Sunday, December 7, 2008


It snowed for a bit this evening, which made for a sort of magical walk home for me, among the proud brownstones, the streets just a bit quieter due to a reduced number of cabs flying by. I’m not sure whether a recent depressive rut is seasonal, but I do think this weather really is for me: cold nose, visible breath, woolly scarf, hands shoved deep in pockets, hot tea, and that amazing pine scent as I walk through the Christmas Tree stand on the way to and from the subway. It’s good to be noticing the little things again, to switch off that biting internal monologue and stare out the window at the swirling flakes that are now covering cars and masking the fire escape, its black iron slats turned to soft white tendrils. The snow may be gone in the morning, but I hope the mood isn’t.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Deep Thought

The best things in life are not things.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


I love you all and miss you dearly...see you in a few weeks!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tom Stoppard

I went to see a short interview of one of my favorite playwrights, Tom Stoppard, earlier this week at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. From Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead to his epic trilogy The Coast of Utopia, Stoppard has had a long and varied career spanning different media (plays, television, films, adaptations) and a far more diverse range of ideas.

The interview itself was rather unremarkable, mostly due to the moderator. David Remnick is a great writer and reporter, and I’ve often enjoyed his work in The New Yorker, where he is executive editor, but his rambling, dull and academic interview was stifling. Stoppard himself was delightful, especially when talking about translating Checkhov (his new translation/adaptation of The Cherry Orchard debuts in January). Checkhov is such a lover of humanity and potent dramatist of the human condition, and who better than Stoppard to bring Checkhov’s legendary wit and elusive humor through to us in English. He also mentioned in a curious aside that the American read on Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky is very far removed from the Russian sensibility—Russians apparently find these two dour literary titans hilarious; their works are inherently comic.

I wished for more: more on his process, more on his ideas about theatre and where it’s headed, more on his unique perspective of the American theatre (apparently, we’re much more obsessed with the “success” of things here, both financially and critically, than they are in London and the West End). I suppose that’s the dramatist’s greatest trick, though: always leave them wanting more.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

NBC Election Central, Rockefeller Center

Taken today with a Vado Creative that was received as a door prize.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Ever had a really bad week? Just got laid off!

Monday, October 27, 2008


At what point does one officially become a New Yorker? Many long-time New Yorkers say you must be born here, or put a time-frame on it (5 or 10 years). Others say you have to have some quintessentially New York experiences. Does getting hit by a car count?

Yesterday in my neighborhood, I was crossing the street , in the crosswalk, in broad daylight, white walk signal showing, when a car came whipping around the corner (one-way to one-way street turn) and just kept on coming. I backpedaled, yelled, jumped and he hit me just below the knee and I fell back, ripped up my coat, and sat stunned in the middle of the street. Thankfully, several people witnessed and stopped and offered help—I wish I could have thanked them. Someone called an ambulance and another guy acted as a kind of buffer between the driver and me. The driver was a young guy, perhaps Latino, and scared out of his mind, especially when the fire truck and ambulance showed up. Now, I was not seriously injured, but I was shaking and in a little bit of shock, so they went through the full nine yards (back board, neck brace, head strap) and took me to the ER. Better safe than sorry. I was fine, nothing broken, no head injury, no blood, but I’m certainly sore today.

I know this could happen anywhere in this country, but what do you think? Official New Yorker?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Museum of Natural History

Having lived in the city for more than a year now, it's truly a shame that today marked my first visit to the American Museum of Natural History. It's gargantuan. I spent nearly five hours there and didn't see much more than half the exhibits, and some that I did see I barely glanced at due to a crush of kids or the room temperature (they must keep different exhibits at different temps for preservation purposes, because it was blazing hot in some rooms and downright chilly in others). What a treasure for kids (and adults). I can only imagine how many careers in the natural sciences, anthropology, and archaeology were launched from multiple trips as a youngster. It left me a bit nostalgic for the time before I abandoned science as a course of study. Biochemistry certainly would have suited me, since I am a pretty solitary person...perhaps if I'd made it through that period of intense boredom with science ten or so years ago. Then again, I might be a miserable lab rat today. Ah well.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


