25 June 2019

An Ideal Day: Park Slopeish, May 2019

Not every day is a bad day, but we must carve out better ones for ourselves from time to time. Sometimes we find the ideal far away from home, but this doesn't have the be the case.  It helps when the weather works out, though.

Honestly, a day at home with the cats, tea, my books, and maybe a favorite TV show is what I usually prescribe for myself.  But if the temperature is mild, and my health is looking up, I feel almost forced to take a walk.  I get bored at times with Astoria, so if I know I have some free time coming up, I'll plan something slightly farther away.

When spring hit its peak pleasantness (so rare), I planned a day before a long, crowded weekend event (an event that I look forward to but still entertain some misgivings because of my intense anxiety around crowds) to prance around Brooklyn for the afternoon.  This gave me a chance to have a quiet morning while still having enough time to get around.

I don't get out to Park Slope very often.  I think I only blogged about the area once, when I went to a long-departed Tea Lounge on Seventh Avenue.  That was 2006.  Of course I've been nearby - the Brooklyn Museum, the Botanical Gardens, and the Way Station are all places I'm happy to return to - but I needed to look slightly...south?  I think south.

I have a few different kinds of solo-outing themes, and I usually lean toward finding The Perfect Tea Spot, but this time I decided to go for Quintessential New York Diner/Coffee Shop for lunch.  I chose Purity Diner, which was your standard, though thankfully not too crowded, cozy lunch spot.  My only gripe is they didn't leave the tomatoes out of my cheeseburger deluxe.  I need to go around wearing a pin that says "NO TOMATOES!".  Everyone was so pleasant that I didn't make a fuss - not that I'm one for making a fuss at restaurants.  Not unless something really gets my goat....like a few tea rooms I'm still on the outs with...

Now, I've not officially set out to do this, but if it happens I'd be happy to have accomplished it: I would love to visit every bookshop in New York City.  Maybe not if they are super specialized, like religious books, snobby by-appointment rare booksellers, or a shop selling only owner's manuals, but as many shops as I can would be nice.  Let me just say, I've come mighty close, particularly in Manhattan and Queens.  A bookshop with a resident cat is top on my list, so obviously I had to go to Community Bookstore.  I (of course) follow their kitty, Tiny the Usurper, on Instagram, but I wasn't sure if he would be friendly.  When I saw him napping behind the counter I said hi, and he immediately roused himself and came meowing up to me for head scratches. Glad it turned out that way.


The selection of the bookshop was quite decent, and there's a little outdoor seating area that wasn't open when I was there, but I didn't care as I had park plans.  I ended up getting the latest copy of Poetry Magazine, and having a good sniff around.  Good neighborhood bookshop.  

Park Slope is colorful!
I picked up an iced tea and banana bread from nearby Muse Cafe.  It looked like a nice place to sit for a while, but I didn't want to stay indoors on a fine spring day, so off I went.  

Like the bookshops of New York City, I'd love to spend time at every park I can reach, but at the very least I need to hit the big ones.  Now I've been on the outer bits of the park, but never dived in the way I do with Central Park.  I found a quiet, but not too isolated, spot by a tree close to a pond and was able to read, scribble, and take my tea in peace.  I can't overemphasize the importance of having some quiet outdoor time, especially surrounded by grass.  I didn't get a chance to visit the waterfowl, but I can do that on another occasion.  All I know is I need to return, as there is so much more of this park to explore!  Finding the time to do so is another matter.

I can never pull off a "relaxed" look...it's more like "indigestion face"...

The rest of the day was a little iffy, as I went to a used bookshop in Prospect Heights that made me feel anxious, and then dealt with a gum snapper on the subway.  I did get to hop over to the Strand for a short time, and later rewarded myself for doing 'nothing' with pizza.  I found myself in reasonable shape early the next morning, so I think I did well with most of my itinerary.

