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NYC last day and bus observations

Late note from last night: one of the dishes I ordered was "tiny dumplings". What came out, and I confirmed that this was in fact what I ordered, were dumplings the size of pork buns or larger. 8 of them. No wonder my waiter asked if I was planning to take some home.

Also, while the dim sum dishes were good, the egg rolls/spring rolls were as horrible as Chinese rolls often are. Heavy on greasy dough with some light cabbage inside and little interesting flavor. I ended up sucking out the cabbage for vegetables and left much of the dough. Stick to Vietnamese rolls.

For today, I got up early enough to still have several hours to kill. Explore? Museum? I leaned toward museumy things. AMNH and Brooklyn Botanical Gardens were both half an hour away, the Met closer to 45 minutes or more, I figured future visits were likely to still have easy access to Central Park but maybe be further from Brooklyn, so I picked the garden.

When I visited NYC in 2001, smartphones were hardly a thing, I didn't even have a cell phone, and I got to struggle with some large Manhattan map, never mind the rest of the city. Well, not that much struggle: most of Manhattan is a very boring grid. Then there was the T.

This visit? Totally relying on Google Maps and directions. I didn't even think to dig up my old Manhattan map, I just phoned it in. The public transit directions were helpful and generally accurate, unless there was a service disruption it didn't know about. And the one thing more complicated than the MTA's system is the service disruptions due to maintenance. But hey, there's an app for that! Literally! Also a bus map app! And an MTA website would tell you how far a bus was from your stop.

OTOH I never found an app to tell me when a particular *train* was coming. Of course, with much of the system not having T-Mobile signal, it wouldn't have helped that much.

So yeah, the Garden. I'd expected to pay $10, vs. the "suggested" of AMNH, but apparently Tuesdays were free. Score!
Vistor's Center is a green building, using tricks I read about in 3-2-1 Contact in the 1980s: built into hillside, "living roof", solar overhang... a 400 foot earth tap for temperature control is a bit newer, and stippled? something, glass is even newer: various texture stripes both "reflect heat" and make the glass more visible to birds.

I was aiming for the greenhouses because that's my thing, but got turned around and ended up at a Japanese garden first. That's okay, they're also a thing. No islands or zigzag bridges, but a half-drowned torii, and a pond chock-full of koi and turtles. No waterfowl though, odd. Passed through a Shakespeare garden too, which had a thistle plant taller than I was. No mere ground weed that. It was scary. Pretty tall lettuces, too.

Greenhouses decent, I think Glasgow had much better ones. The bonsai room was something I'd never seen before, lots of bonsais of different styles, and wall placards about bonsai. Not just about trimming the growth above, but keeping the roots fine, so as to trick the plant into making smaller leaves, and you get a true miniature tree, not just a short one.

Aquatic plants room, tropical plants room, desert, warm temperate. The desert one was neat for putting a lot of American and African desert plants side by side, showing the convergent evolution.

Rooms weren't all that big; not much bigger than IU's greenhouse set, I think, maybe smaller than Wellesley or Spokane.

After that, a rather fragrant herb and food plants garden. A rock garden which fooled me -- it had nothing to do with Japanese/Zen rock gardens, and instead was a whole bunch of boulders and the sort of plants that live among boulders, like Swiss mountain pine.

Rose arc pool, and rose garden, but not many smellable roses. Also a bunch of girls (in the non-adult sense) wearing calf-length skirts and uniform black socks or stockings, escorted by women also in long skirts (but showing ankle) with covered hair, talking in a language I couldn't ID. White. I guessed something beyond Eastern Europe, like the Caucasus, but asked a woman, and got told Yiddish. So some variety of Orthodox Jew I'd guess, still raising their kids in Yiddish. That's kind of neat, though OTOH heavy clothes on a hot sunny day. Girls seemed playful enough, though.

En route, I'd left Jay-Metrotech station and seen NYPD apparently searching backpacks of incoming passengers. Later, my MTA alerts app warned the Brooklyn Museum station was being skipped due to "NYPD activity", but that cleared up by the time I got there.

