Friday, March 21, 2008

I Love In Spa World

I started going to In Spa World for a very simple reason- I was stressed out and losing my marbles. Not in a truly crazy way; just in the 'I can't sleep and I need to relax' way. And one night I sw a commercial for the place- it was so cheesy I couldn't believe it. Naturally the kitsch factor made me look it up on the web- and I was hooked.

I went out to Flushing, caught the spa shuttle to College Point (Upper Nowhere to you)- and found paradise. But was I selfish? No! I had to share the experience. So last Sunday, one of my collegues from School and I went to In Spa World.

Deborah lives in New Jersey, and she had to take the PATH train over to Mnahattan. It was a pain in the bum. We were supposed to go on Friday but she had a meeting, so Sunday was the best day- I decided to do it even though I knew I had to get some sleep before going to work that evening. Unfoortunately her train was late, so as I waited, I became one stressed-out little kitten, and so did she. Nevertheless we both calmed down once she got off the train, anf off we were to the subway.

Deborah had probably thought my tales of spa adventure were insane, but she doesn't think so now. Once she hit the hot tubs, I thought she was going to grow a fish's tail and turn into a mermaid. The water blissed her out. Of course, since we are both anthropologists, we couldn't just enjoy the experience- we had to analyze everything (or at least I did, since I'm the culturalist and she's the archaeologist- she probably would have preferred digging the place up or looking at the heating system). While I peppered her with questions about her observations, she wondered aloud if she could get the School to sponsor a trip there, so her students could get an idea of what Roman spas were like. In a lot of ways, In Spa World is like a Roman spa; people go there and eat, talk, relax, and soak, and get massages and salt scrubs. Although the place is missing the prostitution, hair-dressing and in-house entertainment that would make it a real Roman spa, it does have a cold pool that's much like the frigidarium of old.

By the time Deborah and I had finished having a bite to eat, soaking upstairs in the out door pool, and generally getting that slightly drunk feeling that comes after spending several hours in saunas and hot water, Deborah declared herself to have a girl-crush on me and we were BFFs. We are now trying to figure out how we should write a grant proposal for studying numerous spas and baths, and determining how they not only reflect and change the cultural concepts of users, but how they act as extensions of the old Roman bath idea, in which people became equal by all being naked with each other. Of course, in order to conduct the study, we might have to go to spas and baths all over the world- it could take quite a while to complete. If anyone has any ideas on how we can make this into a reality (it's all in the name of science), please feel free to drop me a line.

How I Spent my Spring Break

I've been busy for the past week. Some of it has been pleasant, and some mot. Still, I'm back, and happy to see you!

WHat have I been doing? Working, mostly. And spinning. And sleeping. And going to the spa. Tonight I may take in a movie. Oh- and getting ready for Easter.

I know- it makes no sense. I'm a Buddhist, and Buddhists don't have Easter. But I made a New Year's Resolution to put more ritual in my life. I think ritual is very important- it helps us stay grounded. So, just like I celebrate Christmas as a pagan holiday (and honor the winter solstice by giving presents and having a feast), so I'm celebrating Easter in a pagan fashion (and honored the vernal equinox by making a cake for my co-workers, and planning a feast for Sunday).

I ran around last week gathering items for the Easter basket I'm assembling, and I dyed and prepared a few eggs this week. I followed what for me is a custom- I went to my favorite Italian bakery and bought a marzipan lamb. It's small, and as the silliest smirk on its face. On Sunday it will be sacrificed by having its head bitten off (Mr. McSmirkersons wants to carve part of it out and fill it with fake blood so we can read its entrails, but I think that's going a bit too much- but then again, he wants me to put chocolate in the head of the bunny cake I'm making so it'll look like sweetbreads when we cut it. He's a very twisted man). I'm also making a cake, and a very expensive ham that will no doubt be delicious. I'm debating about roast potatoes and maybe carrots; or maybe a spring vegetable like asparagus would be in order. I love asparagus.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Carpenoctem's Tour of New York City

Let's say you had three full days in New York City. Here's what I would tell you to do.

Unpack and have something to eat near the hotel. Ask the concierge for the address of a local coffee shop (we don't have many diners in NYC; we're a coffeeshop culture). Pick up a copy of Time Out New York so you can see what the weekend looks like. A copy of the Times wouldn't hurt either. Read, and have a simple breakfast of regular coffee (milk, two sugars) and a toasted bagel with a schmear (cream cheese). spend the day wandering around the Upper east side. Look at the prices in stores and laugh. Get to the Metropolitan around 4:30 when most ofthe tourists are clearing out and go up to the balcony to have a drink and a snack at the bar that's set up every Friday and Saturday night. Feel very elegant and sophisticated. Wander through the Asian section and enjoy the Ming Scholar's Garden. Ooh and ah over the furniture rooms and wonder what it would have been like to be French nobility. See whatever big exhibit is on. Don't forget to pick up an audio guide on the way upstairs- it will be worth it. Leave as the museum closes, feel world-weary, and get in a cab. Go a nice restaurant - Artisanal is good. Have fondue. go back to the hotel and get some sleep.