I was running across the Brooklyn Bridge just before noon today, tourists everywhere, weaving in and out of people, when I bit it. The pedestrian crossing of the Bridge is made up of hundreds of one or two inch boards, so most of the crossing is literally a boardwalk. And some times there is a bulge or warp in a board, and as I just happened to hit one at exactly the wrong angle, down I went in right in front of a group of European women. I literally saw the word "humiliation" in big neon lights as I went down. I popped right back up and went on my way with a smile and a wave. I've a nice purple bruise on my palm and a scratch and bruise near my elbow and kneee, but the biggest injury was definitely to my pride. Ah well, we all need a hit to the ego from time to time. At least it wasn't on the pavement.


Someone was jackhammering outside my apartment last night at 2am. I thought there were noise laws here, but aparently not, as a call to 311 (the city hotline for everything NYC) the next day revealed that the city allows such work to be done after hours to prevent disruption of traffic. I hope the drivers who were spared such inconvenience as a five minute wait appreciate the hours of sleep I will not get back. Sheesh.

Friday, October 3, 2008


Summed up by a beautiful song from the Robert Plant and Alison Krauss album, Raising Sand, which is really, really good.

Through the Morning, Through the Night

Believe me when I tell you
I will try to understand
Belive me when I tell you
I could never kill a man

But to know that another man's holding you tight
Hurts me, little darling
Through the morning, through the night

The bond has been broken
The promise you gave
The words that were spoken
I can not be your slave

But to know that the trust you had in me is gone
Hurts me, little darling
Through the nightime, through the dawn

I dreamed just last night you were there by my side
Your sweet loving tenderness
Easing my pride
But then I awoke and found you not there
It was just my old memory of how much I care

Belive me when I tell you
I will try to understand
Belive me when I tell you
I could never kill a man

But to know that another man's holding you tight
Hurts me little, darling
Through the morning, through the night

Friday, September 12, 2008

Do the Puyallup

I know the fair is going on back home; you know, that little taste of Americana that comes around once a year to help us say goodbye to summer? I didn’t think I’d miss it as much as I am…I could really go for a fair scone right now. There is nothing quite so bad-for-you-it’s-good as a fair scone oozing raspberry jam and butter. When the sun goes down and the rides light up the night, it’s pure youthful magic. Walking through the barns, it’s wonderful to see that, even as farmland continues to disappear in the Puget Sound area, a new generation of ranchers and farmers are continuing the great agricultural traditions that were the impetus for the first fair back in October of 1900. Plus, they sell the wackiest stuff at the fair and it's fun to see what new, useless items will be up for sale by a British guy with a headset (there must be some market research showing that the Brit accent sells in the US, because it seems like every other booth has an Englishman hocking their wares).

What I wouldn’t do just to have some trademark fair smells in my neighborhood….

Morning found us calmly unaware

I have mixed feelings about the impending close of summer and onset of fall. On the one hand, there are few things better than bidding farewell to another sticky New York City summer. On the other, summer has so many associations that connote happiness--long days, beaches, outdoor dining, ice cream, free concerts. And yet the autumn is perhaps the best time of the year in the city, what with the leaves beginning to turn into their brilliant palate of colors, mild temperatures that make for amazing days outdoors, and that long-awaited discovery that soup has become palatable again.

Now for someone with whom to share these simple delights….

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Where do you get that walk oh so lean?

