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  • La Cabane à Olivier

    In 2008, in Just Like Everyone Else,  I wrote about the Quebecois who encamp on the streets of NYC at Christmas time to sell trees. I see these operations yearly, however, this year I came across a couple of vendors whose makeshift homes were more substantial than anything I have previously seen. On Bleecker Street, near the LaGuardia Corner Gardens and the Morton Williams supermarket, I found an operation run by Olivier Moreau and his friend, Carl.

    I peered through his window and greeted Olivier in the best French I could muster with, I am sure, a French Canadian accent. His ears perked up, much like the feral child who hears the familiar sounds of nuts rustling, and I sensed in his response that he immediately saw me as one of them. I suppose I am, and I explained to him that I was born in northern Maine, where French was and still is the lingua franca of that region. I grew up hearing French spoken, particularly among family gatherings when younger and to this day, my mother still speaks to me in an amalgam of Franglais, French, and English.

    I was drawn into his amazing little abode, La Cabane. His rustic quarters was outfitted with all the comforts of home – a bunk bed, an easy chair, a stove, lights, a desk/table, and a wall of tools. It was a balmy, unusually warm evening, and for the Quebecois, no more than a T-shirt was needed. We discussed his business, where he gets his trees (Douglas and Frasier firs from North Carolina), and his top selling ornament (a crossection of tree that proclaims “Mom, I’m Gay”). I quickly guided the conversation towards my favorite French Canadian slang, all of which, to my delight, they were well familiar with. I asked about the unusually spirited French music they were listening to, and they introduced me to an artist I was unfamiliar with – Mononc’ Serge – apparently quite popular, known for his irreverent and vulgar lyrics and sardonic humor. The meeting and conversation was another great New York moment, befitting the Christmas season.

    It is amusing to see the lavish homes in New York City often marketed as a possible pied-à-terre, places that most can only dream of as a primary residence. But here, on Bleecker Street, was a true pied-à-terre: the small, modest second home of a Frenchman on his brief stay in New York City, La Cabane à Olivier :)


  • Easter Parade 2013

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

    See my complete photo gallery here for the 2013 annual Easter Parade.

    See my other Easter stories and photo galleries:

    Easter Parade 2006
    Easter Parade 2007
    Easter Parade 2008
    Easter Parade 2009
    Easter Parade 2012

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

  • Happy New Year – 2013

    The Empire State Building all aglow with its new laser light show on New Year’s Eve.


  • Looking Back – Christmas in New York City

    Looking back at Christmas in New York City. Classic, iconic, enduring, timeless – Macy’s, the tree at Rockefeller Center, Tiffany’s, Saks, Cartier, Santa at Macy’s, Bergdorf (not shown, from 2008), Dyker Heights (not shown). Images from 2006. Click on the photos for links to stories, galleries, and videos.


  • Easter Parade 2012, Part 2

    The Movie (see Part 1 here)

    See my other Easter stories and photo galleries:
    Easter Parade 2006
    Easter Parade 2007
    Easter Parade 2008
    Easter Parade 2009


  • Easter Parade 2012, Part 1

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

    View my photo gallery here. See Part 2 here for a movie of the event.

    See my other Easter stories and photo galleries:

    Easter Parade 2006

    Easter Parade 2007

    Easter Parade 2008

    Easter Parade 2009

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

  • Good Friday

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

  • A Love/Hate Thing

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

    A mass-marketed candy such as Peeps is certainly not anything that is special to New York City. But, nonetheless, they can be found here, primarily in chain stores, such as Duane Reade.

    Looking back on my first postings for this website is interesting. I was fascinated with Peeps, perplexed by the amazing durability of their appeal for nearly 60 years. After hunting for Peeps, not realizing that they were readily available at every Duane Reade, I found them at Dylan’s Candy Bar on the Upper East Side and did a story, Peeps, on April 16, 2006.

