Saturday, October 31, 2015

The crush of a NYC crowd

Thursday night, my friend Patrick took my fiancé, me, and his brother with him to a show. We saw "Something Rotten."  "Something Rotten" is an over the top hilarious musical mashup of Shakespeare jokes and Broadway jokes.  Even David and his brother who have little experience in either really laughed a lot at the show.  I felt a little bad that they didn't get all of the jokes.  I found out later that my friend Patrick didn't get them all either.  I know I didn't get them all, but have enough knowledge of Shakespeare and Broadway to know that they were references to shows that I haven't seen or read yet.

I was reminded of the crushing crowds in Manhattan on my way to the theater.  Our Theater was on the corner of 44th and 9th Avenue in Manhattan.  Patrick and I were meeting David and his brother at the theater.  We wanted to grab a quick slice beforehand.  Getting out of the crush of people leaving the subway at 42 street was in itself like a game of Temple Run.  When we got to street level, there were still hundreds of people just on the corner of 44 and 9.  You almost feel like you are at a Madonna Concert or something by how much you are jostled.  My mother asked me why there weren't as many people in my photos or videos of Brooklyn.  I explained to her that not all of NYC was like that.  The Theater District or Times Square between 5 and 7:30, though, is overwhelming.  It was tough to find David and his brother who are both a head shorter than I am, but we found them.

Last night, Patrick and I wanted to go bar hopping to check out the gay bars in Hell's Kitchen.  I convinced Patrick to walk the extra half mile to take the express train from Nostrand.  It was 6:00 and the train cars were packed.  There appeared to be two seats next to this little old asian man in the corner of the car.  I sat in the one against the wall and left the one between the asian man and me open for Patrick.  He smirked at me and I wasn't sure why.  I figured it was because he didn't want to sit that close to someone else.  I looked at him and pointed to my seat as I slid over to the middle seat.  His mouth dropped and he gasped as the old asian man with a thick accent practically shoved me back away from him saying "no, no, no."  Too late, as a sense of cold wetness absorbed into the butt of my jeans.  I hadn't noticed that there was a puddle of gross water on the seat.  I then stood up so my pants could dry a little.  That was the start of an interesting evening.

In spite of the wet ass, I was going to have fun.  We started with dinner at one of my favorite places, El Centro.  This mexican inspired little gourmet place is always packed.  We waited at the bar for 20 minutes to get two seats at a communal row of tables.

You can see that the place is noisy.  Manhattan (and Brooklyn) are so much noisier than most other places in the states that I've been.  Admittedly, this is a popular restaurant on a Friday night, but this place is like this at lunch and every time I've been there.  I think back to places like Dinosaur and Good Luck in Rochester.  I used to think they were noisy.  In the city, for me, it's rare to find a place that is good and where you can also talk through your meal without yelling.  That is a bit of an exaggeration, but still I am surprised at how many restaurants in the city are this level of noisy.

Ambulances, Fire Trucks, and Police Cars also have sirens that seem so much louder than anything I've ever heard in any other city.  I think it might have to do with all of the noise pollution that they have to put up with.  I didn't realize they could be louder.  Even when they pass me and I'm in my car, I usually have to plug my ears because of the pain.  Yet, kids and adults in the city seem to not notice them.

Patrick and I enjoyed visiting Flaming Saddles, Boxers, and Posh in Hells Kitchen. Flaming Saddles is a bar where the bartenders do line dancing on the bar around your drinks.  Boxers is a sports bar where each of the bar tenders serves drinks in only boxer shorts.  Posh is a neighborhood bar with a DJ.  We had a drink at each one and then headed home to crash.

Tonight…Halloween parade in the Village.  I'll share photos and videos tomorrow.

Happy Halloween.  May you find a peanut butter cup (or some candy you love) in your hands today.

Thursday, October 29, 2015


On my walk to work, I found a dollar bill and a penny.  Seriously, who walks past a dollar bill on the sidewalk and doesn't pick it up?  I'm not walking through wealthy neighborhoods.  This was less than a block from the county hospital that sits across from the hospital where I work.

It did rain quite a bit yesterday and there are puddles everywhere.  The difference between here and most other places where I have lived is that most other places have trees and grass and lawns.  That ground cover absorbs much of the water.  Here, with so little natural ground cover, the rain water pools at every intersection especially where the sidewalks meet the road.

That means that when people are dropping money, it sometimes lands in puddles.  I'm not sure why people are afraid to pick up wet money, but it doesn't bother me.

May you find lots of money today, wet or dry.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Collecting Pennies

My friend Yesenia, shared this article about a man collecting more than $5,000 worth of pennies over the years.  Over his lifetime, he focused on pennies alone.  He never spent a penny, but instead put all of his pennies in buckets.

I don't think that is my intention.  I know a number of people who seem to keep jars of money collecting.  I think that after a year of collecting this money (August 31, 2016), I will deposit it somewhere where hopefully it will earn some interest.

This is simply an experiment to find out how much I can collect in one year.  Initially, I thought I might be lucky enough to find money on the ground every day.  For six weeks, I didn't miss a day of finding at least a penny on the ground.  That included days when I drove to work and didn't really go out much.  After six weeks, the penny finding became slightly more sporadic.  I still find money on the ground almost every day.  I took the bus today and found a penny as I got off.

I hope that you you are blessed with some extra money in your pocket today.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Don't pick that up!

A dime shined in the sun this morning as I turned the corner from my house headed to work.  A block later, there was a penny on the sidewalk.  Both are sitting in my back pocket in order to keep them separate from any change I might get from buying something.

As I approached Fulton Avenue, there was a lady walking a large bulldog.  He stopped to pee on a tree.  I passed the tree and noticed another penny laying right next to a puddle of fresh, hot, steamy dog urine.  I started to reach for it before coming to my senses and realizing that it probably wasn't a good idea.  That thought lead me to to think further about all of the money that I'm picking up off the street and that it probably has been peed on by a plethora of pooches, or at least a few of them.  I know that I wash my hands when I get to work and before meals, so I'm not all that concerned.  It seems funny to me, though, that I could be picking up really dirty money every day.

I doubt that picking up dirty money is significantly different than touching a door knob in Brooklyn.

Note to self, keep washing hands and make sure to buy good hand cream for winter.

I have 13 cents in my pocket so far today.  As I walk home, I'm still going to pick up money.  Funny thing, if I pass the tree where the dog peed and there is no pee, I won't remember and will probably pick that penny up anyway.