The average New Yorker walks more than a mile, and often 2-4 miles, per day. All this pedestrian movement provides ample opportunity for observing and, yes, judging, the way that people in this city walk. There are fast walkers, weaving in and out of people on the sidewalk, visibly and sometimes vocally frustrated when stuck behind a gaggle of slow walkers who take up the entire 12-foot sidewalks. The aforementioned slow walkers more often than not travel in packs and spread out, making passing impossible or requiring a perilous jaunt into traffic to get around them; tourists are their own sub-category of slow walkers, stopping every ten feet to look up or consult a map. There are lopers, who have a large stride and move their arms in long, exaggerated arcs. Shufflers barely pick up their feet, and a rhythmic scratching of shoe on pavement follows them wherever they go. Heavyset people often lumber down the sidewalk, seeming to shift their entire weight from one leg to the other with each step. Women in high heels click their way up the block while flip-floppers smack their way down avenues. Young people take subway stairs two or three at a time, while the elderly cling to the rail and drag themselves up one step at a time.

It’s rather like the freeway without vehicles.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

General Update

I realized that I don't use this blog as a way to keep in touch with people, though I probably should, since I am so horrible at keeping in touch through other avenues. To all those whom I have been remiss in contacting, my apologies; and a quick rundown of the last few months:

1. I did not take the job with UNICEF. It was in the IT department. It was a general services position (administrative assistant). I worked in a darkly lit cubicle. They took more than 5 months to make a hiring decision. They weren't going to be very flexible. In the end, it just wasn't right for me.

2. I took a job at a hotel in midtown Manhattan as a Reservations Agent. It is definitely an actor's side job and most of the people I work with are actors, including a very good friend who basically got me the job--that's been the best part. We have a great understanding boss. This is, interestingly enough, my first job at a for-profit company (past jobs have been for a small city, a university, and a non-profit--support Habitat for Humanity at

3. I'm a member of a production company, The Collective (, that has been working toward a production of a new play written by one of our members. I'll have more info on that as the details get ironed out. Very exciting!

4. It's taken me more than a year to really begin to understand how this business works, and I've only just begun to learn. I had some expectations about building a life here (personally and professionally), and those have been exploded. So I'm trying to pick up the pieces and find a path that works for me. It's very slow going at this point.

5. On that personal side, I am single again after four years. If you want to know what Paige is up to in sunny L.A., you can follow her (until recently, at least) at

6. Still living in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, which is a beautiful, if slightly less quiet as of late, neighborhood.

I really do hope to talk to you soon, all you whom I've missed. I'll be in Tacoma in late September for a wedding, so perhaps we can meet for a drink in one of those lovely new bars and restaurants that seem to be popping up everywhere back there.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Planetary Trifecta

If you live in a place where you can see stars at night (I can occasionally spot a few from my house in Brooklyn), check this out. You'll need a set of binoculars, but it's definitely worth it. It's rare to see three planets so bunched together (in terms of our viewing them, of course), and visible with just a set of binoculars. Cool!

Monday, August 4, 2008

A Complete Triumph

Triumph at Comic Con in San Diego. Hilarity ensues.

Friday, August 1, 2008


The New Yorker is an excellent magazine. Even in these times of falling subscriptions and up-to-the-minute blogs it never fails to provide unparalleled coverage and unique perspectives.

It's reviews are always interesting to read and thorough; sometimes to to the point of overkill, and sometimes to the point of obscuring the subject of the review. Thus it is with the current--excellent--article on Herodotus. The article reads like an essay on what Herodotus might be able to tell us today, though it is supposed to be a review of a new translation (The Landmark Herodotus) of Herodotus' Histories. The book itself is hardly mentioned, but no one should care, because the article is the most succinct description of Herodotus's' project and purpose I've ever read.

Just sayin'.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A few days back home

Eagle Point Lookout
Originally uploaded by patbonck
I took a trip home this weekend to go to our annual family picnic and spend some time with my family. We call it the Cantalupari family picnic becuase that's where everyone hails from in Italy (Cantalupo nel Sannio). The Martelli and Masella clans get together to eat, of course, but also to catch up and play some games. Sarah, my awesome cousin, came up with kick-ass games like a donut eating contest (hilarious), a pizza throwdown, a balloon stomp, and the ever-popular water balloon toss. And Aunt Mary ran the fairest bocce tournament we've ever had. I'm biased, though, since somehow I was on the winning bocce team with Sam Di Re, Carl Martelli and Kevin. Way to go fellas!

