Tag Archives: Brooklyn

Nightly Terrors & Treats

 

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Halloween treats came early last night at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn. Raised on all things spooky, when I learned the New York Chapter of Horror Writers Association would be dropping in to host an evening of Night Terrors, I rang my brother who responded with “we’re there!”

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A chilly day outside the museum

Founded in 2014, the Morbid Anatomy Museum is a non-profit with a dark dance card of events and lecture series that are often sold out.   The idea for this popular space grew out of the Morbid Anatomy Library, a cabinet of curiosities created by Joanna Ebenstein’s blog. Situated near the murky waters of the Gowanus Canal, this somewhat desolate location beyond the strollers of Park Slope is an inviting spot for anyone looking to convene with other like-minded souls.

Last night six authors shared their tales, including Tonya Hurley, a New York Times best-selling author and the museum’s founding board member. Her popular novel series Ghostgirl is being adapted for the big screen.   In between readings, prizes were distributed to the audience member who had the best scream, or belted out the best zombie rendition of Happy Birthday, or who could name the actor who played Frankenstein in the 1931 film, for instance.

But it was the presence of the last writer, Jack Ketchum, which cast the biggest treat.   Ketchum, who’s been crowned “the scariest guy in America” by Stephen King, held us spellbound as he read his short story Bully. A four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association, last year he was honored with the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award…so you get we’re I’m coming from.

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Jack Ketchum

With the, dare I say, holiday season approaching the museum is a unique place to buy unusual gifts. It’s worth visiting to check out their offerings of t-shirts, classic and contemporary horror literature, Victorian jewelry, housewares, and one-of-a-kind animal taxidermy. While I find that last item kind of creepy, this type of collectible sells out quick.

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Kittens Wedding ceremony.

Some upcoming events to get your ghoul on include Psychedelics of Death, Minder Reader: An Evening With Vinny DePonto, and Bram Stoker: Something in the Blood (which I’ll be at for sure).   Their current taxidermy exhibit, Art, Science & Mortality Featuring Walter Potter’s Kittens’ Wedding, closes on November 6. If you find the idea of dead kittens from the 1800s all dressed up in frills and ready to party off-putting, you might rest easy knowing it’s owned by, and on loan, from Sabrina Hansen, the founder of Aslan Cats, a sanctuary in the Catskills.

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It’s New Year’s Eve—Have A Ball On The Boardwalk.

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In case you haven’t heard, the #1 destination in the US for 2015 is Queens, New York. So say the folks over at Lonely Planet. Good for that borough.  Go explore it!

Nothing against Queens but after years of supersaturation in Brooklyn, I feel like my hometown could use a bit of rest. We were the center-of-the-universe before everyone came late to our party and now this borough is an actual brand.

If you had any doubts about that, you might want to turn your eyes towards Coney Island tonight where the first-ever New Year’s Eve Parachute Jump ball drop will go down. A side of fireworks will accompany this inaugural event and festivities also include sideshow performers, a rocking DJ (no Taylor Swift here!), and free hot chocolate. It’s meant to be frigid tonight but all of these things will warm you up fast.

“This New Year’s Eve, you won’t want to miss our beachfront boardwalk blast in Brooklyn!” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “Now that we have our very own seaside ball drop, why be squished like a sardine in Times Square when you can rejoice like royalty in the County of Kings!”

Where are you ringing in the New Year? If you happen to be in New York City, hop a train to Brooklyn (it’s a pretty fast ride) and be part of history.

Wherever you may be, have a very Happy New Year. All the best to you in 2015!!

Happy 2014! Dive Right In, The Water’s Fine.

Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge, New Year's Day 2014, Coney Island, Brooklyn, winter swimming,

I’m certified! Post swim at Coney Island.

Happy New Year! I hope it’s off to an incredible start.

After writing my last post of 2013, I thought—what the hell, why watch from the sidelines of life? So I threw myself into the frigid waters of Coney Island with the Polar Bear Club and the rest of the freaky folks who greet the New Year boldly with a running leap.

Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge 2014, New Year's Day 2014, Coney Island, Brooklyn

Brrrrr.

And you know what? It wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was downright exhilarating and it’s going down in my book as the best New Year’s Day ever. After a shot of Jameson at Ruby’s, I met a bunch of folks on the boardwalk and we warmed our bones by dancing the afternoon away.

Boardwalk at Stillwell Ave, Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge 2014, New Year's Day 2014, Coney Island

Metrocard Man had unlimited dance moves.

