The Clean Hippie

Seeking the sustainable life in New York City

NYC’s Highline to Double in Size June 28, 2010

Filed under: New York,news,Places to go — Alden @ 2:05 am
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How many times have I said that I love New York City parks? Even as the MTA struggles to keep service running and reliable, the city continues to shell out for the most beautiful and well-done green spaces. I have no problem with that. Really, what better way to use taxpayer money? (Rhetorical question, let’s not do a political debate here.)

Anyway, case in point: The Highline, a new park that combines an old railroad bed, native plants, and a highly developed post-industrial aesthetic for amazing results. I’ve been there twice, and was hugely impressed with the landscaping, design, and even the art installation at the end. And it’s not even done yet!

From Inhabitat:

The new section, like the existing park, will feature open joints in the concrete to encourage grass to grow in the cracks. At one point in the extension, the concrete will be stripped away to reveal the steel girders supporting the trestle. Greenery along the path will feature mainly plants that grow naturally in Manhattan — it’s hard to call anything in the concrete jungle “native” — but they’ll be interspersed with other flora so that something will be in bloom during the whole growing season.

At one point, the trail will ascend above the rail line into the canopy of sumac trees. In the shade cast by the overhead walkway will go plants that grow naturally in the shade of the City’s skyscrapers. The extension will also feature its own version of Central Park’s Ramble, a stretch of dense trees and shrubs called the Chelsea Thicket. (I foresee lots of native Chelsea wildlife activity behind these trees in that other great New York tradition.)

Also forthcoming are a lounging lawn, a sitting area framed with an empty billboard frame and a 30th Street entrance.

Cue “I love New York” music.


Sometimes Things Get Crazy…But in a Good Way May 21, 2010

I woke up Monday morning, sweaty, tangled in my sheets, the sun pounding my face. I rolled over, cracked my eyes open, and tried to reach my curtains without actually leaving my bed, in the process knocking a silver tray of pens and a stack of unread books (I’ll get to them, I swear) all over the floor and almost ripping down the curtain. I finally succeeded in blocking the sun and I rolled back over to sleep.

“Mew.” A paw sank into my side. I shifted, trying to dislodge it. I heard a pile of clothes go sliding off the end of the bed and onto the floor.

“Mrow.” Now I had two paws in my side, bearing the weight of a chubby tabby. I groaned. “Matteo, you fat slut, get off of me,” I said, swatting at him ineffectually. Cat hair flew into my nostrils. I snorted and then started swatting at my own face.

“MROOOOOWWWW.” Now it was Luca, scooting under the bed and complaining about something. “MEOWWWWWW.”

“What do you want?” I growled. “I don’t feed you. Go bother Vicki.”


I sighed. “Alright you two.” I rolled out of bed and looked at my cell phone. Only 10 more minutes until my alarm for work would go off anyway. I took a fast minute to make the bed and then picked my way around my personal detritus to the corner to step on the scale. First I had to shove the clothing vomit from my hamper out of the way. Oh, and accidentally step on the pointy ends of some heels. THEN, after I cussed up a storm, I stepped on the scale. The two cats watched me from their perch on the bed, with bored, judgmental eyes.

“Sh**…..” I said to them, looking from the number on the scale to the cats. “Well, it’s no wonder after this weekend.”

It was a weekend full of wine, sushi, big breakfasts, cuban food, beer, ice cream sandwiches, lamb, chocolate mousse and chocolate truffles, more wine, cocktails, more sushi, more chocolate and not a lick of exercise. Unless you count walking.

After spending only one hour in my apartment all weekend, my life would seem to be in shambles. I knew there was a pile of week-old dishes waiting for me in the sink, and the floor was unvacuumed. I hate that. You know, when you are walking around barefoot and you pick stuff up on the bottom of your feet? Ew. Gives me the willies.

Oh, but the weekend was worth this huge mess! Not every single thing I did is worthy of a detailed description,  so I’ll just give you the highlights.

Meet Mike. He’s the hot new guy I’ve been seeing for the past new weeks, and I’m just a little bit smitten. He lives in Brooklyn, which is both awesome and annoying. Awesome, because you might have noticed I LOVE Brooklyn. Annoying, because he lives a full hour away from me on the train. I couldn’t live any farther away unless I moved to the Bronx. That’s OK though. Mike is a great tour guide, especially of Prospect Park and the up-and-coming Ditmas park. What it means, though, is that when I go to see him, it’s a commitment. So what did I do? I basically just spent the whole weekend, save Sunday, in Brooklyn. Natch.

Saturday, after a homemade breakfast of turkey bacon, eggs, and a fruit salad macerated in orange juice and vodka (My idea. He didn’t even notice me casually filch the vodka from the top of the fridge and pour it into the bowl.) Mike and I emerged into a perfect day. I mean, it was gorgeous. High of 74, sunny, with a slight breeze.

We decided to go to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, something I’ve wanted to do for a while. But let me cut in here and talk a little about what a great thing it is to have so many green spaces in New York. Friday, as I left work, I was looking at my cellphone, not really paying attention, when I was stopped dead in my tracks. I smelled a garden. Not only the smell of flowers, but the smell of loamy earth and grass and that clean-air smell you just can’t get by spraying Febreeze around the apartment. I looked up from my iPhone and found myself next to a community garden. I must have looked like Ralphie in front of the Red Rider BB Gun Christmas display, with my face pressed against the fence bars, looking at a bench surrounded by flowering plants. I wanted to plunk my butt right down on that bench and just hang out. But I had to tear myself away. I was supposed to meet Mike and I was late. Such is the curse of the New Yorker.

