Category Archives: My neighborhood

Columbia & Jazz

I’ll have to write more later about the nearly three weeks I have spent as ICU senior (or “junior fellow”) in the surgical and cardiothoracic ICUs.  The days are packed with intensity, from unstable patients, to hectic call nights, to diagnostic dilemmas, to withdrawals of care.  Add to that the month of August (only one month into the medical new year) with its fresh interns, and my job becomes that much more difficult.

After nearly no sleep on Tuesday night but finishing my shift with a relatively stable 21-bed cardiothoracic intensive care unit, I crashed at home well into the afternoon.  I ventured out only late in the afternoon to get some tile sealant and sticky mouse traps.

I will spare you, gentle reader, the details of catching yet another mouse, and there’s really no need to mention how a friend told me about the humane execution method of drowning the struggling rodent in a bucket of soapy water.  No, the average Mulberry Street vistor will have no interest in knowing that the soap does wonders to the surfactant lining those rapid little lungs, but she, in her sensibilities, and if pressed, would admit this does seem more humane than throwing the critter away live, whiskers tucked back, the thin rope of a tail flicking yesterday’s can of tomato sauce.

Instead, I thought, how much better to share the pictures I took as I sauntered around Columbia’s magnificent urban campus in the slant of the late afternoon sunshine, and later, as I lounged with other Harlem residents at the foot of Grant’s Tomb as we listened to live jazz in the perfect summer evening.

The lower plaza, with Butler Library to the right.

Alma Mater“, her back toward the grand Low Library.  The university’s architect worried initially about what kind of statue would be placed in front of his masterpiece.  Upon the unveiling, however, he was pleased.

A corner of the upper plaza, with 116th Street separating the upper from the lower plazas.  One of the most incredible urban spaces in New York City.  I like the patches of green beside the fountain.

The grass had an otherwordly green hue in the sunlight.

The picture also seems effective in black and white.

Approaching Grant’s Tomb.  The week before, I was lured over from nearby Sakura Park by a jazzy version of “Over the Rainbow.”  I am a sucker for “Over the Rainbow.”  Versions that grace my iPod include those by Katharine McPhee, Ray Charles, Iz, and Eva Cassiday.  The instrumental version was really cool.

My Harlem neighbors enjoying the jazz.



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Two years ago when I was getting ready to move from Texas, I anticipated that the most difficult thing would be not the cold NYC winters; the brusque interactions with strangers; the small, mice-infested apartments; or leaving family and friends behind.  No, the greatest tribulation would be forgoing an in-apartment washer and dryer.

Thinking back to those days, I realize how far down the slippery slope of laundering I have slidden.  In my first apartment in Washington Heights, the washing machines were an easy elevator ride down from the seventh floor to the second.  Although I had to walk by the smelly trash cans to get there, shared the space with mice, and hit my head numerous times on low-lying ducts and pipes, at least I could wash and dry my clothes in the building, thus avoiding the often chilly and damp weather outside.

In moving to Morningside Heights, however, I knew I would not have laundry facilities in my smallish, 12-unit building.  But at least Bubbles is nearby.  Within a minute or two, I can walk from my apartment to this pleasant laundromat with its black-and-white checkered tiles and its window seats opening on the steady stream of pedestrians on the sidewalk.  This is where I spent a couple hours on a recent post-call morning.

And it’s really not that bad.  Maybe next time I move, I’d be willing to walk a few blocks to wash my clothes.

Here’s a shot that includes the tiles and the window seat.  An archaic device hangs on the wall in the background.  It appears to have a coin slot, a keypad, and a hard plastic attachment with a flexible metal tether.

A view out the window.  My camera phone had trouble capturing the blue of the sky when I took the subway picture.



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Morningside pics

I began taking pictures on my way to Morningside Heights. Somebody got the crazy idea to paint the fire hydrant. Spectacles like this reaffirm my respect for tradition and conformity. I don’t care if it’s “fun.” We’re all going to get sick of looking at it. Still makes for a good picture, though.

I’m proud of this shot. I intend to crop it a bit. It looks cool in black and white, the way the light plays off the many surfaces of the ironwork. Maybe I could make it into a greeting card. Probably one that starts off Blank Inside. Or perhaps a Late Birthday, since the iron curly-Q’s fading into the distance could signify dejection.