The lesson I take from this is that although there are opportunities around us every day that seem great, some of them have been tainted.  We don't have to accept every gift we are given.  Some of them are meant for others.  And sometimes, those "opportunities" are meant to stay right where they are and slowly get buried with debris over time to that someone years from now decides that they are good to pick up.

Monday, October 26, 2015

To give or not to give?

A man from across the street exited his apartment wearing a fur coat and an interesting hat that reminded me of Sherlock Holmes.  He crossed the street and made a bee line for me.

"Can you answer a question for me?

Now when someone asks you this just about anywhere in the world, except NYC, they are usually asking for directions.  Here, I've found, it usually means an ask for money.  I responded that I would do my best.

"I'm not asking for money, really.  You see, I got a baby and I need baby milk.  Honest, I can show you my baby. I need it bad.  I got nothin.  If you could come to the store and buy it, I'd appreciate it."

At this point, I usually walk away and say I can't help.  Something this morning made me stop.  "How much does it cost."  He replied that he had $4.99 and it costs $14.99 for baby milk.  I have no idea how much it really costs.  I only had $16 on me and was planning on using it for lunch.  I gave him $5 saying, "this can get you closer to what you need," and walked away wondering if I had been taken advantage of.

I know there are programs out there that pay for baby diapers and formula.  I know they are free to sign up for and make sure that no baby will starve.  Something told me that I really should help this time instead of walking away and saying no.  It may have been my conversation the night before about how tough it is for some people to get ahead in this country, especially people of color.

Yesterday, on the train, there is a character that still stands out in my mind.  He was a very tall and large white guy wearing basketball shorts, black socks, and a hockey jersey.  He smelled like he had not washed in days.  He came into my train car swearing and talking about how no one in the world would help him.  He hated all the f-ing people in the world who were ignoring how much he needed help.  He just wanted some money to buy some shoes at Payless.  He has a hole in his leg that won't heal and no one will f-ing listen or help him.  I felt terrible for him.  Is the response to give someone money?  Is that the moral and upright thing to do?  The christian thing to do?

Here in lies the question.  I know, as many of you do, that there are people that take advantage of other people every day.  Some of them have drug problems, alcohol problems, or mental health issues.  Others are simply acting as if they have problems because they would rather do that to get money than get a real job.  When a person really needs help, should you help them if you can?  What if it means getting more involved in their life to help them and you really don't want to or can't spend the time doing that?  What if just giving them money means that they will buy drugs or alcohol and use your money for that?

I am not a rich person and have worked hard for the money I have.  I am caught between wanting to save money and have a back-up security blanket for hard times versus just giving all I have and trusting God to provide when I really need it.  I believe God wanted us to be a good steward with our money, but also help where we can.  Is it wrong that Ideally I want one year of my salary in a bank account and enough money in a retirement account so I can retire when I'm older?

I'm more apt to give a hungry person food or a cold person a coat than to give them money.  I've heard it said that they should be able to pick out their own food or coat instead of me doing it for them.  I struggle with this too.  If someone is asking for help, I want to do it as economically and intelligently as I can.  I'd like to get the warmest coat for the best price to give to someone.  Since it would be my money helping them, shouldn't I get to decide how to help?

As a fundraiser for a charity and having done charity fundraising for years, I can see both sides of this argument.  My philosophy is that if someone really needs help, they should accept what they are given.  If they don't like it, then give it to someone who does.

What is the right thing to do?  How would you respond?

May you always have enough money to buy enough food to eat, warm clothes, and to pay for a safe place to live.

To give, or not to give, that is the question:
Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to empty
Your wallet and pockets of all that you have,
Or to walk away from the man begging your change,
And by declining, leave them: to starve, to weep
No food, or coin, to ask another.

The question, and the thousand answers to say
That their need is real? 'Tis my consternation
Divinely to be able. To give, yet have,
To have, perchance enough; that yes, that's the rub,
To have enough for both, what needs arise,
When we both have hungered or have asked,
A pocket yet full. The solution
That makes my heart a happy one.

(I memorized the Hamlet soliloquy in College and took some major liberties in editing it to fit this blog...forgive me Shakespeare)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A tourist in your own city - lobster and the statue of liberty

David, my fiancé, has his brother visiting from London.  Today, David really wanted his brother to have lobster for the first time.  We went to a place near Union Square called Burger and Lobster.  They have three things on the menu for food: 1.) lobster, 2.) burgers, and 3.)lobster rolls.  We decided to do the most economical version of their lobster meal and split a giant lobster between us.  I have never really liked lobster, so we go the smallest big lobster that they had at 3.5 pounds.

For some reason, I always assume all lobsters are male.  Apparently it is hard to tell their gender until you kill them.  This small large lady was full of lobster eggs.  We chose to have her grilled for us.  I took a few bites to make sure I still didn't like it (some say it is a 'no thank you helping').  Sure enough, lobster still isn't my thing.  I had a bunch of fries and salad to go with my scotch and that was enough.  I did try the roe (it tasted like sea water to me), but couldn't bring myself to eat the liver which looked more like guacamole than lobster liver.  A cooked whole lobster really stinks.  David enjoyed it.  His brother was glad to experience it, but would probably not do it again.  As for me, I'd prefer the burger next time.  The bill was pretty hefty, and my $50 gift card from TD Bank paid for a small portion of it.  

If you enjoy lobster (the restaurant was packed with people who do), this place is pretty good.  After they had both eaten their fill, they wanted to go home.  David has yet to show his brother much of NYC, so I suggested the Staten Island Ferry.  

The Staten Island Ferry is the best free way to get a good view of the Statue of Liberty.  We timed it at sunset which was pretty for sure.  

There is something very peaceful about the 25 minute ferry ride.  There are lots of tourists on the boat speaking many different languages.  When you get to the other side, you exit the ferry and have to wait for a ferry back.  We waited about 10 minutes and then caught the next ferry back.  Since September 11, you can no longer stand on the observation deck that approaches Manhattan on the way back.  Still, I managed to get one mediocre shot of the view of the tip of Manhattan at night.  

We then walked up through the Wall Street area toward the Fulton Train station to catch a subway home.  From the ferry, you can walk by the Bull Statue of Wall Street.  Apparently it is good luck to rub it's horns.  

You also end up walking by Trinity Church (National Treasure was filmed there) which is a beautiful old church.  We stopped there so I could point out the New York Stock Exchange and the first capital building of the United States of America.  I was also able to point out the September 11 site.  

