SoHo

Rocks against cast irons, subway

stations filled with being from

top to floor, exiting on past the

platform, reaching for above, light,

air, the buildings touched by angels,

heaven galore. How could humans

makes things such as these?

  • Julia St. Clair, ©2017

    *Image from Google Image search

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Embrace the Beauty in Being Free: The Joys and Struggles of Breaking Away

Breaking away from our roots — the thing people dream and fear the most. This course begins by moving, whether its in the same city, town, neighborhood, etc. or different, and later evolves into us delving farther out as we become further independent in discovering ourselves. For those who dream of spreading their wings, this is an easy task, and they take advantage of every opportunity which presents itself, such as going away to school, studying abroad, traveling, even day tripping to new places. However, for others, its a far cry to think of themselves leaving home.

I’m one such dreamer who wishes to spread my wings. At my first university, I lived on campus in a dorm with three girls, later dropping to two. Although I did not like the first place I chose to study due to the “secret” environment, I enjoyed living on my own, and it taught me the meaning of responsibility. I did everything on my own — cooking, cleaning, laundry (which was easy, since that was my main chore at home as a teenager), budgeting, and even straightened out issues with financial aid and OSA without the help of my folks. Also, since freshmen weren’t allowed to have cars on campus, I depended upon the campus shuttle to get around, this run running anywhere from thirty minutes to three hours behind. Most of the time, it was the latter. I learned to wait patiently and also keep warm during the bitter winter without a car by sitting anywhere I could in sight of a bus stop, mostly the Marshall’s on Dixwell Ave. I learned how to plan my days, and, if not for financial reasons, I would’ve dormed again at my alma mata, especially since I visited those dorms in between class and saw, and knew, the people there were much more nicer and just better human beings than those where I was before. But hey, I survived — and I could handle anything life throws at me, living wise.

That goes not just with my old school, but my soon-to-be old neighborhood that I grew up in, too. To be kind, let’s just say a majority of the people there are not nice, some even borderline psychotic. I can’t wait to get out, and though I’ve been back at home, I still live life independently, especially now that I have a reliable car (may my former ones rest in peace). Its easy to get around when you live in a city, especially one close to Manhattan, though in your heart, you know you can’t stay there forever. At least I do. Yonkers is a big city; it has its good and its bad, where I’m from, mostly bad, but it still boasts much opportunity. However, it also makes people lazy, and tethers them down, and I’m not talking about the hard working residents who’ve been there their whole lives and raised their families, the “old timers.” I speak of their children, my generation, the children of technology who can’t even save up to move out of mommy and daddy’s house. This is not just the case in Yonkers, its anyway, from a city outside of the five boroughs to a small town in the boonies; people are afraid to leave.

The fear of departing one’s roots doesn’t only come in the form of permanent move, but temporary also. Yes, many people fear to travel. Whether its from the horrors going on in the world, lack of funding, or plain sloth, people don’t want to leave their house or their hometown. They’re much more content seeing the same people everyday walking up and down the streets, same moods, same vibes, same opinions and biases as opposed to exploring a new hamlet, city, town, country, or culture. I believe that everyone should travel at least once in their lives, in it opens the mind to a whole new way of thinking. Mine was expanded the first time I went to Mexico, and it matured more when I was in Italy both times, once in the south for nine days, the next based in Rome for three weeks. When you see a whole new way of life, you can’t help but be drawn. This helps those who make the courage to move far away from where their from, the drive that brought my grandparents at two separate times in the 1950s, years before they knew each other, to America, one at seventeen, the other at twenty-four. Yes, there is fear, since it is truly breaking away, but there is joy and gladness in being free. If it weren’t for their bravery and passion, and that of any and all people who leave their homes and countries, many of us wouldn’t be here right now.

Being free, leaving home — for some its a dream, for others a nightmare. Yet that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be accomplished at least once in our lives. Whether you’re in a city such as San Antonio or Yonkers or a small town in the middle of nowhere like San Bartolommeo in Galo or Canicatti, it doesn’t hurt to go away, whether a permanent move or temporary one for travel, school, or work, and broaden your horizons. Some people will find a calling they never utilized; others the ability to be free, yet need for codependency. Yet always remember this — no matter how far or close you go in life, you can always go home, for the values and lessons of where you come from don’t live on in that quiet house, bustling city, or kindred hometown, but deep down in your soul in the depth of your heart. And that, my friends, is why we must never forget who we are or where we come from, and act like that good kid to anyone we encounter, whether it be the waiter at the restaurant or the Queen of England. Be gentle, be kind, be whole — but never fear to throw yourself out there and travel into the great unknown.

via Daily Prompt: Tether

Fort Lauderdale 2017

My best friend Lauren and I went to south Florida for vacation a month ago. While staying in Fort Lauderdale, we dazzled in exploring the city along with Hollywood, Miami Beach, and South Beach. This photo was taken on her iPhone7 at Fort Lauderdale Beach via the Sunrise Blvd. entrance.

via Photo Challenge: Friend

The Best French Fries I Ate — So Far ;)

It’s no secret that I have the diet of a 12-year-old boy, and that includes my love of all and anything fast food related. What’s the king of fast food to the burger’s queen — French fries, leading over the food genre with power and Salic law. I consumed and continue enjoying many fries from various places over my 22 years and 9 months being alive, but these ones so far seem to be the best.

