Summer Film Series: Roosevelt Island

Hi guys!  Last night, I did the coolest thing.

My friend Leslee told me about The Skint mailing list about a year ago, which sends out a twice weekly email of all the free and cheap things going on around New York City.  Our weekend edition of the email mentioned that night’s free movies and locaions.

Last night, they were screening Disney/Pixar’s Brave at Southpoint Park on Roosevelt Island.  Roosevelt Island is a little sliver of land between Manhattan and Queens and I, not having much need to go there, had never ventured around this part of town.  But, throw in food, a bottle of wine, and a movie and I’m down for just about anything.

So, Leslee and I pick up our favorite go-to salad from this Greek deli in our ‘hood.  (It’s called Mama Gyro’s and it’s nothing to write home about.  If you’re here for three days, I wouldn’t waste one of my meals on this place, but if you live here and want a fresh salad with some greek chicken on top, by all means, this is the jam!)  Anywho, we pick up our salads, pack up a (couple) bottle(s) of wine and some blankets and head out to Roosevelt Island.  Once you get there, Southpoint Park is a quick 10 minute walk from the subway station.  This was quite a different scene from the HBO summer film series, where it was every man for themselves, mad dash to get a spot.  We were able to get a great seat in the middle of the lawn and spread out without any stress at all.

The beauty of Roosevelt Island is the view!  Sprawling behind the screen was that gorgeous NYC skyline that I love so much!

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I mean.

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I can’t.

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Isn’t she beautiful?!

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Pixar always does great movies and Brave was excellent!

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The best part, though, was the ride home.  Now, we took the subway to Roosevelt Island because, as far as I knew, that was the best way to get there.  Well, imagine my shock as we’re walking to the park and see these sky-train-gondola things flying through the air.

Photos of Roosevelt Island Aerial Tram, New York City
This photo of Roosevelt Island Aerial Tram is courtesy of TripAdvisor

My mind was blown.  I had to ride this thing!  I mean, for a reasonable fare, let’s not get crazy.  I wasn’t paying any more than my $2.25 subway fare…  My jaw hit the floor again when we realized that that is exactly what it cost!  You’re telling me that I rode the hot, stuffy, stinky subway when I could’ve rode this thing?!  This was probably the coolest thing ever!  If you haven’t done this yet, it’s definitely worth the trek out to Roosevelt Island, just to get some stunning views of NYC!  (These are iPhone photos, guys, don’t get too excited!)

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We had such a fun night doing something new in this great city!

We’re going to the Hamptons. Welcome to the Hamptons

I think Brian already mentioned it, but we lead a small group at our church for married couples.  This season brought us our first engaged couple, the lovely Ashley Kersh and her beau, Tony Romano.  Side note: Ashley is an Ahhh-maz-ing fine jewelry designer!  Do yourself a favor and go here: www.ashleykersh.com.  Any guys in the reading audience?  This is what your sweetheart wants… literally, anything from this website.  You can’t go wrong.  You’re welcome.

As I was saying, Ashley and Tony are in our small group and a couple of weekends ago, very graciously opened their Hamptons home to us and another couple of friends of ours, Cameron and Leslee, for a weekend getaway.  I couldn’t believe it!  It was something Brian and I have had on our bucket list of things to do!  I felt like I had finally arrived.  We were going to THE Hamptons!  One little hiccup… Brian was going to be out of town.  But, do you think I let that slow me down?  Nope, I gladly accepted the offer as the official fifth wheel.  I have no shame.

Friday arrived and we were to catch the 4:07pm train from Penn Station to Southampton.  Oh wait, another hiccup… I have a job.  But, the Lord knew I needed to go to the Hamptons and I conveniently had a doctor’s appointment scheduled that afternoon that I had already asked off of work for.  (I really did have an appointment, everything came back normal, negative, not pregnant, etc., etc.  Thank you for asking)  So, I arrived at Penn Station, bought the tickets, and met Cameron and Leslee there.

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I also picked up a beer.  With a straw, as you do.

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As I’m waiting for Cam and Les, I notice tons of people gathering around the departures board.  As soon as they show our track number, I realize why.  It’s a mad dash to get a coveted seat on the train.  You don’t want to be standing for 2 hours!  Or, maybe you do, no judgment.  We may have been on the next to last train car, but we got seats and we got them across the aisle from each other.  It was a major win!  And so began our 2 hour trek to Southampton.

