Adventures in the culinary world

28 May

The past few days have been…interesting, to say the least. It’s become my goal to not only meet people but to discover what the locals do in this city for fun.

As odd as it is, I’ve met a majority of the people I now call friends in the elevator between the 10th floor (where I live) and the lobby. I guess all of those exercises in interviewing class about “elevator pitches” have really come in handy.

Pad Thai. So yummy!

Upon meeting these new friends, we do the stereotypical “Hi my name is so-and-so, want to grab lunch and talk?” So, needless to say, I have sampled quite a few eateries around the East Village.

I know in my last post I said street vendors were my new favorite food source, but I jumped the gun a bit.

I’ve always considered myself rather experienced when it came to expanding my palate, but I’ve recently discovered that I have been leading a very sheltered life in the world of food.

Spice– a Thai restaurant- is absolutely phenomenal. (Let’s just put it this way…there’s two of the same restaurant within 3 blocks of one another. It has to be a hit.) Also, I couldn’t tell you the name of it to save my life, but I went to an Indian restaurant last night, and though I couldn’t understand a single thing on the menu, everything I ate was great. All in all, if you’re planning to travel at all, I’d recommend eating at some of the local joints.

After all, when in Rome…

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Finding community in “The Big Apple”

28 May

Here’s my big adventure of the day. (For a journalism nerd, this will be so exciting. For the rest of the world- mildly intriguing, but here we go.)

I have to do a story for Sunday on a street vendor, so today I set out in search of that one spectacular food cart that would catch my eye.

Yeah, didn’t happen.

All of the vendors were either too busy, in a tough location or didn’t even kind of speak English. Just as I was getting frustrated and wondering what my odds were of finding an American food vendor, I stumbled (yes, literally stumbled. I tripped. Story of my life) in front of this little plant shop called The Flower Stall.

143 E. 13th Street- The Flower Stall

Let me describe this place to you: it was small, over crowded, cluttered and messy- but so perfect. I could tell right when I walked in the door that this place had some history to it. I approached an elderly man sitting on a stool who I assumed was the owner. I asked if I could cover his shop for a story I was writing, and without skipping a beat, this man (named Bill) wove me the story of the birth of The Flower Stall.

Owned by his life partner, Cornell, The Flower Stall has been a staple in East Village (particularly, 13th Street) for nearly 45 years. Cornell had purchased the shop on a whim in 1967 and proceeded to learn all he could about plants in order to be a good shop owner. He became one of the best.

Unfortunately, Cornell had passed away almost 2 months ago, so Bill is manning the store until the final plants are taken.

What’s unique about this, however, is that the plants are not simply being sold. Instead, Bill is accepting donations (in check or money order only. He was very adamant about that.) for the reconstruction of Seneca Village. This is a village created by African American property owners in the 1820’s, and was soon taken over by the creation of Central Park. Cornell was very passionate about this project, so all donations are being made in his honor.

As if this story wasn’t already interesting enough, I noticed the neighborly camaraderie between Bill and every single customer that walked in. Everyone knew one another by name and it wasn’t uncommon for people to stop by to simply catch up with Bill. In the 2 hours I spent there, there had to have been at least 30 people in and out of the store.

I talked to numerous customers and they all said the same thing: the Flower Stall is a neighborhood staple and they wouldn’t trade it for the world. Everyone was devastated by Cornell’s death, and he was referred to as the “watchdog of the neighborhood.”

You can find Bill in this chair every Saturday from noon til 6. He mans the store with help from Tonya, the shop cat.

There were pictures, letters, notes and cards all in remembrance of Cornell, and Bill along with some locals told me story after story of Cornell’s selflessness and dedication to the neighborhood.

I left The Flower Stall with a new outlook on life in the city. I had begun to think it was impossible to be part of a community that close with a “New York mentality,” but the people in and out of that shop proved me wrong.

As one customer, Claire, said, “We’re all neighbors. I don’t think people understand that word today. I mean neighbors- like- who know your kids and care about your family and have your extra set of keys. That’s what we are.”

It was truly amazing to see the difference one man had on his community, and through stories and photographs, I feel as if I truly knew Cornell.

Today was a huge step for me in bridging the gap between being a summer tourist and student to a true East Villager.

As I left the shop, Claire said “Thanks, Catey! I’ll see you around! Oh..and welcome home.” She then caught herself and said “I don’t know where that came from! I mean welcome to the city!”