Noooo, this isn’t something from Transformers. It’s the 125th Street subway station, nestled high up under the tracks. I think I won’t love it in the winter as I stand on the open air platform waiting for trains.

Max SoHa’s. (That’s SOuth of HArlem) Very reasonably priced Italian food in a rustic setting.

Max SoHa’s outdoor seating area. Utilized whenever the temperature is between 40 degrees and 95 degrees.

And now, here it is! My new apartment building is the one on the left. My windows are the ones on the third floor at the corner of the building. The tree in the foreground is across the street, but I included it in the shot to make it look more picturesque. On the ground floor is–I love it–Praise the Lord Dental.

This is the view out back. There were some kids playing baseball in this alley when I took the picture.

The view out front. This is Dustin’s building. On the ground floor, obscured by the foliage, is another Italian restaurant with outdoor seating.

And lastly, a computer mass grave I stumbled across on Columbia’s campus on my way to work out this afternoon. A little creepy.


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Moving to Morningside

Today I signed a lease for a new apartment in Morningside Heights. I’m very excited about the move from Washington Heights. Although the new apartment is 50% more expensive and about 2/3 the size (making the price per square foot about 2.25 times as much), a true New Yorker will not forget the importance of location. We can deal with heaters that don’t work, omnipresent roaches, noisy neighbors, and dilapidated fire escapes, but we need to be where the action is. Goodness, we live in Manhattan! If I wanted cheap rent, I would live in Queens. Queens, people! (n.b.: Here’s a short interesting read on the term bridge and tunnel.)

So allow me, please, to sing the praises of Morningside Heights:

  • Subway-accessible to work (10 minute ride on the 1 train)
  • Park-accessible: The neighborhood is nestled between Riverside Park, Central Park, and Morningside Park.
  • Food: Abundant places to buy groceries, from the common Met and corner delis, to the expansive and very reasonable Fairway, to the new and glitzy Westside Market.
  • Eating out: Many great choices in this college neighborhood. I’d have to start by mentioning Toast. But there’s also the Italian flavored Max SoHa’s and Sezz Midi, casual dining as well as fast Asian cuisine, a nearby Cuban restaurant, Dinosaur Barbecue, Greek food, “Central Perk”-style Max’s Cafe, even an Ethiopian restaurant and a couple Starbucks to boot. For coffee, however, I’m partial to the Hungarian Coffee Shop iover by the cathedral. (Don’t drink the Hungarian coffee; it’s terrible. Go with the Viennese coffee.)
  • Exercising: The new apartment is only a ten-minute walk from Columbia’s campus where I work out.
  • Friends: Many of my good friends in the city live nearby, including Ezer & Jan and soon-to-be-born Simone, Justin & Wen, Mauricio, Mavis, Dustin. And Clay is moving with me. William and Katherine used to live a short walk down 122nd.
  • Cultural institutions: Morningside Heights has perhaps more than any other plot its size in Manhattan. (That’s right, I just made that statistic up.) But within just a square mile or so are Columbia University, Teachers’ College, Barnard College, Manhattan School of Music, Union Theological Seminary, Jewish Theological Seminary, Riverside Church, and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. This is no lightweight neighborhood. Lincoln Center is just another 10-minute subway ride away.
  • Bookstores galore. You can find anything from Barnes & Noble to a corner used book shop. One of my favorite is Labyrinth Books which combines the best of all.
  • Airport: Many people have a love-hate relationship with many things. However, nearly all New Yorkers simplify the relationship to just hate when it comes to airports. There’s the wretched LaGuardia where it’s surprising if the security line is shorter than 30 minutes and a shock if your flight leaves on time. There’s Newark which costs an arm and a leg to get to. And then there’s JFK. I think JFK is somewhere near the Hamptons. I can get to Philadelphia faster than I can get to JFK. But those are the airports we’re stuck with, so as long as I have to go to LaGuardia, at least I’ll be living near the M60 bus which takes me directly there.
  • Church: My church meets at Union Theological Seminary, less than five minutes away. This will make it easier to have people over for lunch afterward.

Wow–I knew I liked the neighborhood, but compiling this list makes me even more excited about living there! The only thing it lacks is a Trader Joe’s. I’ll follow this post with some pictures I took of the neighborhood.


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