The store’s proprietor, Judy, a cheerful woman in a purple shirt, greets us from the back when we walk in. She brings me the softest dresses and skirts to try while Chalene sorts through an array of colorful knotted caps.
Judy and her husband Michael, the store’s co-owner, are currently competing to win a $150,000 small business grant from Chase. They need 50 more votes in the next 24 hours. I can assure you they most certainly deserve them! Click here to vote: https://www.missionmainstreetgrants.com/business/detail/32921
I bought a magically flattering skirt that Judy sewed herself from bamboo fabric. I usually can’t control myself around polka dots, but this skirt is perfect. Judy makes all of the clothes in the shop herself and sells them at lower prices than her competitors. “These clothes are good for the Earth,” she says. “I want this to be affordable for people.”
A fun side note for me is that Judy and her husband moved to Portland from Astoria, Oregon — my own neighborhood’s sister city on the West Coast! Occasionally when I look up vendors close to home in Astoria, Queens, Google sends me to Oregon instead. Astoria, Oregon is about 90 miles from Portland, and Judy says that it’s gorgeous there. She compares it to Norway and tells us that men used to be kidnapped in bars and taken to sea, where they were forced to become sailors.
Judy and Michael ran their business in Astoria for several years after starting it in Eugene, where they sold their clothes at an outdoor market. They decided to relocate to Portland because most of their customers lived in the city. They opened the shop in February 2014 and couldn’t be happier. “I love Portland!” Judy says.
I’m looking forward to visiting Judy again on my next trip out west. Next time, I’ll stop in BEFORE brunch at nearby Tin Shed — and I might even buy one of those stretchy dresses that allows for no physical imperfections.
Portland Hemp Works
1524 NE Alberta St, Portland, OR 97211
Note: Published from my phone due to the time sensitive nature of the contest and the fact that I’m still out and about exploring Portland right now. Please forgive any formatting errors.
How would you feel about having a dormant volcano just a few blocks from your house? Residents of Portland’s Mount Tabor neighborhood don’t seem to mind. In fact, they enjoy it. Mount Tabor Park, built on top of a volcanic cinder cone in the nineteenth century, offers green space, a basketball court, an amphitheater, and trails that circle around the peak.
The park is home to four reservoirs, built in 1894 and 1911.
No one realized that it was a volcano until 1912, when workers discovered volcanic cinders in the park. They used them to pave the park’s roads and parking lots.
Mount Tabor’s peak is 636 feet in elevation. Portland is one of only four cities in the United States to have an extinct volcano within its city limits.
In Palisades Park, New Jersey, leaves crunch underfoot, and hawks circle overhead. At the overlook, a sheer cliff face drops down to the Hudson. Across the river, you can see as far east as the World’s Fair Globe in Queens, as far north as Yonkers, and as far south as Brooklyn. A pictorial sign points out recognizable landmarks.
Birders congregate here on Sunday afternoons, bringing with them folding chairs and tables where they perch for hours. They peer through enormous lenses up at the sky and at lunch time can often be found holding half-eaten sandwiches in one hand. A flock themselves, they call encouragements and suggestions to each other upon sighting the graceful beasts that crowd the sky.
In New York City, fall starts with a whisper, just a breath of a breeze that blows away the summer stickiness. Green leaves sparkle under the bright sun and blue sky as October ushers in cool dry days.
But leave the city to be reminded what fall is: a rebirth, a freshness that summer’s heat denied us. A new freedom to reveal your true colors in vibrant, exuberant, unexpected shades of brilliance. Marigold, crimson, ochre, orange, and lime yellow hues await your full expression. You don’t have to be the same old green anymore. You don’t have to be the same as everyone else anymore.
So take a hike, wander through the forest, and be renewed. After all, is fall the last lingering warmth before winter hibernation? Or is it an energy source that can ignite creative flames in you that will burn all winter long?
I don’t really have service here.
But I do have Queen Anne’s Lace swaying in the breeze,
A fallen log that offers a perch above the sand,
And the Cape Cod sun searing through the clouds, refuting theYahoo Weather app’s insistent report
of partly cloudy, 65 degrees, 50 percent chance of rain
Now, as the sun warms my bare arms,
and a light wisp of a breeze cools them,
the clang and clamor of all the competing forecasts and
various weather apps shouting at each other for dominance
I am grateful.
The still water glistens just beyond the sand,
embracing a patch of lily pads and promising
A campfire that dapples its dancing light across the pages of Greek mythology and
Pure young faces,
Soft trails of fallen pine needles that rustle softly under my bike’s tires,
And all of the trees that, year after year,
Stand silent and watchful.
Is this eternity, this endlessness, because my soul and body
Alight upon a branch and do not depart?
