A Tiny Taste of the Silk Road

September 29, 2006

The Silk Road is an ancient trading route that stretches over high mountains and arid deserts to connect Europe with China. Just the words Silk Road conjure up visions of fearless nomads, dauntless explorers, isolated villagers, exotic cities, extraordinary landscapes and rare treasures.

It is still possible to follow the storied course; you can fly to Rome and go East, or start in Beijing and head westward. But if a long, expensive journey isn’t possible, you can find a small sample some of the sights and sounds found along Silk Road without leaving the city.

Tonight’s journey began in a curtained niche at Khyber Pass, an Afghani restaurant on St. Mark’s Place, where diners sat on tapestry-covered cushions. While sitars, ouds and drums played, the low table was covered with fragrant, steaming platters of mantoo (steamed dumplings filled with minced beef, onions, herbs and spices, served with a yogurt and meat sauce), fesenjan (boneless pieces of chicken cooked with walnuts and pomegranate juice), boulanee kadu (turnovers filled with pumpkin and served with a creamy yogurt dip), quorma sabzee (spicy spinach, coriander, scallions, lamb and rice), a basket of dense, golden Afghani bread and cups of Turkish coffee and shir-chay (a traditional pink tea brewed with mik, sugar, cardamom and rose petals).

Dinner was followed by a short walk to Chelsea. There the Rubin Museum of Art, dedicated to the art of the Himalayas and surrounding regions, offered another step along the Silk Road: an exhibition entitled I See No Stranger: Early Sikh Art and Devotion. The show presents the history, art and culture of the Sikh religion, which was founded in northern India in the 15th century.

The museum, located in a 70,000 square-foot building that once housed a chic department store, opened less than two years ago. It includes a steel and marble staircase that spirals dramatically through the seven-story gallery tower and, surprisingly, a dimly-lit cocktail lounge on the ground floor.

Admission to the Rubin Museum of Art, normally $10, is free Friday evenings from 7:00 – 10:00 p.m. Dinner at Khyber Pass is about $20 per person. Budget tours of the Silk Road start at about $1,700, not including air fare from New York to China.

I See No Stranger Posted by Picasa

  • Rubin Museum of Art
  • New York Times: Wonders of Sikh Spirituality
  • AM New York: The World of the Sikh
  • Khyber Pass Restaurant
  • Menu Pages: Khyber Pass Restaurant
  • Tours of The Silk Road
  • The Silk Road Project

  • The 32nd Annual Atlantic Antic

    September 17, 2006

    Another September, another Sunday devoted to the best, most diverse, most lively street fair in New York City. While many festivals and fairs have become homogenized and interchangeable, the Atlantic Antic retains the unique character of the street on which it is held.

    Atlanic Avenue is a broad boulevard that cuts a swath across Brooklyn, from the waterfront to the Queens border, and spans a wide variety of cultural, religious and economic groups. Despite any traditional constraints, during the Antic the peoples of dozens of regions and nations come together to have a good time.

    Fairgoers easily break into dance as soul, rockabilly, hip-hop, jazz, country, middle eastern, mariachi, rock & roll, folk, salsa, jug band and gospel music fills the air from the street and from half-a-dozen stages.

    The Avenue’s best taverns and restaurants set up seating areas and serve their food and drink outdoors, but experienced fairgoers head straight for the homemade goodies as the local church, mosque, temple and synagogue ladies present their specialties: bacalaitos, pastelles, empanadillas, rugelach, hammentaschen, baklava, coconut cake, blueberry cobbler, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, fried chicken, sweet potato pie, iced tea and strawberry lemonade.

    From morning to night thousands of Brooklynites (both old and new) come out to stroll, sit, shop, eat, drink, mingle, explore and learn a little more about their city, their heritage and each other.