On Monday, Aaron and Lauren joined me for a hike at Mt. Rainier on what was the absolute perfect day. It was a Monday, so the trails were deserted, the weather was beautiful, there was still some snow on the trail, and it was clear as a bell as you can see from the photo. We started from Lake Mowich, at the end of a long gravel road from the Carbon River entrance. We took the Spray Falls trail (approximately 6 miles round trip) for a nice 3 hour hike through beautiful old growth forest and across streams and creeks. Spray Falls, so named because of the mist created by the falls as it cascades over a cliff rock face, was a pretty spectacular setting. We then hiked up to the apline meadows of Spray Park. Though there was still snow on the ground at this altitude, the wildflowers were just getting ready to bloom. Another week or so and it would have been amazing! But we had a great time and it was a nice reminder of what a treasure it is to have such wilderness to enjoy just an hour away. If you click through the picture, you'll be able to view most of the photos we took along the trail.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Sometimes, especially when the subway is overcrowded, I daydream of living in the country. Like here, mabye:

Pasture outside of Harrison Hot Springs, British Colombia

It's beatiful there, and people will actually stop and talk to you whether they know you or not. Not that everyone is guileless, just that you have fewer people to deal with, a manageable number, say; there's no overwhelming mass of strangers stepping over you to get where they really-need-to-be-right-now-or-else. There are tourists, but they do not ride past your house on weird open-top buses. There is advertising, but it does not oppress you from every street corner, every transit center, every building facade that has not yet been covered in the image of some impossibly hip and beautiful person listening to an mp3 player or drinking mass-produced whiskey or competing in a misguided reality show called Date My Ex.

But that's why daydreams are daydreams and reality is a city that never sleeps and gives you the opportunity to be whatever you might want to be this week. Because no one knows you here, unless you're on one of those ads. And most days, anonymity is grand.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Personal Ad

Single white male. Shy and quiet at first, loud and obnoxious later. Prone to bouts of sarcasm. Cynical streak a mile wide. Thoughtful, though occasionally thoughtless. Does not easily grow facial hair. Has been accused of being "stingy". Self-identifies as a "saver". Generous with friends. Competitive to a fault. Can be moody, but what human being isn't? Enjoys red wine, but only with good company. Very close to family. Slight overbite. Loves to cook. Eyelashes have been described as "girlish" despite having never been groomed. Unable to show teeth when smiling. Catholic, though not a good one.

You are of the female persuasion. Have a wicked sense of humor. Like sports and being active. Prefer nights in with dinner and a DVD to other nighttime activities. Love to laugh. Might speak some Spanish. Like to travel in developing countries. Wouldn't mind playing board games all Saturday. Might be a little crazy. But only a little. Have shotgunned a beer at some point, not necessarily recently. Wish people would just shut up sometimes and enjoy the quiet. Really. Understand that some people have an unquenchable desire to be a stage actor.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Our downstairs neighbor, Maria, works at the Long Island College Hospital just a block north of our building. She is a delightful lady, hardworking, always has a kind word for me. I can’t say the same for my roommates who when I first moved in referred to her as “Sword Lady,” since she had come up to yell at them, mostly in Spanish, during a very loud party brandishing what they described as a sword.

Not too long after I heard this story, I struck up a conversation with her and learned that she was from Colombia, that most of her family was still there and that she has two children who live in other states. She returns to Colombia once a year or every two years and sends money regularly. She can’t wait for her retirement and thinks she has saved enough to buy a small house in New Jersey. Her son and his wife will soon give birth to her first grandchild.

Last night, as I was walking home from the supermarket, I saw Maria hobble around the corner with a gentlemen carrying her bags. She had fallen in the street between blocks and thankfully he’d been there to give her a hand (it had been raining and Hicks Street is a one-way, two-lane thoroughfare to a freeway entrance). She appeared to have landed on her left knee, a knee on which she has had three surgeries in the past few years. I helped her get her bags up the stairs; she’s up just one flight, but she made her way very slowly.