One the subway ride home, we got into a heated discussion about racism in America.  As we were trying to talk, a "blind" women was singing hymns loudly and asking for money.  I put blind in quotes because although she carried a red and white long cane with a roller ball on the bottom, she only used it to tap the floor in beat to the music and seemed to be making eye contact with each person as she held out her cup for money. David's brother has been here just two days, but feels like so many people of color he sees are lazy.  I tried to talk about the system that has created so many poor black and latino people (every time we stopped, another person seemed to get on and ask for money no matter where we were), but he really didn't want to hear it.  Hopefully as we get to know each other, we can have more in depth conversations than a 20 minute subway ride will allow.  

On my walk home from the Nostrand stop on the A, I found a penny and then noticed a new pop up gallery.  They were selling art made by prisoners in the US Prison system.  I love art and art galleries.  I walked around and ended up buying a small painting of the Beacon Theater in Miami Beach that is painted with coffee as the primary medium.  I felt particularly drawn to both this piece of art and the cause it supported just minutes after reflecting on the racial injustices of our prison system.  

That was enough to fill my Sunday afternoon.  There is rarely a dull moment.  

The parent dilemma

I packed up my laundry to bring over to Ken at the laundry.  They charge you an extra $10 if there is a blanket in the bag, so this will be an expensive week.  Ken's wife had her baby.  At first, I thought he said the baby's name was waiter.  He corrected me.  Welcome to this world, Ryder Wong.

That brings me to a question…or rather a retelling of some things that I am hearing a lot in NYC.  This morning, I stopped by the local bodega to get a drink and some lunch.  Around here, I've adopted the custom of calling every shop keeper "boss."  My mom asked me why I did this and suggested that it was pejorative.  They usually call me "brother."  I decided that I needed to start asking names.  I asked the bodega guy who was making my sandwich what his name was.  He said his name is Ali.  I asked if he had ever seen the Disney movie, Aladdin, and I started singing "It is he, fabulous he, the famous Ali, Ali Ababwa."

He laughed and said he had never heard of it.  I asked if he had kids, that they had probably seen it or would like it.  He said he had kids, but they weren't here.  I asked what he meant.  He explained that his kids are home with his wife in Yemen.  I asked if he skypes with them or flies home to see them often.  Ali said he was just happy to work his 16 hours a day to make sure that they get food, education and a good job.  He doesn't talk to them or see them.

This saddened me.  I know how important my nieces and nephews are to me and my family.  I can't imagine their parents never seeing or talking to them.  Some of this is cultural, I'm sure, but I can't help but imagine how painful this would be for me or my family.  For Ali, it seems like it is just the way things are.  I have heard similar stories from many people living in my neighborhood.  There are so many people working here in the city, and in the U.S. who just are trying to make enough money for their family to survive, be it here or abroad.

I pondered that as I walked across the street to buy dessert from the new coffee shop that I'm trying to support on my block.  Kim, the owner, asked about David and if we had set a date.  She suggested keeping the wedding here in NYC, but we are really hoping to get married in Rochester, NY.  Kim asked if I knew of any apartments opening up in the neighborhood.  The only one she was interested in has been assigned to a broker.  For those of you who aren't familiar with this model, that means that a real estate agent is the only person who can rent the apartment.  Not only do you have to pay a first month's rent and a security deposit, but also the equivalent of a month's rent in a broker's fee.  That means that the average one bedroom in Brooklyn will cost you $5,400 just in first months rent.  You don't get the broker fee back, so it's a sunk cost.  This city sure is expensive.  I lucked out when I rented my place in that the landlord paid the broker fee.

My muffins tasted even better today, although I won't put as much ground clove spice in next time.

Hug your loved ones today, because not everyone gets to hug theirs every day when they are working so hard to survive.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Pumpkin Muffins and Tears

Now that the pumpkins have cooled off, it's time to make the muffins.

This recipe makes so many muffins.  I also add chocolate chips.  There are very few things that are worse off with chocolate included.  As they are baking, my houseguest (who can't get out this weekend, go figure) and I watched Forever Strong.  We both teared up throughout the movie.  It's a feel good movie with great themes for kids.  It can seem a tad bit violent with all of the rugby hits, but there is no swearing or nudity.  My houseguest should be moving out on Thursday.

Something about baking makes me feel awesome.  I love the act of baking, the smells, the tastes, and sharing with good people.  The last time I made these muffins, I forgot the sugar.  Yes….the sugar.  They tasted like dirt.  I almost forgot it this time too.  I looked at the recipe a few times thinking I was missing something.  It also looked too soupy compared to what my mom's looked like and I know that can't all be because I used real pumpkin instead of the can.  

They do taste good, but not quite as good as my moms.  They have a bit too much spice in them.  I think that the pumpkin in a can is much more concentrated.  This recipe makes 2-3 dozen muffins.  

$50.12 and some pumpkins baking

I woke up this morning with plans to make some money.  I saw a flyer for a local TD bank that was offering $50 for anyone opening up a checking account with $500.  I walked there this morning.  On the way, I found some buried treasure.

As I arrived to the bank, they were having a festival for the bank opening.  They had a balloon maker, free food, caricature drawings, and lots of music.  I signed up for my account and deposited a check.  They gave me my $50 gift card.  Come to find out, I only have to wait for my money to be deposited before taking it out and I can still keep the money.  That's a pretty easy $50.  The money should show up in my account on Tuesday.  Also, as long as I keep $100 in an account there, they have free change counting.  That is worth the money for now.  To add to the benefits, the new branch is on my walk home from work.

On the way back from the bank, I found another shiny nickel and two more pennies. That is a pretty nice investment for a short walk and a quick money transfer for no money.

Two blocks from my house, the local Health Department was having a community fair.  I stopped in and picked up a bag full of freebies.  Some of them will end up being Christmas gifts for my nieces and nephews, while others (the hand sanitizer and pens) will come in handy for me.  

My fiancé and I picked up baking pumpkins (different from those you carve).  I put them in the oven to bake while watching Philomena.  The movie was really touching and definitely worth watching on Netflix.  I recommend it highly.  

Now that the pumpkins have cooled off, I'm about to make pumpkin muffins from one of my mom's recipes. 

