Pocky at the Park (and a Giveaway!)

December 10, 2015

There it was, on West 40th Street, parked directly across from Bryant Park. A bright red panel truck painted with large graphic designs.

Passers-by were approaching the truck, reaching up to the folding window cut into its side, taking something from the hand that appeared, and walking away.

It was the Pocky truck.

Pocky is a little Japanese treat created by Ezaki Glico in 1966. Dubbed “the world’s first chocolate stick snack,” Pocky is a slender, crisp cooky (biscuit) stick with one end covered in a sweet coating. The name was inspired by the crunching noise made while eating a Pocky, described in Japan as “pokkin pokkin.”

The original Pocky was dipped in chocolate, but it now comes in a variety of flavors including strawberry, chocolate banana, cookies & cream, almond crush, and green tea. While only a handful of flavors are sold in the US, Pocky lovers in other countries have access to different shapes and sizes, limited editions, and seasonal flavors.

The Chinese enjoy peach flavored Pocky, and blueberry dipped Pocky is popular in Thailand, but the greatest variety is available in Pocky’s home country, where the slim snack has developed an almost cult-like following.

In fact, in Japan, November 11 is designated as Pocky Day because the date, 11.11, looks like four Pockys in a row. The date has been certified by the Japan Anniversary Association and is registered as an official national commemorative day. On the most recent Pocky Day, Pocky broke Twitter’s record for the most tweeted brand name in a 24-hour period, racking up 1,843,733 tweets.

So, what was that about a giveaway?

To spread the joy of Pocky, I will be giving a pack of the original chocolate dipped cooky sticks to a Blather From Brooklyn reader. For a chance to crunch into a Pocky, leave a comment on this post. Want a second entry? Comment on a different post. Third entry? Same deal.

The winner will be randomly selected and contacted via email (so please be sure to provide your email address). Sorry, US only, as there seem to be some bizarre rules regarding the mailing of food overseas. The deadline for all entries is Sunday, December 27, 11:59pm (Eastern Time). Good luck!

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Update: The giveaway is closed. Many thanks to all who participated; I enjoyed reading your comments. The winner is  Jerry Marquardt! Thanks again; I plan to hold another giveaway soon.

Bright Red Pocky Truck
A bright red truck

Getting Pocky
People were approaching the truck

Something being distributed
Something was being distributed

Pocky anyone
It was a truck filled with Pocky

Untitled The Pocky truck team

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More flavors available via Amazon.com (and in Japan)

Pocky Pack
Yes, I got a pack!


Pocky commercial

Pocky Christmas Concert
Pocky
Facebook: Pocky
Rocket News: Happy Pocky Day
Glico: Pocky Worldwide


Seeing the Pope in the Park

September 25, 2015

Long before the pope’s plane touched down at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Roman Catholic Church officials began meticulously planning every aspect of his two day trip to New York City. At the same time, law enforcement agencies—ranging from the local to federal levels—started coordinating what Police Commissioner Bill Bratton called the “largest security challenge ever.”

Pope Francis arrived late on the afternoon of the 24th and was immediately whisked to St. Patrick’s Cathedral where he led the evening prayer. The next morning he plunged into a whirlwind of activities around Manhattan, going to the East Side to address the United Nations General Assembly, heading downtown to hold a multi-religious service at 9/11 the Memorial and Museum, driving uptown for a visit with students at Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem, traveling in a motorcade through Central Park and then down to a Mass at Madison Square Garden.

Admission to all of the events involving the pope was restricted; at no point could someone simply wander over to a school or church to catch a glimpse of the pontiff. Tickets to the religious services were distributed by politicians and priests, while city officials conducted a free lottery for those wishing to view the pope’s procession through Central Park.