And that made me wonder. What does a person do who’s been here for 20 years, whose two children live in other states and whose family lives in Colombia? What if she were seriously injured? What if she’d been hit by a car? I myself have been in a few near misses with cars, mostly on the Upper West Side, where cabs and trucks race down one-way streets at what seems like freeway speeds. And those were with a full walk signal. You could disappear in this city and people might not notice for days, weeks even. I suppose it’s possible that could happen anywhere, but I think I’ll check in on Maria more often now.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Uncle Vanya

In an attempt to read more lately, I’ve revisited the small set of books I brought with me to New York. The last few days have been spent with Anton Chekhov, the great Russian dramatist, and it’s brought back some memories.

My first memory of Uncle Vanya is seeing it at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 1998 with a group from Bellarmine Prep. We saw wonderful plays on that trip, including a great production of Les Blancs by Lorraine Hansberry and a spectacular production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that I still count among the favorite theatre experiences of my life. The production of Uncle Vanya was remarkable, especially for its portrayal of Vanya himself and I wish I could remember the name of the actor now. I remember the set very well, since it so beautifully evoked the themes and images of the play: a bouquet of roses suspended from the ceiling that withered and dropped petals as the play progressed; a gigantic hammered sheet of metal that gave large, hazy, distorted reflections of the actors and set pieces; and always central was the piano that Yelena and Sonya try to play, only to be shut down by Serebryakov. The end of the play had Vanya sitting on that piano, wrapping himself in one of Dr. Astrov’s maps, weeping. I remember sitting there for a moment, my mouth agape, as the audience around me began to applaud. Sometimes you have that experience in the theatre when you wish there were no curtain call.

I could not say the same for our production of Uncle Vanya my sophomore year at Seattle University. While it was a phenomenal experience, I don’t think I fully appreciated how wonderful a play it is, and how lucky I was to have the chance. Playing Vanya at the age of 19 was a challenge beyond my means at the time, though I had the pleasure of working with a fine cast, including a professor who, appropriately, played the professor. It was a learning experience for which I am immensely grateful. I don’t get to do those kinds of roles anymore (yet?) and I miss it more than I can say.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Jury of Your Jeers

Serving on jury duty these last two days has reminded me why I’ve never particularly liked lawyers (and why I don’t think I could ever become one, at least a trial lawyer): they are full of shit. Few people (with the possible exception of politicians, most of whom were lawyers at some point) can hold forth for an hour, or longer, while saying so very little. If you value quantity over quality, you’d probably make a good lawyer. So it is with legalese, a dialect of English created solely to obscure reality and distract the hoi polloi from these two pesky things: facts and the truth.

And I wasn’t even selected to sit on the jury. Imagine my chagrin after sitting through a week or more of trial.

They continually exalted our system as the best in the world, and I am fully aware that it probably is, but that certainly does not mean it is the best it can be. I don’t begrudge the two gentlemen involved. I’m sure the guy whose knee was injured deserves a full hearing, and the defendant may have been completely without fault, who really knows. But two days to select six people seems like overkill. Had they cut the bullshit, we might have gotten through it all in one afternoon.

And the two white male lawyers picked an all male jury. Not one female was chosen to sit on the jury. Not even for the two alternates.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Friday, July 4, 2008

Random Observations

Random Observation #1: I’ve been watching a lot of television lately, something I’ve vowed will change, though we’ll save that for another post. Fun fact: watching the Food Network is hazardous to your waistline. And not because the programs inspire you to prepare the recipes, just that you are at home, on the couch, near the kitchen where abundant amounts of food are available, this being America, and seeing all that food incites constant snacking.

Random Observation #2: My roommate self-identifies as a “hippie.” If hippie means privileged slob who buys lots of toys (digital SLR camera, electric drum set, the latest products from the fruit-themed-company-I-shall-not-name that has taken over our lives, etc.), spends weekends in the Hamptons with his upscale girlfriend, works a side job selling premium Scotch, and never lifts a finger to clean our fucking apartment, then hippie he is.