Pumpkin Muffins
1 cup cooking oil
1 cup water
1 small can pumpkin (16 oz?)
4 eggs

2 2/3 cups flour
3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Combine wet ingredients and stir until smooth. Add dry ingredients. pour into a greased muffin pan. Each cup should be about 1/2 full. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

On this chilly Autumn day, may your kitchen smell as good as mine does and you find some buried treasure.  

Friday, October 23, 2015

7 miles in 65 minutes

Tonight's adventure begins with a call from my fiancé asking me to help him by picking his brother up at Port Authority bus terminal at 5:00 on a Friday afternoon.

I think that it is sad that I can run somewhere faster than I can drive there in New York City.  I'm not that fast, but I am pretty sure I can keep up a 9 minute mile for an hour (based on my last race).  Port Authority was just over 7 miles from work.  The GPS said it would take 51 minutes.  It took us 65 minutes.  In that amount of time, I was honked at 12 times and heard people honking at each other 19 times.  I myself honked politely three times, and angrily three times.  

For a while I was behind this BMW taxi cab.  I had never seen one that was a BMW, so I snapped a photo.  Just after I snapped this photo, another taxi driver swerved into my lane with no signal indicator light.  I was traveling up the west side highway in Manhattan with four lanes of traffic.  A smart man would've used a signal light.  I also had one particular off duty bus (I think the bus number was 2263) who laid on his horn rudely repeatedly behind me and around me.  

The GPS took me home on back streets for another hour.  It's crazy to have driven 18 miles and to be in the car for three hours to get that far.  That, my friends, is why I would rather bike or take a subway while I live here.  

I hope your travels are fast, honk free, and joy filled this weekend. 

Biking Home from work in Brooklyn

I mentioned in yesterday's blog post that I had ridden to work.  The ride to work wasn't so bad except for a few people that really didn't give me much space between the parked cars and them when they were driving by me.  The ride home was different.

Don't be alarmed, I DID NOT get hit by a car.  I biked up New York Avenue with my backpack full of stuff that I had delivered at the office.  Most of the stuff was Christmas gifts.  There is no place to leave packages at my apartment, so if delivered there, they end up being held at the post office.  The lines on Saturday are very long and packages frequently get "lost" when sent to my particular post office on the corner of Broadway and Gates.  For this reason, I usually have packages delivered to the office.

The bike up the hill was uneventful.  Once I reached the top, the traffic was terrible.  I still don't know what caused the back up.  Fortunately, on a bike you can just ride next to all the cars and the backup doesn't affect you.  At one point, a large bus had pulled to the right and there wasn't much space between it and the sidewalk.  I slowed and inched up to where he was stopped.  The light was red, but I wanted to make sure he saw me, so I was focused on him.

Now I am usually a pretty calm person.  I may be full of energy sometimes, but it takes a lot for me to yell at someone.  As I was making eye contact with the bus driver, an elderly Latino man who was crossing the street was apparently too rude and lazy to walk around my "enormous" bike.  Instead of doing that, while my head was turned away, he clapped his hands together three times as loud as he could right next to my ear.  At first I thought I was hit or shot.  I jumped in fright and then realized what happened.  I screamed at him...yes, I was not polite.  "EXCUSE YOU, A** H*L*, LEARN SOME F*&KIN MANNERS."  He seemed unfazed and didn't even acknowledge the fact that I had yelled at him.  The lovely elderly lady next to him, on the other hand, acted as if I was yelling at her and cowered.  It made me even madder.  I was temped to bike over to him and really give him a piece of my mind, but decided to just steam for a few blocks while I rode home.

I was closer to home and still steaming about 10 minutes later.  I was riding down Throop which is a one-way street.  I was riding in the bike path on the left hand side.  Three blocks from home, and a food delivery guy on a moped zooms into the bike lane without stopping, looking the wrong way, and going the wrong direction.  Our tires collided and I yelled, "HEY, HEY, HEY."  Luckily I was paying attention and had squeezed both brakes really hard, so hard in fact that my back tire came up off the ground.  He apologized, and I continued on my way even more steamed.

For that reason, when my fiance arrived to meet me for dinner, I was still distracted and looked angry. It wasn't until this morning that I realized why I was still not in a good mood.  Fortunately, time with him always helps.  We went to Pilar for dinner and had amazing food with delicious mojitos while doing some wedding planning.

My lesson from this is that even if you are a rule follower in this world, there are plenty of people who aren't.  Try not to let people who break rules and endanger you get you angry.  It doesn't help anyone.  Instead, just pay attention and try not to get killed or hurt.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Fiverr and Adsense

It has been extremely rewarding getting feedback both through comments on this blog and on my Facebook page.  For many years, I have been talking about writing a book.  I read, "No Plot, No Problem," and have researched a fair amount on what it takes to write and publish a book.  What I found was that you need to be spending at least an hour each day writing.  That's what all of the research boils down to.  It also helps to do things like figure out your plot and develop your characters, but none of that matters if you can't sit down and write.

When I moved to Brooklyn and started talking about my experiences, I kept hearing friends and family suggest that I write them down.  Every time I sit down to write, I struggle to put on paper the stories that I tell my family and friends.  This blog is helping me do that and get better at it.  Maybe, I'll turn this into a book or it will inspire me to write a book.

After I set this up, I added advertising to the blog.  I figured that it wouldn't hurt to try to make money from my writing.  It really was simple.  I highly recommend it.  I've heard that it can be difficult to be accepted into Adsense.  Maybe having my own URL instead of using the blogspot one helps?  Before I started, I read a few articles.  The one that I found the most helpful was

Additionally, I wanted to build a high volume of traffic for a month to find out if that would affect my daily viewers.  I paid $5.00 for a search engine optimization (SEO) company to do the work.  My views went from 15 a day (mostly family and close friends) to hundreds of views each day.  I know that most of them are not clicking on any of my posts, but my post view average is up over 40 a day. I used a company called Fiverr. The good thing about Fiverr is that you only pay $5.00 for a service.  You can pay more for more service, but I chose to just pay for one month of $5.00 worth of search engine optimization.  I've also used the site to create a new logo for my job and plan on using them for short videos and cartoons.  I think that it is my best find for the year.  I pay more for that for a Chai Latte at Starbucks.

Today has been a day full of productive work for me.  I found a penny on my walk at lunch.  I also rode my bike to work for the first time in six weeks.  I am still a bit skittish after being hit by a car a few months ago (see earlier blog post).