    NYPD officer on Atlantic Avenue Posted by Picasa

    Man chewing a piece of straw Posted by Picasa

    Woman with tattooed feet and shins Posted by Picasa

    Amar the belly dancer Posted by Picasa

    Omar the belly dancer Posted by Picasa

    Girl with Miss New York sash Posted by Picasa

    DJ with a turntable Posted by Picasa

    Man with a baby on his shoulders Posted by Picasa

    Girl in a Yes, I Have An Attitude t-shirt Posted by Picasa

    Man making balloon sculptures Posted by Picasa

    Girl in cheeseburger hat Posted by Picasa

    Man with a Mexican noisemaker Posted by Picasa

    Boy in a white t-shirt Posted by Picasa

    Singer with a red belt Posted by Picasa

    Man with red bike Posted by Picasa

    Woman in a straw hat Posted by Picasa

    Couple in Belarussian dress Posted by Picasa

    Man wearing a Jimmy Buffett t-shirt Posted by Picasa

    Woman in a Belleza Latina sash Posted by Picasa

    Man in a NYU Greeks t-shirt Posted by Picasa

    Woman in a red cap Posted by Picasa

    Kids at a Pentecostal church Posted by Picasa

    Man with a bicycle Posted by Picasa

    Hip-hoppers in plaid shirts Posted by Picasa

  • Atlantic Antic 2006
  • Atlantic Antic 2005
  • Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association
  • The Arab-American Family Support Center
  • Kane Street Synagogue
  • Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club
  • Brooklyn Greenway Initiative
  • Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development
  • Willowtown Association
  • Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment
  • Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts
  • Brooklyn Public Library
  • Brooklyn Community Access Television
  • Magnetic Field
  • Waterfront Ale House
  • Floyd
  • Last Exit
  • Brawta Carribean Cafe
  • La Mancha
  • The Soul Spot
  • The Chip Shop
  • Musician’s General Store
  • Urban Organic
  • Hope Vet
  • Providence Day Spa
  • Sahadi’s

  • The First-Ever Brooklyn Book Festival

    September 16, 2006

    For more than two decades Manhattan hosted New York is Book Country which grew to become one of the nation’s largest, busiest and most beloved book fairs. Every autumn, starting in 1979, a long section of Fifth Avenue was closed to traffic while hundreds of thousands of readers spent the day strolling among exhibit booths, buying books, and attending panel discussions and author signings.

    In 2004, New York is Book Country was moved from midtown Manhattan to Greenwich Village, the date shifted from September to October and the program expanded from one day to two. The following year the book fair disappeared entirely. Devoted readers waited for the posters and announcements that would proclaim the location and featured speakers for 2005, but they never arrived. The nonprofit organization that ran the event shut down. That, it seemed, was that. Booklovers mourned.

    Today New Yorkers rejoiced at the introduction of new literary fair: The first annual Brooklyn Book Festival.

    Held at Borough Hall, the fair featured approximately 100 exhibitors, including two outdoor stages, a children’s pavilion and booths for bookstores, publishers and literary journals and organizations set up alongside the Greenmarket. Inside, the rotunda was dedicated to author signings while panel discussions and readings were held in the Courtroom and Community Room. Admission to all events was free on a first-come-first-served basis.

    Most of the participating authors and poets have strong connections to Brooklyn, either by birth, residence or subject matter. Among those appearing at the Festival: Pete Hamill, Jonathan Ames, Colson Whitehead, Paula Fox, Jonathan Lethem, Jhumpa Lahiri, Philip Lopate, Rick Moody, Jennifer Egan, Kate Pollit, Edmund White, Gary Shteyngart, Jonathan Ames, Simcha Weinstein, Nelly Rosario, Ann Brashares, Colin Channer, Phil Levine, Nicole Krauss and Myla Goldberg.

    Of course, the Brooklyn Festival was a bit different than the version that used to be held in Manhattan. There was less emphasis on bestsellers and antiquarian books and more on new and emerging talents. The crowd was smaller and more diverse, the presses and magazines represented tended to be more experimental, and everyone and everything (with the exception of a few painfully out of place, hipper-than-thou poseurs) was friendly, open and accessible.