Random Observation #3: A new hole-in-the-wall eatery opened in my neighborhood this week. There are just two items on the menu: shaved ice and dumplings. I have finally found two reasons to love New York.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Out of Place

A year has come and gone here in New York. I do feel out of place, but I've always been the kind of person who feels out of place just about anywhere, except among my crazy family where we are all weird and loud and obnoxious.

And, of course, there's been a lot of change in my life over the past year or so, what with the move, and my grandmother's death, and other recent upheavals.* I've been trying to convince myself to give it another year, but I don't know if I have the heart or fortitude. And I don't know that I want it as bad as many of the people I've come to know here, who like to market themselves, and angle for work, and seek out commercial and TV spots. It's a maddening business rife with rejection, and I've never been much good at making lemonade. Mine's always too tart.

But no one ever told me it would be easy, and I'm thankful for that. And I'm especially thankful for my family, who have supported and loved me across the miles, and who think I'm crazy. I think you're pretty crazy, too, guys. And isn't that just wonderful?

And I would certainly not still be here without my dearest friends, Sam and Vic. They're the best, and I'm glad that there is a whole group of people here in NYC who know that and love them. Check us out, we're pretty awesome.

It's been a hot summer already, so I'm very much looking forward to my trip home in September to celebrate with my best buddy, Paul. Paul is the smartest and funniest guy I know. He's getting married to a woman who is his equal (and probably his better) in so many ways. Welcome to the Fermans, Teresa, they are a crazier bunch than my family, and that's saying a LOT.

So until then, I'm here. And that's just fine.

*I lost the regional spelling bee on this word in the 5th grade. It was the only time I made it to regionals. I use this word as often as I can.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Wake Up

Early morning subway rides are usually boring affairs, with sparsely populated cars and half-asleep people moving to or from work. This morning, however, the train was a bit more full than usual and a somewhat startling incident had the train abuzz with chatter.

Three stops after I got on, an African-American gentlemen boarded the train. He was homeless, and as he started his spiel, he shook the coins in his hat. He ended with a curiously offensive and bitter comment that I had yet to hear on a subway car: "...and if I could get a donation from one Asian person today, that would be great." He had boarded the F train at East Broadway, the Chinatown stop. An Asian gentleman sitting just to his right, upon hearing the comment, retorted: "Up yours!" The man asking for change then proceeded to make some obscene gestures and comments, and things looked to be heating up. The man sitting kept his cool, and the change-seeker went on his way down the aisle.

All of us half-asleep commuters were wide awake now. It was clear that not everyone had heard the entire exchange. Questions and comments went flying: "what did he say?" and "the guy just wanted some change, leave him alone for chrissake" and "why you gotta ask him what he wants the money for, I have half a mind to punch that chinaman". Where that last comment came from, I have no idea.

It was a lesson in mob rule, as well as both perceived and real racism. As I had heard and watched the entire exchange, I attempted to explain it to the people sitting around me. But I found that people had heard and seen what they wanted to hear and see, and I wondered if I had done the same? No, I had clearly heard that last pernicious sentence, and it had soured me. Sympathetic comments to both parties fell along racial lines, while others on the train seemed indifferent.

I certainly understand when people are down and out, and Lord knows I'd like to believe that people would help me were I in such a situation, but to express frustration at the cards you've been dealt through comments such as that is only going to alienate those from whom you seek help.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Eyes crossed

"To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle"
--George Orwell

Saturday, May 31, 2008


in the back of a pickup
picking up speed
grabbing at memories as they race by
but they’re slippery, slick as ice
frozen now in black and white
soon to yellow and fade with age
telling the story of what was
what will not be

a wall of people all around
their stories stacked to the heavens
smack the pavement as they crumble
from their fragile perches
heads no longer in the clouds

here the weird lament begins
braying out across the ruins
waves of sorrow
ebb and flow
the moon’s revenge

even as summer approaches
instinct whispers, “hole up!”
hibernation lulls drowsy eyes
away from the absence

dreams will nourish
for only a time
a season of discontent

ears ring with the din
that fades only as the heartbeat slows

hope for wakefulness

Friday, May 30, 2008

Boo hoo

Miserable day. Tomorrow's gotta be better, right?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Parks for All