No Claire, you were right the first time. East Village is beginning to feel more and more like home each day.

One hand in the air for the big city

26 May

Well hello once again, WordPress! I’m sorry to have neglected you but I’ve definitely had some things I needed to take care of before coming back to the world of blogging. Here I am though, and I’m back with a vengeance!

This is one of the first views of East Village that I had. I fell in love right then and there.

Since I’ve last blogged, I’ve made my way to the fabulous New York City(the East Village in Manhattan, to be exact) and have started what will prove to be an absolutely remarkable six-week learning process.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m at New York University for six weeks for an internship/class partnered with the New York Times. Basically, it’s about 30 journalism nerds who write stories about the East Village for the Local East Village paper. We’ll be doing everything from reporting to editing to multimedia and everything in between. A dream come true for a journalism junkie like myself.

Before I get to logistics about the class, let me break down some of my first impressions of the East Village:

  1. This town is as unique as they come. I was walking down the street Saturday, my first day here, and was told that TomKat (for my followers who are less caught up in celebrity news and more focused on things that actually matter- that’s Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes) live in the building behind mine. However, I walked less than three blocks down and homelessness and poverty were clearly visible. What I’m trying to say is this town has the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor.
  2. If you’re bored in East Village- that’s your own fault. There’s always, and I mean ALWAYS something to do. Whether it’s hanging out in Washington Square Park, taking a few block walk to Chinatown, or simply exploring the multitudes of businesses and restaurants, something’s always going on.
  3. People aren’t even kind of kidding when the say the city never sleeps. Since moving into my apartment, I’ve had approximately zero minutes of complete silence. I’m not complaining, I’m just saying.
  4. It’s just as easy to blow all your money on food as it is to blow all of your money on clothes. This realization has been a tough one for me. Two things I love- food and clothes- are in constant competition for my extra cash. Unfortunately, food is winning this battle so far. My new fave food source? Street vendors. Convenient, cheap and so so good.
  5. Even though the city is a grid, getting lost isn’t such a far-fetched idea. I know, I know. The city- East Village especially- is a grid. One giant square (well…Manhattan is kind of an oblong shape, but for sake of the analogy…) divided into numerous smaller squares. Avenues run up and down, while streets run side to side. (Or maybe it’s the other way around. I couldn’t really tell you. I am, after all, the one who cannot maneuver my way around a square.) All joking aside, I don’t care what anyone says. It’s confusing, getting lost is easy, and finding your way back is quite the struggle.

Ignore the construction, but this is just a shot of Cooper Square- where my classroom is located. It's a short walk from my apartment on 14th street.

Now back to what I’m actually doing here. I’m taking the class called Hyperlocal I. My professor is Yvonne Latty. This woman’s done it all. She’s written, taken photographs and is currently producing and directing a documentary. I’m truly honored to be under her instruction.

This is basically an intensive six-week course that’s going to push us all to places we’ve never been before. The content we’ll be reporting on will be fed to the Hyperlocal Newsroom website and, if we’re fortunate enough, our stories can get pitched to both the Local (East Village’s paper) or the New York Times (no explanation necessary).

All in all, this is going to be the time of my life. I’ve already experienced two street fairs, gone to Times Square, Central Park and Ground Zero, joined a yoga class -which, if you know me, you know I am the furthest thing from graceful- and tried so many new foods I can’t even name them all.

This summer is definitely going to be one for the books. I’m going to leave NYU with new friends and experiences, a stacked portfolio, contacts and networking skills that will help me for the rest of my career, memories to last a lifetime and maybe, just maybe, a New York state of mind.

Got Game? The Gus Macker Tournament comes to Mount Pleasant

3 May

On Saturday and Sunday, Mount Pleasant hosted what has become a nation-wide tradition in many cities over the last 35 years.

The Gus Macker Basketball Tournament was hosted at Central Michigan University outside of the historic Finch Field House.

The tournament was located outside of the historic Finch Field House, with courts surrounding the entire building as well as indoor activities.

“This was a really good location,” said audience member Travis McBride, 18, of Port Huron, Mich. “The layout was perfect and everything was fairly close together.”

The Gus Macker is a three-on-three basketball tournament played using “street rules.” Players call their own fouls and teams can substitute as often or as little as they would like.

