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Since I first came to NYC In 2010, I've gotten really into open water swimming and even pool and team swimming. I owe it all to the city's Adult Lap Swim program, which offers swimming hours before and after office hours from the 4th of July through Labor Day Weekend in the gigantic, extraordinary outdoor pools throughout the five boroughs.
But now that I've started registering for swim races that happen earlier in the year than the Adult Lap Swim hours even begin, I'm faced with the dual obstacles of membership cost and reduced pool size when approaching my training regimen.
Even a standard 25-yard pool seems cramped after oceans, rivers, and outdoor park pools, and many of the aquatic facilities of most private gyms and clubs are even smaller than that (in addition to being choked with hyphy swimmers during the same time that you can eke out of your day to get there).
Having taken advantage of NYC's network of indoor pools and recreational facilities (i.e. often also including basketball courts, elliptical machines, free weights and elements you'd find in any YMCA or standard sports club) before fat the stunning rate of $150/year and knowing I can't get anything better in the way of pools at high-priced gyms, I went straight to the website (nycgovparks.org/faciliti…) to find the one closest to my current workplace. Thus, I came across the Gertude Ederle Recreation Center (nycgovparks.org/faciliti…), formerly Recreation Center 59. However, the pool's dimensions stated a length of only 60 feet, and I wasn't sure if I could live with that. So, I took a little walk on lunch break to scope it out.
The squeaky clean, modernized, sun-flooded center reopened just last year, retaining its upstairs basketball courts and white Roman-style mosaic pool (once a giant bath in an actual bathhouse) in the basement and adding space, features, and an entrance on West 60th Street instead of 59th. On the main floor, there is even a computer resources room, and a small desk with a friendlier and more expedient staff than I have found in any of the other city recreational centers thus far. Lovely images and educational literature about the history of the center, its namesake (first woman to swim the English Channel), and its renovation hang tastefully upon the sleek walls.
And amazingly, the centers now allow people to do one trial swim/gym visit in exchange for the signing of a waiver and handing over your ID while you're inside. They didn't used to offer this, so everyone should take advantage of the opportunity to feel out what's right for them without even having to throw down the pittance of a membership fee.
I cashed in on my trial swim just this morning. Incredible; felt like I was really getting away with something here. A gym and pool with barely any people in it (no more than 2 people per lane at worst!!!!!), good water pressure in the locker room, clean tile floors (still, bring flip flops) all around, easy signup for a $75 6-month membership to ALL the city's indoor recreational facilities...all a gorgeous five minute walk from my office (shortcut through Lincoln Center!)?!?
This is where I'll do my indoor swim training from now on and my elliptical training during winters. Maybe I'll even shoot some hoops someday or take a pilates class (yes, pilates class) after work.
Goodbye to overpriced, cluttered, manic, uppity, secretly filthy, crowded gyms....forever. This facility makes me thankful for the City of New York, for physical fitness, and for life itself. I'm glad it's situation so that it'll probably remain relatively uncrowded. Otherwise, I really would've been an asshole and kept this hidden gem to myself.
Baby, it's cold outside, and it's hunting season. Both things speak to furs, furs, furs.
I had my own fur to deal with this season. Won't get too into it, but basically I accidentally salvaged a raccoon off the side of the road and successfully skinned it with a partner in crime and the help of a YouTube video.
We had a perfect, furry raccoon hide in the freezer and didn't know what the hell to do. Attempts to stretch it over the nose of my surfboard and flesh it soon intimidated us; YouTube tutorials weren't helping in that regard and we had none of the equipment to properly remove the fat, cartilage, and offal from the inside of the hide.
In desperation, I performed multiple searches for "taxidermist," since "flesher" seemed too esoteric and horrifying. A search on Yelp just revealed cool bars, galleries, and stores featuring taxidermy.
Finally, I found this article:
Gathering up all my courage, I called this man and asked if he did fleshing. Of course he did, for a mere $25 bucks! Still, it took a couple phone calls of my futile question-asking before I realized that, not only did I not have any alternative in this city, but this guy really knew what he was doing. He was talking about how the ears had to be "turned out" and the cartilage in the nose had to be something-or-othered so it wouldn't pucker up as it dried.
Good thing I asked to confirm his business location, too, because it turns out that Mr. Youngaitis has moved offices from Cypress Hills Taxidermy Studio in Brooklyn to a spot labeled "TAXIDERMY" on a rather residential road in Middle Village, Queens (thebrooklynink.com/2011/…). There's plenty of street parking, or a little hoofing from the Middle Village M-train stop will get you there.
