Thursday, September 18, 2014

Magic Forest in Lake George, NY

At the beginning of September we went on a weekend road trip to Vermont to see a play on a Saturday night and I knew I wanted to find something weird and roadside-attractiony to see on the way back to New York. A bit of scouring on the Roadside America app led me to the discovery of the Magic Forest amusement park, in the resort town of Lake George, New York.

Opened in 1963, Magic Forest doesn't seem to have changed much—if at all—since the '60s and I was super excited to spend the day there taking photos of all of the Muffler Men, rickety rides and fairytale-themed buildings nestled amongst the pine trees.

Well, thanks to Google horribly misrepresenting their hours, we drove two hours only to find out that the Magic Forest was closed for the season. I spent a good deal of time walking around the fences, trying to decide if I could overcome my annoying law-abiding nature and break in, but I eventually decided against it. From what I could see through the fences, the Magic Forest looked even more spectacular than I had imagined—creepy and kitschy and just the right amount of run down to make me devastated that I have to wait almost an entire year before the park opens again.

They're open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and I've already vowed to return for opening weekend. They have the World's Largest Uncle Sam, a train, a tram, a mile-long safari, a magic show and the only remaining diving horse attraction in the country, not to mention all of the statues and fairytale cottages—Magic Forest might be my favorite place and I haven't even stepped inside of the gates yet.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Photos of People Taking Photos

Yikes. It's been a while.

I spent more than half of August seeing (nearly) every single famous piece of artwork, extravagant church and ruin that Italy has to offer, courtesy of my amazing Uncle Steve who was my travel companion, guide and historian—all of which he does with ease and expertise. Five days after I returned to the States—incredibly cultured, fancy and exhausted—I moved out of my first New York apartment and into a much bigger, better and (inexplicably) cheaper apartment 15 blocks north.

I was also insanely busy at work, designing (among other things) a double-page spread in the New York Times, which was a crazy dream come true to open up the paper of record and see something I more-or-less created staring right back at me. BUT none of that is really important because this is a blog about adventures, and I have so many of them to recount that even if I stayed locked in my apartment (with my two fireplaces—!) for the rest of this year I would still have things to blog about. So, although I have barely had time to unpack let alone make any significant dent in the more than two thousand photos I took in Italy, I came across a group of photos I took in Florence that I just had to share immediately.

Florence was the second city on our itinerary and after the grand scale and ruin of Rome, it was a welcome change of pace. Florence was beautiful and significantly more compact than Rome, so we had more of an opportunity to focus our time.

One of our stops was the Galleria dell'Accademia to see Michelangelo's masterpiece, the David. Arguably one of the most, if not the most, famous statues in the entire world, the David is the Accademia's main attraction. There isn't much more in the museum, although my uncle and I both found Michelangelo's unfinished slave sculptures to be equally as intriguing and worthy as the more polished and idealistic David.

Once I got over the initial, surreal feeling of seeing such a crazy-iconic piece in real life, I shifted my focus to the crowd's behavior in the presence of such a famous work. There were a lot of selfies which are always incredibly awkward to witness—I feel the same way watching people take selfies as I do when I accidentally make eye contact with a dog that is mid-poop. Both activities seem intensely intimate and out-of-place in a public setting. But just because I'm uncomfortable does not mean that I'm not also fascinated—with how/if people smile, how they arrange themselves in front of the backdrop of choice and what they do following a successful capture (presumably Instagram it?).

Most people, however, immediately took out their phone and quickly snapped a photo of the David, because we all know if you don't photograph/Instagram it, it didn't really happen (I'm completely guilty of this, by the way). I spent the rest of our time in the Accademia basically stalking people—with the kind of zero-fucks-given attitude that can only come with being a tourist very, very far from anyone that could possibly recognize you—and trying to capture the David through their phone screen, or if I was really lucky, their iPad.

There was just something so removed and automatic about most of the people's photos—many didn't even take a moment to consider the statue without a screen between their eyeballs and the marble masterpiece. I wonder what Michelangelo would think if he suddenly walked into the future and saw girls posing with their best duck-face or people trying to figure out how to best fit his nearly 17 feet-tall statue within the Instagram frame?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Last Saturday I met friends for breakfast at Tom's Restaurant in Brooklyn (Danish pancakes alldayeveryday) and afterward I headed over to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It's really close to Tom's, making it the perfect place to walk off the pancakes (and sausage) I stuff into my face every chance I get, and admission is free every Saturday until noon.

The garden is completely lovely in every season, and I always enjoy checking in on the adorable bonsai collection. It was cloudy, but still a beautiful morning and after wandering around I settled under a tree in the cherry esplanade and took a glorious, carb-induced nap.

Aside from cherry blossom season, the BBG never feels overwhelmingly crowded and it's compact enough that I feel as if I can really spend time exploring every corner. Somehow I'm still discovering new-to-me areas and gardens—this time I wandered into the rock garden which was completely deserted and beautiful.

I had ample opportunities to photograph huge, adorable bumble bees, which always turns me into a giddy five-year-old and I'm completely obsessed with the subtle gradations and all the beautiful pale colors. At one point during my stroll, I even happened upon some kale—lest I forget for a moment that even though I'm surrounded by nature, I'm still in the middle of Brooklyn.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

City Island: Part One

Last Sunday Trent, Alisha and I spent the day on City Island in the Bronx. None of us had been there before, so we didn't have much planned except to explore and eventually end the evening stuffing our faces with fried seafood at Johnny's Reef. Johnny's is at the southern tip of the 1.5 mile island, so we started at the northern end and slowly made our way south.

City Island is on the western edge of Long Island Sound and is described as having "the look and feel of a New England fishing village," which is a pretty accurate description. Although, I would add that you never forget for long that you're actually in the Bronx—from the New York City trash cans and public transportation to the barbed wire, chain link fences that prevent you from actually getting anywhere near the shoreline, City Island is a city island through and through.

The thing I noticed first, and loved most, about the island was the abundance of hand-painted and vintage signage on store fronts and restaurants. The one thing I was looking forward to was the City Island Lobster House sign, and I was really disappointed when Alisha mentioned that she thought it had been damaged during hurricane Sandy. Sadly, she was right—the huge neon lobster and "By Land or Sea" portions of the sign are no longer there, but if you never knew they were missing it's still a pretty great sign in its current iteration.

Right next to Johnny's is a stretch of Sammy's restaurants, including the Shrimp Box and Fish Box (ew), both with great neon fish signs that looked even better lit up at night (but I may have been a little too drunk tired to photograph them after dark).

Despite my fear of water and seafood, I have always loved the New England nautical aesthetic and there is no shortage of items to fit that description on City Island. It's hard to decide what I loved more—the weathered wooden signs like the Black Whale's, the kitschy neon signs like the Crab Shanty's, or the hand-painted signs for Johnny's.

Although, if it's patriotism you want, I dare you to find a more American mural than this one we found on the side of a building that featured the Twin Towers, an American Flag, Uncle Sam, a bald eagle (in flight, of course), the Statue of Liberty, a firefighter, a policeman and a scroll of parchment that is probably supposed to be either the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.