“It got pretty intense. Some people got really upset during the closer games,” said McBride.

Over 100 teams of both genders registered for competition and ages ranged from 4-year-old children all the way to a team of 45-year-old men.

“The streets were packed. It was awesome. The atmosphere was really energetic,” said McBride.

Each team was guaranteed to play three games, with the opportunity to play more based on whether the team won.

Kullen Logsdon, 18, of Ann Arbor, Mich. was a participant this year. His team name was The Bombers.

“The tournament was so much fun. I’ve always loved basketball but have never gotten the opportunity to play competitively,” said Logsdon. “I’ve never been involved in anything like this before so I was really pumped.”

Logsdon entered the competition with three of his friends from high school.

“It was really cool to have all the guys back together after a year away at school. It was like old times, playing basketball in our driveways,” said Logsdon.

One of Logsdon’s teammates, Drew Mapley, 19, of Atlanta, Ga. was in Michigan visiting family and entered the tournament.

Games got intense as the day progressed. Pictured, a team fights to the finish to advance to the next round of play.

“I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed playing with these guys until this tournament. It was fun to get back together and do old plays and stuff. We held our own, too,” said Mapley.

The Bombers didn’t win the Gus Macker, but they ended the weekend with four wins.

“We walked away with t-shirts and some consolation medals. I’m not complaining,” said Mapley.

In addition to a lot of basketball going on, the Gus Macker held various activities throughout the day. There was something for everyone.

“I was never bored,” said McBride. “And between games, my friends would hang out in the field house until they had to warm up. It was nice not having to go home all the time.”

The Gus Macker featured a wheelchair basketball tournament, a dunk contest, concessions, a booth to make thank-you cards for the troops, a place to purchase apparel, as well as live music and interviews.

“There was definitely a lot to do. We only went home once and that was just so we could eat. I had fun all day,” Logsdon said.

Games are played to 15 points or 20 minutes- whichever comes first. A team must win by two points, and in the event of a tie, overtime will be played.

“We lost one game in sudden death that we really should have won,” Logsdon said. “We let that one get away from us.”

The Bombers played five games total and got eliminated Sunday afternoon.

Games started early Saturday morning, with The Bombers first game at 8:30 a.m.

“It would have been nice to go all the way,” said Mapley. “But either way, I had a great time with my friends and would definitely come back again.”

The Gus Macker is known for the money it donates to charity from proceeds raised throughout the weekend. The money from this tournament went towards the Central Michigan University Events Center.

“It’s really cool that I could contribute to the events center and I would love to come back to a game or something so I could see what my money went towards,” said Logsdon.

With over 100 teams, 400 participants and roughly 1,000 audience members, the Gus Macker was once again a hit in Mount Pleasant.

“I love basketball, and this is really the only tournament that has national recognition. Plus, it’s all for a good cause,” said Mapley.

Take Back the Tap: One RSO’s fight against bottled water on Central Michigan University’s campus

20 Apr

On Friday, April 15, 2011 on Central Michigan University’s campus, a student organization called Take Back the Tap posed a demonstration outside of Park Library. Group members collected as many water bottles as they could find around campus and created a visual representation of the amount of water bottles used daily. The point of this demonstration was to bring awareness to the over usage and wastefulness of water bottles.

Women Who Work: a new concept in Pakistan

27 Mar

For this assignment, I used The New York Times website to find a video to analyze. I ended up going to the Editor’s Choice section and finding a video titled “Women Who Work- Struggling to Provide.”

This video, by reporter Adam B Ellick, tells the story of women in Pakistan who work to help support their families. This is often done against the will of the men of their family, and women face a lot of backlash and criticism for their choices.

Ellick really focused on the in-depth story of a few women in Pakistan. The video was very much character-driven, and viewers got an inside look at each of the character’s day-to-day lives. The story was told in the form of a narrator explaining the basic idea then personal interviews and video clips of the women at work were included.

The narrative was very clear and there was a distinct beginning, middle and end to the story. The first scene of the video features a woman telling a story of how she was brutally beaten by her own brothers for leaving the house and getting a job. She goes on to describe how they threatened to disown and again beat her if they ever saw her in public. Towards the middle, the focus of the story shifted a bit to include other women and their day-to-day struggles and experiences in the work world. Finally, the story ended with interviews with employers and general opinions on women working.