So I started a new tradition and have set my sights on living bravely in 2014. I’m adding new travel destinations and experiences to my list and I hope you are too.  But what was really great is that in taking part in the Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge, I raised money for charity and started the year off doing two great things.

Do you have any New Year traditions or travel any place special? If so, I’d love to hear about it.

So Long 2013—Taking The Polar Bear Plunge.

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As you prepare to celebrate New Year’s Eve, I hope you can look back and see only good things behind you. And while the anticipation around this evening builds, I’ve come to relish New Year’s Day much more than the night before.

The reasons are obvious, of course—a new day, a new year. But the tradition of standing along the shoreline while close to 3,000 people hightail it towards the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean like they were being chased by the hounds of hell is a great metaphor for life. It’s resolution time. None of this sticking your toe in to test the icy waters of change—live bravely and dive right in.

New Year's Baby.

New Year’s Baby.

This year marks the 113th anniversary of the annual Coney Island Polar Bear Club Plunge and it’s a great reason not to sleep in.  For starters, it happens at the reasonable hour of 1:00pm, which gives you enough cushion to make yourself presentable or clear out a fuzzy head. Secondly, it gives you time to either knock up a killer breakfast or pop over to a local diner and start the year off right by treating your self to a good meal. But most importantly, it gets you outside in the salt sea air and deposits you in an energy field of kookiness and courage, with some folks dressed as mermaids, penguins, polar bears or big babies in diapers. Coney’s always let its freak flag fly and with temps forecast for the mid-20s on New Year’s Day, it seems fitting that this annual madness takes place there.

Polar bear plunges happen in Canada, the UK, Netherlands, and in a few more cities across the U.S. but I’m kind of proud of the one we’ve got here in Brooklyn. For starters, with almost every subway line throughout the boroughs barreling directly to Coney, or connecting to a train that does, it’s a destination that you can get to lickety-split. Once you arrive, just head towards the shoreline. You can’t miss it, or the massive crowd all bundled up and bracing themselves for what most folks consider sheer lunacy. People come from around the globe to take part in or witness the plunge.

Hubba-hubba -- The Father of Physical Culture.

Hubba-hubba — The Father of Physical Culture.

The club was founded in 1903 by Bernarr Macfadden, also knows as “The Father of Physical Culture.” He believed a dip in the ocean during the winter could be a boon to one’s stamina, virility and immunity. Considered a bit of a kook himself, he was the kind of person who made things happen. He constantly reinvented himself and in the process became a millionaire. He was also a writer and when he couldn’t get published he started a publishing company. The guy went on to become the most successful publisher of magazines in history. He also inspired people around the world to live healthy. It’s among that kind of spirit, and with that type of energy, that makes it a great way to start the year.

Standing there, you’ll also have a massive smile plastered on your face while you probably think, “better those nuts than me” and hear the screams from what’s on the other end of that running leap. But I don’t think they’re so nuts. Most of us have to be pushed to do something bold or to change. Being around loads of people who brave the freezing water and take that icy plunge inspires me to live on the edge of my comfort zone and stokes the philosophy to “just do it.”

If you’re anywhere throughout the five boroughs on New Year’s Day, wrap up, pack a thermos of hot cocoa or a flash of whiskey and consider coming out to Coney Island. It’s one big love fest and after the plunge the party carries on with the rhythmic beats of a DJ on the boardwalk at Stillwell. And don’t forget your camera.

If you’re going, let me know and maybe I’ll see you there.

Wherever you are in the world, I wish you a safe and Happy New Year!

Autumn In New York, We’ve Got You Covered.

A bird’s eye view of the Cloisters Museum & Garden in New York City.

October’s the time of year when New York’s Hudson Valley is teeming with weekend visitors who leave their urban boundaries to witness one of nature’s greatest displays, fall foliage. For anyone who can enjoy this scenery on off hours, good for them. For others, it’s often a painstaking experience as they sit in traffic along the highways and byways that lead them to this glory.

For those of us who can’t get away, or for anyone visiting the New York metro area, we’ve got some pretty nice displays of our own on tap. Some natural, some manmade, but all of which are pleasing to the senses. So if you’re local and feeling at all guilty about not heading north, don’t feel so bad. There’s plenty of good stuff right here.

Anyone bent on appreciating the jewel tones of fall need only to spend some time strolling through Central Park or Inwood Park in Manhattan, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, or Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx to get their fix. There are also loads of smaller parks throughout the boroughs with showy displays where you can walk, contemplate life and check out the local neighborhoods.