What I saw was a super small, glassy storefront with no one in it, but tons of animals, seemingly one of each under the sun: bear, rabbit, swordfish, chameleon, bird, housecat, buck...honestly, the list goes on and on, nearly putting the American Natural History Museum to shame. Seriously.
I rang the doorbell, and the man himself appeared, talking on his cell phone to another avid inquirer. He was very approachable and reassuring, and patient when I required a whole lot more reassuring.
Note: vendor accepts CASH ONLY, but if you're still stuck cashless like me, there's a deli around the corner of an auto shop that has a 99-cent fee ATM.
When I handed him $25, he said, "Oh, you could have just put down a deposit!" but then shrugged, and marked me paid in his paper records.
This done, I left my rolled up, ziplocked raccoon skin right there on his table and left on faith that he'd call anytime between that day (mid-November) and the beginning of the new year. Already, a whole family had crammed into the store, and John's phone was ringing off the hook as hunters made appointments to drag in their prizes. And it's not just killers of animals who consult John for his comprehensive animal preservation services, either; lots of people want to immortalize their dear pets. And others are just randos like me who peeled the skin off a sadly slain animal and then didn't know where to go from there.
I got a call right after Thanksgiving. There were the animals again, and there was John, with the raccoon in the same plastic bag I'd left it in, only this time it was completely clean and salted and a hell of a lot lighter, ready for tanning by either me or a service. He said he had a tanning guy (to make a soft, wearable pelt instead of a hardened, furry relic). But I proudly told him I'd look into some kits, and that I could take it from there.
But seriously, if you need a taxidermist, John Youngaitis knows that he's doing. You can tell by the remarkably lifelike specimens in his store, which he did all by himself or with his father. And if you need someone to clean out a fresh skin so you can send it to a tanner, again, John's your man. Fleshing is the part of the process that is most critical and hardest to pull off since not doing a good job leads to rot.
I almost want to skin an animal again so I can go give him more business, but I won't seek out the opportunity; one experience is enough. Anyway, he seems plenty busy - busier than you all might think in a city where there are only really rats, pigeons, and squirrels.
Thank you, John!
Chacott is a Tokyo based offshoot of Freed of London; a dancewear and ballet/jazz/ballroom/rhythmic gymnastics shoe company manufacturing 90% of its products in mother England. For *real* ballerinas, this is "the leading supplier of bespoke Pointe Shoes, handmade to perfectly fit dancers' feet."
The flagship NYC store is on a quiet side street, and the reflection of the sky in its spotless glass front hinders easy recognition of what's inside. I only became aware that this was a dance equipment store while sharing happy hour across the way with a girl who used to dance. "Oh, Chacott!" she exclaimed, and suddenly I saw arched shoes, flowing cloth, and plaster legs.
Soon afterwards, I visited the store even without the intention of joining the sad pack of 30-something females striving in vain to recover youthful allure by strapping on cloying pink shoes.
A young girl inside asked immediately if she could help me. I felt intimidation, embarrassment, and jealousy until I realized that my ugly duckling complex was just that. So I smiled, told her I was just looking, and gingerly worked through the minimalist presentation of simple, high quality dance clothing rendered special fabrics and classy, muted colors.
My vision blurred at the sight of petite towers stocked with items of podiatry, so I continued to the back wall of white, beige/pink, and black slippers housed in clear, lablike plastic drawers reaching to the ceiling. Over yonder, satin pointe shoes in a spectrum of icy pinks shimmered like portals I dared not enter. Said goodbye to the girl (probably a dancer in the Company) and retreated to my workplace.
Yesterday, I returned with the newly formed goal of purchasing a pair of soft slippers after deciding to swallow my pride and enroll in ballet class in earnest. This time, a man accompanied the girl. Again, I was asked immediately if I needed help. Once I said what I needed, he brought me straight back to the shoe wall and pointed out the two soft slipper designs that they carried, both canvas. Trapped in a Capezio mindset, I asked to see leather. "We don't really do leather," he said, "there's really no reason for leather unless you just...want that."
Apparently, all that I'd ever desired and required were not pedestrian leather shoes, but these vegan slippers in square weave cotton with a pinch of elastane for stretch, reassuringly reminiscent of Ace bandages.