The first scenes of the story were very intense. The interview provided with the woman was absolutely mind-blowing to me, as in America, women are encouraged to work as opposed to punished for it. Also, the story behind the women really got me interested because they became real people rather than just characters in a video. It was interesting to see their every day lives in comparison to mine.

One thing I really enjoyed about this video was the wide range of shots. There were close ups, mid range shots and shots from numerous angles. I really felt as though I was there and it really added to the professionalism of the video because I could tell the director knew what he was doing. Additionally, the b-roll in this video was of the women actually going to work and doing their jobs. This also included natural sound in the videos. Viewers could again relate to the characters because they can hear the exchanges being made at work, the jeering and taunting faced by women on the streets and the manner in which employers treat the women they hire. One particularly interesting segment was when one of the women explained how she had to dress in western clothing once she got to her job, but had to be especially careful in what she chose to wear because women who expose their heads in public are often considered prostitutes. This again shows the vast difference between our everyday life and life in other countries.

There were, however a few things I didn’t particularly care for in this video.

  1. Length. This video was nine minutes, 58 seconds. Though the topic was interesting, not many people have the time or patience to sit through a ten-minute video.
  2. Lack of identification. There were a lot of really interesting women featured in this video, and not one of them was identified other than stating their name during narration. Maybe this is a privacy issue, but I’d still have liked to see their names written out somewhere on screen.
  3. Transitions. Awkward would be the best way to describe this. Don’t get me wrong…the video was very well done, but some of the transitions from sub topic to sub topic were a bit awkward. I got a little lost and had to rewind to catch back up.

Overall, the video was very intriguing. I enjoyed, for the most part, the pacing of the video and the characters featured really held my interest. Also, the topic itself was unique and something that I feel should get more attention. A lot of times, people don’t realize just how lucky we are to live where we do until they see how life is elsewhere. The concept of women literally being punished for working was mind blowing to me, as I’m sure it will be to other viewers.

All in all, this New York Times production was very well done, and I’d recommend you take the 10 minutes to watch it. You’ll really appreciate everything you have after doing so.

 

 

 

 

An Example of Photojournalism at it’s Finest from the New York Times

17 Mar

As I was browsing the New York Times website today, I found a photo that really demonstrates good photojournalism.

In an article about the Cobble Hill Towers, low-budget housing for struggling families,  found in downtown Queens, New York, a photo that captures not only the essence of the housing but the elements of true photojournalism was included.

This photo was used mainly to convey emotion described in the article. Featuring a small family enjoying a sunny day in the courtyard outside of their home, readers have an opportunity to feel connected to the family.

Additionally, the use of lines, balance, framing and the idea of “avoiding mergers,” or colors that blend together, are evident in the photo.

First things first…

  • Lines. There’s a few examples of good usage of lines in this photo. First and foremost, the positioning of the people in the photo create a vertical feel. Along with that, the brightly colored chairs in the background  offer vertical lines to draw the viewer’s eye in the direction of the main subject, and the brass framing that the people are sitting under also adds more vertical lines to the photo. Additionally, the horizontal lines of the brick paired with the table and the horizontal lines created by the step make for a nice flow throughout the photo. Finally, the diagonal lines created by the sun draw the viewer’s eyes literally directly to the subject. These lines also add depth to the photo as a whole.

Now on to…

  • Balance. Though there’s a lot going on, this photo does a good job of balancing everything out. The couple is sitting between two pillars, which adds balance to either side of the family. Additionally, there are two chairs in the background as well as parts of the brick wall showing on either side of the mother and father.

Up next…

  • Framing. I think the framing going on in this photo is pretty obvious, however it still deserves an explanation. As the couple sits on the steps, the two pillars surrounding them create a frame in the photo. As the pillars are on either side of the family, the attention of the viewer is automatically drawn to what’s “inside” of the “frame,” and that is the subjects of the photo.

Last but certainly not least…

  • Avoiding Mergers. This term is a bit odd to me, but it basically means that colors in the photo don’t run together to create a giant blob. This photo has really distinct and bright colors, so there’s no problem with potential merging. Everything pops on its own, and nothing blends together to create a mass of color.

 

All in all, this photo is a great example of what photojournalism strives to be. Though all elements of photojournalism weren’t included, the photographer really hit it home (in my opinion) with lines and framing.