Library Way: The New York City Street Every Bibliophile Must Visit

I get it. It’s disorienting. Those impossibly tall buildings. All those signs and flashing neon lights. Cars honking. People everywhere. It’s so easy to lose your head in the clouds. But do so at your own peril. You may just miss something. There’s treasure here in this city. And sometimes that treasure is right below your feet.

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A Much Needed Breath of Fresh Air: Summer Streets 2017

It’s that time of year once again when, on its best days, the public transit system is relegated to a crude pneumatic tube belching hot air through the bowels of the city. We can add to that the now frequent occurrence of trains being delayed or stalling for prolonged periods of time. And then, of course, there were the three frightening derailments that have transpired since March. The truly incredible obsolescence of this integral system has been laid bare, the ugly truth plain for all to see. And no amount of half-measures–duct tape or bubble gum–can fix the mess. Andrew Cuomo’s “Summer of Hell” is in full swing.

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Finger Lickin’ Good: Los Pollos Hermanos Arrives in New York City

“Hey, I’m a civilian. I’m not your lawyer anymore. I’m nobody’s lawyer. The fun’s over. From here on out, I’m Mr. Low Profile, just another douchebag with a job and three pairs of Dockers. If I’m lucky, a month from now – best case scenario – I’m managing a Cinnabon in Omaha.”

– Saul Goodman, “Granite State”, Breaking Bad

These simple lines, delivered with gusto by actor Bob Odenkirk in the second to last episode of Breaking Bad’s final season, were an oblique, furtive promise. Though it was technically an end, it was also a beginning.  That promise was fulfilled in season one of the spinoff series, Better Call Saul. The flash-forward opening sequence — ironically shot flashback-style in black and white — was set in a Cinnabon at a nondescript mall (presumably in Omaha). And so began the long, winding journey from erstwhile small-time attorney, Jimmy McGill, to the morally dubious Saul Goodman.

To say I’m a fan of Better Call Saul is an understatement. In fact, I would argue it holds its own pitted against its predecessor. In my humble opinion, it’s only eclipsed by The Wire for one of the greatest series of all time. Over its past two seasons, I’ve spent nearly every Tuesday morning around the figurative water cooler discussing the most recent episode and theorizing future plot twists with my coworkers. So when I heard that a pop-up of Los Pollos Hermanos was coming to New York City, I pretty much had an apoplectic fit.

Los Pollos Hermanos Pop-Up New York City Better Call Saul - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

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Madison Street to Madison Avenue: A Chinese New Year Celebration

Justin recently replaced his umbrella and when it arrived from Amazon, he opened it up in our apartment to make sure it was what he was expecting.
“Don’t you know that’s bad luck?,” I asked.
“Is it?,” he replied, completely unfazed.

We Asians are a superstitious bunch.  The number four is bad luck!  You can’t buy someone a clock, it’s bad luck!  Don’t clip your nails at night, it’s bad luck!  I’m Malaysian, and I’m biracial.  My father is of Chinese descent, while my mother is native Malay.  So we grew up celebrating the Chinese New Year, and my late grandmother made sure we were all well-versed on the many traditions meant to ward off bad luck and bring good fortune as we ushered in a new year.

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Better Late Than Never: 2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays

Whether you’re noshing on leftovers, watching Christmas Vacation again, or shopping the after-Christmas sales, we thought we’d help you eke out another ounce of holiday cheer with some pictures from the holiday window displays around New York City.  The amount of creative work that goes into the windows is always inspiring.  Making the pilgrimage has become one of our treasured holiday traditions, so we thought we’d share some of our favorites here. 

Here are some highlights from the same route we shared in last year’s post:

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Manifesto by Julian Rosefeldt at the Park Avenue Armory

If there were a list of naturally aggressive words in the English language, it feels like “manifesto” would be at the top of that list.  But it’s really just a declaration of intentions, be it Marx’s or lululemon’s.  Each one carries weight, because once we verbalize or document a motive, we make a formal commitment to it.  And one person who seems to understand the power of a manifesto is filmmaker Julian Rosefeldt.