The other model was 100% cotton with 0% give, in a denim-style weave (diagonal grain). Though this might have had a more pointe-like effect (and isn't that secretly what all girls want even if they'll never get up on their toes?), the fabric reminded me too much of totes for me to buy into the aesthetic . Plus, because of the comparative rigidity, the support elastics were only tacked down at one end, leaving the dancer responsible for sewing down the other end to fit.
Without letting on that he'd already sized up my foot, the man handed me a shoe. When I couldn't get into the seemingly one-size-stretches-to-all slipper (proof that there's actually something tailored about these seemingly structureless cloth pieces), he handed me something else. Done. Nothing more to discuss, other than some meek questions about dance studios, which he answered honestly and without patronization.
I looked at the ergonomically placed grey leather sole pads and remarked that I'd already dirtied them but knew they'd get dirty anyway. "Oh no, that's the display pair," he said. Each size has its own display set here! "Here are new ones, but they'll be FILTHY soon enough," he chuckled. I asked if they were machine washable. "Oh, yes," he said, "and you'll WANT to wash them." [More laughter.]
The girl rang me up with a knowing smile handed me a black handled bag - just the right size for the shoes and maybe a pair of tights and a leotard. Most of all, I thought that the shoes would be $50 coming out of a heralded London boutique. But no, it was $22 flat for my flats. I've paid that much for a glorified tank top.
I highly recommend this place to anyone who, regardless of experience, is a purist at heart, seeking authoritative and surprisingly egalitarian guidance in locating one of the renowned products passively available in a tranquil setting with ZERO scene or snark.
If you walk in here, the ratio between sales specialist and yourself is likely to be 1:1. There won't be any dance moms, screaming fairy princesses, or devastatingly beautiful but self-loathing dancers reiterating their physical and metaphysical superiority over you when you were already bowing your head to avoid the radiation.
All this helps tremendously in putting your best foot forward in a humbly designed, clinically precise stretch canvas slipper, which will be worth more than every cent you paid in terms of revolutions made in the joy of dance, which, despite its perceived exclusivity, is really accessible to anyone who dares to follow their heart (through the doors of Chacott).
I'm pretty sure there is no other place quite like this anywhere.
Officially (judging by the receipt) called Baskets, this business is better identified by its lime green-on-fuchsia title - NESTING DOLLS - painted on the cottage like structure that stores just that..and plenty of it.
The boyfriend and I were staying in this nowhere town for a long weekend, and couldn't help but noticing the shop several times during expensive cab rides and walks through scorching midsummer heat. On one of these walks, we finally ducked inside for shade, and found the owners Frank and Halina in repose on seats behind the counter, along with their little beagle, whom I remember as Lucy. Frank and Lucy exited the scene, and soon it was just us and Halina, who asked us all about where we were and what we were planning to do. She started giving us real local advice, which would eventually save our day because the heat index was not helpful to our original plans.
Nesting Dolls is lined floor to ceiling in every manifestation of this curious collectible that you could ever imagine, in series of 3, 5, 7, 9, 12, and probably more. The dolls ranged in price from a few dollars to a few digits, but all are awe inspiring, hand crafted, and full of stories.
There was one whole shelf of original Matryoshka dolls, and the option to paint your own (which I really regret I didn't realize until I read a brochure on the train speeding back towards the city). Some were neon, some were sparkly...there was a Halloween series with a black cat nested in a spider painting nested in a skeleton nested in a witch...a Yellow Submarine series, the outside of which was, yes, a yellow submarine with actual fins...a totem pole doll containing noble paintings of proud Native American chiefs...a set by a Russian artist that had romantic paintings of a tall ship at sea replicated on each of its five components...there were even peanut sized miniatures of seals, tigers, and so on, which boggled the mind, because how can you fit such tiny things into something that's already so tiny itself??
A back room had more random antiques and collectibles; a standout being a straw mummy-shaped casket.
After really putting Halina through the grinder by asking her to open this set and that set and tell me the special story about each one, I finally settled on a 3-piece gilded medieval Catholic nativity doll. Go figure I'd choose that out of all the offbeat alternatives, but it was very finely made. As she rang me up, gently bagging the puchase in a flannel drawstring pouch, she also told us about a hot air balloon fest in Poughkeepsie and a river pool in Beacon (separate review). She also reminded us that we could take the train there.
