Sunday, July 29, 2012

#6 Go To A Museum

An unexpected pleasure in searching for wedding venues was that I got some VIP access to the Montclair and Newark Art Museums. Ultimately neither were chosen, but I was once again reminded how often NJ gets lost in the shuffle. Yes, some of the best Museums in the world are in New York and Philadelphia, and we’re lucky to live near such wonderful education and culture. Do we take advantage or take for granted? It’s hard enough somestimes to motivate yourself to go to a museum. It’s even harder to gather the energy to cross that damn river. That’s why this is a perfect match… I can now act like an educated snob and find parking!

The Montclair Museum is mostly contemporary artwork, American and Native American art, with traveling exhibitions rotating throughout the year. Due to the museum’s size, it features less collections, but I like a museum that you can walk from room to room without feeling lost or overwhelmed. Also, a $12 ticket offers free parking, a family friendly event, and a location in a great neighborhood with other walkable attractions. In other words, it can be just a part of your day or evening plans.

The Newark Museum is much bigger (in fact, NJ’s largest) and although I love Newark, it’s not exactly downtown so you’ll be making a special trip to visit. The museum’s variety definitely has something for everyone. It offers galleries from around the world, science exhibits in the planetarium, and my personal recommendation, the Victorian Ballantine House (a national historic landmark). Entry here is also reasonable at a modest $10 or less, but unless you park on the street (don’t), you will end up paying for parking as well.

I will no doubt visit the museums above again, even without the a private guided tour L. (Maybe when we renew our vows? ;) )

I can also recommend - Liberty Science Center (Jersey City), Immigration Museum at Ellis Island (yes, it’s in NJ), and The New Jersey Children's Museum (Paramus).
I have never been but would like to visit – New Jersey Vietnam Veterans' Memorial (Holmdel), and Thomas A. Edison Museum (Edison)
As radio DJ, I read a commercial for the Heritage Glass Museum (Glassboro) about 1000 times. Yet never went…..

Sunday, May 22, 2011

#5 Go See the (NY) Red Bulls Before They Ruin It.

I don’t have many fond memories of the old Meadowlands. This may be because I’m not a Devils, Giants, Jets, or Nets fan— but having to go to a swamp to see a game may also have something to do with it. There was a time, though, when it was perfect. Take your mind back to the late ‘80s to early ‘90s, when I was around 12 to 16 years old. That glorious but awkward age when you and friends go out on weekend nights, yet had no money and limited to where the parents would drive you. Despite most of my friends being Rangers fans (I’m a Caps fan, don’t ask), we all played hockey and loved going to games. Upper deck Devils tickets were only $7 if you were 14 or younger. A group of us would get dropped off, buy those $7 seats, and then sneak around the lower deck until we found the best unclaimed seats in the house. As the Devils continued to suck, the system was flawless. Even when we got too old this was easily fixed by bringing my friend's younger cousin along to buy our seats. There was never a crowd, there was never a problem.

So what happened? 1994. Devils vs. Rangers - Matteau! Matteau! Rangers got the cup but the Devils got good (F Brodeur and their dynasty btw). Crowds started growing, ticket prices went up, and security guards got clever. In other words, they ruined it.

Today, I have season tickets to the Red Bulls in Newark/Harrison, NJ— in fact, 7th row seats that cost less than $25 each. I park on the street (for free), I go with friends, big group or small, or my niece, etc. It’s pretty perfect and the games are exciting (yes, I am using the adjective “exciting” and talking about soccer – and since I watch hockey and not baseball, it means something).

Trust me, go to a game. If you know me personally, I can buy additional tickets at a discount. You will have a good time but don’t hesitate, because it will get ruined! This league has come a long way from the Metro Stars, celebrity players are following Beckham to the league-- and I have no doubt that next year or the year after, my cheap ass season tickets will become just too damn expensive to keep.

One bonus to seeing the Red Bulls is being able to sit down to a good meal before or after the game at any of Ironbound Newark’s infamous Portuguese, Brazilian, or Spanish restaurants. Don’t know where to go? Don’t worry, we will have a Newark Ironbound blog entry coming soon.

All the pictures seen here were taken from my actual seat. Section 104. What up “South Ward”? Go Red Bulls!!!


