Thursday, May 14, 2009

birthday weekend in south carolina

Nick and I were dying to get out of NYC for a long weekend and decided to take advantage of his credit card points by buying plane tickets to South Carolina for a visit a couple of weeks ago. One of my favorite people from high school lives in SC, and I was looking for an excuse to see her and visit her beautiful town.
Sid always hates it when I leave town. His new plan of attack when he sees me pull out my suitcase is to hide in my clothes. So cute. Makes it hard to leave!

I managed to elude the cat and Nick and I trekked out to beautiful Newark to catch our flight to Greenville. Since the flight was only an hour and a half long, we had the entire day to enjoy the town. We hit up one of the local spas, River Falls, and treated ourselves to a half day of pampering. I partake in massages fairly frequently and must admit that the massage I got at River Falls was by far the best I've ever experienced.

We wandered around town for the rest of the day, spending a chunk of time at the beautiful park located in downtown Greenville.
I mean, seriously. Who goes and puts a park with a gorgeous waterfall in the middle of a picturesque "Pleasantville" type town? The place was stunning.
We lucked out and had beautiful weather almost the entire time we were in South Carolina. The flowers and wildlife were all out and about in the park. Nick and I spent a huge chunk of time relaxing on the porch swings set up in key locations throughout the park.
We wrapped up the night with a laid-back dinner and drinks at a downtown spot. All in all, it was a fantastic (and relaxing!) way to celebrate my 29th birthday.

The next day, Nick and I decided to drive down to Charleston for his birthday. Neither one of us had ever been there before, and after a cold winter and rainy early spring in NYC, we were anxious to hit up a beach. But before we went to the water, we spent some time in historic downtown Charleston. After a big lunch where we ate loads of fresh seafood (raw oysters, shrimp and my new favorite, she-crab soup), we walked around the town for a bit and also took part in a horse-carriage ride.
I loved our tour guide. He was extremely knowledgeable about the history of the town + had a lot of interesting back stories that made each building we stopped at all the more interesting (Nick geeked out a bunch -- he loves history). The horse, Charlie, was even more amazing.
The horse was totally tough as nails. Every time a vehicle that was about his size or larger would come near him, he would pause, stare the vehicle down, crane his neck around to continue staring at the vehicle, and then would do a little skip step once the vehicle passed. This happened at least 5 different times on the trip. I kept watch on the guide and he didn't do anything -- he was apologetic about it, if anything! I immediately wanted to bring the horse with me back home. He'd do well in NYC.
We made a quick stop at the waterfront area near the downtown area. There were a number of sailboats out, and they had more of those porch swing things set up on the boardwalk. Really lovely and relaxing.
We drove out to the beach at the Isle of Palms next. It was exactly what we were looking for --- a sunny day, largely unpopulated beach, warm water, and cooling breeze.
Nick and I were clearly pumped to be at a beach. As born and raised Northwesterners, the whole "warm water at the beach" is a foreign concept. We openly embraced the change.
We also spent some time observing these kiteboarders on the water. They were doing AMAZING tricks out there --- they could catch an unbelievably crazy amount of air! My new obsession is finding a place where I can learn how to kiteboard. I need to do this while my joints are still functioning!

By the time we left the beach, the sun was starting to set. We decided to stop by a random restaurant near the beach to grab a quick bite to eat before hitting the road again. Luckily, we randomly stopped by Huck's Lowcountry Table for a few appetizers. The food was fantastic!
These shrimp hushpuppies were my favorite. Breaded perfectly, flavorful shrimp, slightly spicy corn aioli . . . . really lovely appetizer.
The crab cakes were almost equally as tasty. The crab flavor was spot-on, paired nicely with some kind of chipotle cream sauce and fried green tomatos.
I insisted on also trying the fish tacos, because I tend to love them. They were made with grilled mahi and also featured that yummy chipotle creme sauce. There must also be some kind of secret ingredient in them, because we inhaled this dish in just a few minutes!
This was the only dish I felt pretty "meh" about. I don't even remember what is was now, and it's only been a couple of weeks since our visit! Overall though, Nick and I loved the restaurant and wished we would have had more room in our stomachs to try more dishes.