One of them is Fort Tryon Park where the Cloisters Museum and Gardens is one of the city’s most unique treasures. Spending the day among its medieval art, architecture and gardens is like being transported to another place and time. A branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, they offer events, talks, tours and exhibits that cater to all age groups. Sights & Scents at the Cloisters is a specially designed gallery program for visitors with dementia and their care partners. A current exhibit, The Forty Part Motet is a sound installation set in the Fuentiduena Chapel where visitors can experience an 11-minute immersion of Renaissance music. It closes on December 8th but I’m heading there tomorrow and can’t wait to experience it.

Fuentiduena Chapel houses the Forty Part Motet.

The Fuentiduena Chapel houses the Forty Part Motet.

The Raven, The Bells, Annabel Lee. These haunting pieces of literature make for great reading, but why not enjoy them by surrounding yourself with the works of the macabre master himself? Edgar Allen Poe: Terror of the Soul is the Morgan Library & Museum’s newest exhibit and explores the writer’s fiction, poetry and influence on his contemporaries. Located on Madison Avenue and 36th Street, you can easily pair a visit to the museum, followed by a walk down to Madison Square Park at 23rd street where you’ll find a delicious assortment of culinary pop-up food vendors that await your selection.

A tech talk at See/Change at the South Street Seaport.

A tech talk at See/Change at the South Street Seaport.

With the first anniversary of Hurricane Sandy fast approaching, there’s been a lot happening on a local level in and around New York City. I don’t typically spend time around the South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan but I recently passed through it. The last time I was in that area, all the restaurants, shops and businesses were shuttered because of storm damage. It was basically a ghost town. No more.

As of May, a group of like-minded folks from different walks of urban life saw the opportunity within a bad situation to improve the area for its residents, businesses, tourists, and the city. The result is See/Change and it has created a rebirth in this area and it’s a nice thing to behold. The October Fall Fest of events features music, a farmer’s market and pumpkin carving demos. Landbrot is partnering with the Seaport to celebrate Oktoberfest with their beer, brats and pretzels…yum. It’s the perfect way to spend a sunny weekend in the city. You’re out, you’re about, and even better you’re near the water.

So those are just a few things off the top of my head that are within an easy walk, train or bus ride throughout the boroughs.  If you can get away great but if not, we’ve got you covered.

Morning Notes.

“Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold.
  Her early leaf’s a flower; 
but only so an hour.
  Then leaf subsides to leaf.
 So Eden sank to grief, 
so dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.” – Robert Frostsunsetbagpiper
Biking around Prospect Park in Brooklyn this morning, I heard the unmistakable drone of bagpipes floating across the road. It was around 6:30am and the air was already thick with humidity.   Eighty degrees and climbing, a hazy sun was quickly disappearing into a swirling blanket of thunderclouds.

Prospect Park.

Prospect Park.

The bagpipe is an instrument that some people love or that drives others nuts. I slowed the bike and swung back around to listen. Beyond a cluster of bushes and trees, someone was playing a bagpipe, and its sound was brilliant. Turning into a little lane that curved towards a small brick building, a balding man with a shock of white hair stood playing. Are you just practicing or getting ready to blow for a funeral, I asked. With lots of cops, fireman, and Irish-Americans in Brooklyn, it’s common for pipers to play at these services. “No,” he said in a thick British accent, “my son’s getting married this weekend and he’s asked me to play at his wedding.”  He was from Hammersmith, outside of London, and was enjoying the opportunity to practice in this secluded spot.  He asked if I’d take some photos of him playing, and handed me his camera. A few minutes later, a jogger came huffing and puffing into the little haven and asked, “Are you playing Dvořák’s New World Symphony?” The piper nodded and smiled.  “I’m from the Ukraine, I recognized it immediately…thank you,” he said and jogged away with a big smile.  I couldn’t have named that tune, but for a moment it felt like I was in a small park in Europe. There was some kind of strange magic in the air.

It’s very beautiful, I said, and asked him how he was enjoying Brooklyn.  “It’s wonderful, a great melting pot,” he said. I waved goodbye, telling him there’s no place like Brooklyn. He picked up his bagpipe and belted out the opening chords to Yankee Doodle Dandy and shouted, “I’ll be playing that when the bride walks down the aisle.”  Then I rode away with a smile, with those pipes humming in the air, back into my homeland.

Dedicated to Beth (Hendry) Annunziata…the pipes, the pipes are calling.