We strode outside but quickly decided that it was so hot that we'd rather cab it to Beacon than walk to the train station!! On the way back to the store to call a cab and wait in a climate controlled environment, I saw something amazing in the window that I'd somehow missed before: FIVE PIECE JIMI HENDRIX NESTING DOLL. Yes, this was really happening, and yes, he'd even been marked down. No one marks Jimi down and puts him in a corner. So before the cab even arrived, Halina had taken Jimi down from the shelf, dusted him off, swaddled him in flannel, and made him mine.
It's good that the store's so out of the way, or I'd be like the cat lady of babushka dolls. And I am definitely anticipating my next trip to that neck of the woods....
To fully appreciate this experience, try this fun little mind exercise, especially if you are a New York City dweller.
Picture the following:
*20 feet in diameter
*24-30 inches deep
*Open Tuesday through Sunday from 12-6 p.m. from early July to Labor Day
*Located at a riverfront park within sight of the nearest Metro-North train station
*Refreshments = whatever you can get from the vending machines or the "coffee shop" (aka micro convenience store complete with fee ATM) on the platform of said train station
*Bathroom access = 3 Porta Potties the parking lot
*Free of charge
What did you see: (a) a trash pit, (b) a cesspool, or (c) no results?
Well, in the lovely Hudson Valley town of Beacon, the answer is River Pool; a public delight conceptualized by local resident and famed folk musician Pete Seeger (!) and actualized in a unique environment that can actually pull off this Utopic feat.
On the hot-as-balls 4th of July weekend of 2013, my companion and I finally overcame our denial that it was too goddamn hot to stroll sculpture gardens or hit hiking trails. We had to swim, and luckily, the owner of a shop near the town we were staying tipped us off to River Pool.
Maybe the holiday weekend had an impact on the atttendance, but we arrived to Riverfront Park in Beacon to an idyllic scene mostly devoid of people. First, we walked past a river shorefront that was remarkably marine in nature, with an assortment of ducks, gulls, and cranes perching on rocks and driftwood sticking out of the silty looking water. We came to a finely cured green with a tennis court whose fence held a sign that had an arrow and read: "River Pool." We followed the arrow and saw a changing station perched on a hill, its curtain blowing in the breeze, flapping against a simple metal frame.
Over the hill, we saw the pool; a cheerful, buoyant rainbow ring tethered to the shore and floating in suddenly open water, with a sprawl of neon green duckweed and the Hamilton Fish Newburgh-Beacon Bridge beyond it, and Amtrak trains choo-chooing by on the rail every now and then.
This pool was tiny, with about five kids raising hell in it. It was a bit intimidating, in a weird way. I didn't know how we'd be received on their turf. Of course, they were probably more scared of us and our impromptu swimwear (aka PANTIES).
I tittered at the sight of a young, tan, and good/miserable-looking young male lifeguard sitting in a low lying beach chair, faced decidedly AWAY from the pool. The approach down the skinny metal ramp down to the pool revealed an active lifeguard on the edge of the rainbow ring, curled up like a cashew under a rainbow umbrella and looking only slightly less tortured behind her dark sunglasses.
I stared into the brownish but clean water and saw a grid flickering under it. I shuddered inwardly at the anticipation of stepping onto a metal floor, and at the same time saw a sign somewhere that said, "30 inches deep." Kids whirled and shrieked, stopping only to kind of stare curiously at these poorly clad GROWN UPS entering the pool.
Anyway, I stepped into the cool river water, and was BOUNCED up by the floor! What a shock! Indeed, the floor was somehow made of an open network of non-slimy netting as bouncy as a trampoline, deflecting the fallen back to safety. Instantly, my heart swelled and I felt truly like a child. What a beautiful thing it was that kids could swim in open water, truly without fear. I closed my eyes, rested my head on the squeaky clean sides, and sat there, listening to the strains of Marco Polo, complements of the kiddos.
In a moment, the guy lifeguard came down the stairs. Without a word to one another, they changed guard. We'd see many more shifts, observing their two different styles of reproaching kids. The girl was full of firm assertions that went gently ignored, while the guy barked empty threats...until he finally threw out a pair of chubby, goggled boys who were unable to keep their hands to themselves; karate chopping at each other and holding each other down in the water. By then, some parents had arrived onto the scene, and said, self-righteously, "Good! That's how they learn." I had to hold back guffaws of incredulity. What a weird and watery clubhouse this had become.
Right before we left, I became aware of a woman on the OUTSIDE. "Is that allowed?" I gasped.
"Well, we can't stop you," she said, but made clear that I couldn't use the outer edge of the pool as my launching platform. At this, I saw the guy lifeguard finally crack a smile.
