doc w/ Pen

journalist + medical student + artist

Category: Exploring NYC

City construction: my 2¢, and 12 words

280 miles: that’s the length of total scaffolding — aka “sidewalk sheds” — in NYC. I believe this outrageous number only because I read it in a 2017 New York Times article online, which features the picture above, of a site in Brooklyn. There’s even a New York City Buildings Department map of city scaffolding as of May 1, 2017 that tells you the status of each site, including whether it is unsafe. 280 miles. That would get me from NYC all the way to Washington, DC. Or one-third of the way home to Chicago. Hm …

New York City is constantly remaking itself. Constantly breaking down, building up. The end result might be a shimmering skyscraper. But the beginning and interim results, especially for those of us who live here, include road blockages, subway stoppages, sidewalk detours, rickety scaffolding, and a hell of a lot of noise.

For what seems like an eternity, construction crews have been working on the exteriors of the buildings in my apartment complex. Recently, they started on my particular building. A few days ago, I spied them (well, heard them first) hanging outside my living room window, banging and drilling and lord only knows what else.

It’s easy to grumble about all this, harder to smile. This morning though, as I stepped out of my building and peered onto the car-choked street, watching windshield wipers wrestle with the driving rain, I did smile. Because unlike those cars, unlike the drenched pedestrians doggedly pressing through this weather a block or two away (many of them walking dogs), I was dry. This thanks to the facade work, and to the unavoidable, unsightly scaffolding stretching up toward the grim sky.

The following 12 words — in the form of two 6-word stories* — capture both my grumble, and my smile. These are the two sides of the construction coin, the good and the bad, bedfellows tangled in a knot tighter than a surgeon’s wet dream.


Construction woe: brick-, brain-boring drills.

Construction pro: block-long tin umbrella.


*Note: click here to read my first post about 6-word stories, a now-viral phenomena initially begun by Ernest Hemingway.

Exploring NYC: American Ballet Theatre

ABT programAs a kid, I always had at least one friend who was taking dance lessons. So I attended my fair share of ballet performances. But until this past Saturday night, I’d never been to the real ballet. The professional ballet, that is. It was an experience I won’t forget, and one I hope to repeat soon.

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. Ballet always seemed a lot like modern art to me—fascinating, beautiful in its own right, but inherently mysterious. Maybe this is why: I’m a writer. So it’s hard for me to understand how you can tell a story without words. But the American Ballet Theatre dancers did a phenomenal job of telling the story of “Romeo and Juliet” through movement, music, and costumes. I think it did help that I knew the story in advance. (Good ol’ freshman English—Mrs. Bailey’s class, and my first taste of Shakespeare. I remember being so fascinated with the line “Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?” and how biting your thumb in Shakespearean times was equivalent to flipping someone off in today’s culture.)

What was so marvelous was how the ballet dancers told the story. There were no words, obviously, but there was plenty of drama. The dancers’ movements ensured that, as did Sergei Prokofiev’s orchestral music. What surprised me was how characters were distinguished from each other. When you watch a movie, you can see each person’s face, enabling recognition. From my perch, I couldn’t see any faces. What the ballet used instead was color. The costumes for the Montague and Capulet families each had a different color palette. Tybalt, Romeo, and Juliet especially had clothing that stood out.

I don’t pretend to be a ballet aficionado now, to truly appreciate the dance. But I certainly enjoyed it—and look forward to my next night of ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House.

Exploring NYC: New York Botanical Garden


Posing in the rose garden.

New York City is a massive concrete jungle. But you don’t have to go far to get a taste of nature. Aside from Central Park (a short walk from my apartment), New York has not one but TWO botanical gardens. I visited the Bronx version yesterday, the New York Botanical Garden. I’d visited here last fall with a couple of classmates, but one of the collections I really wanted to see, the rose garden, was past its prime then. I promised myself I’d return in the summer, and so that’s exactly what I did.


This rose bush, which sports both peach and pink blossoms on the same plant, was one of my favorites.

The Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, according to the garden’s website, has more than 650 varieties of blooming roses at its peak. It was funded by the philanthropist David Rockefeller and named after his wife, Peggy. On the day I went, Mr. Rockefeller himself happened to be touring the rose garden—not a place I expected for a celebrity sighting, but there you have it. Just walking through the entrance gate of the rose garden is an experience, both olfactory and visual. So many varieties, all different colors, sizes, and shapes. I’d forgotten how different roses can look from each other.

The top of the conifer

The top of an odd conifer.

The bottom of the conifer

The bottom of an odd conifer.

Another highlight of my trip to the botanical garden was the ornamental conifers collection. I grew up frequently visiting my grandparents’ cabin in the mountains of Colorado, so the smell of pine and the rustle of wind through the branches are among my favorite memories. The conifers here, though, were unlike any I’d ever seen. Strange shapes (like the photos here) and unusual colors abounded. I also learned something new—that some conifers lose their needles. Who knew?

It was a wonderful adventure, and all just an hour’s train + bus ride away. That’s one of the great things about New York—it has a little bit of everything.


One of the garden’s lovely waterfalls.


Exploring NYC: Shakespeare in the Park

Central Park's Delacorte Theater, lit up after the show.

Central Park’s Delacorte Theater, lit up following the amazing performance of “The Taming of the Shrew.”

New York City has a reputation for being expensive. After being here nearly a year, I can tell you that reputation is well deserved. That said, there are some pretty cool free things to do in the city too. One of them is Shakespeare in the Park, which I attended last night with a classmate. We saw a hilarious, irreverent, rock-music-tinged version of “The Taming the Shrew” that had the audience (myself certainly including) rolling with laughter.

Shakespeare in the Park performances are held in Central Park’s outdoor Delacorte Theater. The way to get tickets is to wait in line that same morning for a few hours—a wait plenty of people find worth it. According to the theater’s website, “More than five million people have visited the Delacorte Theater for free performances, making it one of New York City’s most beloved summer traditions.”

I would certainly like to make this one of my own traditions and attend future performances. What a wonderful way to spend an evening—outside in the fresh air, watching an amazing play, and doing so in good company. Next time though, I think I’ll bring bug repellent. The mosquitoes liked the show too.

Exploring NYC: The MoMA


One of my favorite exhibits was a collection of modern art from the 1960s. I grew up listening to the music from this decade, and so could appreciate at least some of the cultural references.

When I finished my final exam last Friday, I returned to my room and felt lost. What in the world would I do with 10 days of unstructured time? The answer: have fun! Do things in this grand city that I’ve wanted to do, but simply haven’t had the time (or taken the time) to do. I’ve teamed up with one of my classmates who is also in town this week, and is also casting about for things to do. First on our agenda was to hit The Museum of Modern Art, better known here as The MoMA.

I truly enjoy art, though I don’t pretend to understand all of it. To be honest, much of modern art especially is a mystery to me, though I am fascinated by it. When I read the placards next to the pieces, I can see where the artist is coming from, but often until then … not so much. I think, though, that while part of art may be understanding the thematic and stylistic elements, a significant part is simply experiencing it, the pure visceral nature of the visuals. And that—that I can do.

Vincent van Gogh's "The Starry Night" is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable paintings there is. How exciting to see it in real life!

Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night,” 1889.

Here are some photos I took at The MoMA yesterday. Every piece I’ve captured here intrigued me in some way, though the highlight was probably seeing Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night.” This is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable paintings in existence. How exciting to see it in real life! Most of the other pieces I saw, perhaps with the exception of works by Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollack, were not so familiar to me. But as I said, fascinating nonetheless.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As a writer, how could I NOT love this, Dieter Roth's "Literature Sausage (Literaturwurst)." According to the exhibit explanation: "Between 1961 and 1970, Roth created about fifty 'literature sausages.' To make each sausage Roth followed a traditional recipe, but with one crucial twist: where the recipe called for ground pork, veal, or beef, be substituted a ground-up book or magazine. Roth mixed the ground-up pages with fat, gelatin, water, and spices before stuffing them into sausage casings." Apparently, he used both materials that he loved and hated, everything from tabloids to Karl Marx. "Roth turned literature into a metaphorical object for intellectual consumption and physical subsistence."

