Monday, March 24, 2014

Get More NYC | How I Met Your Mother

Just like the modern classics of "Friends" and "Seinfeld" before it, "How I Met Your Mother" was filmed on a fake New York City set in LA. Even though the show is not filmed on our streets, New York still remains a main character along with our favorite human characters of Marshall, Robin, and Barney. Let's face it, Lily and Ted, you're kind of annoying sometimes. (Although, side note, actor Josh Radnor who plays Ted is *awesome* - read about when I saw him speak at the Apple Store here.)

As the series closes, I'd like to feature my favorite HIMYM episodes starring the great city of New York.

"First Time in New York"
Season 2, Episode 12

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In this episode, Robin's younger sister comes to visit her and the gang goes to the Empire State Building, a place where Ted says everyone should go. Ted starts announcing his "Empire State Building Fun Facts" while the friends are waiting in line, including that when construction began in the 1930s, the framework rose at a rate of 4.5 stories a week. My favorite line in this episode is one of Ted's, when Robin's sister asks if he has another "Empire State Building Fun Fact" for her: "Psh...I wouldn't bore you with the 700,000,000 man hours it took to build this 102-story testament to human will."

"Lucky Penny"
Season 2, Episode 15

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Barney claims that you don't need to actually train for the New York City Marathon and decides just one day before the race to run in an injured Marshall's place. The episode features the group cheering for the runners on 1st Avenue, just as I've done in the past. Marshall tells Barney that all marathon runners get to ride the subway for free that day and Barney decides to "slum it" and try out the 6 train. Little does he realize his legs aren't going to work so well after that 26.2 mile run. Hilarity ensues when he can't get up from his seat - even for a pregnant woman, a senior citizen, and a boy with crutches. It's also in this episode where Ted misses a job opportunity in Chicago, but then states at the end that his destiny was to stay in New York.

"We're Not From Here"
Season 3, Episode 2

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Barney and Ted pretend to be tourists from out-of-town in order to pick up women. They ask two ladies which street the Statue of Liberty is on and are informed that it's actually on its own island. Barney and Ted say it would be so great to be shown around by real New Yorkers and they agree to meet the women the following night. Future Ted's voiceover says, "Kids, when you visit New York, there's countless fun things to see and do, and yet, Colleen and Lindsay took us to Tater-Skinz," a fake restaurant chain that actually sounds pretty awesome to me. Current Ted says to Barney, "Somehow, we managed to find the two lamest New Yorkers of all time." Later on in the episode, it's revealed that the ladies are not from New York, but are actually from New Jersey, which Ted becomes livid about - "This is the greatest city in the world and you have to earn the right to call yourself a New Yorker!"

"The Best Burger in New York"
Season 4, Episode 2

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Marshall starts talking about how no burger will ever taste as good as the burger he had when he first moved to New York. As this was before he knew how to find his way around, he never came across this burger again. A similar situation happened to me when I walked into Marie's Crisis this summer and realized I had been several years before. I'd wanted to remember it so I could return but just forgot over time. Another bar patron on the show suggests that Marshall may be talking about the burger at Corner Bistro, a place that does exist in real life and does have a damn good burger. Marshall angrily says, "Oh here's another tip, the best coffee in New York is at Starbucks!" The crew (along with Regis Philbin) sets out on a mission to find this burger and eventually succeed after traveling around Manhattan for hours. My favorite line in this episode is one of Marshall's from eight years prior, "I dunno, does stuff stay open in New York past 9:30?"

"Subway Wars"
Season 6, Episode 4

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This episode is definitely a favorite as the group lists out how to tell when you're a real New Yorker. You have to have (1) Seen Woody Allen (2) Stolen a cab from someone who needs it more than you do (3) Cried on the subway and not cared a bit (4) Killed a live cockroach with your bare hands. I've only done two of these, you can probably guess which ones. The friends get into a discussion about what's faster, the subway, the bus, a cab, or running (please note Citibike was not a thing yet) and race each other downtown, each running into Maury Povich along the way. Best line in this episode is Ted's - "If you can't spot the crazy person on the bus, it's you."

Thank you, HIMYM, for a wonderful run, and for featuring my favorite city of all time in so many legen...wait for it...dary episodes.