This is really exciting. As I was walking home along Broadway in Astoria last night, I did a double take when I passed Lots O Bagels. Though the establishment was closed, it had been transformed for the evening into a Japanese street food stand.
Open every day from 5pm to midnight (and 2am on Fridays and Saturdays), this young operation is offering Astoria something completely different. Kooya serves only kashikatsu, deep-fried skewers of vegetables or meat.
“Want a free sample?” the young man behind the counter called out. I can’t resist a free sample. I tried the squash, which was delicious, and then ordered a 3-skewer combo for $4: eggplant, beef, and chirashi cheese. All were equally good, but as I remember from my prior experience with kashikatsu, you have to order the vegetables — they’re out of this world.
Yesterday was the pop-up stand’s second day open. “We’re figuring things out as we go along,” said the young man. Astorians were skeptical as they passed by. “Want a free sample?” he asked them. “What is this?” one woman said. “Is it all fried?”
Yes, it is, and it’s all delicious! Comparing it to halal food in New York, the boy at the counter explained that the chef (who was furiously frying behind him) spent several years in Japan training, where he witnessed Japanese workers purchasing kashikatsu on their way home in the evening, and he thought we ought to have it in New York, too.
Check them out!
Broadway between 31st and 30th Streets (inside Lots O Bagels)
Open Monday through Thursday 5PM to midnight; Friday and Saturday 5PM to 2AM
How do you find so many flowers in New York? people ask me.
I don’t find them. They find me! Flowers permeate my consciousness because I need flowers to live. I grew up playing in the soil, planting tulip bulbs in fall, cutting back rose campion and spirea and cosmos in spring and summer, fighting prickly brambles to collect wine berries that stained my fingers red, and picking fresh bouquets of pansies and lilies and peonies and roses as long as their seasons lasted.
Today, I have a kitchen shelf garden with one geranium (more on her later!) two cyclamen from Trader Joes, and a little baby plant from my friend Deepti. I don’t have a yard anymore with a lamppost garden, a stonewall garden, a back deck garden, a front path garden, and a rose garden. And I certainly don’t have the time to maintain all of then even if I had acres of land to myself.
What I do have is Central Park, the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, the New York Botanical Gardens, the tulip beds on Park Avenue, radiant purple Iris in the northwest Bronx, and an Instagram feed brimming with flower photos in the warmer months. This tendency to collect the gardens of my New York gave me the idea for the Secret Gardens of New York series. In the past few summers, I have blissfully stumbled upon them. This summer, I plan to seek out the more elusive of the lot.
For now, here’s a look at a few of the floral scenes I’ve collected in the past few years.
As I am tossed along by the wind currents that barrel through tunnels between skyscrapers, I yearn for the melting away of layers, the fresh breath of spring on my skin.
Someday, not so long ago, I was free and easy, on the interstate, rushing away from the city for a weekend escape in nature. I was savoring frozen yogurt on a late, sweltering summer evening. I was too hot. I slept with the windows open.
I came home from any commute drenched from sweat and discomfort, and I stood under a stream of cold water and washed with spearmint soap until everything tingled and my skin forgot the city grime.
Then I lay motionless in my towel on the bed in front of a fan waiting to be cold again. I drank complicated cocktails on rooftop bars with a view. I wore open-toed heels and threw on flip flops to run around the neighborhood. There were weddings and country cabins and LIRR journeys to the boardwalk. Playing guitar on the roof.
And again and again…before and before…the years are circles marked by summers and the summer vacations I took. Reading books on the beach and at the pool and on the back porch. Growing up with the flowers all around me, marking the seasons by crocus and peony and autumn joy.
This is my fourth summer in New York, which feels somehow weighty, as though my time here has been longer than it has.
It’s my third summer in Astoria.
With those free and easy months quickly approaching, I feel the urge to build anticipation for my favorite parts of summer here in Astoria, my adopted Queens home. So, here’s a quick hit list of what I’m looking forward to.
1. Swimming in the adult lap swim, mornings and evenings at the Astoria Park Pool
2. Grabbing Eurotart yogurt with kiwi, blueberries, strawberries, and chocolate shavings at Vanilla Sky
3. Nighttime films in Socrates Sculpture Park and Astoria Park
5. Not being cold walking home in the cold after hot yoga at Bikram Yoga Queens.
6. Writing on my roof, in Central Park, in Socrates Sculpture Park — wherever my traveling journal takes me!
7. The farmer’s market in Socrates Sculpture Park!
8. The LIC Flea, which kicked off its second season last weekend. I’ve never been. This year it’s definitely on the list, especially because they’re opening a new location closer to me, at Kaufman Astoria Studios (starting May 4.)
9. Spring Pop-up at Queens County Market on Sunday May 4… how awesome does this look?