Friday night we stayed at the house, took a dip in the hot tub (Yep, I said hot tub), and discussed plans for the next day.

I was totally amped for this little getaway!  I desperately missed the beach and needed a little sunshine.  I was so pale, I don’t even think my home state of Florida would claim me, at this point.  As luck would have it, we woke up to a pretty dreary Saturday.  A little rain, a lot of fog, and just overcast in general.  But we didn’t let that slow us down.  A little coffee was in order.  Leslee and I woke up before everyone else, so we hopped on a bike and headed down to Main Street for our caffeine fix.  We ended up at The Golden Pear.

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A cute little eatery, specializing in breakfast.  Jackpot!  It was definitely the place to see, and be seen.  This place was packed!  Patrons, for the most part, were either decked out in workout gear, so you knew they had already been to their AM yoga sesh, or dressed in full Hamptons gear.  White capris, cardigan tied around the neck, and they had their full-size poodle with them.  And then, there was me and Leslee, who did not work out that morning, nor did we bring our cardis to wrap around our shoulders.  The breakfast was delish, though, and the coffee did not disappoint.  Ashley and Tony rode up and joined us, and eventually, Cameron made his way down as well.  Since the weather wasn’t going to allow a beach day, we strolled around town and took a look at all of the shops and sidewalk sales going on.  Loved this entryway to Ralph Lauren.

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Then, we took it easy by the pool at the house, just in case it rained.  And it did.  Before dinner, we decided to bike down and take a walk on the beach.  The houses along the beach are incredible.

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And the beach was beautiful, despite the weather.  I felt like a pirate ship was going to emerge from the fog at any moment.

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After our walk on the beach, we came back to the house and the girls and I started experimenting with our cocktail making skills.  We created a fabulous concoction and named it the 28 Old Town, in honor of it’s birthplace.  Fresh muddled watermelon, basil, vodka, splash of soda, twist of lime.  Delicious.  Then, we played the most hilarious game: Cards Against Humanity.  At one point, I was crying from laughing so hard and I could not recover.  I can’t tell you the reason why it was so funny, because it is highly offensive and inappropriate.  If you’ve played this game, you understand.

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The next day was GORGEOUS!  Hallelujah!  Finally, our beach day was going to happen!  We thought about going to Montauk for church.  Our church does a pop-up service in Montauk through the summer – if you’re in the area, you should check it out!  More info here.  Like I said, we thought about going, but in the Hamptons, getting around isn’t cheap if you don’t have a car, and Montauk isn’t exactly within biking distance.  So, we opted out of church and went to the beach instead.  Because Saturday was so overcast, we felt like God would understand. 🙂

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After a beautiful day on the beach, we made the trip back to Manhattan around 5pm, just in time to gear up for the coming work week.  Now, I totally understand why NYers do this – summer in the Hamptons.  It was so nice to get away from the City.  You don’t even realize how fast you’re going until you take a step back.  The train was a bit quieter on the way back – everyone sleeping off the weekend.  I had such a wonderful time and could not thank Ashley and Tony enough for inviting us.  I see you, Southampton!  Next year, the Buonassissi’s are coming for you!

New York City Public Library

One of my friends, Beth MacLane, who has given us a ton of local NYC ideas in the past – whether it’s been places to eat, things to do or places to go – has always been on point.  So when she said she always tries to stop in at the New York City Public Library whenever she’s in town, I knew we probably needed to check it out.  She said it’s so peaceful and something you can’t experience anywhere else.

The initial doubts were there for me…I mean, the library?  Really?  A “must go to” spot?  I had been to the Costa Mesa, CA branch and trust me; you wouldn’t want to experience that one. I’m kinda kidding.  Anyway, we had a Saturday free (rare for both Tara and I) so we decided to take full advantage of it and make our way to midtown and check out the main branch.

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A few fun facts:
*It opened in 1895
*It’s the 2nd largest library in the US (3rd in the world) behind only the Library of Congress
*It houses 53 million items (45 million research items and 8 million branch items)
*While this is the main branch, there are 87 branches in all
*It’s independently managed as a non-profit corporation with both private and public financing

This place is massive – 3 levels to be exact.  When I walked in, the first thing I noticed was the ceiling and architecture.  It’s pretty incredible.  It reminds me of my trip to Europe and just feeling like you’re back in time with some of the structures.  The first level has mainly exhibit items about the library history.
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The 2nd level has a few reading rooms and a few exhibit literature items like this first edition Reader’s Digest.  The reading rooms are decorated with amazing paintings.