After a long drive back to Greenville, we collapsed in a heap for awhile before having to wake up early to join a tour group (and our two Greenville buddies) on a full-day white water rafting trip on the Chattooga River. I would be amiss if I forgot to mention that at the very beginning of the rafting trip, once we'd split up into teams of 5 - 6 per boat, we slowly floated down the beginning the the course -- only to find a local, chewing on some kind of straw, strumming a banjo while perched on a rock in the middle of nowhere. Did I mention that the movie Deliverance was largely filmed on the Chattooga? I was ready to jump out of the boat if I heard another banjo playing with the first guy. Our guide pretended he never saw the local guy and never once made a reference to the movie . . . .
We didn't have much time to dwell upon our "welcome" to the river before we hit our first set of rapids. The course consisted mostly of Class 4 rapids, along with some Class 3s. It was very fast-paced and exciting. Our guide, Jeff, was great. He manuvered us through all kinds of stuff and fished us each out of the water when we got dumped in after hitting a rock at one point.

Below is a sequence of pictures illustrating our introduction to the "Chattooga River Swim Team." You'll note that I'm underwater in a chunk of the pictures! : )
Our guide was a rock star and ended up jumping into the water and literally throwing most of us back into the boat. It pays to have a guy who physically resembles a tough Viking as a river guide --- he was huge and getting us out of the water took just a couple of minutes!
We ended the day wet, exhausted and hungry --- but also extremely happy! The whitewater rafting was the highlight of our weekend. I'm already hoping to plan another trip down there to do it again. For our last night in SC, we took it easy after the rafting and had a nice evening of eating tacos, candy and ice cream + watching Deliverance. It made us feel extra-tough after the adventures of the day.

This turned out to be a really long post! But I must include one last picture. My friend's dog was another big highlight of the trip. He could be the world's friendliest and loving dog. I wish I could clone him and have one with me in NY!
For anyone looking to take a trip a bit off the beaten path, I highly recommend South Carolina! It's a beautiful state with lots of friendly people and plenty to do.
One last thing: After our flight back home on Sunday, we hightailed it over to Madison Square Garden for Pete Seeger's 90th Birthday party. The line-up was ridiculous -- Bruce Springsteen, Richie Havens, a couple of guys from Band of Horses, Dave Matthews, Joan Baez, John Mellencamp, Ani DiFranco, Taj Mahal . . . . A once-in-a-lifetime time show to cap off one of the best weekends we've had in a long time!

Monday, May 11, 2009

tribeca film festival 2009

Next update!

One of my favorite things to do in NYC is attend the Tribeca Film Festival. Founded in 2002 by Robert DiNiro and Jane Rosenthal in an attempt to revive the Tribeca economy after 9/11, the film festival showcases a wide variety of films from throughout the world. I usually end up catching at least 2 or 3 movies each year, and this year I was lucky enough to attend 5 great shows in late April.

The red carpet at the BMCC Performing Arts Center.

The first movie that Nick and I caught was Outrage, which was directed by Kirby Dick (best known for This Film is Not Yet Rated).

The basic purpose of the documentary is to out a number of U.S. politicians who actively work against the LGBT community that they secretly belong to. The film mostly consists of interviews with people who either provide information regarding the secret lives of the targeted politicians or else document how the politicians have worked to harm the LGBT community. Featured interviewees include Barney Frank, Jim McGreevey and Tammy Baldwin. I attended the premiere, so many of the people featured in the film were present, including McGreevey. Made for an interesting Q&A.

Later that week, Nick and I had the pleasure of attending the world premiere of
Wonderful World, starring Matthew Broderick, Sanaa Lathan, Michael K. Williams (Omar from The Wire!) and Philip Baker Hall.
Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker on the red carpet before the movie premiere.

The film festival's official synopsis of the movie states: Matthew Broderick is Ben Singer, the world's most negative man. When his roommate, Ibou (Michael K. Williams), falls ill, Ben is forced to host his Senegalese sister, Khadi (Sanaa Lathan). What starts as an awkward living arrangement soon turns into something more, and Ben's usual self-destructive nature gives way as he begins to find inspiration in the most unlikely of places.

My girl Sanaa on the red carpet before the show.

The bottom line for me? I'll see anything that stars Sanaa Lathan. I've loved her from late high school until now (hello, Blade, Love and Basketball, Brown Sugar, Something New?! -- AKA the only rom-coms I actually enjoy!), and it was a delight to catch her in another film. Overall, the film was a decent indie movie. I wouldn't necessarily shell out the money to see it in a theater, but would definitely add it to your Netflix list.

There was a Q&A with Matthew Broderick and the movie's director (Joshua Goldin) after the screening, which was entertaining (Matthew Broderick is pretty dang hilarious!). We were also sitting in the fourth row, so we got extra up-close and personal.