    What more appropriately named company, Just Born, Inc., and town, Bethlehem (Pennsylvania), for the manufacture of an Easter candy. However, Just Born, Inc. has its roots in New York City. The founder, Sam Born, was a candy maker from Russia who emigrated to the U.S. via Brooklyn in 1910. In 1923, Born opened a small candy-making and retail store in Brooklyn, New York. He marketed the freshness of his line of daily-made candy with a sign that declared, “Just Born.” In 1932, they moved operations to an empty printing factory in Bethlehem, PA, and in 1953, Just Born acquired the Rodda Candy Company of Lancaster, PA. Although Rodda was best known for its jelly beans, it also made a small line of marshmallow products, which included a popular Easter Peep that was made by laboriously hand-squeezing marshmallow through pastry tubes.

    Inspired by David Letterman’s nightly Top Ten lists, I have written two lists: the top ten reasons New Yorkers love and hate Peeps.

     

    Top Ten Reasons New Yorkers Love Peeps

    10. Even in New York City, where else will you find blue or pink food?

    9. There’s a diversity of skin colors

    8. You can buy Peeps at Duane Reade

    7. You don’t need to cook Peeps

    6. There are still inexpensive things to be found in New York City

    5. Peeps are nonfat

    4. Peeps are the perfect food to eat while walking

    3. You can celebrate Easter without a trip to St. Patrick’s

    2. In New York City, we got the little stuff too

    1. If left in your car, no one will break in to steal your Peeps

     

    Top Ten Reasons New Yorkers Hate Peeps

    10. Peeps are not vegan

    9. Peeps are not edgy

    8. You can’t really serve Peeps in a $1.5 million dollar condo

    7. You can buy Peeps at Duane Reade

    6. New Yorkers don’t eat food that comes in blue or pink

    5. You don’t have to wait in line for Peeps

    4. Peeps are not kosher

    3. Peeps are not artisanal

    2. Peeps are not made “somewhere in Brooklyn”

    1. Peeps don’t come in black

     

    Like New York City itself, Peeps are a Love/Hate thing :)

    Posted on by Brian Dubé

  • Luck of the Irish

    Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, and in reviewing my postings going back to the inception of this website, I was surprised to find that I have neither done a St. Patrick’s Day feature nor attended the St. Patrick’s Day parade.

    More surprising was that the very first posting of this website was on March 17, 2006, on Vesuvio Bakery, a New York City icon (closed and reopened as Birdbath Neighborhood Green Bakery). How absolutely bizarre that until today, I never realized that 1) the anniversary date of New York Daily Photo was St. Patrick’s Day and 2) the choice of the distinctive green exterior of Vesuvio Bakery for my very first posting was never intended, but entirely accidental. In six years, no comment was ever made about the green color of the bakery’s exterior and use of the photo on St. Patrick’s Day.

    My company also decided to pay tribute this year on our business blog. Our social networking consultant has, on occasion, been theming our product line for various holidays. The bottom photo is his interpretation of the classic Irish shamrock created entirely by selecting green colored juggling props from our product line. Our thanks to Kyle Petersen for his design and execution.

    Although my understanding has always been that my ancestry was entirely French, my first name is Brian, one of the most popular names in Ireland. The choice was never adequately explained by my mother – there was some rumor of a strain of Irish lineage. Perhaps the rather fortuitous occurrences surrounding the inception of this website on St. Patrick’s Day, the serendipitous choice of Vesuvio with its bright green facade, and the reopening with Green in the bakery name is somehow all related to the Luck of the Irish :)

    Posts on St. Patrick’s Day: Little in the Middle, Shrine to Kitsch


  • Big Big Mistake

    Part 3 of 3, Back Inside the Box (see Part 1 and Part 2 here)

    She thanked me and appeared to be pleased, but my heart sank. Regardless of her reaction and appreciation, I knew immediately that I had made a Big, Big Mistake. Additionally, I sensed that she may even had hoped that the smaller box was a more traditional gift, but alas, adding insult to injury, my second gift was a wall mount bracket, neither chocolates nor lingerie. I had made many errors in judgement, and one was classic – buying for yourself, not the recipient. There was no avoiding the obvious – this gift was strictly a GUY THING. Nothing more, nothing less. Which woman really wants electronic hardware for Valentine’s Day? What the hell was I thinking?

    Worse, I even had written stories which she had read and we had discussed, one that very morning, demonstrating my insights regarding gift giving to women on this special day and that a smart man should be thinking inside, not outside, the box, with flowers, chocolates, etc.

