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Giving out-of-town guests a unique New York experience

7 May

One of best services you can provide for friends and relatives visiting the city is to be a resource for off-the-radar places. Chances are, if you’ve lived here even 30 days, you’ve found some gems. Write them down and save them in your e-mail: That hole-in-the-wall where your friend had his birthday? Send them there! Tourists want to hit the highlights (you know ’em), but they treasure — AND feel cooler on account of — a local’s recommendation.

I’ve touched on some of my favorite places before, but these are all new.

If they want … send them to …

A killer night of theater … “In the Heights,” Richard Rodgers Theatre, 226 W. 46th St.
What it is: This delicious Broadway musical, inspired by life in the northern Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights, is not is not based on a movie or a Disney character. Did I mention it won the Tony in 2008 for Best Musical.

A sweet treat while on your feet … La Delice Pastry Shop (no Web site), 372 Third Ave.
What it is: One of those bakeries whose sign just screams, “We’ve been here forever.” Best horseshoe macaroon (about $2.50) you’ve ever tasted. Takeout only (no tables or chairs). Old and set in its ways — ipso facto, no credit cards accepted.

Funky gifts that aren’t from a souvenir shop … Pylones, Grand Central Station and 69 Spring St., among others
What it is: A French gift shop with everything from cheese graters that look like milkmaids to staplers that look like fish. Not the cheapest, but definitely unique. Even kids will be entertained while shopping here.

An overlook escape from sirens and horns … The Cloisters Museum & Gardens, 99 Margaret Corbin Drive, Ft. Tryon Park
What it is: Affiliated with the Met Museum, this serene uptown getaway is perfect for a stroll, even if you’re not into Medieval art (which it houses). The interior garden is a gorgeous lunch spot for families or couples. Take the A train there, and — for a great tour of northern Manhattan — the M4 bus back.

Improv comedy that’s both edgy and bathroom humor-free …  Freestyle Love Supreme
What it is: FLS are a freestyle rap group who often performs at Comix, but are appearing next at Le Poisson Rouge on 5/17.

A view of the Empire State Building that’s not Top of the Rock … Top of the Strand (purposely not linked — it spoils the view!), 33 W. 37th St.
What it is: A new, overpriced rooftop bar with an amazing view. (Hey, you can always order a soda.) Good for an early-ish drink, as it doesn’t get hopping until late.

An ubertrendy, dark bar … Shalel Lounge, 65 W. 70th St.
What it is: A perfect date spot and horrible family spot, this Moroccan-inspired basement bar will make you feel like a local in no time.

Cheap beer, great bluegrass … Banjo Jim’s, 700 E. Ninth St.
What it is: One of those dives that has music going from dinnertime to late, every night. Small bar, no real stage — just a couple of amps and requisite dive-bar stale smell.

All-you-can-drink mimosas with something besides eggs benedict … Yerba Buena, 23 Avenue A
What it is: An unpretentious Spanish brunch where reservations are a must. Don’t go to the Perry Street location; they don’t have the unlimited mimosas (even when you ask really really nicely and are blonde) and the vibe’s not as good.

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Jury Duty in Manhattan: What to expect

4 Mar

There have been many television depictions of jury duty in New York City: Liz Lemon dressing as Princess Leia; Carrie Bradshaw watching a guy pull whole tropical fruits from a suitcase.

Hey, jury duty's really not that bad!

True, there are weirdos sitting beside you, but I have to say — even though all I did was sit there for a day without getting interviewed or much less, even picked for a jury — it wasn’t an altogether bad experience. I talked on the phone to my mom, tweeted and read my new book.

Also, I didn’t catch his name, but the court officer — the guy generally in charge of keeping impatient New Yorkers informed and not rioting — deserves a raise. He was patient, good-natured and funny throughout the day, even when people were snoring while he talked. Some of his banter:

“On the form, under ‘address,’ do not put a P.O. box. I know the apartment situation in New York City is ridiculous, but you do not reside in a box. The last time someone put down a P.O. box, they did not get paid, and they called me and used profanity. But hell, this is Manhattan. None of you are even listening to me.”

Here’s a quick-hit list of what to expect when you show up at jury duty, with a link to the city’s comprehensive FAQ at the bottom:

Am I getting paid for this? You’ll learn details once you arrive, but if your employer pays you for the days you’re away at jury duty, the answer is no. If you do not get paid time off, you are compensated to the tune of $40 per day. Not surprisingly, they do not reimburse for meals or transportation.