Sunday, October 31, 2010

#4 Go to Maxwell's in Hoboken

What’s that? You’ve already done this? A couple hundred times in fact. Oh, your band had their CD release party there….

If you’re a fan of good music and live in NJ, then no doubt that's true. You already refer to Maxwell’s when naming those amazing shows at small venues to impress other music snobs. Of course, you also know too well the overcrowded room, the annoyance of parking or getting a cab back to the path, the lack of a box office, and all the other drawbacks. So then why add this to the list?

One word: History

When I say history, I don’t just mean all that “first area show for Nirvana and REM (Peter Buck still plays there), Sonic Youth guitarist was part owner” stuff (though that is good stuff so read up if you like). What I am talking about is living history. Think of all the venues closed down: NYC’s Limelight, CBGBs, Philadelphia’s The Khyber, NJ’s The Fastlane, and a million others. New venues always emerge but like great music and art, a venue also needs support to continue to bring quality. Without it, quality suffers, the staff and bookings change, or simply stop altogether. Todd Abramson has been booking bands at Maxwells since the Mid-(F-in’)-80s! Whenever I’ve dealt with him, I can tell he still cares about his job, the venue, and good bands. Therefore unlike some of the other things you’ll find on the list, if you've done this already just shut up and do it again. And after that, do it another time. In fact, go early, eat dinner (black bean hummus is pretty good), have a couple beers, and stay after the show.

Also, what other venue has Yo La Tengo play all eight nights of Hanukkah every year! I mean honestly, I probably should have just started and ended with this point.

Some notable shows I’ve seen at Maxwells: Thurston Moore, The Lemonheads, The Muffs, Hunchback, Jets To Brazil, Jesse Malin, Jonah Matranga, Longwave, Trash Can Sinatras, Bleu, The Doom Pussy, and many others but my memory sucks in old age.

Fake Chapter bands who have played Maxwells: Miles Hunt, Green To Think and Steve Piperno solo, CJ Grogan, DMBQ, Domenick Carino and probably others but their memory sucks even worse than mine.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

#3 Eat at Mesob

Eating is by far one of the best things to do in the Garden State. Restaurant choices, culinary fusions, and recipes from the “old country” just might be the only benefits to New Jersey’s overpopulation. A NJ friend of mine, married a girl from Michigan, moved to Virginia, and now sadly concedes the only decent Italian place by him is the Macaroni Grille 30 miles away. How do people live like that? It’s tragic. Where can I donate?

With that said, this blog is about doing things and not a restaurant guide. Few will make the list, and those that do must fill the requirements of having great food and presenting diners with a unique experience. Hence, the grounds for talking about Mesob in Montclair, NJ.

Bloomfield Ave. itself is the first reason so make the extra time to spend the day or extended evening. (Though Bloomfield Ave. is long so please make sure you’re in the right town before you get shot.) Antique shops, a rock show at the Wellmont, an indie flick at the Claridge, and Diane’s all time favorite over priced store Anthropologie, are all a short walk. Combine that with literally countless restaurants from practically every culture, and you’ll probably want to frequent the area. But let’s not jump ahead, first you will be dining at Mesob.

“The plate looks like dog food”, is a comment floating on Facebook somewhere. While showing some out-of town friends a good time at this Ethiopian gem, a mobile upload of the plate was posted, and the misguided comment was made. Obviously the feedback was off the mark, though I can understand. Ethiopian food is not typically spotted on the cover of a food magazine and Rachel Ray isn’t wasting a half hour of your life about it. Considering all I heard my entire childhood was about people starving in Ethiopia, some might be amazed they even have restaurants.

Perhaps you notice the phrase “our plate”. Mesob is a great date or couples restaurant. Diane was lucky enough to meet this young chap here on our first date and I’m pretty sure it’s why she thought I was an intelligent and exotic man. Groups of 2 and 4 work the best because you will ALL be eating the same food from the same plate, and yes, with your hands! OK, if you’re Howie Mandel and no longer interested in eating here then you’re an idiot (though I do suggest choosing your guests carefully). Essentially, various meats and vegetables will be arranged on a piece of spongy bread (Injera)---think of a large pancake, though it won’t taste like that. Then each person will tear off bits of Injera to pinch/grab the food they want. If you’re not stuffed after eating the small, yet filling, mounds of food on your platter, then the best part is consuming the large Injera served as the bottom of your plate that has soaked up all of the delicious sauces and juices from the rest of your meal.