Megabus arrived at 28th and 7th. It leaves from 34th and 11th. Walking from Penn Station to there wasn't much fun, especially as past 10th Avenue there's wide open lots, so the shade I'd been getting went away. I'd showered and changed clothes right before leaving for the bus, and then I wondered why I'd bothered. I'm really inclined to spring for the train next time.

Unlike last time, this time they did have the double-decker they were supposed to, and I got my reserved seat, up front and on top. From there, traffic is *scary*; looked like what I imagined of Grand Theft Auto, nearly running down pedestrians and hitting cars. I suspect most of that is simply the perspective of being up there. OTOH, I did wonder if we had a particularly aggressive driver; later -- much later, it took 50 minutes just to get onto a freeway in the Bronx -- it seemed like he was habitually tailgating cars until they fled to another lane. Not that most other vehicles were obeying 2 second following distance.

Also, it's really shaky up there, especially on Manhattan roads. I figured if I didn't get motion sickness from that, I'm close to immune. Not that I bothered reading, except on my smartphone, and people often say it's reading that sets them off. I listened to music, looked out at my great if sometimes terrifying view, and thought of fanfic relationships.

In the past, with bus rides that were longer than my reading material, I often killed time with various relationship fantasies. This was effective at killing time, though perhaps not mentally healthy, especially when dwelling on real people and things unlikely to happen with them. These days I lack plausible candidates, which is sad, but ficcing does mean entertainment that never has to face a reality check and disappointment. Woo! Of course, in the past I was hardly into fictional character relationships, but these days Nanoha provides a deep well of magic, SF, and yuri, that's of interest to me.

But I got kind of cramped up there. Next time... train.

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( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 25th, 2014 05:09 am (UTC)
"Tiny dumplings" is an awful translation. I've been tripped up by it, too. I think in Boston's Chinatown, I've seen them called "mini-dumplings" or something similar.


Oh, that page suggests I never knew or keep forgetting what the name means. I knew "xiao" was small, and "bao" meant steamed bun or a dumpling-type thing made out of steamed buns, but "long" (at least roughly, say "loan" but use "ng" instead of "n" on the end) I kept forgetting.
Jun. 25th, 2014 05:57 am (UTC)
Mmm, these things were like a soup dumpling, but "soup dumplings" on the menu and looking like xiaolongbao were something *else* I'd ordered. These things were huge. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tang_bao seems more like it.

http://www1.beyondmenu.com/26596/new-york/456-shanghai-cuisine-new-york-10013.aspx?r=26596 I had 1, 3, 4, 8, and 14 under "dim sum". 1 were the standard small soup dumplings I've discovered in Boston (mostly at House of Chang on Concord in Cambridge, I think.) 4 was kind of gyoza-ish, though unusually juice. 14 were similar to something at Yenching. 3 was the mystery giant dumpling. 'tiny' my ass.

I have the paper menu which has Chinese characters, but I'm not fluent enough with the new phone to put a picture up easily.
Jun. 26th, 2014 02:49 pm (UTC)
It's a hard one, because xiaolong is the cooking vessel, not the dumpling. The most accurate translations (i.e., faithful but ugly) is "dumplings from the little steamer." You can see why that's not the usual translation.

Tomorrow night I will again have the mind-bendingly bizarre experience of ordering Chinese food in French. I speak both to varying degrees of competency, but doing the one in the other remains surreal to me. The first time I did it, I pondered "soup d'aileron" ALL DINNER LONG, trying to figure out what it was. I had to do it myself: this was long before the worldwide web became our portable vace medum (sp, and damn autocorrect) and the Chinese waiters wouldn't speak Mandarin to me.

Someday I'll have to dig up a French restaurant in China, Taiwan or Hong Kong so I can observe the obverse. (Singapore doesn't count, all the fancy restaurants have English in them, since English is the dominant of Singapore's official languages.)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


Damien Sullivan

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