As excited as I am at the prospect of a new park in my neighborhood, when I read articles like this in the the Daily News, I can't help thinking the the families in East Flatbush and Bushwick could use parkland and open space much more than the childless rich folk inhabiting Brooklyn Heights. Kids should be able to walk--safely--to a park in their neighborhood.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

I regularly run along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and recently noticed that the city has finally begun demolishing the old piers to make way for the new Brooklyn Bridge Park along the East River. Take a look at the plans here. This is very close to my neighborhood, and I hope I'm still living close by when it's finished, because the plans for it are spectacular. It would make summers in New York and in my neighborhood much more bearable!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Coming to America

Picture 022
Originally uploaded by patbonck
My dad was in town for a few days last week and we took the opportunity to visit Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. It was an absolutely miserable day, drenching rain and wind made it cold and obscured the usually spectacular views from the islands. It was a godsend when we reached Ellis Island and spend hours in the museum drying off while learning all about the immigrant experience at the turn of the century. It was sobering. We saw cots that were stacked three or four high in the room, which could then be folded up to give extra space during the day. These were for immigrants who were detained. The miserable day suddenly seemed a whole lot more bearable.

Later, we were able to search for family, and I found my great-grandfather (Pasquale "Patrick" Martelli) and my great-uncle (Alessandro "Alex" Martelli). My great-grandfather arrived in 1915 at the age of 14, and was detained for awhile because he had eczema. Eventually, he made his way out west, working on the railroads and was able to sponsor uncle Alex to follow him in 1921 (at the age of 16). Uncle Alex's ship's manifold listed that his brother, Pasquale, was sponsoring him and listed an address in Oregon.

Great-grandpa's name was also on the honor wall (the only family member we could find, probably because he came here on a wing and a prayer, with no family here to speak of). The wall has some 500,000 names on it, and is set up in a giant circle with names on both the inside and outside. That's his name on the wall in the flickr photo.

Happy 125th Birthday

to the Brooklyn Bridge. One of the first marvels of modern engineering, some 100,000 vehicles, 1000 bikes, and 2000 pedestrians still cross the bridge every day. Her birthday was celebrated with a bang:

Monday, April 28, 2008

Friday Evening Fishing

Two men prepare to fish near slip #4 at Battery Park, here at the confluence of the Hudson River and the Atlantic Ocean. Three of their lines extend into the dark water while one prepares to cast the fourth. From this far, the bait looks large, perhaps a herring, or multiple small fish. The cast is long, some 50 yards, and the fisherman deftly reels back, keeping the bait moving. Five other men stop for a picture, amazed at this urban fishing. “Catch the big one!” they call out as they continue on their way.

Bowling Green and Battery Park are at the very southern tip of Manhattan. This area used to be a separate island of its own; the short distance between the islands, once spanned by a wooden draw bridge, was filled with earth carved out of lower Manhattan. Here, where land and sea converge, is a place of mighty contradiction. Nature and industry and history and commerce converge at this point. The boat traffic is nearly as intense as the street traffic just 100 yards away. Sailboats commiserate with ferries, speedy water taxis, tourist cruises, tugboats, and container ships. Large port cranes dot the horizon to the east and west. Amid it all, Liberty stands tall, watching over the chaotic scene as the sun sets and her torch flickers to life again. What must she think of this noisy fray?

The warm day has slowly dissolved into a cool and breezy dusk, the characteristic urban haze illuminated by the last desperate rays of the setting sun. Could the lady focus her attention on the skies above her, she would witness a scene as full of activity as the choppy waves below her. Planes and helicopters and birds crisscross the sky in patterns. Have the planes learned their patterns from the birds, or vice versa?