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10.) McDonald’s (Bedford Hills, Thornwood, & Wakefield, Bronx, NY locations)

What would a fry list be without McDonald’s? Although the popular food chain isn’t known for its freshness, one thing cannot be mistaken: their fries are amazing! Nothing tastes better when you don’t have much money in your wallet then some good ol’ Mickey Dee’s fries fresh from 241st and White Plains Road in the Bronx. Can’t go that far? Then check out the golden arches on Bedford Road in Bedford Hills or Marble Ave in Thornwood, NY for Northern and Central Westchester-ettes! They’re one thing on the menu that puts a taste of fresh, salty goodness that’s hard to find at most of their name bearing places.

 

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9.) MOOYAH Burger (Briarcliff Manor, NY location)

MOOYAH Burger is tempting on the eyes, and even more satisfying in the mouth. Originating in Texas, the fast growing chain has a location close to where my job was before we moved, and needless to say this was one of the “go-to” places at lunch time. The sizzling, usually hot fries were perfect again the MOOYAH sauce, aka a thousand island dressing, and ketchup. By the way, I don’t usually use condiments, but this place’s are so good, they’re worth a try!

 

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8.) Shake Shack (Downtown Brooklyn & DUMBO locations, Brooklyn, NY)

Shake Shack has grown a lot in recent years from just a humble stand in Madison Square Park. Besides they’re delicious burgers, both beef and chicken, shakes, and custards, another staple of this healthy fast food mogul are their crinkle cut fries. Unlike White Castle’s, which can be soggy at times, fries at the Shack are always crisp, and taste amazing whether you choose to have them plain or with cheese. While I’ve eaten at 6 locations so far and have not a single complaint, I find the best ones are in Downtown Brooklyn and DUMBO. Even better? The Downtown Brooklyn location is directly across from Brooklyn Law School by the Borough Hall stop on the 4 train, and the DUMBO shop looks more like it belongs in a village by the sea than in New York. The view– and the fries– are absolutely breathtaking!

 

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7.) Elevation Burger (Rye Brook, NY & Yonkers, NY locations)

When most of the Ranch1’s went out in the tri-state area, the what I call “skinny fry” was thought to be doomed. Enter Elevation Burger, who not only relieved the skinny shoestrings, but made them taste fresher and better than ever before! For that extra sizzle right out of the fryer, check out the Rye Brook and Yonkers locations in Central and Lower Westchester.

 

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6.) Five Guys (Hackensack, NJ & Yonkers, NY locations)

Freshly hand cut fries fried in peanut oil — unless you have an allergy (and I feel terrible for those who do), this is a fry lover’s dream come true. What Five Guys also does that sets them apart is have the bags of potatoes out for its customers to see while waiting on line, along with their choice of free peanuts. Yet the fun isn’t over; no matter what size of fries you get to go, the servers scope them all into the bag — you’ll have leftovers of this succulent goodness for days!

 

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5.) License 2 Grill (Thornwood, NY)

This small BBQ restaurant lies in the heart of Central Westchester and is known for their out of this world empanadas, burgers, pulled pork sandwiches, and wings. Yet any order from License 2 Grill would be incomplete without getting their homemade fries. The best of both words being a wider shoestring, but still in freshly fried goodness, eating these little golden delights make you feel like you’re dining on the Fourth of July every time you go there.

 

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4.) Kosiner Brohers Fry Shack (New Paltz, NY)

A trip upstate would be incomplete without making this stop. Located in the peaceful college town’s Water Street Market, Kosiner Brothers Fry Shack is the perfect “walk in” to grab freshly made fries and enjoy a peaceful day. Whether you choose to eat in (if the seats aren’t taken) or eat outside by the waterfall and chess tables reminiscent of Washington Square Park, these decadant fries are a most welcome treat in your mouth, and a “thank you” from your wallet since the low cost will make your day!

 

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3.) Pomme Frites (Greenwich Village, New York, NY)

Literally translating into “French fries,” this hole-in-the-wall is known for their Belgian-style fries and fabulous sauces. They’re served in a cone, which helps if you take it to go or choose to eat indoors, since there are cone holders in the table so you can be hands free. This NYC staple has been around for 20 years, originally located in East Village until a natural gas explosion forced them to move. The following year they were back and better than ever, located now in Greenwich Village just one block away from NYU and Washington Square Park. Yet another amazing place where I had to try the sauce, and the rosemary and garlic is out of this world!