Turned out, the lady was securing the netting. She was with the River Pool Organization (riverpool.org). This pool was a prototype for larger ones in the town and beyond (even NYC: nymag.com/daily/intellig…). But these visions are are large scale and involve filtration systems. This is all very exciting, but methinks real genius would be in keeping it simple, just like this.
Located on a hill of Belfast's charming seaside strip of shops, this is one of few businesses I've visited lately where it didn't even occur to me to try to digitally document everything. It's just that analog, I guess; perfectly befitting the house of print that it is.
Old Professor's Bookshop is a legit trove where a single shopkeeper lets you do your thing among the unusually well organized shelves where you will find old volumes, esoterica, and past issue academic books, classics, and plenty of cutting edge titles as well.
Unlike many other places with the depth and range of selection you can admire here, it is not dusty or creepy in any corner of the shop, but has all the mellowness of an old parlor that is quiet but not uptight by any means.
I think anyone who enters this space will go through three stages of exploration:
(1) Impulsive ['Wow...I've always wanted a Victorian era record of insects an a 1970s picture book on quantum mechanics!"]
(2) Analytical ['What do I REALLY want? Is it worth buying it? Do I NEED it? What does it say of me as person if I a interested or uninterested in acquiring a certain bok? Why can't I think of what I'm looking for in this store, OR in life? What time is it; how long have I been here? How much time is left to browse, and is it worth spending the time required to make a thorough excavation of everything?"]
(3) Open-Minded ['I'm sure this is the kind of rare place with a Philosophy section worth seeing, and maybe something will jump out at me if I check that out.']
.....at which point you will find one thing that you were looking for, which you could have gotten off of Amazon (and don't even MENTION e-readers to me) since you first desired it, but just didn't desire to purchase it that way.
For me, this thing was "Either/Or" by Danish philosopher Søren Aabye Kierkegaard. I headed up to the little counter, next to which was a rotating display of classical music CDs, and upon which were neatly arranged brochures and fliers for festivals, chamber music performances, and short fiction writers' residencies.
"I've been looking for this everywhere!" I said to the man who rang me up.
"Looks like you found it," he said, carefully slipping the book into a thin little paper bag just the size of a book. Outside, the thunderclouds opened up onto the street, and I took additional pleasure shrieking and running back to the car with my friend, with the unprotective paper bag and its contents stuffed under my shirt and pressed to my bookish heart.
I even went on my bank statement to make sure of the exact location of this particular franchise, because it was my first exposure to this Midtown chain that first appears alternately too fussy and too pedestrian.
And you know what, it wasn't half bad, and that's even without Midtown goggles on (you know, when most things in the area suck and so your standards get lower).
How I ended up in the predicament of coming here is that I met up with a friend who really wanted some good tea (also diabolically hard to just stumble upon near Bryant Park) but didn't give a damn where we ate. As we aimlessly walked down 6th past shops bursting with useless non-edibles, we resorted to this Guy & Gallard, which, by the way, was about to close down.
I've done food service before. So I know how it feels when some hungry jerk comes busting in right after you've cleaned everything and shut everything down. But you know what? It's fair game. They were still open, so I got the grill boy to fire it up and make me a mushroom and onion burger, rare, with Monterey Jack Cheese and some fries. Mind you, as I gave my order, he just stared blankly at me and kind of nodded after I said twice, "Is that okay?" He asked me if I wanted regular fries. I kind of wanted curly, but didn't want to complicate things further, and said, "Sure, curly."
Meanwhile, I think my gal pal got another hot beverage, and I helped myself to pre-filled cups of Russian dressing, bleu cheese, and ranch in anticipation of all my fry-dipping needs. If these were supposed to be paid for, no one mentioned anything. Whether this was because these sauces are always free or because it was the end of the night and the staff was blinded by desire to get out of there remains unclear. But anyway, I did it in plain view and no one stopped me.
Just over 10 buckaroos for the whole meal, which was set down in front of me with the rare parts rare, the hot parts hot, the juicy parts juicy, the crispy parts crispy and the soft parts soft. Not much more to demand at that point. It was a darn decent cheeseburger.
Plus, being a naturally slow eater rendered more sluggish because of the fatigue of a particularly rough work week, I was slowwww to finish up. I even had to use the bathroom and get the code from the same cook, who told me what it was without a trace of impatience. At this point, the staff's boyfriends and girlfriends were patiently and quietly hanging out near the front, probably wishing us dead but not showing it.