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The 3rd level houses all the books and more reading rooms.  I was surprised that they had all the tables updated with power supplies as well as laptops for check-out (as long as used in the library).  Technically, you weren’t supposed to take pictures in these rooms but you know…I went stealth / ninja mode and took some images…all in the name of blogging.
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We wanted to get a library card but you had to have certain documentation showing that you lived there.  Tara had that documentation on her so she got a card. I, of course, did not and will have to wait to get mine the next time we go back. Tara actually got the card, in part, because she wanted to check-out a book that she’d had her eye on but didn’t want to pay $12 to buy it on Amazon.  Come to find out, this is 1 of 4 NON-LENDING branches where you can check it out but you have to read it in the library.

Later, we found out that if you have a kindle, you can get it electronically and check it out that way for 30 days.  To give you an idea of how many people use this library, all electronic copies of the book she wanted were checked out and she was in the “600 range” of people on the waiting list.

All in all, it’s a great visit!  I can see why Beth goes there often.  Oh and once again, it’s free!

Manhattanhenge

New York City has some pretty magical things that happen on any given day. But there are two times a year when The City really shows off!

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Manhattanhenge.

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It occurs when the setting sun aligns perfectly with the Manhattan street grid, creating the most spectacular glow of light across the buildings, illuminating both the north and south sides of every cross street.

For the best views, it’s recommended to go as far east as possible on 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd and 57th Streets. These streets have the clearest view across the avenues to New Jersey. This year, it happened on May 28th and July 13th.

So, on May 28th, close to sunset, Brian and I trucked east on 14th Street to position ourselves for the best possible view. We get to 2nd Avenue and there’s some trees really shading and blocking the view.

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At the last minute, we decide to take a gamble and try 23rd Street. Now, we’re running. It only happens twice a year and we are going to be out of town for the second one! We are hoofing it! Me, with my huge camera in one hand, phone and keys in the other, dodging everything from taxis to tourists; it’s really a sight to see.

We make it to 23rd and the view is SO MUCH better! I’m so glad we made the move. I’m also stoked to see we are not the only crazy people holding up traffic to take pictures in the middle of the street!

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Pretty amazing.

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Next year, I would love to go further uptown. The light bouncing off the high rises would really be beautiful.

Important to note: If the weather doesn’t cooperate (i.e. overcast or rainy), you won’t be able to see anything but clouds.  Such was the case for July 13th.  Our friends were in town staying at our place  while we were both gone.  Brian and I told them they HAD to make it down there and see it.  It had been overcast all day and this is the picture they sent us.  So sad.
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HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival

Tara and I lead what our church calls a “community group” (other churches call it a connect group, small group, life group, etc.).  Our particular group is for married couples. As we were going into the Summer season, we changed the format from the Spring semester to a more social and less study feel, taking advantage of all the things NY has to offer in the Summer.

We designated one night for going to the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, which is absolutely free!
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It runs from the middle of June through the middle of August and they show some classic films.  Each week it’s a different film and you can see all the options on their website.  We picked “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory” because it’s a classic and frankly seemed easier to follow then most of the others.

Here’s how it works.  The green lawn is closed to the public all day until 5PM.  Unlike Shakespeare in the Park, there are NO tickets needed.  Instead, you line up on the gravel surrounding the lawn at 4PM.  Then at 5, they open the lawn and it’s a free for all to make your claim to the best view of the big screen.  People bring blankets and chairs to mark their territory.

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Once again, because of my flexible work schedule, I was designated as our group representative to grab our seats.  Surprisingly enough, with my one blanket, I got us perfect seats.  All that half marathon training paid off in the mad dash.  So cool having the cityscape as your backdrop behind the screen.

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Tara HBO Film Festival spot

The only problem is that you then have to WAIT until 8:30PMish for the sun to go down and the film to begin.  People bring books, mess around on their phones, eat dinner, etc. until the film starts.  In our case, Tara met me there after she got off work and we watched flying cameras and played a few rounds of thumb war (which I dominated..duh).

