Baggage Claim

If you gotta wait for your bags, the JetBlue Terminal at JFK is not a terrible place to do it. Sleek and efficient.


Houston Bike Share

I sadly missed the debut of Citi Bike yesterday, but on my last full-day in Houston I catch something equally cycleriffic: a Houston B-cycle.

Who knew Houston, of all places, had a bike share system? I won’t have a chance to try it out on this trip, but I hope it’s even better and bigger the next time I visit.

Architecture Movies

Cinema (Houston)

Somewhere on Westheimer, a mostly empty but way cinematic strip mall. I’d love to shoot something here.

Eating Family

Crawfish Night

I’ve eaten crawfish only a handful of times in my life, usually as an ingredient in a dish like gumbo, never by itself. I’ve always enjoyed it, but in NYC you have to go out of your way to find crawfish. As a result, I don’t eat it much.

So you can imagine my delight when my sister told me that my family here in Houston have been cooking up large batches of it every Friday this crawfish season.

It helps that the price of live crawfish has been as low as $.99 per pound at H.E.B. , because last night they bought thirty-nine pounds of it.

That’s my uncle skillfully cooking the crawfish. The meal was accompanied by equally yummy garlic corn-on-the-cob and Seafood Alfredo. He says he learned how to make all of this from watching Top Chef.

The best part about eating food that requires disassembly is that it forces you to eat slow and chillax with your dining partners. Here, my sister and stepmom fill me on family gossip news since my last visit to Houston.

Here’s what the pile looked like after we finished. I stayed at the table to continue shelling the crawfish, which my uncle will cook into other dishes like Crawfish Fried Rice.

My uncle ate last after cooking the entire batch of crawfish. Dessert was Häagen-Daz ice cream bars.

Needless to say, this was my favorite meal of the trip so far.

Urban Planning

610 Loop

I’m always a little excited when I visit a city with a ring road, probably because NYC doesn’t have a true one. (Sorry, 287 doesn’t count.) In Houston, 610 is the inner loop.

My relatives here all live outside the core, so this road is a part of virtually every car trip we take when I visit. I love looking out into the distance of this super-wide thoroughfare. It may not represent the best urban planning, but it’s a mesmerizing sight for a New Yorker.


In Houston

It’s been a few years since I last visited, but I found myself easily adapting again to the peculiar customs of Houston.

Were it not for the shirt, I believe I could have passed for a native, as you can see in these photographs.


Puzzle Bike

I’m no good with puzzles, but I’m forced to do a moderately challenging one the night before every trip that I bring my Bike Friday on.

It’s been a while since I’ve travelled with the bike so I was a bit rusty at the packing tonight. It took about forty-five minutes to get it right. (I think my personal best is twenty on a lanai in Honolulu.)

The photo inside the suitcase is nominally for TSA so that they can get the bike back in. But truth be told, I use it too. It gives me confidence that I’ve solved the puzzle before.

City Life

Rainy 125

It’s been raining all day in NYC. But to paraphrase one of my neighbors, it’s a mediocre rain — not a dramatic downpour that inspires awe and not a pleasant drizzle that lifts your spirits. It’s just average wet.

Architecture Eating

Arlington Diner

Just across the street from Stewart’s, the mighty Arlington Diner has dominated its corner for as long as I can remember.

I haven’t been here since I was a kid so I can’t vouch for the food these days. But the exterior is delicious.


The Spy Who, Uh, Nevermind

    From “U.S. Finds Porn Not Secrets on Suspected China Spy’s PC” in Bloomberg Businessweek, May 1, 2013:

    Bo Jiang, who was indicted March 20 for allegedly making false statements to the U.S., was charged yesterday in a separate criminal information in federal court in Newport News, Virginia. Jiang unlawfully downloaded copyrighted movies and sexually explicit films onto his NASA laptop, according to the court filing. A plea hearing is set for tomorrow.

    Along with the misdemeanor, the government said it had resolved the false statements case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg said in a filing today.

    I read this article two weeks ago and have struggled all this time to articulate my thoughts about it. The collision of politics, race, paranoia, stupidity, and plain old horniness practically begs for some kind of analysis that’s both insightful and funny.

    Unfortunately, that essay is going to have to come from somebody else. After two weeks, all I can say is

      1) Assuming this is the whole story, this is epically embarrassing for everyone involved.
      2) Even if this isn’t the whole story, what we do know would make for a pretty cool movie — documentary or narrative.

    Once again, real life has left me speechless. I hope my betters can come up with something coherent and interesting to say about the situation because I’d love to read it.

Chinatown Urban Planning

Kenmare Street DMZ

If there’s one place that always makes me a little worried about the future of Chinatown, it’s Kenmare Street between Mott and Elizabeth.

Here at the very northern edge of what you’d consider Chinatown, you can see the neighborhood’s past — and its potential future. On a low-key street mostly known for traffic coming from the Williamsburg Bridge, new luxury apartments bump-up against working-class walk-ups.

What’s next? I don’t know if anyone really knows. Gentrification may be an unstoppable force, but that doesn’t mean its impacts on neighborhoods are identical. I’m watching eagerly to see how Chinatown handles it.


Happy Mother’s Day

This was my Mom on her wedding day in 1968. Twenty-one years old.

Thank you Mom — and all the Moms in the world — for all that you do.


Garden State Turtles

I’m no expert on turtles, but these not-for-sale guys and gals at the Alpine Nursery in Belleville, NJ look pretty chillaxed.

And even if they weren’t, I know I certainly was after stumbling upon them there.

Usually, the only turtles I see are those in the fish markets of Chinatown — and those guys sadly are not chillaxing.

If I look at them too long I have to fight the urge to buy them all. Not too chillaxing for me either.