Given all this, even if I usually avoid these free for all deli/prepared foods/grills areas like the plague because of their crowds and noise and hard seating and lack of human touch, the 7th site of Guy & Gallard is a place I woudln't complain about if I ended up there again. In fact, I might TRY to accidentally end up here again on an uninspiring Friday evening for a cheap and satiating eat.
Uhm...I find it perversely ironic and rewarding that I - a 31 year old woman who grew up around hockey, spent all of her schooling fantasizing over hockey boys who didn't know she existed, and privately STILL sometimes watches the Mighty Ducks series (AND ENJOYS IT) in order to feel young again but couldn't even make the JV girl's hockey team in high school and HAS NEVER PLAYED THE GAME IN HER LIFE (except in dreams) - am the first to review this hallowed hall of hockey merchandise.
Opened on Poor Street during 1968 in the midst of the "Air Orr" era of Bruins glory, the AHS has been prominently positioned on 342 North Main Street on the gateway to I-495 and rough and tumble Lawrence for about a decade now. Coming full circle now, just two years after the bruins reclaimed the Stanley cup and after the recent thawing of the NHL lockout, the store aptly stands an "all sports" foundation and carries gear for, what else but ALL sports, or, as the website clarifies, "hockey, baseball, softball, soccer, football, lacrosse, basketball, or field hockey, to name a few." I'll not plagarize the rest of the history of ownership and venue but direct those interested in a nice writeup by the Andover Patch (andover.patch.com/articl…).
All this notwithstanding, even the total amoebas of Andover and beyond know that this place is hockey all the way. And just as an amoeba ought to be, I've been smitten with and intimidated by this shop, or the idea of it, since first grade, when the class bullies and heartthrobs would swagger down the waxed tile hallways in their embroidered and monogrammed blue-and-gold jackets over their six year old shoulders, which, come to think of it, probably hadn't yet donned a peewee jersey yet.
The remarkable confluence of events that finally gave me a pass to enter this store was that:
I obtained a full time job after a dreadfully long period of unemployment
the site of this new job was to be Bryant Park
Bryant Park has been hosting the Citi Pond ice skating rink for the past seven years
this rink is FREE if you BRING YOUR OWN SKATES
I happened to be visiting my hometown when all this happened.
So the same morning I was to drive back, victorious, to the city, I dialed 475-7474 (for dramatic effect, I'm gonna just pretend this is back in the days before enough cellular phones took over to force landliners to dial the extra digits of area codes even for local calls).
A voice answered; one of those icy cool ones that are no-bullshit but have got your back. I chirped out a bunch of superfluous info but got across that I was someone who needed some ladies' skates for to tear up a city rink.
He told me he had these for sure, and that it would be $59.95. Sweet price! I asked if they took cards.
"Sure we do; whatever you need," he said.
"I'll swing by in a bit," I said, and hung up. It was time for action.
It was a particularly cold day that rushed me up the stone steps into the store, which was warmed and illuminated by natural light flowing through the tall front window. Here, I smelled legacy, loyalty, talent, diliand that lovely, rubbery smell of fresh new equipment. I'm sure the AHS has a ton of all-sport stuff. But my eyes were dazzled by rows of gleaming hockey sticks, and awed by goalie gear bags large enough to hold three bodies each, suspended overhead. Boxes of skates seemed stacked to the ceiling, but not in a disorderly fashion.
A man, channeling Coach Gordon Bombay in only the good ways appeared from the recesses of the store and deftly measured my childish foot. He quietly disappeared and reemerged with Junior Size four Bauers into which both my feet slipped happily in. As he wove up the signature fat cotton laces for me, he told me the hard cases would break in. I nodded as if I knew all about it.
As he swiftly disappeared behind a counter to sharpen the blades, I creepily stood watching from behind, deliberating whether or not to take a photo. In the end, I chickened out, and spent the time angsting over the colors and patterns of fabric skateguards for $8.95 a pair.
"I'm goin' USA," I said, picking up a pair printed with the American Flag. He (who turned out to be the owner, by the way) allowed a sideways micro-smile and a short exhalation that I guess qualified as a friendly laugh of medium amusement. Because how often does a Kook-of-the-Ice sail into this guy's day? I don't know, but he sure knows how to make them feel like champions.
The Andover Hockey Shop was everything I thought it would be, and more...and I didn't have to be a male hockey player growing up in the '80s and '90s to quaff from the same goblet of that je ne sais quoi that brings us all to the ice, dreading summer.
