Making a Splash: The Coney Island Mermaid Parade

Throngs of visitors come to New York City every year to watch the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s such a popular event that hotel rooms along the route have the equivalent of “surge pricing” and still manage to sell out way in advance. That kind of fervor can only mean one thing: New Yorkers will stay very, very far away from it. 

Continue reading Making a Splash: The Coney Island Mermaid Parade

One Degree from Kevin Bacon at Vulture Festival 2017

We share New York City with a lot of celebrities, which means on any given day you might run into Jonathan Groff on his way to Hamilton (which I did!). Or you might find yourself waiting​ in line behind Famke Janssen for your takeout (which I also did!). And you might spy Michael K Williams in your subway car (yup, totally happened). I even walked by George Lucas on his way to Starbucks. (No judgment, George.)

Continue reading One Degree from Kevin Bacon at Vulture Festival 2017

Library After Hours: Love in Venice at the New York Public Library

There were two take-aways from my trip to Venice many years ago.  1) Learn to travel light.  Though the bridges are pretty, lugging suitcases up and down them gets old fast.  2) I don’t care if Venice is sinking, it can take me with it.  The city that brought us tiramisu, Titian and Vivaldi was as magical as promised.  Paris may hold the title City of Love, but I’d be strapped to conjure up a city more romantic than Venice.  Maybe the fact that I’m a fan of a little-known rom-com called Only You starring Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. has a little to do with it. (Fair Venice is one of its co-stars.)

Library After Hours Love In Venice NYPL - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Continue reading Library After Hours: Love in Venice at the New York Public Library

Central Park Ice Festival

I used to live in Cleveland, and Cleveland in January is what one might call “peak winter”. The cold from the lake was brutal, and working downtown meant being directly subjected to lake effect snow and subzero windchill temperatures. Winters often lasted from November to April. New York City winters are mostly mild by comparison, which is likely the only reason why I would turn to Justin and say, “Let’s go to the Central Park Ice Festival! That sounds like fun!”

Continue reading Central Park Ice Festival

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.

Continue reading Madison Street to Madison Avenue: A Chinese New Year Celebration

The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze

As far back as I can remember, there has been a special place in my heart reserved for Halloween. It’s so much more than a trivial holiday, and so much more than a fixed point on the calendar each year marking the change in seasons. Though I’ll confess: I’ve always loved the contradiction of the last gasps of a moribund summer lending to the the burgeoning intensity of a nascent fall.

For me, Halloween is a time of childlike wonder, creativity and imagination. It’s also a time for quick road trips and late evenings. There are apple orchards and pumpkin patches to visit. There are costume parties to attend. There are horror movies that I’ve added to my queue throughout the year, in anticipation of the perfectly curated scary movie marathon. And, of course, there is an overabundance of candy — at home, school, even the office. I mean, really, what’s not to like?

Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze - Mad Hatters NYC

Continue reading The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze

America Divided at The New Yorker Festival

Living in a bustling metropolis certainly has its perks, and reading The New Yorker has always been an easy way to remind oneself of that. I can recall many quiet evenings on the secondhand futon in my tiny Cleveland apartment, thumbing through the pages of the magazine, a large Arabica iced mocha often within reach. I’d delve into the analysis of current events, read new fiction from distinguished authors and scour the pages for witty cartoons. Then I’d land on the listing of all the goings-on about town, and I’d wistfully make a list for my next visit.

America Divided - Mad Hatters NYC
Mural from “Ellis Island” series by Parisian street artist JR, in Tribeca

Continue reading America Divided at The New Yorker Festival

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

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

Indonesian Street Festival

When we would return from school holidays while I was growing up in Malaysia, some of my friends would render tales of surfboarding in California or chasing pigeons in Trafalgar Square.  I don’t know if we couldn’t afford it, or if my father simply didn’t find the travel and/or destinations appealing, but we never visited the western hemisphere.  Our family vacations took us to closer locales like Thailand and Indonesia.  There’s a lot of overlap between Indonesian and Malaysian culture — we share similarities in language, food and beliefs — but Indonesia is much larger and more diverse.  The archipelago of over 18,000 islands has hundreds of ethnic groups and distinct dialects, so it manages to feel familiar and exotic at the same time.  Visiting the Indonesian Street Festival this past weekend was a fun return to that very same intoxicating combination.

Indonesian Street Festival - Mad Hatters NYC

Continue reading Indonesian Street Festival

Bastille Day on 60th Street

Bastille Day is a French holiday that commemorates the Storming of the Bastille on July 14 1789, a crucial part of the French Revolution which eventually led to the passage of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, the abolition of feudalism and the transformation of France into a democratic and secular society.  The National Day is celebrated in France with a grand military parade that runs along the Champs Elysee, but here in New York City, the largest celebration is organized by the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF): Bastille Day on 60th Street.  A city tradition for twenty years, the outdoor affair stretches over three blocks and offers Francophiles the 4Cs:

  1. Calories
Bastille Day 60th Street NYC
Croissants, canneles and DKAs at Dominique Ansel Kitchen’s booth

Continue reading Bastille Day on 60th Street