    I endeavored to install the TV half-heartedly. I was getting very poor quality from an analog box. A call to a Verizon tech was not encouraging – he actually recommended keeping the old TV, something he had done himself. A digital box would be large on a small kitchen table, and the TV was already oversized for the area. I was disgusted with the whole situation. I would leave it a few days, but on my next visit, I would likely pack it up. The TV was going back.

    On my next visit to her home, I reflected on my foolishness, i.e. thinking outside the box on Valentine’s Day. As I approached the Ariemma Garden Center, it occurred to me that stopping would be an opportunity to investigate their flowers, and, if they appeared to be of reasonable quality, perhaps I would pick up a bouquet of roses as a belated gift. Better late than never.

    I met the owner’s son, Mike Ariemma, who informed me that his father had been in business for over 30 years. I discussed his rose quality openly. He assured me that these were fresh cut within days, flown directly from Ecuador. I learned that over the years there has been a tremendous shift and that Colombia and Ecuador now accounted for roughly 90% of all roses sold to the United States.

    Mike did not sell his product at all. He encouraged me to peer into his cooler, where I found bouquets of roses. The quality spoke for itself – the flowers looked great, the buds were tight. This place had all the earmarks of the classic, no frills, no nonsense, New York City business where the focus was strictly on service or the product. A place where Content is King and the savvy shopper can have quality and price. Mike assured me that red roses of identical quality and source could sell in Manhattan for $30 – $40, where the Sirens of Convenience can often propel pricing of products to stratospheric levels. So, for $9.99, I was armed with a dozen red roses.

    I arrived at my girlfriend’s home. My belated gift came as a surprise and was heartily received. I discussed my adventure with the Ariemma family, choosing to reveal my source, regardless of the fact that she would know the price. Actually, her appreciation was not diminished by the $9.99 economy pricing – she praised me for a good purchase.

    Remarkably, the flowers held up well, corroborating Mike’s claim as to their freshness. The top photo shows nine of the remaining roses over one week later. I made a subsequent visit to Ariemma’s to thank Mike, tell him of my blog and story idea, and to get a few more photos.

    I learned a useful lesson, particularly that thinking outside the box can be a Big, Big Mistake. But all’s well that ends well, particularly when a TV and Valentine’s Day gift thinking are both safely Back Inside the Box


  • Big Big Mistake

    Part 2 of 3 (see Part 1 here)

    It was Valentine’s Day, and I loaded my car, very excited to make the presentation of what would assuredly come as an unexpected gift. I had not yet, however, made a decision whether to supplement the TV with flowers. I realized that my options were now very limited, and barring a purchase of inexpensive flowers from a green grocer, it was too late, particularly in Manhattan, to buy quality roses from a flower shop. From my story that morning:

    It was Valentine’s Day in Manhattan many years ago, and I, like the others, had waited until THE LAST MINUTE. We had made the enormous mistake of attempting to buy flowers from a flower shop during the closing hours on Valentine’s Day.

    Certainly, I reasoned, a brand new flat screen TV is a more than adequate gift for Valentine’s Day. Nonetheless, I had been ruminating from the inception of this gift idea over the prudence of giving no flowers on such a holiday. But there was an option.

    My journey through the outer boroughs to my girlfriend’s house takes me by this roadside vendor of flowers. It is a classic New York City juxtaposition – where else will you find a sign for roses at the astonishing price of $9.99 per dozen tacked to a barbed wire fence? I had seen this sign dozens of times, which always prompted me to reflect on the danger of purchasing discounted flowers, an observation which I discussed in my story, Happy Valentine’s Day, that very morning:

    Any astute woman will know quality and where such flowers were purchased.

    As I traveled the last leg of my drive, I agonized over stopping at the $9.99 dealer, Ariemma’s Garden Center. Here was the dilemma: Should I forgo the flowers, relying on the magnitude of the gift I had already purchased? Or should I buy flowers and cover my bases? However, there was risk buying these flowers. What if she discerns that they are CHEAP, and worse, that she recognizes or deduces that they were purchased at the last minute near her home as an afterthought? It could appear desperate, thoughtless and cheap, as well as undermine everything I had done.