As a writer, how could I NOT love this, Dieter Roth’s “Literature Sausage (Literaturwurst).” According to the exhibit explanation: “Between 1961 and 1970, Roth created about fifty ‘literature sausages.’ To make each sausage Roth followed a traditional recipe, but with one crucial twist: where the recipe called for ground pork, veal, or beef, be substituted a ground-up book or magazine. Roth mixed the ground-up pages with fat, gelatin, water, and spices before stuffing them into sausage casings.” Apparently, he used both materials that he loved and hated, everything from tabloids to Karl Marx. “Roth turned literature into a metaphorical object for intellectual consumption and physical subsistence.” Hm. Well, consider the literature consumed, I suppose.

Exploring NYC: The Brooklyn Bridge

Beautiful day crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. It was surprisingly inexpensive.

As much as I’m glad to be a medical student, the intensity of this life means that it’s important to escape from time to time. Yesterday, two classmates and I did one of the iconic New York activities in walking the Brooklyn Bridge. It was incredible! A feat of architecture and lovely to behold. Here are some pictures we took. Thanks to Kirsten Salline and Lauren Antrim for their company, and Lauren taking the photos.


Exploring NYC: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Art Institute of Chicago is one of my favorite destinations in my former home-city. So I knew it wouldn’t be long before I visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art (“The Met”) to see what it has to offer. I was not disappointed.

Monet is famous for his studies of this bridge overlooking water lilies.

I quickly found The Met’s Impressionist galleries—a favorite of mine at the Art Institute—and felt right at home amid the masterpieces by Monet, Manet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Seurat, and others. Monet is known for creating a series of paintings of the same setting—haystacks, cliffs, a bridge overlooking water lilies for example—but painting them at different times of day or seasons to capture various effects of light and other environmental cues. It was fascinating to see the same subject as I’d seen at the Art Institute, but painted in a slightly different way. Like seeing an old friend who’s wearing a different expression on her face.

I wandered through the galleries until I came to a special exhibit called “China: Through the Looking Glass.” According to The Met’s website, in this exhibit “high fashion is juxtaposed with Chinese costumes, paintings, porcelains, and other art, including films, to reveal enchanting reflections of Chinese imagery.” The exhibit was breathtaking. Here are some photos I took.

In contrast to the very new haute couture, I also saw Assyrian relief scupltures that dated as far back as 800 B.C. That’s nearly 3,000 years old! What a feeling to be in the same room as something that ancient.

In the couple of hours I was at The Met, I saw only a fraction of the collection. I can’t wait to go back.


Exploring NYC: Central Park

The 843-acre Central Park is nestled among New York City skyscrapers, which peek out above the trees. Inside the park though, you almost forget you’re in a city at all.

It was gorgeous yesterday—sunny but not too hot or humid; just right for exploring my new surroundings on foot. The famed Central Park is less than a mile from my dorm, so that was my first destination. According to Wikipedia and the travel blog EF Explore America (and we know everything on the Internet is accurate, right?), this 843-acre park boasts:

  • 29 sculptures
  • 7 bodies of water
  • 25,000 trees
  • 235 species of birds
  • 136 acres of woodlands
  • 250 acres of lawns
  • 58 miles of walkways

Walking in Central Park …

Whether these numbers are completely accurate, the takeaway is this: Central Park is a big place, with lots of cool stuff to see and do. For example, I’m hoping to take in one of the free movies in the park before the close of summer—the perfect activity for a broke medical student.

And the truth is, facts can’t capture Central Park. As I walked along the paths, I was awed by the park’s enormity. In the midst of the largest city in the United States, people have a place where they can share a picnic lunch under the shade of a century-old tree, bird-watch, read a favorite book on a sunny bench, and play frisbee. When I need a break from the hustle and bustle, this will be a great place to unwind.

One of the mini lakes in Central Park, where people were sailing small boats on the Saturday afternoon I visited.