What’s the room like? You’ll probably be sitting a staid room with rows and rows of cushioned chairs. Thankfully, there’s enough space to get to a middle seat without brushing everyone’s legs and saying excuse me 14 times. Diane Sawyer stars in a pre-recorded video about the judicial system as people file in.

What should I bring? The area has have wifi, so bring your computer if you like. There are also rooms flanking the main area: a TV room (but it only has one channel, news) and a laptop room — “and last time I heard, five out of nine of them actually work,” the court officer said.  Power strips are also available there.

Can I leave? Yes. There’s a sign-out sheet where you can leave for up to 30 minutes to grab coffee or what have you. You can also wander in the hall (and, if you’re on a high floor, enjoy the view of downtown), as long as you’re close enough to hear any announcements coming from the main room.

When’s lunch? Typically something like 12:30 to 2 p.m. They are generous with that — just don’t come back at 4 p.m. They’ll mark you absent, send you to another building, and you’ll have to re-serve another day.

What if I just ignore my summons? “If you fail to show up and don’t have a good reason, needless to say, you shall have a, let’s say, particularly up-close and personal experience with our judicial system,” the officer said.

Here is a general FAQ.

With a little help from Etsy

1 Mar

Lately we’ve been reading many stories about people turning to their crafty sides to add spending money to their income during the recession.

Buying gifts on Etsy.com has been great fun for me, especially when they’re made by a local crafter — which is how I found the talented Caroline Wolfe, who has graciously agreed to tell us about her wares — and, as a bonus, spill about her favorite spots over the decade she’s lived in Brooklyn!

Caroline Wolfe Papocchia

What advice would you give someone looking to earn extra income by launching a creative venture on Etsy?
Realize that starting and maintaining an Etsy shop requires work and commitment. Pricing will likely be your greatest challenge. Be honest with yourself about the cost of your materials and shipping, and — most importantly — the value of your time and talent. Remember, you are saving so much by selling it yourself and selling it online.

How have you promoted yourself?
Most of my promotion has been word-of-mouth; I was also featured in an Etsy e-mail blast that brought a lot of attention to my Cities plates. I have had some press on design blogs, and in a couple of magazines, for which I am very grateful. Next year I plan to participate in some craft fairs.

Do you have a day job? What are your goals for your Etsy side business?
I am an event planner and designer; I also write about the industry for a handful online publications, and I work part-time at a school that teaches a course on wedding and event planning. I would like to expand the offerings at my Etsy shop. I am planing to include other crafts, and I am also planning big changes on the types of glassware and styles on offer.

Look, it's Iowa! Caroline's "Cities" plates were a hit for holiday.

As you mentioned, your Cities plates have been a big hit. If you were to make six of your own plates for your favorite cities, what would those be?
Great question! New York (of course); Chicago, IL; Portland, OR; London; Wellfleet, MA; and Washington, DC.

You’ve lived in Brooklyn since 2000. What neighborhood are you in, how has it changed in the past decade and what are you favorite spots?
Since 2008, [my husband and I] have lived in Greenwood Heights. Favorite places? Definitely the cemetery. It is historic and so beautiful. Other favorite spots include Sidecar, Buttermilk Bar, Korzo restaurant, Monk Vintage Shop, Eagle Provisions, Adam’s Wines (amazing place), Tacos Xochimilco and Rossmans.

In Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens: Frankie’s Spuntino, D’Amico coffee roasters, Winn Discount for basics (although it has gotten pricier), Stinky Cheeses (totally irresistible), Alma Restaurant, Pizzazz (for baby and kid gifts), Downtown Bar & Grill (for burgers), Seoul Custom Tailor, and BookCourt.

What can you recall about moving to NYC back then?
I have never felt so liberated as I did as a 21-year-old in this city, and as I continue to feel living here. There is so much energy and so much to do. The trick is to get your bearings and establish a basic routine (this is where I get my groceries, this is where I do my laundry, this is my favorite restaurant or bar, this is how I get to and from work), a consistent path that you can jump off and back on whenever you need or want to.

When I first arrived I wanted to experience everything I could. I went out a lot and managed to accrue a bit of debt. Living outside of my means was my biggest error — and luckily behind me.

Visit Caroline on Etsy hereMention NewNewYorkers when you order four or more plates and get a 10% dicsount!