    Small presses and literary journals  Posted by Picasa

    Listening to readings on the steps of Borough Hall  Posted by Picasa

    Brooklyn-based publisher Akashic Books  Posted by Picasa

    Bank Street Bookstore  Posted by Picasa

    Authors Betsy and Ted Lewin reading in the children’s pavilion  Posted by Picasa

    Authors Jonathan Ames and Gary Shteyngart  Posted by Picasa

    Author Ben Greenman  Posted by Picasa

    Author Colson Whitehead  Posted by Picasa

    Author Rabbi Simcha Weinstein  Posted by Picasa

    Graphic novelist Matt Madden  Posted by Picasa

    Sorting through stacks of books  Posted by Picasa

    “Artist” Tillington Cheese & her biographer, F. Bowman Hastie III  Posted by Picasa

    The Target dog at the children’s pavilion  Posted by Picasa

  • New York Public Library: New York is Book Country 2004
  • Brooklyn Book Festival
  • Press Release: Brooklyn Book Festival
  • NY Times:A Literary Voice With a Pronounced Brooklyn Accent
  • Publishers Weekly: A Book Fair Sprouts in Brooklyn
  • New York Writers Coalition
  • Portrait of the Dog as a Young Artist by F. Bowman Hastie III
  • Ben Greenman
  • Jonathan Ames
  • Gary Shteyngart
  • Colson Whitehead
  • Rabbi Simcha Weinstein
  • Matt Madden
  • Betsy Lewin
  • Ted Lewin
  • Akashic Books
  • Bank Street Bookstore
  • Target

  • With Lights We Remember

    September 11, 2006

    Candles, bulbs and beams stretching up to the heavens mark the ways we remember with lights. In 24 hours, when the lights have been melted away, turned off and burned out, still we will remember.

    The Empire State Building crowned in red, white & blue  Posted by Picasa

    Memorial candles on the Brooklyn Promenade  Posted by Picasa

    Lower Manhattan from the Brooklyn Promenade  Posted by Picasa

    Under a Clear Blue Sky

    September 11, 2006

    It takes nearly four hours to read all the names one by one. Four hours in the bright sunlight, under a clear blue sky, as they are said in alphabetical order. Nearly 3,000 names — from Gordon Aamoth to Igor Zukelman — recited by voices that are firm with determination, shaking with fury, breaking into sobs.

    As the hours pass, the mourners make their way down the long, long ramp into the pit. They carry objects that symbolize those they lost: a photograph, a poem, a teddy bear, a sweatshirt, a mass card, a baseball pennant, a toy car.

    When they reach the bottom they gravitate to two shallow pools, temporarily erected with two-by-four planks, in the footprints of the missing towers. There, even those who have no graves to visit can drop flowers into the water, write messages on the raw wooden planks, pray, cry, salute, embrace and remember.

    You’re a grandfather now, Dad. Posted by Picasa

    I hope you made it into heaven Posted by Picasa

    Dear Aunt Margaret Posted by Picasa

    For all the souls of the 78th floor Posted by Picasa

    Hope you’re listening to a little James Taylor Posted by Picasa

    God Bless U All  Posted by Picasa

    PS The Mets are winning Posted by Picasa

    In 1st place Posted by Picasa

    I never forgot  Posted by Picasa

    Rest in peace Mommy Posted by Picasa

    Grandpa, you are our hero!  Posted by Picasa

    Golden angel Posted by Picasa

    General Lee  Posted by Picasa

    Blue rosary Posted by Picasa

    Wish you could play with us Posted by Picasa

  • CNN: A List of Names

  • Planting a Hope

    September 10, 2006

    He who plants a tree
    Plants a hope.
    ~Lucy Larcom

    On April 15, 1995, terrorists attacked the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The structure was destroyed and 168 people killed, many of them young children.

    Against all odds, an ancient elm tree growing near the building survived the blast. After the horror and wreckage was cleared away, fragile new growth emerged from its blackened, wounded branches. Those affected by the attack called it the Survivor Tree and it quickly became seen as a symbol of hope and resilience. Seeds from the tree were carefully gathered and planted; representatives from Oklahoma City brought one of the resulting trees to New York City.

    Today, speakers representing several faiths gathered near City Hall and described what the tree meant within their own traditions and beliefs. Then they — and survivors of the attacks on the Murrah Building and the World Trade Center — gently placed shovels full of earth around the young tree meant to symbolize healing and unity.

    The sapling from the Survivor Tree joins five trees, already moved to this spot, that lived through the attack on the World Trade Center. These six trees, survivors all, form a living memorial grove, a small pocket of faith and hope, at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge.