We also saw Departures, which was my favorite movie out of all of the TFF movies I saw this year. The screening we caught was the U.S. premiere for the film. You may have heard of this movie out of Japan -- it won the Oscar this year for Best Foreign Language Film. Departures is about a cellist who goes back to his rural hometown with his wife after his Tokyo orchestra dissolves. He ends up answering a cryptic ad in a newspaper seeking an assistant in the field of "departures," which he soon finds out involves him becoming an undertaker.
Extremely talented director Yojiro Takida and lead actor Masahira Motoki were present at the screening we attended. I loved Mr. Motoki's performace so much, I even broke my "don't bother the actors" rule and spoke to him after the show to tell him how great he was. Sorry for the poor quality of the picture -- I cannot figure how to take pics in a dark room with my digital camera for the life of me!

The premise of the film sounds a bit strange, but trust me: It is most definitely worth your time and money. I thought the movie was beautifully done -- funny and charming at times, but equally moving and tearjerking. Loved it. Please see this movie as soon as you can!

Nick and I also caught the world premiere of Soundtrack for a Revolution. The movie was a documentary about the American civil rights movement, but was done in a unique way. The movie centered on the freedom songs of the movement, as performed by numerous current artists (The Roots, Anthony Hamilton, John Legend, Richie Havens and The Blind Boys of Alabama were among my favorites), and also intersperced archival footage and interviews with leaders and participants in the civil rights movement. I didn't learn a ton of new stuff about the civil rights movement (thank you, college education), but I really enjoyed the new approach taken by the filmmakers.
At the screening, I had my favorite celebrity spotting of the festival: Harry Belafonte! Yes, he's not a "celeb" in the traditional sense, but I have admired this man since learning about his work in the civil rights movement while I was in college. I didn't want to bother him at the screening, but will confess to sneaking lots of looks at him since he was sitting just one row away from me!

The last TFF movie I saw was Rudo y Cursi, which I saw with my buddy Kevin. The movie reunited the stars of Y Tu Mama Tambien, Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna. I admittedly have a bit of a crush on these two guys! : )
In this movie, Gael García Bernal (Tato, aka Cursi) and Diego Luna (Beto, aka Rudo) are stepbrothers who work on their family's banana ranch and play on a local soccer team on the side. They eventually get recruited by a big city soccer recruiter, and their on-going rivalry becomes explosive from that moment forward.

If you're a fan of the lead actors, I definitely recommend catching this movie. It should be playing nationwide pretty soon, I believe. The movie was an entertaining, fun popcorn flick.
Nick and I in the red carpet staging area at the Wonderful World premiere. Another bonus of the festival: the weather was great on most of the days, which gave me an excuse to get gussied up with my new purchases from the Mayle sample sale + pull out my favorite MJ Dash bag! : )

At the end of the week, I was exhausted from all of the films (plus I also caught two non-TFF films, Goodbye Solo and Treeless Mountain -- another two great movies!). All of the time was worth it though. This year's festival was the best experience I've had with TFF so far. I'm already looking forward to next year . . . .

MORE half-marathon weekend.

Long time, no blog! I'm going to skip over lots of what's been going on in the past couple of months, and will just post a few of the more recent highlights.

Starting with that fact that I finally ran the MORE Half-Marathon in Central Park on April 26th.
Tons and tons of ladies milling about in the post-race waiting area.

I was really excited for the race --- I'd trained pretty hard and completed my last long run at my goal pace. So you can imagine my disappointment when, on the morning of the race, I found out that the race wouldn't be scored and that it was downgraded to a "fun run." I was really bummed. The change meant that the scoring chips (which monitor the amount of time you spend running a course) wouldn't work and that the race wouldn't be listed on my New York Road Runners record. Not a big deal in the long run, but the competitor in me was sad. I've been working to improve my speed in a long-distance race (which isn't saying much in terms of all runners, but good in terms of my personal goals).

But it made good sense why the race got downgraded. When we started the race, it was 70 degrees. By the time I crossed the finish line, it was just about 80 degrees! Way too hot for a 13.1 mile race, even with lots of hydration. Especially considering that 7,700 women ran or walked the race, many of whom had not completed a long-distance race before. The ambulances kept very busy throughout the course. Luckily, no one was seriously hurt. And I was happy because (although I had to time myself) I beat my personal goal in terms of race time!
With Nick near the finish line -- a sweaty mess, but happy to be finished!

After the race, Nick and I grabbed brunch at one of my favorite Soho restaurants, Lure. They have a great weekend brunch menu -- $24.95 for a prix fixe meal that includes a drink (including my fav, the bloody mary), appetizer (which includes 1/2 a dozen oysters as an option) and entree. Perfect post-race fuel. Plus, the restaurant is under the Prada store. Who could resist?

Later that evening, Nick and I met up with some friends for a low-key early birthday dinner at Mary Ann's, a Mexican restaurant in my neighborhood.
It was nice to get together with some of my NYC favorites, especially given how busy everyone has been lately!