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The prostitute and the pizza parlor

It was warmer today when I woke up.  I checked the weather (63 degrees and sunny) before leaving my apartment.  I'm reminded that all letters from my grandmother always started with the temperature and weather.  My grandfather, before he passed, was also always talking about the weather.  My parents talk about the weather too.  I guess it might come from growing up on a farm where bad weather meant lost time working in the field (or at least miserable time).

The local coffee shop on my street that opened a month ago, had this sign out front.  I stopped in for some iced tea and a peach cobbler muffin.  It was a nice start to my day.  I hopped on to the phone with my twin to talk about our plans for thanksgiving.  My family is exchanging Christmas gifts at that time, so we are trying to  help each other figure out who is getting what.

Even though I brought lunch with me, I forgot about it and went out to get pizza.  As I walked down Church Street toward Flatbush, I heard chinese, french, spanish, portuguese, island accented english from Jamaica and Haiti, arabic, and what I think was urubu.  Brooklyn, especially where I work, is extremely diverse.  I stopped by the jeweler where I bought our simple engagement rings to get David's resized.  They can't resize it, but are ordering me a replacement.  They put a ring guard on for the interim.

I then walked to a local pizza shop.  I discovered this place when I first got to SUNY Downstate.  I needed to get away from the office at lunch time to clear my mind and would go for a walk.  Someone had said that there were places to grab food on Flatbush.  My first time, I ended up having a really nice conversation with the pizza cook.  I dug into a thick slice of buffalo chicken pizza with blue cheese dressing drizzled on top and washed it down with a peach Snapple.  

I continued to visit this place every other week or so.  The pizza is always good and the characters that eat there are colorful.  Today, I was reminded of one particularly memorable incident.  It was spring and the streets were muddy and wet.  It wasn't quite warm enough to sit outside yet.  As I arrived at the pizza shop, I noticed that there were a bunch of guys all around 20 years old inside.  One sat at the only booth.  Tattoos covered every visible part of his body.  I asked if I could sit on the other side to wolf down my pizza.  He said yes.  I remarked that one of his tattoos was really interesting.  His reply was that the tattoo of a ship that I had pointed out had cost him a lot of blood and was one of his bloodiest most painful tattoos.  It wasn't the nicest conversation to have in response, but in reaching out I got what I guess I deserved.  At the same time, the men standing at the counter were giving the owner and cook at really hard time about the prices, the quality, and his accent.  It wasn't a pleasant experience.  I didn't feel threatened, but thought better of stepping in and saying something in defense of the men behind the counter.  They just nodded and ignored the negativity.  When the kids all left, he and I conversed a little in spanish about the immaturity of some men and lack of worldliness.  I remarked that learning two languages was something many of them would never try or understand the difficulty.  

My pizza came out of the oven and I focused my mind, mouth, and stomach on that.  I didn't notice her walk in until she said something.  As she started asking for food in a somewhat drunken manner, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a larger, and older man leaving the pizza shop.  The pizza chef indicated that the man who was leaving had paid for her pizza.  The lady I'm referencing had a gingham dress on.  It was a dress with four inch thick shoulder straps that zipped all the way up the back.  She had it unzipped in the back and the straps falling off.  Her cleavage was dominating the view of anyone she faced as it practically erupted out of the front of the dress.  The hemline didn't leave much to the imagination as to the fact that she was wearing nothing underneath.  I point this out as an observation.  Again, it wasn't something that made me want to finish my pizza.  She looked over at me and said, "sugar, you look like fun and you should buy me a drink so we can get to know each other."  

I try to accept compliments when they are given, but know better when someone wants something in return.  I thought of dozens of what I thought were witty comebacks, but didn't say any of them.  I just said, "no thank you, not my style."  She huffed, flipped her hair, grabbed her slices, and walked out.  As she left, I started to realize that she was probably a prostitute and that was probably a client who had paid for her pizza.  

Today, there were no prostitutes or thugs at the pizza shop.  I had my pizza outside and enjoyed the not so bad weather knowing colder weather is on the way. 

On my way home, I found 16 cents.  

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Parking tickets - my duty to support NYC beyond my taxes, also soup and good news.

I'll try to keep this positive.  I really did think I had parked on the right side of the street after circling this morning.  As I approached my car, the orange ticket on my windshield proved me wrong.  I kicked the air and swore a little bit (ok, I swore a lot about this F%&*ing city and the d*&n cops).  I know they are doing their job.  There is a good reason for this.  I'm reminded yet again why I either need to get my parking situation resolved or get rid of my car all together and join zip car or rent a car when I need one.  

I got in my car and drove back to my apartment to park in front.  I triple checked to make sure that I am parked in a spot that is good until Friday morning.  

Then I ran into my apartment to grab my house guest.  He brought home lentils and asked me how to cook them.  I've never made a lentil soup recipe that I enjoyed.  I've tried a few times.  I asked my mom and she said, "if someone said I could never eat lentils again until the day I died, I wouldn't be upset."  I'm adventurous though.  We found a recipe online.  I carefully read the reviews that said double the spices and don't use water.  We used broth and extra crushed tomatoes instead, added some chicken sausage, and some crushed pepper flakes.  I'm hoping it isn't too spicy and it ends up delicious.  

The only place I've ever loved lentil soup is at a place in New Jersey that is a mom and pop turkish restaurant.  The lentil soup there is amazing.  It's called Dayi'nin Yeri.  I don't know what they do to it, but I could eat that stuff all day.  Hopefully the stuff we make is good.  

While I was in the grocery store, I got a call on my cell from an unknown number.  I answered it.  A gent said he was at my door with a gift for me.  I thought he might be there to serve me a court appearance document (in case the person I fired decides to sue me).  I left the grocery store where my houseguest was holding the grocery basket and ran the block to my apartment.  I was wrong.  I got my first engagement gift.  I haven't opened it.  I'll wait for my fiancé to come home from work.    That brightened my day.

When I got back from the grocery store, my house guest and I pulled together this recipe.  It's now simmering on the stove. It won't be ready until 8:30, so we ordered dinner to be delivered.  This will make for good leftovers. 

I also got some good news that the houseguest found a place to live and is moving out this weekend.  It's been over nine months.  I checked and he thinks he should be able to earn enough money to cover food.  He is staying in the neighborhood and moving in with a mutual friend who needs a roommate.  That is a blessing and prayers that have been answered.  

I also found a few pennies on the way home.  Even on some days when bad stuff happens (that may cost you hundreds of dollars), there is good out there.  