Hours aren't half bad for a town where half the businesses close for the day of the Lord:
Monday - Friday, 10am - 6pm
Saturday, 9am - 5pm
Sunday, 11am - 4pm (closed during summer)
Now do yourself a favor and go.
Initially, I didn't even pay attention to this store because I was on an errand with a friend, who was quietly annoyed when I stopped at the crates of $2 selections of vinyls in milk crates on the street. I curtailed my browsing, and looked longingly after stacks. I passed the same scene again a couple times while also on the way towards doing something else that for some reason took precedence over scouring bins of cheap vinyls for treasures. Now, I can't remember what could have been more important...
Finally, when I was on the way to picking up a bottle of wine for a dinner, I saw Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy at the front of a crate, I literally squealed to a stop on the sidewalk and decided enough was enough. I didn't care if the moment was inopportune, dammit, I was going to follow through on my curiosities about these records, now or never! The record had its sleeve, but no album cover. Like I cared; it was 2 bucks! A cursory shuffle through of the accompanying vinyls revealed that I would have to come back after my errand to really devote time to the hunt.
I looked up at the source of all these goodies and saw the faded old sign of the Record & Tape center, and realized I'd seen it some time before and assumed it was a dusty graveyard for old audio equipment and electronics. WRONG! With the Zeppelin record in my trembling, grubby fist, I crossed the threshold into a dusty but not completely chaotic haven of soooo many more records, plus DVDs, VHS tapes, and CDs. There were two guys in there; one behind the corner and one in the narrow aisles who could have been a local streetperson or another staff member. It was impossible to tell. Fumbling to express myself in a hurry, I explained that I'd found this record and HAD to have it and for SURE was going to get it, but could they hold it for me while I went to the wine shop? Both men kind of gaped at my paranoid mania, but the man behind the counter nodded assuringly.
Minutes later, I came back hauling two bottles of wine plus one of Lambrusca in my tiny tote. The ground was dusty, but I was beyond caring even about that, and shoved my white canvas bag in a corner, rolling up my sleeves. I didn't bother worrying about my possessions. It was exceedingly apparent that this was not the place where people would be coveting my iPhone 5 or milliliters of Sauvignon Blanc.
Only Pearl Jam's Ten, a recent arrival from a buyer/trader, was set at the high prices that plague vintage record stories throughout this city. Everything else was $8 or under, and I basically made myself sick going through alphabetized rock, selected classical (50 cents!?!?), soul, and part of Latin before I realized I was going to be unable to tackle Country/Western until another day.
Mind you, this whole time, I was bringing albums up to the store owner to play on an uncovered turntable. I started off meekly, but after hearing the first strains of "Black Dog" (yes, the album was Led Zep IV in Houses of the Holy's clothing, but still, whatever!!), I became bold. Soon, we had a system down; I'd approach the counter with another record, the guy would hand me the one that had been playing, and put the new one on.
I weeded out so many items (i.e. James Taylor's Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon, Lynyrd Skynrd's One More From the Road...which now I regret) before settling on a final pull of:
Adagio for Strings - Samuel Barber
With a Little Help From My Friends - Joe Cocker
Wind on the Water - Crosby and Nash
Surrealistic Pillow - Jefferson Airplane
Lakme (yes, the opera of the ethereal "Flower Duet" aria first featured on Virgin Airlines's ad campaigns in the '90s) - Leo Delibes
The Wild Heart - Stevie Nicks
Ryde or Die Vol. 1 (2 vinyls) - Rough Ryders
Total: $21 and change after he let me take Rough Ryders for the price of one vinyl!
I asked if they took card. The owner grimaced slightly and said that he'd have to charge me a nominal fee. I told him to go right ahead, then the total came out to just under $20. "How's that?" I asked. He shrugged, "Ah, I don't know, it just came out that way, so I'll let you have it."
Wishing him and his lifer customers a very good day, I went skipping home with my loot.
If ever I have to sell, trade, offload, or donate my old music or movies of any form, this will be my go-to spot because it is a good business through and through and I want to support it. It's the equivalent of those thrift stores where you can still find amazing stuff for 5 bucks, rather than a re-print of a Guns and Roses t-shirt for $23, know what I'm saying??