 

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2.) Charlestown Rathskeller (Charlestown, RI)

I’ve been going to Rhode Island since my aunt got her first house there in 2013, and the food is incredible. One place where its out of this world is at the Charlestown Rathskeller, a tavern like restaurant located in the woods with juicy burgers and even juicer fries. They’re made fresh and are the perfect texture, being not too firm yet not too soft, tasting fantastic plain and just as good, if not better, with gravy. Definitely a must have when visiting this small yet large at heart — and at food– state!

 

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1.) All-American Hamburger (Massapequa, NY)

Nothing beats All-American — ever. Located on Merrick Road in Massapequa, NY (aka “on Long Island”), this family run drive in has been a tri-state staple for many years. Their burgers, fries, grilled cheeses, hot dogs, fried shrimp, etc. are made fresh daily, and you can see the employees peeling the potatoes away in the back while waiting to place your order. These fries are so good words cannot describe it — you just gotta get them for yourself! And make sure to get there early — whether its a bright summer day or freezing winter frost, there’s always multiple lines that go on out the door!

via Daily Prompt: Fry

Daily Prompt: Mythical

The best way to convey the mythical is to show, not tell. I took this picture in Rome at Gallaria Borghese. Let the image speak for itself and soak in the wonders Gian Lorenzo Bernini wants you to, even hundreds of years after the sculpture, and thousands after the story behind it was told. Everyone– Apollo and Daphne.

via Daily Prompt: Mythical

 

Daily Prompt: Fish

It was our first meal in Catania. Our first authentic taste of Italia, of Sicilia, of Europe and the Mediterranean in general, and our appetites applauded with joy for dinner. I dreamt of this moment for many years– being in the motherland, her warmth, her sights, her dining. Warmth in Sicily was identical of that of Florida or California, but more intense, more pompous and ecstatic. Her sights overwhelmed the mind and soul while simultaneously putting them at peace– I close my eyes and am transformed back to our visit to Taormina, to Siracusa, to seeing the giant Mount Etna in the distance. Today would be Palermo, then on to Agrigento to see the Valle dei Templi, an instense journey leading to the exhausting end of its perfect beginning.

Donnie and I looked at the food before us puzzled. It reeks, I think to myself. It looks divine, but smells ghastly.

“Honey, I think there’s something wrong with the food,” I mutter, trying to spin my fork in whatever I’m preparing to insert into my mouth.

“Don’t be ridiculous, darling,” he laughs. “It’s just fish.”

“FISH?”

I throw my fork to the side, seething with disgust. Fish? How I hate fish! I was never a fan. Everytime I saw it at Christmas, walked by it in the aisle in A&P, saw one staring at me at the New York Aquarium, I thought of only one thing– the smell. Why? Because it smells like something I…dare not say. I dare not mention.

“Maria, it’s not going to hurt you, and you’d be insulting our hosts if you didn’t eat.”

“Well, they insult me by serving it! I specially mentioned no fish whatsoever.”

“Honey, we’re on an island. What do they eat on islands?”

“Oh fuck.”

“Exactly. Try it, I’m sure it’ll do you good.”

I gaze down fearing the gag reflex I’m about to have as soon as I taste this gull. Preparing for the doom that is about to come to my mouth and stomach, I cross myself when I see the next course is already being served– pasta.

How adorable it looked! Pink sauce, maybe it’s like a penne ala vodka. Donnie noticed the joy flowing from my smile, and I raised my glass to finally toast the first night.

“To us…to Sicily…to my motherland!”

“Here, here!”

After toasting our wine, I took a big bite of my food….ewwww! I’m coughing all at once, grabbing the nearest napkin I can. At first, only the few bits I ate came out before vomit the menace followed. I didn’t care that I was embarrassing myself or my husband on our honeymoon. Screw this, I don’t care what people say, I felt like I just ate a part of myself.

Our waiter comes up, offering in Italian if everything is alright.

“Excuse us,” Donnie replies. “My wife, fish upsets her stomach.”

“Ah, yes, Signore, I’m seen it many times with outsiders,” he beams. “The fish, the taste is too strong, too foreign, unless their digestion already favors the sea. We have a joke here in Sicily about the fish. It’s very funny. A blind man walks by the docks to the fishermen. He calls, ‘good morning, ladies’ before waltzing off.”

Donnie’s face explodes, and he can hardly contain himself. The waiter at first joins in before awkwardly leaving us.

“Maria, oh my God Maria, I get it now! I get it now!”

“It’s about time you know why I hate fucking fish.”

via Daily Prompt: Fish