Let the Sunshine In

It was another chilly walk to work this morning.  I am determined to get my parking situation at work fixed in the coming weeks.  When I started at this job, I was guaranteed a parking spot.  The person in charge of arranging that for me along with my ID, my keys, and introductions to the key players felt that it was something he should take care of.  Being a person who wanted to show initiative and get things done, I tried to do it all on my own in my first week.  That all backfired on me.  I did get the ID and the keys by my second week (it's strange to be the Executive Director and to not be able to get into your office or lock it at the end of the day for your first two weeks and to have to get a visitors pass every day to walk into work).  I've moved past all of this except for the parking.  The same person in charge has arranged my parking pending a letter from him to our parking office.  Having been what I think is sufficiently patient, it's time to move him to get this done.  I really don't want to be walking to work or walking to the bus twice a day all winter long.

The cold wasn't the thing that triggered this new push this morning, although it helped.  You see, in Brooklyn, like many cities, they have alternate side street parking.  Between the 11:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., I cannot park on my apartment side of my street on Monday's and Thursdays.  During the same time frame, I cannot park across the street from my apartment on Tuesdays and Fridays.  That meant that I had to move my car this morning.  I had to drive around the blocks three times before I found a spot four blocks from my house to park my car. If I had a parking spot at work, this wouldn't be as much of a concern.  At night and in the morning, there is ample parking on at least one side of the street.

After finding parking, I jogged back to my apartment to get my things to walk to work.  Today was sunny, but chilly.  The weather application on my iPhone said that it was going to warm up into the 60s.  As I walked to work, it became too hot to wear my coat, but my hands remained cold.  On my walk to work I found 13 cents.  One dime was in front of a school and one of the pennies is potentially something else since it is so covered in tarnish, I can't tell.

Arriving to work, I noticed that I had warmed up enough to not wear my suit coat either.  I dug into work at my desk and have had a very productive day.  I'm just taking a break now for lunch and to write this blog.  When I first got to Brooklyn in March, my office was located in the file room.  Every cabinet had boxes on top and every inch of desk was covered in piles of files.  The filing cabinet was pushed to the back of my desk chair so that it was difficult to get up from my desk without tripping.  The room is dark and not very inviting.  I surveyed the area and decided that first I needed to move some things around to make the space maneuverable for a man of my size (6'2" and 200 pounds).  I moved the file cabinet a different direction.  I discovered that the cabinets were all empty and the stuff had never been put in them.  With those few changes, at least I could see the desk.  It still wasn't comfortable for me.  In my career, this may be the worst office space I've ever had.

I made the decision to move into the conference room in spite of some objections.  I have set up my computer so that I can take everything down in 15 minutes and the conference room looks as if I was never there.

This has allowed me at least access to two windows.  Not much light comes through them though.  It is almost 3:30 p.m. and you can only see a little bit of sun shining on the top of one of the buildings.  This won't be any better when the construction on of the new building outside my window is done.  I was outside just a few minutes ago to run to the pharmacy (where I found another penny on the sidewalk), and the sun is so bright that I needed to shield my eyes without sunglasses.

For this reason, the walk to and from work has been nice.  I get some air and some sun.  I can see easily how people in this city can get cranky.  My office and my apartment both have very limited access to daylight.

I hope that you find your own way to see and feel the sun today.  I know my walk home will be pleasant.  Even if the wind is chilly, the sun will be shining on my face.

An Old Irish Blessing
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Brooklyn Commute

This morning, there is a chill in the air in Brooklyn.  It isn't Oneonta or Rochester where people posted photos of snow this morning, but I did have a chilly walk to work.  I left work to go outside.  I had dug through my drawer and found two gloves and an odd head band.  I figured it would suffice until I found my winter stuff that I think is under my bed.  As I walked out, I went to put on my gloves and discovered that I had grabbed two left gloves and one had a hole in the thumb.  I'm not sure about you all, but I may be the only person who consistently loses my right glove.

I turned around since I was still on my block and it was chilly to head back and grab another glove.  As I approached my apartment, I noticed a dime shining in the sun.  Thanks, Gram (and God).  I was reminded that:

"Sometimes you have to change your perspective or angle to see how you can benefit from something." 

I didn't notice the dime before because I was blocking the sun from reflecting on it.  In walking back in the other direction, I was no longer blocking the sun from reflecting on the penny. That change in direction and point of view not only showed me a dime, but allowed the sun to shine on my face, a really glorious feeling on a cold day.

I realize that I posted photos and a video of a Rochester commute with quite a bit of quiet and almost no traffic.  This morning seemed much quieter and calmer than most for me in Brooklyn.  Maybe the chill in the air calmed the nerves of the people who usually honk all the time.  Trust me, there was still plenty of honking going on, albeit less than normal.

If you listen as you watch it, you do note that I did catch at least one honk.  The honking and traffic continued throughout my walk to work.  As I approached work, I realized that I forgot my work I.D. at home.  It's a pain in the behind when that happens since you have to show security your license and they have to call someone to verify that you work there.  Luckily, the security guard who knows me was working this morning and just gave me a pass.  There are benefits to being nice to people and saying "howdy" to them when you see them.

Think about changing your perspective today.  Maybe there is a benefit you are missing.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Lazy weekend days

I'm noticing that having a lazy day really isn't that different in Brooklyn compared to other places.  In fact, if anything, it is easier.  Yesterday, I spent much of my day cleaning and organizing.  I made one of my favorite soup recipes  except that I use chicken broth and add two fried links of chicken sausage and make it on the stove instead of a crockpot.  It goes so well with a super sharp cheddar cheese grilled sandwich on a crusty wheat bread.  David and I had that with some champagne that he had picked up on the way home from work.  We watched the rest of season one of Empire on Hulu.   In order to save money two years ago, I got rid of cable television and just used my Netflix account.  I share it with my twin brother and his family.  They got Hulu last year and share it with me.  We both save quite a bit of money that way.

Today, I've just been doing some christmas shopping on line (my family is exchanging gifts at Thanksgiving).  If you don't leave your apartment, it's sometimes hard to remember you are in Brooklyn.  On Sunday's, the traffic is less, the noise is less, and it can be pretty calm on my street.

The only difference is that my house on Goodyear Lake upstate was surrounded by the lake and great views.  You would hear birds chirping most days.  I don't hear that as much here.