Hear me: Record & Tape Center is second only to finding someone's mint collection out for the taking on the street. (This just happened to me yesterday, but we all know it's once in a blue moon or a hurricane). If you like vinyl or music at all, get thee to this place! Wear long sleeves, though. I ended up feeling itchy, because I'm embarrassingly allergic to dust...and dust does gather on good records.
***REVIEW FOR THE ORIGINAL USE OF THE VENUE AS A POOL!!!****
Number: (718) 218-2380 or (2384)
Today, Thursday, June 28th, marked the opening of citywide outdoor pools for the 2012 summer season and the dramatic re-opening of McCarren Park Pool after quite a saga.
One of 11 giants built in 1936 during the Works Progress Administration, McCarren took $1 million to build. The size of three Olympic pools, it held 6,800 swimmers.
Unlike all the other WPA pools, though, McCarren was closed in 1983 when the community refused an offer by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation to renovate it. because the Williamsburg/Greenpoint divide was rife with crime in the '80s. Thus neglected, the pool began a steady decay.
In 2001, the community reached a consensus on a $26 million project to turn the area into a smaller pool with a skate park and skate rink on the side. This idea was abandoned after 9-11.
In '05, Clear Channel Entertainment gave $250K to the City Parks Foundation to spiffy things up. A year later, the entity banked on commercial-grade concerts while Jelly NYC held its Pool Parties in the same venue. While this was all very hip, the community continued to request the return of a pool.
In 2007, Mayor Bloomberg announced that renovation of the pools was classified under "PlaNYC." an agenda for the city's long term. Budget: $50,000. Game: over. Sonic Youth rocked and hipsters moaned as the concert/party basin was shut at the end of summer 2008 to make way for construction.
To anyone who scoped out the plans on city websites, it seemed hardly believable that the project would be completed by its 2012 deadline. But it was - another "who's the boss" moment for the city that still Gets Things Done.
At just a little past 11 a.m. today, there was a line that wound all the way around the block. The only reason for this was that Mayor Bloomberg had been at the opening ceremony and the crew was still setting up.
While the city could have avoided the sadistic procedure of making hundreds of men, women, children, elders, and handicapped citizens fry in the sun in rabid anticipation as to when the REAL opening time would be, it led the masses on until half the line left and the half of the remaining half crossed the street to one lucky Sabrett's cart to get a dog.
At some point after 12:30 p.m. but before 2 p.m., people were let to ascend the steps to the restored brick arch. At the top of the stairs, they were asked to produce a lock and a towel and show their swimwear. A woman aggressively checked my bag, but I was ready for that and jovially let her sift through my worthless, incontroversial crap.
Two steps later, another employee barked, "Did she check your bag?!"
"YES!" I fairly screamed, eyes bugging out.
I proceeded to the set of outdoor lockers. This was a wise choice; the main changing area was a standard public-pool-shitshow. One good thing about it was that the roof was set a few feet above the walls in open air construction. Ventilation; a genius idea.
The bathroom stalls were still squeaky clean; I wondered how long that wouldn't last. Seeking to fill my water bottle, I found where the bubblers were; oddly placed at three different heights in an unmarked room of their own looking in upon a glass lobby populated by city rec employees.Weird, but a nice way to fill up my water in private, I guess.
The only way to access the pool was to go through a sort of hall of outdoor showers fashionably set in wood paneling evocative of Scandinavian or Japanese bathing environments. The water was weak in pressure, but warm in temperature. A teenage lifeguard watched from his post. Sadly, I was flattered. Then finally, there was the pool.
The 37,950 square foot U-shape allows 1,500 swimmers. Anyone who's been to Astoria or Red Hook might not be as dazzled by the size as by the cleanliness emphasized by the blanched concrete deck. The reality is identical to the blueprints, marred only by the presence of actual humans in and out of the water. Check out the construction pictures to fully appreciate the transformation (anntortorelli.viewbook.c…).
Most amazing of all to this swimmer was the right end of the pool, which is 25 yards in length and wider than most pools at Ys or private health clubs. Not only was it reserved for lap swimmers, this designation was ENFORCED. With most people electing to thrash about in the main area, I was happier than a clam swimming length after length without collision or even distraction. I can't wait until adult lap swim in the mornings and evenings.
On the way out, I heard a woman huff, "There's so many goddamn rules." Exactly. McCarren (for now) is a tightly run ship that all may board but that only the reverent may fully enjoy.
And for those concerned about the hipster quotient in this neighborhood; remember that they like to spend their workless days being fashionably afflicted (wine bars, vintage junk boutiques).
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