    Plus, with only blocks to go, I was anxious to get to her home, so, still a little conflicted, I passed the garden center and forged ahead. I arrived and pulled up, locking all my doors, even in her driveway. This was a New York City reflex for me when parking anywhere, perhaps stronger than the classic physiological knee-jerk reflex itself. The automatic response was permanently etched in my mind from the days of rampant vandalism in the city and No Radio signs.

    The TV box was large, and rather than wrap it, I had decided to leave it in the original B&H shopping bag, a bit lazy on my part. I entered her home empty-handed, made an announcement that I had come bearing gifts, went back to my car and returned with the TV, a wall mount bracket and a handmade card. Voilà. Happy Valentine’s Day! Was she elated? Her reaction will be revealed in Part 3, where you will learn whether or not I had pleased her or made a Big, Big Mistake…


  • Big, Big Mistake

    Part 1 of 3, Thinking Outside the Box

    How very fortunate one is in life to have both good and very useful insights. Even better is to articulate these insights online on one’s website and have them validated by your readers. Best is to be a man, have insights regarding women and gifts of flowers and chocolates, and have those insights validated by women around the world. And what more opportune time to use these insights than on Valentine’s Day, now assured as to exactly what should be done?

    However, as I wrote on December 7, 2007 in Foolish Crash, “there are different kinds of fools.”  In that story, I discussed a specific type of fool, one who neglects simple, prudent computer procedures that everyone knows well and suffers severely. I was that fool.

    But my foolishness comes in different flavors. I am also the type of person who, armed with insight, goes ahead and ignores it in order to look more clever and less cliched than the masses, like in buying a much more useful (aka unromantic) gift on Valentine’s Day.

    Valentine’s Day is not the time to be creative or try thinking outside the box, particularly outside a box of chocolates or a box (or bouquet) of long-stemmed roses. Regardless of any novel gift ideas, at least one box you give should hold the type of gift which most women hold dear on such a day. But I thought I could break the rules and march to the beat of a different box-giver. Big, Big Mistake.

    My girlfriend, in the opinion of a technophile, badly needed an upgrade for a TV located in her kitchen. Outdated technology is common in many households, particularly by those who put other interests first. This was a perfect opportunity to give a much-needed gift of lasting value. But virtually every woman alive who celebrates Valentine’s Day, regardless of what she may say, has an expectation. And that expectation was clearly outlined in my story Happy Valentine’s Day.

    But I was undeterred by my own better judgement and was unflagging in my desire to think outside the box. And what better place than New York City to find a gift, traditional or not? So it was, that on Sunday, February 12, 2012, two days before Valentine’s Day, I made a pilgrimage to B&H Photo to purchase an LCD HDTV and wall mount, in spite of my instincts as to the proper gift to give a woman on this most romantic of holidays.

    My fate was not yet sealed – after all, flowers were still an option as an additional gift. If I elected to supplement the TV, my girlfriend would have the discretion of deciding which gift was primary and which was the icing on the cake. All bases would be covered, both the romantic and the practical.

    Tomorrow, in Part 2, we will see the decision I made, the gifts I gave, her reaction, and whether or not I made a Big, Big Mistake :)


  • Happy Valentine’s Day

    Hear this story as a podcast:

    A salesman paced back and forth along the line like a drill sergeant who has absolute authority and can fire any hostile words he chooses at will while the men must silently endure or face reprimand of epic proportion. The line of men waited quietly like criminals who feel remorse on execution day. There was no defense – we were all BAD BOYS and we knew it.

    It was Valentine’s Day in Manhattan many years ago, and I, like the others, had waited until THE LAST MINUTE. We had made the enormous mistake of attempting to buy flowers from a flower shop during the closing hours on Valentine’s Day.

    The salesman BARKED that we should have $60 in cash, in hand, readied for a purchase of a dozen red roses. NO ONE objected, lest, like victims of the mythical Soup Nazi, they be evicted and left in one of the most horrific states imaginable for any man: Valentine’s Day without a gift for the woman in your life. If her heart will only be won (or kept) by roses, you had better not ruffle the feathers of the MAN IN CHARGE of selling them.

    One may counter that we are blessed with green grocers in New York City and that flowers are available at nearly every corner. This may be true, however, any astute woman will know quality and where such flowers were purchased. It is at her COMPLETE DISCRETION whether such a gift will be appreciated and fully accepted or whether her lover will be EXCORIATED and CRUCIFIED for not making her a priority and treating her like an afterthought.