On September 10, 40,000 area residents were notified by phone and email that they’d each won a pair of tickets to see the motorcade. The announcements were accompanied by detailed instructions, warnings and restrictions, including a lengthy list of prohibited items:

  • Alcohol
  • Aerosol containers
  • Amplified sound devices
  • Animals other than service and guide animals
  • Balloons
  • Bicycles, scooters and skateboards
  • Blankets
  • Backpacks
  • Chairs
  • Coolers
  • Drones and other unmanned aircraft systems
  • Flags
  • Glass, thermal and metal containers
  • Large bags
  • Laser pointers
  • Mace and pepper spray
  • Musical instruments
  • Posters
  • Selfie sticks
  • Signs and supports for signs and placards
  • Unlicensed vending
  • Umbrellas 
  • Weapons, explosives and ammunition

Those selected in the giveaway were assigned to color-coded park entrances (red, yellow, green) and told to arrive, bearing their tickets, before 3:00 p.m. to ensure that they’d pass through security in time to see the pontiff drive by at 5:30.

The southern end of the Park was enclosed behind high fences while security gates and tents were erected near Columbus Circle. The streets surrounding Central Park were closed to traffic. Thousands of law enforcement officers, both uniformed and in plain clothes, were deployed throughout the area. Although the gates weren’t scheduled to open until 11:00, anxious ticket holders began arriving at the barricades before dawn and patiently waited for hours until they were able to move forward.

The crowd slowly passed through airport-style security checks conducted by Transportation Security Administration agents including X-rays, inspection of electronic devices and sniffs from dogs trained to detect explosives.  Upon entering the Park, the faithful sprinted towards the metal barriers lining the roadways.

People jockeyed for position, trying to get as close to the front as possible, then settled in for the day. At one point, someone in the crowd cried, “Look up!” All heads turned to see that, directly above the path that the pope would take, a tiny rainbow had appeared above.

As observers remarked on the fact that the day had been clear and almost cloudless (“Imagine, a rainbow without rain!”), the colored strip grew wider, longer and bent into an upside down arc. “It looks like a smile,” some said. Others thought that it was a sacred sign, a blessing, a miracle. After a few minutes, the rainbow faded away.

Finally, a rumble was heard in the distance and a fleet of slowly moving vehicles, all of them flashing lights, appeared. A convoy of motorcycles, armored trucks, NYPD vans, limousines rolled past as excitement in the crowd surged. An open bed truck, its rear filled with photographers and camera operators clamoring for shots, was directly in front of the sight all were awaiting: the famed white Popemobile.

Inside stood the pontiff, smiling and waving his hand to the faithful. The vehicle drove slowly through the Park without pausing. Pope Francis and his guards moved up the roadway and drove out of sight, headed south to Madison Square Garden, where he celebrated Mass and delivered a homily that included references to urban life.

Living in a big city is not always easy. A multicultural context presents many complex challenges. Yet big cities are a reminder of the hidden riches present in our world: in the diversity of its cultures, traditions and historical experiences. In the variety of its languages, costumes and cuisine. Big cities bring together all the different ways which we human beings have discovered to express the meaning of life, wherever we may be.

But big cities also conceal the faces of all those people who don’t appear to belong, or are second-class citizens. In big cities, beneath the roar of traffic, beneath “the rapid pace of change”, so many faces pass by unnoticed because they have no “right” to be there, no right to be part of the city. They are the foreigners, the children who go without schooling, those deprived of medical insurance, the homeless, the forgotten elderly.

These people stand at the edges of our great avenues, in our streets, in deafening anonymity. They become part of an urban landscape which is more and more taken for granted, in our eyes, and especially in our hearts.

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Mural overlooking Penn Station

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Sign at Pizza Parlor

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Banner on deli

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Pope marshmallows

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Selling vatican flags

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Vendor with football pope t-shirts

Pope Ticket
Ticket to the green zone

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Posted instructions for ticket holders

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Warning sign on the fence

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Reminder about banned items

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Notice about Secret Service dogs

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First arrivals at the barriers

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TSA checkpoint tents

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Waiting for security inspection

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Standing against the barricades

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Officer reminding the crowd to be patient

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A tiny spectator

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Visitors displaying flags and banners

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A tiny strip of rainbow appeared directly overhead

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The rainbow grew into an upside-down arc bisected by a strip of cloud