Daily News Building: The Globe

Growing up, I always wanted a really nice globe but the only one we could afford was a cheap metal version that had a big raised seam at the equator. The seam was so big it looked like the Earth had a Saturn-like ring.

I was a little embarrassed that our globe was not as nice as the ones some of my friends owned, and certainly not as nice as the ones in school.

I wish I’d seen the Daily News Globe when I was a kid.

I would have realized that the best globe in the world is free for everyone to enjoy — and it can’t be bought by anyone.

Philosophy WTF


For reasons unknown, I’ve found myself using chillax and its derivations more times in the past month than I can count.

And as it happens, it’s also been a pretty good month.

Does correlation equal causation? I think it does in this case. Try saying chillax out loud right now and see if you don’t smile or feel better right after.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Am I right? It’s like the word is its own chillaxative. Just the act of saying it seems to work the muscles in your jaw in a massage-like fashion that radiates chillaxation throughout your body and mind.

And this is just in English. It might even be better in other languages but unfortunately I don’t know any other tongues well enough to find out.

Drop the word in conversation today and do your part to make the world a more chillaxed place. The timeless wisdom of this old-school term needs to be shared.


Columbus Circle

It’s hard to describe how much better Columbus Circle is today compared to just about any time in living memory. It’s actually a place you’d want to visit and even linger instead of just pass through as quickly as possible.

Prior to the Time Warner Center and the 2005 renovation of the circle, the best thing I could say about the place was that I saw Nirvana play an earth-shattering set at the New York Coliseum in 1993.

Announcements Moviemaking Transit

Interns Wanted (Day Job Edition)

I’m looking for students with superior storytelling skills to help me make videos this summer about New York’s amazing transportation network.

As a video intern with the MTA Press Office, you’ll help tell the story of the transit system and the hardworking men and women who keep it running. You’ll shoot onboard MTA trains and buses, inside stations and tunnels, and maybe even climb a bridge or two.

You’ll also sharpen your skills at all aspects of video production — from story development to distribution — and learn a lot about turning around quality packages cost-efficiently and on tight deadlines.

Internships will start in early June and can continue beyond the summer. For more info and to apply, go here. Please don’t apply to me directly.

(Want to help me at my night job? Check back here later this summer.)

Chinatown Eating

Mister Hotpot

Because I have a thing for spicy hotpot, restaurants with big lighted signs, and Sunset Park Chinatown, Mister Hotpot on Eighth Avenue shot to the top of my list when searching for Chinese food on Sunday night.

It was well worth the trip. The food was very tasty, service was good, and they were open late.

I wanted to compliment Hotpot Xiānshēng personally, but I think he’d already left for the day.

Ailurophilia Helena Monday is Cat Week

Monday is Cat Week: The Condo Life

Helena proves that the best things in a cat’s life are free: your attention and cardboard boxes.


Stewart’s Drive-In

Growing up in Nutley, this retro Stewart’s in nearby Kearny was a familiar sight but one that I can’t recall ever stepping foot in.

That changed today when my family and I stopped in for lunch. Naturally, we each had a root beer to go with our various fried-meat-between-bread entrees. We were all very pleasantly surprised at how tasty the food was.

It was a beautiful day, so we opted out of car-dining and instead sat at one of the outdoor tables. What you can’t tell from the photo is that someone in our party actually brought tea eggs to compliment the meal. I can only wonder what the waitress thought when she saw that.

Cycling Transit

Heady Choices

Today I had an early afternoon shoot in one of the subway tunnels under the East River. It was a beautiful day out so I figured I’d bike to the meeting point in Brooklyn from my apartment in Harlem.

There was only one issue: did I really have to bring two helmets? I hate biking with more weight than I absolutely need to carry. But I also don’t bike anywhere without a helmet and I’m not allowed on the tracks without PPE.

And if I were to just bring one head protector, which would it be? The options weren’t good: 1) biking around Manhattan and Brooklyn with my bright yellow MTA hard hat, or 2) spending a few hours underground with a track gang wearing my tomato red Bern Brentwood bike helmet and enduring the inevitable teasing. And that’s assuming my headgear would even pass the safety rep’s muster.

Ultimately, I realized neither my ego nor professional reputation could stand either scenario. So I brought ’em both. A little more physical weight to carry, but a lot of potential other weight off my shoulders.


Labor and Its Discontents

In most parts of the world, today is May Day (a.k.a. International Workers’ Day), a celebration of the labor movement.

We don’t celebrate this day in America because our own Labor Day, which takes place months later, is now mostly known as the last weekend of the summer. It’s a day strictly reserved for last visits to the beach and big sales at the mall. In other words, we celebrate labor by trying not to do it or think about it.

The implications of this are part of a larger conversation I have nothing to contribute to right now.

But on the related but smaller topic of work, here’s two pieces to check out if you, like me, spend a good amount of time in an office between 9 and 5:

From “The Case for Working With Your Hands” by Matthew B. Crawford in The New York Times Magazine, May 21, 2009:

Like the mechanic, the manager faces the possibility of disaster at any time. But in his case these disasters feel arbitrary; they are typically a result of corporate restructurings, not of physics. A manager has to make many decisions for which he is accountable. Unlike an entrepreneur with his own business, however, his decisions can be reversed at any time by someone higher up the food chain (and there is always someone higher up the food chain). It’s important for your career that these reversals not look like defeats, and more generally you have to spend a lot of time managing what others think of you…
So managers learn the art of provisional thinking and feeling, expressed in corporate doublespeak, and cultivate a lack of commitment to their own actions. Nothing is set in concrete the way it is when you are, for example, pouring concrete.

From “I’m Brian Lam, and This Is How I Work” from today’s Lifehacker:

I recommend everyone either fix your job or quit it.