    Ven. C. Chen, American Buddhist Confederation Posted by Picasa

    Rev. Julie Taylor, Disaster Chaplaincy Services Posted by Picasa

    Rabinder Singh, United Sikhs Posted by Picasa

    Mohammad Ravzi, Council of Peoples Organization Posted by Picasa

    Rabbi Craig Miller, Jewish Community Relations Council Posted by Picasa

    Victoria Ramsey, Union Theological Seminary Posted by Picasa

    Antonio Mondesire, Awo Ifa Olo-Obatala Posted by Picasa

    The littlest tree planter Posted by Picasa

    Akiva & Co. playing Posted by Picasa

  • Oklahoma City National Memorial: Survivor Tree
  • WTC Survivors Network
  • American Buddhist Study Center
  • United Sikhs
  • Disaster Chaplaincy Services
  • Union Theological Seminary
  • Lucy Larcom

  • Eleven Tears

    September 9, 2006

    Eleven silver strands of light,
    Eleven facets of a gleaming heart,
    Eleven tears, forever falling, on
    Eleven names in a tranquil pool.

    While the government is still years away from constructing even the simplest memorial to the thousands who died on September 11, 2001, American Express has commissioned and constructed a work of art to honor the 11 AMEX employees killed in the terrorist attack.

    Entitled 11 Tears, it occupies a lobby corner of American Express’ corporate headquarters at the World Financial Center. The work was designed by landscape architect Ken Smith, a native of Iowa who now lives and works in lower Manhattan. It “unites sky and ground, heaven and earth” and incorporates natural elements: water, light, quartz crystal and black granite. At the center is a 600 pound tear-shaped piece of Brazilian quartz, which was carved to have 11 sides, one for each victim.

    The massive crystal is set into a stainless steel ring and suspended from the ceiling by 11 thin cables. Beneath the point of the upside-down tear is an 11 sided black granite pool; each side is inscribed with the name of an employee and a few words, selected by those who knew them best, to summarize the people they were.

    At random intervals, 11 drops of water fall from the ceiling into the pool, creating intersecting ripples, “symbolizing the connections among the close-knit group of colleagues and friends.” The fountain is surrounded by benches of matching black granite.

    Visitors sitting there and looking through the windows find themselves gazing directly at the site where the 11 died, working as American Express travel counselors on the 94th floor of One World Trade Center.

    Lisa Kearney-Griffin Posted by Picasa

    Bridget Esposito Posted by Picasa

    Benito Valentin Posted by Picasa

    Yvonne Bonomo Posted by Picasa

    Anne Talsky Ransom Posted by Picasa

    Lucia Crifasi Posted by Picasa

    Karen Renda Posted by Picasa

    Paul T. Zois Posted by Picasa

    Sigrid Wiswe Posted by Picasa

    Loretta Ann Vero Posted by Picasa

    Gennardy Boyarsky Posted by Picasa

    Out the window is the World Trade Center Posted by Picasa

    In Memoriam Posted by Picasa

    Architect Ken Smith Posted by Picasa

  • Iowa State University: Ken Smith
  • Lawrence Stoller CrystalWorks
  • New York Times: The Enduring Salute
  • JCK-Jewelers Circular Keystone: AMEX Remembers Eleven
  • American Express

  • Saying Goodbye to Summer at America’s Playground

    September 4, 2006

    Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is considered the unofficial last day of summer in the US. Summer holidays are over; beaches close to swimmers, kids go back to school, temperatures start to drop and days begin to grow shorter.

    Coney Island, once known as America’s Playground, is no longer the nation’s preeminent amusement park; that honor has gone to sanitized, homogenized, ultra-safe-and-predictible corporate theme parks such as Disneyworld and SeaWorld. It may longer attract visitors from all over the country but this lively, accessible and inexpensive stretch along the Atlantic Ocean remains the favorite of New York’s working families.

    In recent years this neigborhood has experienced a renassiance. A new baseball stadium, a revitalized New York Aquarium and a gorgeous new subway station have helped bring back the crowds. Kids flock to the hotdogs sizzling on Nathan’s grill, the rattling cars of the wooden roller coaster, the polished horses of the merry-go-round, the rolling waves, the cotton candy and stuffed animals, the seashells, scuttling crabs and polished glass. Grownups lose their pocket change to games of chance, suck down freshly-brewed beer and freshly-caught clams and spend a few bucks to savor the burlesque shows and sideshow freaks.