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He arrived, waved, and drove on

New York City: Pope Francis Visits New York City
Archdiocese of Washington: Walk With FrancisPope Francis Visit
NBC 4: Officials: Upcoming Papal Visit to NYC ‘Largest Security Challenge Ever’ for NYPD
NY Times: Pope Francis, ‘People’s Pope,’ Is Security Teams’ Headache
NY Times: Pope Francis in America
NY Times: After Lottery in New York to See Pope Francis, Some Winners Scalp Tickets Online
Catholic to the Max: Madison Square Garden Mass
National September 11 Memorial & Museum
Madison Square Garden
Our Lady Queen of Angels School


Selling the Bear Necessities

August 17, 2015

PinkyOtto, a women’s clothing store with several locations in New York City, is advertised as “a fun-filled, charming place for stylish girls.”

Their whimsical window displays include mannequins topped with teddy bear heads. These fashion figures are in the Flatiron District store at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street.

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PinkyOtto
Teddy Bears


‘Tis Tartan Day

April 11, 2015

As long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours, that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

On April 6, 1320, Bernard of Kilwinning wrote a letter to the Pope, proclaiming Scotland as an independent, sovereign state. Bernard was then the head of Arbroath Abbey, a monastery along the coast of the North Sea, and the document, written in Latin and sealed by eight earls and about forty barons, became known as the Declaration of Arbroath.

More than six hundred and fifty years later, a group of New Yorkers chose the date of Bernard’s missive to celebrate their Scottish heritage. Their enthusiasm was contagious, and by 1998 the U.S. Senate recognized Scottish-Americans’ contributions to the nation by declaring April 6 as National Tartan Day.

The Scots-centric festivities have grown and become a yearly event, dubbed Tartan Week, which honors all things related to the land once known as Caledonia. The highlight of the week is the loud and colorful Tartan Day Parade.

In the first New York Tartan Day Parade, a small, loosely organized group marched across the Upper East Side, from the British Consulate to the United Nations, while clad in kilts and playing bagpipes.

Today the 17th annual New York Tartan Day Parade was held on Sixth Avenue. It featured thousands of bagpipers, marchers, dancers, dogs and representatives of organizations from all over the world who strode up the street, delighting all the Scots and “temporary, honorary Scots” who lined the route in Midtown Manhattan.

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No Sixth Avenue bus today

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Marchers taking a break

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Shamrock tattoo

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Ready to march

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Marching and waving

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Bearskin hat

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Her first time marching

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Temporary, honorary Scot

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Carrying a staff

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Waving the flag

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Pipers chatting before the parade

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Bagpipers practicing

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Tartan Day Parade bus

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Marcher meets officer

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The Westie and Scottie Pack

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Clan MacLare

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Waving flags

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Girls leading the pipers

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Marching and piping

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The Grand Marshal isn’t as interesting as his phone

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Playing at 46th Street

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West Point Cadet Corps

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Seasoned marchers

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Pipers and drummers

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Best seat in town

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Greenwich Pipe Band

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Clan Chattan Confederation, Clan McBean, Clan Shaw

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Happy marchers

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Clan Kincaid

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Marching trio

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Scotland’s most famous citizen

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It’s Nessie!

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Clan Munro Association, Thailand

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If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap

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American Scottish Foundation

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Folk dancers

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NYC Police Band

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University of Strathcylde

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Marchers laughing

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Tri-County Pipe Band

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Dog in a kilt

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Atlantic Watch Pipes & Drums

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Group wearing thistle t-shirts

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Sauntering on the sidewalk after the parade

The National Archives of Scotland: The Declaration of Arbroath
Historic Environment Scotland: Arbroath Abbey
Scotland’s National Tourist Board: Arbroath Abbey
Undiscovered Scotland Bernard of Kilwining
New York Tartan Day Parade
NYC Tartan Week
St. Andrew’s Society of the State of New York
New York Caledonian Club
American-Scottish Foundation


SWAN Day Screening

March 28, 2015

And in remembering a road sign
I am remembering a girl when I was young
And we said, “These songs are true
These days are ours
These tears are free”

— Paul Simon, Obvious Child

This is the eighth anniversary of Support Women Artists Now Day (SWAN Day). Created in 2007 by film critic Jan Lisa Huttner and arts administrator Martha Richards, SWAN Day “helps people imagine what the world might be like if women’s art and perspectives were fully integrated into all of our lives.”