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Our group mates made their way to finding us before the film started and everything worked out perfectly.  Here are a couple tips:

#1: Try to secure a space as close to the middle of the lawn as possible.  For one, all the speakers are located in the middle so if you’re on the sides, you catch the echo and it’s hard to hear clearly.  Also, if anybody leaves, you’re less likely to have people walk over you being in the middle.  If you’re on the edges, you’re subjected to it all movie long (much like having an aisle seat on a plane).

#2: Bring 2 blankets if securing for a large group.  Looking back, I wish I would’ve brought a second one.  They don’t allow “sheets” so don’t bring those.

#3: Bring an umbrella!  Summer showers in NY are subject to happen at any time and there is no covering on the lawn.  In fact, a slight drizzle DID come down for about 2-3 minutes before the movie started. The nice thing is it cleared out a few folks who did not bring umbrellas, which allowed us to spread out a bit.

#4: You can bring your own food and drink but they do inspect bags again, so don’t bring professional cameras.  There are a couple food places outside of the park that are good and relatively cheap.

#5: Use the restrooms before the film.  It is pitch black once the films start and trying to make your way to a restroom at that point is tough.

They showed a preview and an old school Bugs Bunny cartoon before the film started.

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I forgot how good the original Willy Wonka is.  Gene Wilder is the man!  So glad we picked that one.
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We caught this on the perfect night.  The humidity was extremely low, because of the rain, the temperature actually dropped a bit and we actually had a slight breeze.  All in all, this was a total win!  Highly recommend this in your NYC summer plans!

Shakespeare In The Park

Since it’s been forever and a day since we last blogged, it’s time to take my friend, Lisa, up on her blog challenge and give it a shot of a full week of blogging to get some 2013 posting momentum started (better late than never).  So why so long between posts?  It’s a sad excuse but we’ve been extremely busy.  I’ve been gigging a lot recently (most of which has been out of town) and Tara has been working a ton holding things steady in NY while I’ve been on the road.

For this week of posting, I thought we’d highlight some NYC bucket list items we’ve checked off our list over the summer.  We’ve tried to make a point of doing a lot of local things this year and surprisingly enough, we’ve made a ton happen.  Living in this City sure does have its advantages and the summer gives you so many things to do.

Shakespeare in the Park was something my wife read about in an e-mail from the skint last year. So when we recently watched a DVR’d episode of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Jessie Tyler Ferguson was a guest and he was plugging his involvement with Shakespeare in the Park and Tara remembered reading about it.

So what exactly is it? Throughout the summer, the public theatre sponsors free showings of various Shakespeare pieces with a few Holywood headliners lending their talents to them.  This has been happening for the last 60 years.  The first play (of 6) this summer was The Comedy of Errors and it starred Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Hamish Linklater. We talked our friends, Cameron and Leslee, into going with us.

This is how it works with tickets.  Every show day, they release tickets at noon at the ticket booth in Central Park.  They only allow 2 tickets per person and seating preferences is a crapshoot…first come, first serve.  With my more flexible work schedule, I got there at 11AM and held a spot for us then Cameron came down and met me at noon and we scored 4 tickets.  The line moved quickly and wasn’t too bad at all.
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You return at 8PM when the amphitheater opens and you can bring your own food/drink or buy it there.  With Leslee, we knew she would have plenty of snacks so we took care of bringing the coffee mugs 😉

The amphitheater was very intimate and there really wasn’t a bad seat in the house.  The set design was incredible, the lighting/production was top notch, the central park backdrop was surreal and the weather was phenomenal.
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I think our only regret was not having read up on the play ahead of time…talking in old English and in this particular play, some of the actors playing multiple roles, made it tough to follow initially.  Don’t even try to bring professional cameras in there as they don’t allow any photos to be taken and they were stopping people at the door.  Of course, being the sneaky photographer I am, I took a few stealth photos.

Added bonus was that one of our friends from Liberty Church, Adrienne Weidert, was dancing in the show.  Dancing in a Shakespeare play?  Yes!  They used it in such a creative way.
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If you get a chance to come to the City in the summer and you appreciate Shakespeare (or just enjoy live theatre in general), put this on your to do list. It is such a great experience.  And the price (free) makes it all the more worth it!
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