    And do not for a second believe any woman who purports to let you off the hook in advance, telling you that you do not need to buy her anything. You had better get her something nice, something romantic, because if you neglect to do so, in times of conflict, you WILL be reminded, and this will be ammunition for her until the day you die.

    At one time, I would have found such attitudes among women reprehensible, agreeing with men who defended such behavior by saying that Valentine’s Day is nothing more than an opportunity for commercial interests to co-opt a day, making victims of us all. But over the years, I have had ample time for reflection. I now side with women who often feel that they are shown appreciation far too infrequently by men who see holidays as a time of obligatory gift giving and are resentful of every moment needed to shop.

    So guys, if like me, you have again waited until the last minute, good luck and happy hunting. Enjoy your self-inflicted wounds. To the ladies who deserve something truly thoughtful from the man you love, I sincerely wish you Happy Valentine’s Day :)

    Related Posts: Be My Valentine, Jacques Torres


  • Bergdorf Holiday Windows 2011

    The Bergdorf Goodman holiday window display is nothing short of SPECTACULAR. There is absolutely no contest in New York City. I have featured selections from their windows – for a complete gallery of this year’s photos, see here. Window displays wrap around three sides of the building – Fifth Avenue, 57th and 58th Streets. The windows must be seen and are a worthwhile destination, even for those who must travel. It is a yearly ritual for me, and I am never disappointed. For those who would like to stroll with me, see the video below. Happy Holidays, and thanks to the staff of Bergdorf’s!

    Related Posts: Bergdorf Holiday Windows 2010, Bergdorf Windows 2009


  • Room With A View

    I recently attended a community board meeting regarding a very hot-button issue for Village residents: the Parks Department’s enforcement of new “expressive matter” rules, created to limit artist vendors in parks in 2010, applied to musicians and artists who take donations. The rules prohibit vending within 50 feet of a monument (includes the fountain) or 5 feet from a park bench, effectively making the park off-limits to performers. The impact of this is huge. Attorneys Norman Siegel (formerly of the ACLU) and Ron Kuby were on hand and poised for litigation.

    The issue is of great personal interest to me as well as others, but I am not much for politics and political process. As a small business owner, I am accustomed to speedy decisions and implementation. We can turn on a dime if necessary and change course rapidly, addressing competition, changing markets and customer needs, streamlining business procedures, and a myriad of other functions. The prospect of decision by committee with long-time horizons for implementing change is anathema to the small business owner.

    But political process is a necessary evil for a democracy with liberty as a cornerstone, and I respect that. However, I also do not relish an evening in a public forum, even on a relevant issue, listening to a large number of community residents making their cases one after another, essentially to be heard by those in agreement. Only if the collective voice becomes large enough, like the Vietnam War protests, and/or legal action or the threat thereof, will the powers that be take notice. Even the Parks Department representative left the meeting early, which I found quite sad.

    A friend suggested that I speak since my entire business life has been supplying performers, many of whom work the parks of New York City. However, everyone in the room was in accord – I saw no change being effected by speaking to the choir, so I slipped out.

    The meeting was in NYU’s Kimmel Center, a newly built student center perfectly situated on the south side of Washington Square Park. I had never been in the student center even once – admittance typically requires a student ID, but not for a public hearing. So as I left the meeting room on the 8th floor, it occurred to me that I was now IN and not being chaperoned or policed. This was a rare privilege and opportunity to scout out spectacular vantage points for some photography.

    The front of the Kimmel Center provides spaces for study, with windows directly overlooking Washington Square Park and facing north towards the fountain area, the arch, the Christmas tree centered below it, and Fifth Avenue running all the way up to the Empire State Building, appropriately lit in green and red, befitting the holiday season. Stairwells were accessible and are glassed, also providing views in a darkened environment.

    I was happy to have left the meeting. I was thoroughly enjoying my exploration – lemonade made from the lemons of political process. As you can see by today’s photos, if you are lucky, Kimmel is the place to go when you seek a Room With A View :)

    Related Posts: Pockets of JoyComfort and Joy, Only in New York, Delivery, Nested Embraces



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