While the official date of SWAN Day is March 28, activities celebrating women in the arts take place throughout this month and the next, following the founders’ statement that, “The spirit of SWAN events is far more important than the exact dates.”

In New York, several groups, including New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT), the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the School of Visual Arts Film department, the Women in Arts and Media Coalition, and HerFlix, organized a special SWAN Day movie event: a special screening of Obvious Child, a critically acclaimed romantic comedy that was produced, directed, and written by women.

The film was followed by a reception and a Q&A session with director Gillian Robespierre and Caren Spruch, a member of the Board of Directors of NYWIFT.

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SWAN Day sticker

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SVA Theater

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Introducing the screening

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Q&A with Gillian Robespierre and Caren Spruch

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Gillian Robespierre

WomenARTS; SWAN Day
SWAN Day 2015 Calendar
SWAN Day Screening and Reception
Obvious Child
Wikipedia: Gillian Robespierre
The Dissolve: Gillian Robespierre and Jenny Slate on Finding Obvious Child’s Voice
Paul Simon: Obvious Child
The Straight Dope: Paul Simon’s The Obvious Child –What Does it Mean?
New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT)
Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA)
School of Visual Arts Film Department
Women in Arts and Media Coalition
HerFlix


Upside Down Hello

February 28, 2015

While strolling along East 23rd Street in Manhattan I notice a man coming towards me. He is walking briskly, purposefully, while wordlessly carrying a child upside down.

I look into the child’s eyes and call out, “Hello!”

“Hello!,” comes the reply.

We draw closer. We are nearly abreast.

“Upside down hello!,” I say.

“Upside down hello,” responds the child.

And then we begin to pass each other.

“Upside down goodbye!,” I exclaim.

“Upside down goodbye!,” the child echoes, as he and his silent beast of burden head west and I continue to walk towards the east.

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Marathon Meal

October 31, 2014

I get all the exercise I need by jumping to conclusions, climbing the walls, bending over backwards, sticking my neck out, pulling out all the stops, and pushing my luck.

It’s an old joke. And while I don’t avoid all forms of exercise, I am not, by any means, a marathon runner. So when a stranger offered me a VIP ticket to the New York City Marathon Eve Dinner, I didn’t know what to expect.

The dinner, held in an enormous white tent erected inside Central Park, was open only to ticket holders. My VIP ticket meant that I was able to walk past the long line of runners waiting in the chilly night air.

As it turns out, the Marathon Eve Dinner is a beloved tradition of the race that was first organized in 1970 by Fred Lebow and Vincent Chiappetta, co-presidents of the New York Road Runners Club. That year, one hundred and twenty-seven men ran around Central Park and 55 crossed the finish line.

Today, New York’s is the largest marathon in the world, with over 50,000 participants from around the world. The current course goes through all five of the city’s boroughs, where an estimated two million spectators line the streets, highways, and bridges that are closed for the race.

Because authorities say that a large intake of carbohydrate rich foods before a marathon can increase stamina and enhance performance, the night’s menu featured salad, two pasta dishes, and beer—all with unlimited refills.

While they listened to speeches, watched presentations and ate and drank, the polyglot crowd laughed, exchanged tips, recounted past races, and formed friendships. And then, quickly, the beer and spaghetti-filled runners withdrew to their hotel rooms, eager to get some sleep and make it to the starting line early in the morning.

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VIP ticket

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Inside the tent

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Distributing dishes and utensils

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Aproned server

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Filling dishes

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Making their way to tables

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Diners in action

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The meal

New York Marathon
TCS New York City Marathon Eve Dinner
Runner’s World: How to Carb-Load for Marathon Week


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