the views of the East River and its shoreline. Depending which walkway you choose to stroll or cycle along, a vista of either one of those aforementioned bridges will certainly attract your attention. The construction also means that it is easier to use the walk/bikeways simultaneously (usually separate), given the changing construction detours. Surprisingly, bikers and walkers are very respectful of one another, made easier given passersby are frequent, yet minimal in number. (This has been my experience, anyway).

You can ride your bike...

...or you can walk your bike.

No matter what, walkers and cyclists can co-exist on the same walk/bikeway

Next time you’re in New York, make sure to take a strolling trip from East Manhattan to Brooklyn (or v.v.) over the Manhattan Bridge. You won’t be disappointed.

A part of the Brooklyn Bridge, framed

At the base of the Bridge, at Empire-Fulton Ferry Park in Dumbo