It's good to have a day or two to just sit at home and relax with the television or a good book.  I hope you find some time to put your feet up this weekend.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Making people look :)

I should have realized my outfit was odd looking when my neighbors guffawed as I exited the building for my run.  I didn't.  I was trying to get moving and get some exercise.  In the past three months, I have not been finding the time to work out at all.  Occasionally, I squeeze in a run.  I do walk 5 miles almost every day, but my body has adjusted to that and I'm gaining weight.  It's been weighing on my mind, and obviously my body.  My fiancé pointed it out last night.  He said, when we have time together, we need to go to the gym.  I love him dearly, but don't want the limited time we have together to be in a gym where I'm working so hard that I don't get to talk and can only focus on the next step.

Today, I cleaned my bedroom a little, organized, made a pitcher of iced tea (healthier and cheaper if I make it myself), went through my mail, and started working on my christmas shopping.  I took a break to read a little more on a great book.  That's when I started to nod off.  Fortunately, I hopped up and decided to go for a run.

I manage to get 5k in.  I noticed plenty of people staring and laughing.  One lady even yelled, "put some clothes on freak."  As I finished my fun, some lady asked me where my pants where.  I lifted my jacket to show her I had shorts on and she laughed loudly.  As I finished my run I asked a lady on the corner to take my photo.

Friday, October 16, 2015

How to pick up a guy in starbucks - oh the people I meet

I had to head to the doctor this morning to get one of my regular vaccinations at my doctor's office.  I specifically chose to go to what may be the most gay friendly physician practice in the city after having a very negative experience with an older physician in Brooklyn who was not comfortable discussing things with me and my health because I was gay.  Because of that, I take the subway into Manhattan and go to Callen-Lorde.  I usually get the first appointment of the day so I can try to not be too late for work.  Riding the subway during rush hour can be a challenge.  As I got onto the A train this morning, I was polite and had put my backpack in my hands.  I had to squeeze into a packed subway car with approximately 100 other people.  There was no room near any of the poles or handles to hold on, so I ended up doing the ceiling dance.  This is where, as a tall person, I put my hands above my head and touch the ceiling of the subway car applying as much pressure as I can as we approach stops so as to not lurch into the people around me or fall flat on my ass.

I couldn't even reach into my pockets at that point.  Luckily, I think I only went two stops before enough people got off for me to snap a photo and find a pole to hold onto.  For those of you unfamiliar with subways in NYC, this is one of the older, but not oldest cars.  It was made in Hornell, NY not far from Rochester.

I had planned plenty of time to get to the office and stopped at Starbucks to kill time before the physician practice opened.  While ordering in Starbucks, I always give them a fun name.  Frequently, like today, I tell them my name is Spartacus.  Then when they call my order, I puff out my chest and stand up straighter, saying, "I am Spartacus."  After I, aka Spartacus, got my order, I saw an open seat.  Walking over toward the window to sit in the corner and eat my warm chocolate croissant and drink my venti black unsweetened ice tea easy water, I noticed one guy with a red hoody, dark green camo pants, a seersucker jacket, and a hudson bay motif scarf wrapped around his head wearing sunglasses.  It was 8:00 a.m.  Next to him was a larger gent sketching in a huge sketchbook.  He was making a larger version of a magazine photo of a shirtless cowboy covered in muscles.  As I approached I told him that the drawing was a good one.

"Let me draw you," he replied.
"Nah...I don't look that good shirtless, let alone naked," was my response.
"No, you really are attractive, trust me," he countered.

I told him he should draw my boyfriend, who has a killer body and smile.  He said he would and gave me a card.  I thought that was the end of the conversation and I was going to be able to eat my croissant in peace, but he had other plans.  The artist said I was hot and wished I wasn't "taken."  I thanked him.  He introduced his friend to me (the man in the scarf).  I asked if the friend was ok.  The friend responded that he was coming down from his high and felt hung over.  That should've been my clue to leave.  The artist said the friend was hot, but straight.  I laughed and quipped that it was sad for him to be straight.  He, being super hungover and half high, just grunted.

The artist asked again if he could draw me.  I said I had a doctor's appointment in a half hour.  He said he would do it in less than 20 minutes.  I consented, thinking, "why not, Eric (or Spartacus), live a little."

He continued to flirt with me as he drew me.  I kept throwing my fiance into the conversation so he would know I wasn't free.  He mentioned that he had been out all night carousing.  I won't go into the details he did so this blog can still be read by most people (it went beyond PG).  Apparently, he met his "friend" last week when he was on the street drawing in the middle of the night by a bath house.  He frequently approaches guys he finds attractive and asks to draw them.  He drew this sunglasses guy (who had left to find more drugs as the artist started to draw me).  The druggy wasn't rude, just needed to get his fix.   The artist explained that they had connected over the drawing session.  The druggy loves to get high on a drug he calls tiny.  The artist explained he never does drugs, but doesn't judge.  I concurred.  I was a bit shocked that the druggy was so open about his drug use in a Starbucks.  I could've been a cop.

I could see the artist had some talent as he was drawing me, but knew it wasn't going to turn out great given the time constraint.  He stopped twice to walk up to other guys, give them his card, and ask if he could draw them in the future.  He did have good taste in men (or at least similar taste to mine).

As my time got shorter, he asked where I was going to the doctor and if they were gay friendly.  He said he was having issues and asked me if he could come with.  I agreed to bring him there.  He finished up even though he wanted more time.

This is what I look like today:

He was viewing me from my right side and sketched this (in 15 minutes): 

He gave it to me with a smile.  I feel like much of his time sketching me, he captured parts of me.  Then he would add some more detail, and my impression of me would no longer be what was on paper.  

He was nice enough, although a bit forward.  I'm not sure if I'll email him or not.  I was flattered.  It was an interesting way to start my day.  Hopefully I connected him to a doctor who can help him (there are dozens in the practice where I go).  

Then I had to make my way back to the office.  I am by no means a subway expert.  There are always plenty of people willing to give you advice on where you are going.  I walked over to 7th Avenue to catch the 2 to work.  As I got down to the two (it's three or four double flights of stairs for most subway stations, and sometimes many more), they announced that it wasn't running because of a person injured in Brooklyn.  They suggested taking the L to Union Square and catching a 5.  I had to listen a few times and then asked someone to confirm that is what I heard.  Subway announces sounds like Charlie Brown's teacher (see video insert) most of the time and you struggle to understand them.