The fishermen work quickly now, trying to net a catch, pulling up their prize, a large fish fit for filleting (my guess, 25-30 inches). The fish flops up onto the pedestrian walkway, slowly surrendering to its fate as one of the fishermen rushes back to get his car and, I presume, more gear, perhaps surprised by their early success.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Washington's Birthday

The Original "W"
Originally uploaded by patbonck
After stumbling upon some historic markers in my neigborhood, I learned that my neighborhood (Cobble Hill/Brooklyn Heights) was the site of one of the first major battles of the Revolutionary War, the first time Washington had marshalled an army of 20,000 men.

So I spent a portion of Washington's Birthday playing tourist and snapping this photo at Federal Hall in lower Manhattan. It was here that the original W was inaugurated as the first president of the United States (the building is not the original, it was rebuilt in 1833).

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Originally uploaded by patbonck
Today marks my first real snow in New York (there was a dusting one morning, but it was gone in a couple of hours). There is about an inch on the ground, forecast to be gone in the morning as rain moves in...seems a lot like home!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Year of the Rat

Ugh...dragon breath.
Originally uploaded by patbonck
The Chinese (Lunar) New Years parade wound it's way along Mott Street in Chinatown yesterday. I was there to snap some photos and freeze my ass off (the day got progressively colder, and it didn't help that I stood in the same spot for close to three hours). The only godsend, and I never thought I'd find myself saying this, was the crush of people around me--our combined output of body heat kept us just warm enough to survive. Not 15 minutes after the parade, it started to snow.

Click through the photo to see the full set, including grown men in rat costumes, kung fu kids, and plenty of annoying "party poppers," spewing confetti and glittery ribbons into the air and all over the spectators.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Some days, especially bitterly cold ones, I wish I were here again...

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Just in case I decide to take a job with UNICEF or the UN in the next three years, I took the United Nations General Services Clerical Exam yesterday. It was a relatively short aptitude test, though it included several things that didn't immediately strike me as useful to clerical workers.

There were proofreading and filing sections that were generally straightforward (though with just 3 minutes for 30 questions, they can hardly expect one to finish), but then there was a section called "Sorting" that seemed to be a test of spatial aptitude. The test required that you sort pairs of shapes with acronyms in them into 4 different bins. It seemed ridiculously simple to me, and completely useless in terms of being able to carry out an administrative job, but perhaps it's designed to trip you up. Then there was an obligatory simple math section and a section that asked absolutely inane questions about an organizational chart--questions that no one in their right mind would ever be struggling with in an office environment.

Finally, there was a transcription section, a natural task for administrative employees, requiring that we transcribe several paragraphs of barely legible handwriting. I felt for the several people in the room for whom English was not their mother tongue and tried to imagine myself taking the test in Spanish...<shudder>. English is my native language and it still took me several minutes and some serious contextual guesswork to decipher what, at times, appeared to be hieroglyphs.

I learned this morning that I passed, but I'm curious to actually get my results and see how I performed on each of the sections. It had been awhile since I'd taken a test, and I was surprised at how my heart rate went up and I began to sweat; a good reminder that I'd need some serious preparation before taking the GRE or LSAT!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

And Let Perpetual Light Shine Upon Her

Marian Martelli Wetsch
August 26, 1926 - January 14, 2008

They came in droves to say goodbye
A testament to your reach, though you alone were proof enough
Living the dreams of those who came before you
Making possible the dreams of us who remain
You always made room in your home and in your heart
For family, friends and anyone who needed love and understanding
Tough as nails, and soft as a summer breeze
Rock of strength, and soothing embrace
As you cradled us in yours
Rest now in His arms

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Baby, It's Warm Outside

An official high of 62 degrees today, January 9, 2008 in New York City. One week ago, the high was 16 degrees, the lowest since I’ve been here.

On the news yesterday, they showed video of people practically swimming at the Bryant Park Pond (an outdoor ice skating rink). Very eerie.