Monday, March 17, 2014

New Orleans - What I Miss Most

By now you may be tired of me still writing about my trip to New Orleans earlier this year, but I really felt one with the city. I've already written about all the amazing sandwiches we ate, the incredible bars we spent time in, and the fantastic cemetery tour we went on. And I enjoyed even more of the city than what I've written about - the beignets, the blue skies, the bands in the streets, and having MK all to myself. But what I've missed the absolute most is chargrilled (also called charbroiled) oysters. Two months later, I cannot stop thinking about them.

Everyone knows about raw oysters, which I do like with cocktail sauce and I'd had fried oysters at Pig & Khao recently, which were not very flavorful. But a chargrilled oyster is just about the best thing you will ever eat. In fact, while MK and I tried hard to eat as many different foods as possible, we actually ordered chargrilled oysters three times. These oysters were cooked in flames on the grill, served in the shell, and smothered in mixes of butter, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, garlic, and other spices. 

At this point, I can't even remember which oysters were our favorite because each of them was so incredibly delicious. We loved these oysters and our lives in those moments at Deanie's, Acme Oyster House (NOLA's oldest oyster house), and Felix's. I'm left with three options on how to get my taste buds on these treats without flying to NOLA again - it would be dangerous for me to go back to the Big Easy, because it's very likely I would not return to the Big Apple.

(1) I've searched for chargrilled and charbroiled oysters in NYC a few times but I keep finding restaurants that have "charbroiled chicken" and "raw oysters" instead of the menu item I most desire. But have no fear, I've finally discovered one place in all the boroughs which may satisfy my craving: Sugar Freak in Astoria. I've yet to convince MK to take me there, but I do not plan on giving up anytime soon.

(2) I've found some recipes online to recreate this meal in my own home, but my reputation in the kitchen means that I would try with all my heart, mess up somehow, and get mad at myself. I don't exactly have a grill either, so I'd have to adapt  the instructions which could be a literal recipe for disaster. Although, MK and I did make a valiant effort recreating the New Orleans famous Muffeletta sandwich, so maybe there is hope in this option.

(3) There is a Charbroiled Oyster kit available for sale on the Drago's website, a place we didn't make it to on our trip. This would at least avoid some possible missteps, but if this also requires a grill, it may not work in my apartment. The kit is $70 which is a definite downside *but* it comes with Mardi Gras beads for "a touch of New Orleans' flare" which is a definite upside. Here's the link in case you want to surprise me, wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Bonus points if you do the cooking.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Oh Yeah, I'll Tell You Something

The Beatles played a large role in my upbringing, as I'm sure they did for most of you reading this right now. When I stayed home sick from school, I would beg my dad to let me watch "A Hard Day's Night" or "Help!" over my other options of Laurel & Hardy and The Three Stooges. I locked myself in my room and listened to "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" on loop for years. I adopted "Let It Be" as my mantra. I even did an oil painting of them to update Picasso's "Three Musicians" for a Spanish project one year in school:

Because of my childhood, it was only natural that I would be dying to see "Ladies and Gentlemen...The Beatles!" - a special exhibit at the New York Public Library of Performing Arts. This exhibit celebrates The Beatles' 50th anniversary of their famous visit to New York in 1964 when they performed on the Ed Sullivan Show and captured our hearts. The exhibit is open until May 10th and free to all visitors. When my parents came up to visit this weekend, we went up to Lincoln Center with my frousin Christie to go check it out.

If you are a Beatles fan, this is a can't-miss stop in NYC. There is a ridiculous amount of memorabilia and history to be found here - the band's signature instruments, biography sheets for each band member that were sent to radio stations, setlists, contracts for concert venues, newspapers, outfits worn, tickets for concerts which ranged from $4 to $6 - the list goes on. I got a kick out of seeing that sometimes when answering fan mail, a band member would take a pile and respond to letters, sign them, and then forge the other band members' signatures. I found the display of a typical fan's bedroom in the 1960s quite interesting, as well as some of the creepy Beatles products that were sold to America's youth.

The exhibit also touches upon some of musicians who influenced The Beatles and has guitars on display from Buddy Holly and Elvis. There are interactive displays of instruments used back in the day when skiffle music was popular, so Christie, Dad, and I decided to jam a little bit.

I learned a lot in this exhibit that I hadn't known before about the Fab Four. For example, there was a Detroit movement to "Stamp Out the Beatles." The band members got their hands on a few sweatshirts that advertised the movement and wore them in public as a joke.