I hiked over to the L.  Once you have paid for your ticket on the subway, they try to get you back and forth without making you go outside.  It helps you in that you don't have to pay again to switch trains.  The tough part is that the tunnels are frequently hot and stinky.  This is a photo of my view walking through the tunnel from the 2 to the L.  Notice on the floor on the right the poor homeless man sleeping (just past the metal bars).  I noticed him after I had snapped the photo and walked by, but didn't want to be rude and take his photo.  

This is what the platform looks like for many trains.  They want you to stand behind the yellow line when the train arrives so you don't get hurt.  Hundreds of people are hit every year because they don't pay attention to that rule.  

The train approaches.  If it seems to be going fast and his blowing it's horn, it probably won't be stopping and either that station is closed to that train or there is another train coming right behind it.  This one stopped.  

I successfully made it from the L to the 5.  When I got on the 5, it was one of the newer cars that has a lighted map on the side of the car.  Unfortunately, the map and car were for a 2 train and the map said "map route not in service for this train."  All subway cars still have the paper map.  It just helps to have the electronic map to follow if you aren't sure where you are going.  There were 72 people in my train car (I counted for you all) which meant full, but you could stand and find a pole to hold.  Twice people came through asking for money.  The second guy was shaking a lot and mumbling like he had some mental challenge.  He kept bursting into song as he asked for money and then would mumble.  He did stop long enough to sing to a little East Asian girl who had gold sparkly shoes and a mini fur white coat on while her mom wrapped in a beautiful sari and with a pretty jeweled bindi watched amused, but protective.

As he left, the lady across from me started to talk to me.  She said she was a retired nurse.  She talked about how her husband had been in the hospital where I worked (my security badge was around my neck).   She was very talkative.  She offered me some sugar free jolly ranchers that I politely declined.  I felt like she really just wanted someone to listen, so I did.  Another lady entered at a stop and was so focused on her phone that she didn't notice that her lunch bag had a rip and her salad dressing container had dropped on her lap.  I got her attention and offered her a ziplock I had in my backpack.  The retired nurse had a grocery bag that was a better fit.

As I exited the subway at the stop for work, I noticed a round disk under an empty seat.  It was a nickel.  That added to the penny I found makes for six cents so far today.

What do I take away from today?  Or rather, what does this make you think about?

Accept gifts and new opportunities?
Sometimes people are lonely even in a large crowded city and need to reach out?
If you think someone looks high, they probably are?
It never hurts to be kind to other people (as long as you are protecting yourself in the process).

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Rochester Penny - beat up, but still valuable.

This morning, I walked again to my meetings at a local hotel.  The walk is about 1 mile.  I decided to walk along the Genesee River that runs right through downtown Rochester.  Genesee Beer is named for this river and the brewery sits on the western shore just north of high falls.

There were a bunch of seagulls resting on the river.  They spend much of their time on Lake Ontario, but sometimes work their way inland.  Lake Ontario is just north of the city of Rochester.  

It was so peaceful watching them, that I took a little video for you to see and share in that.  

As I finished my meeting, my friend Nathaniel picked me up to take me to lunch.  He had struggled to find parking and was parked a little way away.  As we were walking, I found a penny that was very beat up on the sidewalk.  Every time I find a penny, I think it means something.  Today's penny, for me, was symbolic of how I feel about Rochester.  It looks like it has seen better days.  It has definitely not had it easy.  With a little bit of cleaning, though, and maybe some care, this penny will be shiny again.  It also hasn't lost any of its value just because it has been beat up.  I love this city.  It really is a great place with great people working hard.  

My morning meetings had been focused on alleviating poverty in Rochester and the other places where Pathstone had offices.  I sit on the board of Pathstone.  In spite of years of great work, Rochester still has the highest rate of childhood poverty in the country for a city.  Less than 50% of children in the city schools graduate.  Less than 15% of black children graduate from high school.  There is a crisis that has been building for years in the city.  I still love it.  I still want to do what I can to make a difference even though I moved to Brooklyn.  

Hopefully the work of Pathstone's CEO and other nonprofit leaders can be strengthened to make this beat up city shiny again.  

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Walking in Rochester - how peaceful

This morning, I walked to my board meeting at a hotel about a mile from my house in Rochester.  It was so peaceful.  I have forgotten how noisy Brooklyn is between all the people walking and the honking horns and traffic.

You realize that in Rochester, almost no one walks to work.  Traffic downtown is not terrible.  This is at 8:00 a.m. which is approximately when I'd be walking in Brooklyn.  

The few people I did see made sure to make eye contact, nod, and some said, "Good Morning."  I've been doing that in Brooklyn, but only some of the elderly ever respond.  Everyone else looks at me like I've got three heads and am wearing nothing but a speedo.  

You'll notice only a few people in my photos.  I didn't wait for none to be around.  This is what my walk looked like today.  I lucked out with no rain on this crisp Autumn day.  I really love this statue of achilles.  It's always fun to see it.  

On my way back from the board meeting, the sun was setting.  It made everything glow with a golden light.  I tried to capture it in a photo, but none of them came out.  They all just looked like big balls of yellow and you couldn't see anything.  I have to figure out the exposure stuff on my iPhone.  

This evening, I decided to order dinner from one of my old favorites.  I flew here for my meeting and didn't rent a car, so it had to be a place I could walk to or have deliver.  I'm spoiled with all of the options for delivery of any kind of food from any ethnicity in the world in Brooklyn.  In Rochester, you are pretty much stuck with either Chinese food or Pizza to be delivered with some rare exceptions.  

I called up Panzari's  and ordered a Florentine pizza.  They still have it on the menu, which is awesome.  It's a wood fired thin crust pizza with arugula, vine ripe tomatoes, bacon, and cheese with a white garlic sauce.  They told me it would be ten minutes before it was ready.  I walked down there which takes about ten minutes and sat at the bar.  They were just starting the pizza when I showed up.  I enjoyed just listening to the conversations around me.  I recognized a few of the people in the restaurant, but they didn't appear to recognize me, so I just listened and watched.  After about 10 minutes, the waiter came over and handed me a large pizza.  He said he felt bad that I waited an extra 10 minutes and made me a large instead to make up for it.  Something like that never happens in Brooklyn.  This guy didn't know me or any of the staff recognize me as a man who had been a regular there five years prior, but they still treated me great.  

It's things like these (the peaceful walk, the nice people, and the customer service at most places) that make me miss this cute little small city and the great people that live here.