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A Few of Last Night's Hot & Sultry City Night Pix

I left the Convention Center last night and walked across town to Union Square, then down to St Mark's Place, which mostly sucks these days, then over to the West Village and an inspiring number of unique shops and cool restaurants and vibrant street life. As I type this now in the Esperanto Cafe, a 24-hour espresso/food establishment with an easily-working Wi-Fi hookup (a rarity in Manhattan), there are 2 guys and a girl kicking a soccer ball around in the steet and dodging cars. Kids on skateboard slide by gracefully, always skating in the street, not the sidewalks. A great variety of people going by this window, it's like watching a movie. Here are some pics from my wandering last night:

Union Square sidewalk gymnast

Fried chicken take out. About three guys on bikes do deliveries.

Rico Fonseca has been selling paintings (on Masonite, $20 each) for 40 years. This is his rolling shelter prototype for homeless guys.

Randomness is working for me at an all-time high on this trip. In all the publishing business I've done here in 2 days, I'm running across key people in the aisles of the convention center, in unexpected places. Plus I'm having interesting and informative discussions with people all over the city. I just watched a jug band in Washington Square and saw a great washtub bass, except made of wood and a piece of plastic from a suitcase, with a range of an octave and a half AND after discussion, the bass player is either going to make and ship me one or send me the plans. I could go on, it's just been a wonderful few days. My notebook is bulging with things to do at home, books to get, people to contact.

NYC Pix Warm Night

Park Central Hotel on 7th, Babe Mecca

Along 7th Ave, endless windowshop wit and elegance

Coming into town in a cab I saw a young guy with a sweatshirt saying "Lloyd 85" -- cabbie last night was Khan Shaheen.

Here's the village aspect of NYC at work: I asked Cynthia, the bartender at Trattoria Dell'Arte, last night about other good restaurants. She seemed stumped for a minute. The guy next to me, who looked like a retired doctor, was a native. He and his wife were excvited to pass along these tips:
•Beyoglu, Turkish, at 81st and 3rd. They said extraordinary…
•Jack, French food, a real bistro. 11th and University Place
•Best Chinese: Tse Yang, 51st. Peking duck
•Balthazar, a "real Parisienne bistro," for breakfast. Spring Street.
Then the couple sitting farther down the bar said, "And you ought to try…" In my recent travels I've learned to ask, ask, ask where is a good place to eat. Out in the middle of small towns or unknown territory I ask where the best hamburger is. In a good restaurant such as this one, I ask about like-quality places.
Well, off to the book convention and further adventures right now. A California yokel loving the cross-cultural, cross-coastal stimulation.

Woo-Woo Doo-Wah-Diddy

I get into NYC yesterday around 3 PM. A drop-dead gorgeous day, temp in the 70s, leafy lacy shadow patterns in the green grass of the park along 5th Ave. My hotel, the Marakech, a Moroccan-themed hotel at Broadway and 103rd turns out to be, shall we say, quirky. Finally I hit the streets, looking for food. I end up by Carnegie Hall and wander over to see who's playing. At this point I'm pretty tired and haven't connected with the city yet. An elegantly dressed Russian lady comes up and asks in a thick accent if I have tickets to sell. It's Anna Netrebco and Dmitry Chvonostovsky, soprano and baritone, she says, sold out. I see that the Emnerson String Quartet is playig the next night. Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven. Oh boy! The energy of the city kicks in and I'm off. When it's good it's very very good. Who might want to go the next night, I think to myself, well, I know my friend Elise from California is in NYC, maybe I'll contact her. 20 minutes later I run into Elise on a corner on 7th Avenue, I mean, what are the chances of that happening in a city of 8.2 million people? Cosmic stuff. I'm on a roll the rest of the night. I end up having a fabulous meal at Trattoria Dell'Arte on 7th and 56th. When I walk in a little Jewish lady is saying to a friend, "I haven't been heah in yiz." Food, ambiance, decor, and staff are tres cool. As in many NY restaurants, people are tightly packed and there's a lot of back-and-forth discussion. You hear nearby couple's conversations clearly. It's intimate, a feature of eating out in Manhattan. I end up having an great discussion with a TV producer from LA sitting next to me at the bar, a smart and savvy guy, and talking to all the waiters since I'm sitting at the bar where they pick up drinks. It's a warm night and after a magic glass of grappa, I wander the streets, reveling in the city, shooting pix. Kansas this ain't.

Bill Castle, Master Builder

It had been (ulp!) 17 years since I last saw Bill and Barb Castle. I'd met them in Costa Rica in 1990 and then spent several days later that year at their rustic log lodge in the Alleghany hills of southern New York state, photographing Bill's finely-crafted log buildings. He was then one of the three main builkders of our last builders' book, Home Work. Chris McClellan, mutual friend of me and Bill, picked me up at the Buffalo airport and we drove out to "Pollywogg Holler."

Main lodge at Pollywogg Holler

I brought my big Canon camera along almost as an afterthought, but once we got to Bill's I was once again fascinated by his ingenuity and craftsmanship, and I shot a bunch of photos. Bill and Barb and son Mickey run what'snow called an eco-lodge, which consists of a beautiful main lodge, a Norwegian-style log sauna, cabins in the woods and Adirondack open air sleeping shelters situated on two ponds. There's wood-fired pizza and homemade wine and champagne, a small stage for music. No electricity. Silence so loud it's deafening. Birds sing from sunrise to dark, and I mean a LOT of birds. (I come from bird territory.) If you live on the east coast and don't need the $500 a day type of vacation, this is a wonderful getaway and I recommenbd it highly to my kind of people:Pollywogg Holler

Jet Blue to NYC for Book Expo America With Stopoff in the Alleghany Woods

I liked what I had read about Jet Blue, so booked my flight with them. I was heading for the big annual (BEA) book expo convention in NYC, with a 3-day stop-off in the Alleghanies to see my friends Bill and Barb Castle at their eco resort in the woods. The flight, from SFO to JFK to Buffalo, then Buffalo to NYC and back to San Francisco was $450. Well, this airline is great. The seats are leather and there is way more leg room than on any other airliners' economy class. No food served except for snacks, which is fine with me and I brought a chicken sandwich and crackers. A couple of bananas would have been good too. You print out your own boarding pass within 24 hours of the flight, along with your baggage check-in ticket and I was in line for about 3 minutes before I was checked in and my bag on its way. Each seat has its own screen and Direct TV with 36 channels and you can pay an extra $5 for 3 movies. Plenty of water and soft drinks available and they make trash runs every half hour or so and take your newspapers, bottles, etc. Very cool, it's the way airlines should be run.

I'm posting this from the Alleghanies where I've been for 2 days, photographing Bill's amazing building and welding projects, sleeping in an Adirondack shelter looking out on a frog-filled pond, and swimming in 2 different wonderful ponds. I get into NYC tomorrow and will post some photos. You can check out Pollywogg Holler at: Pollywogg Holler