Roselfeldt’s 2015 film, Manifesto, premiered at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and is finally being offered to New York City audiences at Park Avenue Armory’s Drill Hall.  In real estate-starved Manhattan, it’s hard not to walk into the space and be awed by its sheer size.  The dark, cavernous 55,000-square-foot room holds thirteen giant movie screens.  A lone bench sits in front of each one, and as you perch on it, a speaker delivers targeted audio for the piece of film you’re watching.

Manifesto Julian Rosefeldt Park Avenue Armory - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

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New York Coffee Festival: Takeaways (besides a caffeine high)

Like many coffee aficionados, my devotion began less as an expression of passion and more as a product of necessity. The world may run on fossil fuels, but people, well, they run on caffeine. The delivery method of choice comes in the form of seeds (commonly referred to as “beans”) from the coffea plant, a commodity so precious it is more valuable than oil. Add to that the third wave of coffee, an artisanal movement elevating this respectable staple to a gourmet foodstuff and a burgeoning national obsession (though we’re not quite to the level of Australians), and you have the groundwork for an event such the New York Coffee Festival.

Originally based on the popular programs in London and Amsterdam and now in its second year in New York City, the two-day festival is both an industry event as well as a celebration for coffee-loving enthusiasts. It boasts over 85 coffee, food and equipment suppliers, unlimited tastings, product demos, giveaways, interactive workshops and demonstrations, and live music.

What worked:

New York Coffee Festival - Mad Hatters NYC
Walter’s Coffee Roastery, the Breaking Bad-themed coffee shop, was Instagram gold

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Summer Streets: A (Temporarily) Car-Free New York City

My love affair with New York City started out as a long-distance relationship filled with whirlwind visits, teary goodbyes and months of longing in between.  As my feelings for it grew deeper, the distance became unbearable and the decision to close the geographical gap became inevitable.  Once we were no longer apart, I endeavored to explore it more deeply, anxious to unearth all its secrets.  I was enthralled by its charms and blind to its flaws.  But alas, time is no friend to commitment.  Adorable quirks began to turn into grating annoyances.  Fortunately, New York City is a savvy lover: it realizes when it’s been too trying, too needy, too demanding.  So it does something special to remind you how great it is.  This past Saturday it pulled a little velvet box out of its pocket and gave me Summer Streets.

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Modern Pinball NYC

Before the phenomena of binge-watching episodes of that favorite guilty pleasure program du jour on video streaming services or staring down, slack-jawed, for hours at the now ubiquitous mobile device while perusing social networks, there was another place, anathema to parents and teachers alike, where one could go to rot one’s brain and shorten one’s attention span. It was simply known as an arcade — the earliest iteration of which had pinball machines — and it was glorious.

Now, you can imagine my surprise and adoration when my lovely wife suggested a little adventure to Modern Pinball NYC on a breathtakingly beautiful Saturday afternoon. You can also imagine my surprise and self-loathing when she repeatedly topped my score. There’s no doubt: my girl’s got serious game. And I’ll likely never hear the end of it.

Modern Pinball NYC

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Martin Puryear: Big Bling at Madison Square Park

It was a lovely spring day in Central Park when my girlfriend remarked that she’d only begun noticing strollers around New York City after she’d had her baby and found herself pushing one as well.  I looked around and realized that families had decided to take advantage of the all-too-rare perfect weather just like we had, and had come out to the park in droves.  I marveled at the little kids running around, envious that they get to grow up with Central Park as their playground.  

New York City gets a bad rap for being a concrete jungle, and New Yorkers get pretty defensive when celebrities pick up their kids and move away.  But few are aware that there are more than 30,000 acres of public park land that is maintained by the city for the benefit of the residents, not including additional parks under federal and state jurisdiction or those that are privately owned.  To put it in context, Central Park only ranks fifth on the list of largest parks maintained by the city, and there are over 1,700 spaces — including playgrounds and recreational facilities — to be enjoyed.  

Madison Square Park
A previous outdoor sculpture called Fata Morgana by New York-based artist Teresita Fernández, consisting of mirror-polished discs that create canopies above the pathways

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