Something I'd had no idea about was that The Beatles wanted to release "Yesterday and Today" with a quite gruesome cover featuring bloody baby dolls. This was understandably controversial so they were forced to release their album with a more wholesome album cover instead. My dad said that this was the reason they later released "The White Album" with no cover at all, in protest.

At the end of the exhibit, there is the opportunity to record your own experience being a Beatles fan. You can also watch videos of how other musicians were influenced by the Beatles. But the coolest part was that they have a setup to receive a drum lesson from Ringo Starr himself (via video of course). The only problem was that one of the drumsticks was missing so I definitely didn't sound as awesome as I should have. 

We did think it was a little odd that the exhibit covered only a small period of time of Beatles' history. Of course, if it had gotten into everything that came after - Yoko, John's death, "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time" - you'd need "Eight Days a Week" to see it all.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

How am I Gonna be an Optimist about This?

Pompeii is having a moment. There was of course, my family's visit to Pompeii, Italy this past summer. There is the amazing Bastille song that I haven't been able to get out of my head for months (not a complaint). There is a Pompeii movie in theaters now and one available on NetFlix. And, there is an exhibit at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia with relics on loan from the Naples National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy.

When MK and I were at the Franklin Institute in the fall, it was originally an idea to check out "One Day in Pompeii" but we couldn't fit it in with our other plans and Cheesesteak taste test. Looking back, I'm glad we didn't go. It was right to wait and see the exhibition with the people with whom I had experienced the real Pompeii. So a few weeks ago, on our "sisters weekend" in Philly, Katie, Jess, and I invited our parents to come up to see "One Day in Pompeii" with us.

The exhibit was awesome and definitely worth seeing, especially if you've experienced the real Pompeii. There are some copies of statues and mosaics in the city of Pompeii, but most of the original archaeological finds are in the museum in Naples. You can't exactly leave this stuff out in the open.

"One Day in Pompeii" gave a great overview of what life was like before Mount Vesuvius erupted and changed things forever for the city of Pompeii. On display were amazing mosaics, art work, furniture, and more. Videos in various rooms also added color with animated renderings of Pompeii homes, marketplaces, and an explanation of why they built with arches.

I was once again impressed by how Pompeii life was a lot like ours is. Their kitchen tools look like items in my kitchen, although the homeowners in Pompeii had their meals made by slaves and not by Chipotle. Their jewelry could still be wearable today, for any women who, unlike me, are not afraid of statement necklaces. Even their medical tools look similar to what you would see on a dentist's tray today.

After many rooms of artifacts, you walk into a room that shows what Mount Vesuvius and the city of Pompeii looked like the hours before, during, and after the eruption. The floor even simulates tremors. The wall then opens up into the final room of the exhibit, with casts of bodies found trying to protect themselves from the ash. 

Just like the body casts in the city of Pompeii, this really brought it back from "this was an amazing civilization" to "this was a horrible tragedy." It makes you wonder, "How am I gonna be an optimist about this" for the rest of the day? But all you have to do is think about how we are now celebrating the Pompeii people as an incredible civilization. I'm sure Pompeii's former residents would be happy to see how much their city was able to teach us about Roman life at that time. And they definitely would be impressed by the city's fame right now in music and movies.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

This Land was Made for We and Me

One of my favorite things about New York is that you can find art anywhere. A few years back, I wrote about an awesome installation in Madison Square Park: Jim Campbell's "Scattered Lights." Although I try to make an effort to walk through this park every weekend, I haven't given a ton of thought to the different art installations there recently. But yesterday, as I sat on a bench attempting to study for my Series 79, I got a little distracted by people walking up to three water towers in the grass behind me - it's not hard to distract me.

The most recent installation of Madison Square Art is Brooklyn artist Iván Navarro's "This Land is Your Land." When you stand under each water tower and look up, you see a neon reflection that appears to go on forever into the sky. One water tower has the word "Me," also reflected as "We." The next has "Bed" which I couldn't identify as that word right away and had to look at the sign for. The last has an endless ladder which is a nice reminder that the sky's the limit.

"This Land is Your Land" is on display until April 13. Navarro's inspiration for this installation was his experience with immigration growing up. I'm not going to pretend to understand how the water towers and the words play into that (especially "Bed"), but the illusions in the water towers are still worth checking out for a few minutes, especially if you're walking through the park anyway. 

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