As I told Mike on our amble through the Garden, that you don’t realize how foul NYC air is until you walk past a garden, step into a flower shop, or get deep inside Central park. I used to take the smell of a garden for granted. Not anymore. Nature has proven therapeutic properties, so I’m grateful that NYC takes the cultivation of flowers and public spaces so seriously. Without Riverside, and Central, and Prospect, and all the other parks around the five boroughs, I might just go insane.

So back to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. It’s famous for its cherry trees with their gorgeous blossoms, which had just fell out of season when we went, unfortunately, and its rose garden. I restrained myself, fearing looking like an idiot and boring Mike, but I still regret not putting my nose in every single rose I saw. They smelled delicious, with names like Queen Mary 2, Alberic Barbier, and Abbaye de Cluny.  Anyway, I can’t really adequately describe what a wonderful place the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is, so I’ve not only thrown in some pictures, I’ve quickly cut together a video for you. I hope you it makes you happy while you are stuck inside a cubicle on a rainy day.

After the gardens, Mike and I walked past the huge fountain at Grand Army Plaza fountain, where an Asian bride posed for pictures in her sparkly pink wedding dress, holding bedazzled pink flowers that I’m pretty sure were all fake. To each her own, I guess….

We had lunch at the Cubana Cafe, then a glass of wine at Total Wine Bar, then walked to a barbecue at a Mike’s friend, Rob’s, apartment.

When I think of barbecues, I think of big, shiny metal grills hung with fancy grilling tools, hamburgers and hot dogs, a backyard, kids running between all the grownups, plastic red cups, and then fireflies as the afternoon fades slowly into night. But instead I got a New York barbecue: a little grill with smoking chicken breasts sitting on the back patio overlooking a laundry mat, Shameless Ice Cream Sandwiches from Bierkraft and a small group of close friends. It’s all about the company, and Mike’s friends didn’t disappoint.

Forgive me if I don’t put in many pictures here of Mike’s friends. I’m wary to whip out my camera at every opportunity, because it can get a bit awkward you know?

So one of the things we talked about was bike culture in Brooklyn. Brooklyn, which likes to take every trend to its extreme, and then parody the extreme, naturally has some interesting bicycles running around. There’s the guy with the stilt bike – he attached an whole extra frame to his bike so he’s five feet above the ground. When he wants to stop, he has to find a fence on which to dismount. There’s the unicycle guy – one of Mike’s friends said that when a couple of kids started to make fun of him, he desperately yelled “But it’s good for your core!” Oh, and there’s the intrepid guy that walks his dog on a unicycle. Brave? Or Crazy?

What else can I say about our lovely, lazy Saturday? There wasn’t any crazy bars or parties, or shenanigans. It was just nice and relaxing, and just what I needed.

Sunday I got up early to go to the third installment of my cooking class. We basted lamb with vegetables, steamed mussels (so delicious, and not as scary/hard as you would think) and finished up with a light fluffy mousse augmented with amaretto. Oops, can’t forget the truffles. Man, they were rich. And good!

I met up with my friend Parks, who was in town for a few days for a wedding. Parks is a great guy – he went to Washington and Lee as well, though he graduated much earlier than I. We walked the Highline, drank some beers, and then took a nice afternoon nap in his cousin’s apartment. I never take daytime naps, but this one was lovely. The late afternoon sun was streaming through the windows, and though I’m not usually one for jazz, Parks’ iPod of jazz seemed to be the perfect compliment to my mood. Finally we roused ourselves back up to go to PDT for cocktails.

PDT (Please Don’t Tell) is the worst kept “secret” in New York. I’ve heard of bars that change their number every week, but PDT doesn’t go that far. They take reservations starting at 3, so just make sure to call right away. I mean, they are even on Google Maps, sooo….

Still, it’s an impressive place to take an out-of-towner. Parks and I walked into Crif’s on St. Mark’s, which is a hot dog stand. I told him to wait while I entered a phone booth on the left, picked up the phone and pressed the button. A voice answered, and after telling them my reservation, the door opened and a petite hostess waved us in. She seated us at a little table y the door, the same table I sat with my sister a few months back.

It’s a tiny bar, with taxidermy animals in bow ties perched on the wall. If you go to the bathroom, you can read all their rules, like “Treat others as you would like to be treated,” or “If you came here to hit on strangers, you’re in the wrong place.”

What I go for, though, is the cocktails. The cocktail menus are housed in fine leather folders, and each recipe goes on for several lines. Expect to find absinthe, exotic fruits and syrups, sherry, and essence of flowers. The drinks really are works of art.

Usually I sit at a table, but the first time I went I sat at the bar and I got to watch the bartender craft my White Birch Fizz. I was astounded at the level of care and the variety of tools used to make the delicious fizzy drink. Egg whites, an atomizer, and fine gin came together to make happiness in my mouth.

As Parks and I sat and talked, I had a good view of people coming and going out of the small room, like the leggy girls at the next table, and the investment banker-types in the back corner. It’s a good people-watching place.

Parks and I left, wandered down the street to get more sushi, and then dove into the leftover truffles back at his cousin’s place. Finally, at midnight, I decided it was time to go home. I was just barely tipsy when I threw all my clothes on the floor and fell into bed, and the next thing I knew, I woke up with the sun in my face….