Oversleep a bit. Get up and catch the subway. Go to Chinatown for a dim sum brunch. Buy some egg cakes from the street vendor, and maybe some snacks for later. Wander over to Di Palo's afterwards and buy Italian goodies for later. Wander around Nolita. Look at the original St. Patrick's Cathedral. Wander up into Soho. Go into Dean and DeLuca and laugh at how you spent less money on your sausage and cheese than the other tourists who bought things in there did. Grab a train and go uptown to Times Square and marvel at all the lights. Go listen to music in the lounge at BB King's. Go to your hotel, eat bread and cheese and sausage and biscotti from Di Palo's, and wash it all down with blood orange juice.


Find a coffeeshop and have a brunch with cheap sparkling wine. Go to the Upper West Side and visit the New-York Historical Society. Use this as an excuse to go to Knitty City and buy yarny goodness. Pick up some bagels to take with you. go back to the hotel and eat the rest of your bounty from Di Palo's. Be the happiest tourist in New York. On your way home, eat real bagels until they come out of your ears.

Monday, March 10, 2008

People at City Bakery

People at City Bakery
Originally uploaded by mariacallas
I heard the siren call of caramelized French toast again yesterday, and went to City Bakery. Here's a true fact: did you know that if a bomb went off in City Bakery and killed all the people inside, half the investment bankers, corporate lawyers, mid-level designers at Tommy Hilfiger, yoga-tastic stay-at-home moms who spend their days shopping and not doing housework, and Jamaican nannies in New York would be gone from the face of the earth? And then where would we be? I'm just sayin'. Don't get any ideas, now.

I'd miss the nannies, though. They're cool.

The 7 train, 9:30 am

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Originally uploaded by mariacallas
What was I doing on the 7 two weeks ago? Going to the spa, of course. The 7 train is magic- it runs through oodles of immigrant neighborhoods. Get off at a stop anywhere along the line and you may find yourself in India, Greece or Haiti. I took it to the end of the line, so apparently I was going to Seoul, South Korea by way of Hong Kong or Shanghai. Heh. When I grew up in that section of Queens, the only place you could have seen was a very nice shtetl outside of Warsaw.

I was looking at this morning and was befuddled (yet again) as to why tourists look forward to coming to Manhattan (which they seem to think is all of 'New York') to look at each other in Times Square. One guy was even saying how McDonald's had the best hamburgers in NYC- he was from Texas (this was in answer to another ruben who wondered if McDonalds could be found here at all). Still another person was worried that he'd be killed the moment he got off the plane- he apparently didn't realize that New York is the safest large city in the US. But none of those posts were nearly as humorous as the squintillions of ones from people saying that they planned to see 'all the sights' in New York- in less than a week. Um- that's impossible. It would take a week to get through the Metropolitan Museum alone. Even if one went to all the usual tourist traps (oops, I mean sights) in Manhattan, that would take about a week and a half, not including Grant's Tomb, the Tenement Museum, and Katz's Deli. and pretty much none of these people mentioned the outer boroughs at all, which means no Prospect Park, no Green-Wood Cemetery, no Shea Stadium or Arthur Ashe Tennis Center, no Bronx Zoo, no Alice Adams House, no Kossar's Bagels, no Lemon Ice King of Corona. that also means no Jackson Heights (Mumbai on the Bay), no Brighton Beach (the westernmost outpost of the Black Sea Riviera), no Harlem (and no Schomburg Center or 125th Street), no Grand Army Plaza with gorgeous views, no nothing that makes New York one of the best damn places on earth. In NYC, you can travel the earth and never need more than a Metrocard. I feel sorry for tourists, but I suppose that as long as they'll allow themselves to be herded into the Olive Garden and Ruby Tuesday's, that will just leave all the good food, fine beverages, interesting shops, and interesting social events to the rest of us.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Kim's Video, St. Mark's Place

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Originally uploaded by mariacallas
It's mean of me, but I'm trying to make you jealous today. This is the window of my video rental shop. Notice how you can rent or buy everything from American Gangster to The Hands of Orlac. Then you can pick up the German Expressionism collection so you can become really morose, snort cocaine, and feel like you're living in 1920's Berlin. Or not.

Ok, now I'll be really mean. You know those snacks in the last photo? The supermarket that sells them is around the corner from this video store, so you can dine on squid-flavored chips with extra wasabi while watching M. And then you can call someone, like, say, Smirky McSmirkersons, and tell him how hard it was to decide between a weekend-long Gordon Liu marathon or a mere night of Jacques Tati, and whether you should have just bought some okonomiyaki from the stand down the street from the supermarket, or just been satisfied with your weight in green tea ice cream. And listen to him cry like a three-year-old girl you just beat at Candyland. Again.

Bento Love: Snacks!

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Originally uploaded by mariacallas
I love putting snacks in my bento box. I think that's the best part. I especially like Japanese snacks because the wrapping is so colorful and the flavors so interesting. My fave is this package of little cakes meant to be eaten with tea. Each one is individually wrapped, and there are different flavors such as red bean, white bean, green tea and milk. I feel guilty about all of the packaging, but they taste so good. One of the joys of living in a culturally-diverse area with lots of Japanese businesses is that one can buy things like this without having to go to Japan.