There really is no perfect day this side of the timeline, but it was still close to ideal for me.  Please, if you're feeling overwhelmed and can budget even an afternoon, take the time and do your version of this day.  It's not selfish, it's necessary, if you're going to be in any shape to do anything.

14 June 2019

The Cameras Got Smaller: Adventures in Booktubing

When, after years of school and paid internships I was working my first proper full-time job, I found myself in a somewhat comfortable situation.  Nothing luxurious - the job didn't pay that well.  However, I was living at home and had few expenses, and I actually had some disposable income for the first time in my life.  Travel was discounted because of said job, I didn't drive and I didn't need a car.  Should I have been saving money?  Sure, but who said I was practical?  While I didn't go crazy spending, I did buy the one thing I'd always wanted: a camcorder.  It was a JVC VHS, and much smaller than the 80s camcorders. I loved this thing.  My friend Marie and I spent hours making videos for our amusement, and I learned that while I am socially awkward, I wasn't necessarily camera shy.  I can say with certainty that I dissolved into fits of giggles far fewer times than Jimmy Fallon, who arrived on SNL around the same time.

Marie had a 'makeup tutorial' that, while satirical, anticipated the future by close to a decade.  I had a thing called 'Taking Tea With Catherine', surprise surprise, which was basically about tea, but with the persona of an exaggerated prim and proper lady most of the time. None of this went beyond friends and family, because none of it could.  If we wanted to show someone our videos, they would have to watch it with us (because I wasn't about to lend my tapes to anyone!  Overtaping was a dreaded reality).

My camcorder never broke down, though the tape door became loose and had to be secured with rubber bands.  In a short time DVD camcorders were more popular, followed by digital.  I mean to digitize all those tapes, mainly because I'd like to see the recordings of my Dad and the old cats, and the time when I met Brian May and didn't take any photos.

Within a year of starting this blog (it is getting to be vintage at this point) I was made aware of the fascinating rabbit hole that is YouTube.  One of my first thoughts was that I was glad it didn't exist in the days when I was making videos, because what kind of silliness would I have shared with the masses?  Occasionally I ended up posting a video, mostly badly lit videos of my cats, and looking back it was nice to see Moofer in action once again (well, basically just being a cuddle smoosh, but who's complaining?)  I rarely subscribed to any YouTube channels, up until a year or so ago, when I started following a couple of language channels, a fountain pen expert, and of course a few cats.  

One day, I was seriously missing my walks in London, particularly to the different bookshops, and I found posts of booktubers going around to some of the same shops as well as some I wasn't familiar with.  This stoked my curiosity, so I began lurking on these booktubers' channels and eventually following quite a few.  At first it was mainly channels from the UK, and then some from the US and Canada, and perhaps one from India?  Of course I was drawn to those who read books that I liked or was interested in - some of the others that I'd started with were mainly into YA (young adult), which I rarely read.

Sometimes when you read a lot, you feel moved to write your own material.  I started feeling that way about Booktube, but I hesitated.  I don't have any professional equipment, let alone editing software.  I have this blog and only update it once or twice a month: why commit to something else?  Who has time for this nonsense?  Who would watch it?  I'm older than most of the booktubers out there: won't I seem out of touch or something?

Then I realized something, and that was: who cares?  I'm going to make a few videos, and have fun with it.  I'll talk about the things I like to talk about, and what's more, I'm going to keep it in the theme of my blog.  I'll look into editing at some point, but only if I enjoy making videos.  So I made the leap, and here are the first two posts:

An unhaul, because catharsis

A haul, because Catherine

What I've learned so far from the experience is that editing would help.  I have to run straight through without breaking at this point.  Angling is important, because the chins that disappeared from my daily life find their way back on camera. Also, I knew this already, but it's even more obvious: I cannot sit still.  If there was a drinking game that revolved around how many times I pushed my glasses up, folks would be blaming me for their morning hangover! 

I may keep this going, at least for the different themes I have in mind.  I'd welcome any advice, especially regarding the technicalities.