    It is hard to say goodbye to the pleasures of summer, but if it has to be done, a day on the beach and boardwalk at Coney Island is the perfect way to end the season.

    The Wonder Wheel  Posted by Picasa

    Trying to win a stuffed animal  Posted by Picasa

    After riding Top Spin  Posted by Picasa

    The Cyclone  Posted by Picasa

    Shoot the Freak  Posted by Picasa

    Barker at Freak Show  Posted by Picasa

    Shoot Em Win! Posted by Picasa

    Mermaid mural (behind a fence)  Posted by Picasa

    Gyro Corner Posted by Picasa

    Gregory & Paul’s Posted by Picasa

    Finding seashells  Posted by Picasa

    Burying Daddy in the sand  Posted by Picasa

    A sand castle  Posted by Picasa

    Tomorrow the clam will go to school Posted by Picasa

    The last salty smooch of the season  Posted by Picasa

  • The History of Labor Day
  • Coney Island USA
  • The American Experience: Coney Island
  • Coney Island History
  • Wikipedia: Coney Island
  • The Brooklyn Cyclones
  • New York Aquarium
  • Astroland
  • Nathan’s
  • America’s Playground Redevelopment Plan Unveiled

  • Running Amok! Playing Amok! Clowning Amok!

    September 4, 2006

    Singing, dancing and playing, a group of musicians stood on the boardwalk enticing passersby to a live free show. The band, part of Circus Amok, led the crowd down Brooklyn’s West 10th Street to watch Citizenship: An Immigrant Rights Fantasia in 10 Short Acts.

    Mixing acrobatics, juggling, twirling, clowning, jumping, dancing and general silliness with political messages, Cicus Amok has performed in New York City’s streets and parks since 1989.

    The current one-ring show, emceed by a glamorous bearded lady named Jennifer Miller, includes a man escaping from a wire coat hanger, clowns tumbling out of a firetruck to save a baby from a burning building, enormous puppets representing the heads of Latin American states, construction workers riding synchronized pogo stick “jackhammers”, a quartet of spinning tea cups, George Bush and a trio of dancing goats.

    Click the arrow above to view a video of Circus Amok

    The band attracts passersby Posted by Picasa

    The Ferocious Fernando number Posted by Picasa

    Heroic Heads of State Posted by Picasa

    The fire truck arrives Posted by Picasa

    Help, my house is on fire! Posted by Picasa

    Escaping from blue & yellow hanger Posted by Picasa

    Bush’s Nightmare Posted by Picasa

    Pas d’ Goats Posted by Picasa

    Performer pile up Posted by Picasa

    Master of ceremonies Jennifer Miller Posted by Picasa

  • You Tube: Circus Amok
  • Circus Amok
  • Time Out New York: Juggler Vein
  • Step Right Up! See the Bearded Person!

  • The Gardens of Carroll

    September 1, 2006

    Most of the brownstone row houses in Carroll Gardens were built in the late 1800s, shortly after the American Civil War. The oldest homes in this section of Brooklyn have large, deep front yards, allowing their residents to enjoy an aspect of outdoor living rare for New Yorkers — the ability to create distinctive stoopside gardens, many of them featuring statuary, arbors, grottoes, plaques and fountains.

    St. Maria Addolorata at Court & 4th Place  Posted by Picasa

    St. Joseph on 1st Place  Posted by Picasa

    The grass withers and the flower fades Posted by Picasa

    Fountain and pots of hostas Posted by Picasa

    St. Lucy in memory of Tuddy Balsamo  Posted by Picasa

    Back gate to Mazzone Hardware on Court St.  Posted by Picasa

    Garden diva hard at work  Posted by Picasa

    My secret garden: Don’t tell nobody!  Posted by Picasa

    Geese and ADT Security sign  Posted by Picasa

    Statue, hostas and coleus  Posted by Picasa

    With red rosary beads on 1st Place  Posted by Picasa

  • South Brooklyn Network: Carroll Gardens
  • New York Magazine: Neighborhood Profile
  • Brooklyn Now: BoCoCa Guide

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