Mesob is BYOB so I suggest bringing a nice red wine, as your meats will be spicy beef or lamb. They do have chicken and going vegetaian is delicious, so a white wine can work as well. I certainly do not want to tell anyone what to order, but if you have never been there before, ORDER THE BUTCHA. Actually, every time you go there or even just walk by the place, ORDER THE BUTCHA. Below is my suggested order for a couple or double date party. *Beware: Some menu items are for spicy-food lovers*

Meats: Lega Tibs (Lamb)
Minchet Abish Key Wat (Beef)

Sides: Gomen (Collard Greens)
Di’fen Miser Aletcha (Lentils)
Dinche Wat (Potatoes)

And of course…………

BUTCHA (Chickpeas mixed with absolute goodness)


Saturday, May 29, 2010

#2 Be a LUNAtic...

at Luna Parc! Ok I know what you're thinking. We just started this blog and I'm already making less-than-witty puns that may turn you away. But I’m not worried. You're intrigued.

I first heard about this New Jersey gem through my Art Therapist colleagues--- noting the tedious work, interesting themes, and innovative metalwork / pottery that Ricky Boscarino boasts himself in creating at Luna Parc. After stalking out its website, I realize that this house is the love-child of Edward Scissorhands and the witch from Hansel and Gretel. My blogging counterpart took a look and proceeded to act (creeped out) a little less than excited about joining me for Luna Parc's semi-annual free open house. Needless to say, being an art nerd junkie, I made the drive ALONE *cue boyfriend guilt* to Sandyston, NJ.

After driving through the country side of NJ that I don’t experience enough, I pulled up to see a group of elders you can describe as “artsy fartsy.” You know, the kind that wear purple velvet scarves in the dead middle of summer and antique bird pins. That's when I thought to myself, (should I have listened to Gilly?) maybe Ricky Boscarino is my soulmate!

I felt as though I was walking onto the property as part of a cult. The house was in sight and my eyes resembled lottery balls that haven't stopped spinning before Yolanda Vega (Eyewitness News) can tell us where they're going to stop. I felt Manic, then I felt like barfing, and then I felt like taking pictures. Every bit of it was beautiful. Large tall gates are at the entry, and then a short wooden bridge lined with lit candles. You continue moving along, like a drone, to see what's beyond this outer layer of house. From afar, it looks like artistic chaos, but when you look closely, you really see the true detail that Ricky puts into this place. The mosaics that line stairs and walls are impeccable, the corks and buttons ordered on the kitchen walls are meticulous, and it truly feels like a Wonderland of kitschy odds and ends mixed with an artist who made his vision come to life.

There are parts of the house that are currently being renovated, because as a true artist, Ricky can always find additional projects to create in this place he actually LIVES in. Yes, this man takes his morning coffee in a room where musical instruments and furniture hang upside-down from the ceiling, and he showers on a bed of stones embedded in the center of a large bathroom where teapots create wall fountains over layers and layers of mosaic pieces. In the backyard, sits a fence of crutches, a sculpture of trophies, a hut of twigs, and much more. Oh, and Ricky is a minister able to perform marriage ceremonies on the premises for all you lovebirds out there!

Luckily, this guy's got a real following. Various crews of volunteers assist him with house projects all year and the funding for his creations come from selling his own hand-crafted jewelry and pottery (which are AMAZING). If you're one for pottery, you should visit with a wad of cash because his glazes are absolutely stunning and if I wasn't a pauper when I went to visit (or right now) then I would definitely have gotten my own. I did purchase a ring that I couldn't leave behind, and it was at this point that I had a chat with the man of the hour. Ricky tells me that he loves to create, he just can't stop--- it's his love and his vision, and I can't stop looking.

This is a place that you can visit time and time again, because there are just so many intricate details, that you simply won't be able to see it all with one, two, or even three trips.

I won't tell you more about the house, because you'll have to go and see for yourself, but I will include some pictures so you get a taste. Did I mention that Ricky loves big penises yet? Oh yea, you'll see lots of those!


Saturday, February 27, 2010

#1 - Start A Blog

Actually most likely I will suggest you don't start a blog. They are usually as stupid as the stupid people writing them. Only people with an original concept (hence this blog) should start one.