A World Of Color, or Everything Worth Doing Ends With A Ball Pit

Another day in NYC, another pop-up museum. But not just any other. Color Factory NYC stands as my favorite pop-up museum, temporary exhibit, and all around way to spend an evening. Immersive in color from room to room. Adding sweet treats along the way. Some poetry. Some movement. Some drawing. Some drumming. Some spinning. Some labyrinth walking. Something for every sense and then something more. Throw in some banter with a factory worker about guessing how old I am (we agreed on anywhere between 28 and 52) and that same worker letting S and me grab an extra marshmallow before heading to the next room, and throw in a free coat check that would hold my great big orange bag (courtesy of S — 45% of our friendship is giving bags to each other that we have to then hold for the rest of the time we hang out), and throw in a map of NYC that shows where to find colors specific to NYC, and there you have it. My fave by far. Also, a ball pit. I didn’t get stuck, but when I got neck deep, I also go claustrophobic and had to get out of the ball pit quick. Ever try to get out of a ball pit quick? It’s kinda slow. But still, my fave.

Color Factory Balloon Room 1

These balloons flew around.

Color Factory Dance Floor 1

Dancing!

Color Factory Secret Color Booth 1

There’s a long explanation of this photo but I’m going to let the psycho scare speak for itself.

Color Factory Drawing (1)

Listening

Color Factory Drawing (2)

Drawing

Color Factory Labyrinth (3)

Choosing A Path

Color Factory End (1)

Color Factory End (3)

And for the record, pre-claustrophobia:

Color Factory Ball Pit (18)

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Best of LI Nomination!

I’ve been nominated for Best Author on Long Island through Best of LI. Hooray!

You can join in the fun of voting if you wish. Here’s how:

  1. Go to http://bestof.longislandpress.com/
  2. Sign up or sign in (just your email and no spammy stuff).
  3. Select the Arts Category.
  4. Select me! Christina M. Rau
  5. Submit your vote.

If you have that much fun the first time around, then it gets better. You can vote every day!

Mark you calendar for this coming Monday, October 1! It’s fun! Voting is fun! It really is!

Otherwise, it’s fantastic to be nominated.

Miss Chocolate Bar

Candytopia is exactly what it sounds like, so let’s jump right in.

I get to the city and need to walk only across the street and I’m where I need to be. How often does that happen? So, I’m walking my one block to Candytopia, and a guy and I pass each other, and right as he’s almost past, he says, How you doin, Miss Chocolate Bar?

Took a second to realize, oh, that’s me. I’m Miss Chocolate Bar. [Flashback to when I was Eskimo Boots. ] It was too late to correct him, but for the record, it was a Larabar. Larabars look like chocolate bars because their main ingredient is dates. So they’re brown. Seeing one for the first time jarred me a bit because I was expecting more nutty looking than brown looking but I eat them for health reasons, not for what they look like reasons. If they look like a chocolate bar, so be it. So now I’m Miss Chocolate Bar.

I met S outside and we stood in line until it was our time to enter what seemed to be a little town with a taxi out front. Then the gates opened and into the tiny town we went. It felt like a cross between Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley (Fun Fact: usually I’m a lazy writer, but I just looked up the spelling for Diagon Alley because HP fans scare me). Here, I ate a piece of taffy.

We then gained entry into a room of clocks. Hello Alice In Wonderland inspiration. I loved this room. There was a man in a hat who was telling us all about what time it was across the world. It was hard to hear, though, so I walked around taking in the clocks and the things made out of candy. This is the really cool part–there are a lot of things made out of candy and signs that explain how much candy is involved. Like thousands of jelly beans to make a fox or millions of Gummy Bears to make a real bear.

The other really cool part was the clock coming down from the ceiling to reveal Lindt chocolate truffles. I ate one of those, too.

There’s a graffiti room where we found Jackie Sorkin, the Candy Queen and the reason Candytopia is a thing. S gave her some Southpaw Sweets cookies that the Candy Queen immediately posed with for pics. She has such magnetic energy and is so so sweet. The room had a wall that you could write and draw on. And there was a dragon.

Oh, did I mention the big purple blow up thingie that I almost had a panic attack in? Yeah, so, there’s a big purple thing that you have to walk through between rooms and I thought I was going to die in it because it just kept going. Think of a hallway made of a bouncy house that inflates towards the center while you have to push through it. Then imagine it goes on for what seems like a mile. When I finally kind of fell out of the end of it, I looked at the Candytopia worker standing there to direct us, and told her, That? Was not fun.

Everything else? Tons of fun. Here are the highlights.

A room I’ll call a Candy Land. There’s a Katy Perry Madame Taussaud’s-esque statue there along with gumdrops to sit on and trees made of lollipops.

There’s an art gallery where portraits of famous people hang. These are made of jelly beans.

One room has an Under the Sea theme. Some sharks. Some seahorses. All blue hued.

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Then there’s a room dedicated to unicorns and confetti. Here’s what happens. You pose for a picture and a Candytopia worker shoots confetti at you. And it’s awesome. I spent the rest of the day with unicorn confetti all up in my hair. And in my pockets. And falling out of my clothing. And then I found it in my bra. [P.S. It’s been a while and I’m still finding it around my house, falling out of drawers even after I’ve washed my clothes]. I grabbed a bag of gummy worms to nibble on.

Another room is a playground. We climbed up on the swing set because we’re clearly 100%. And then I became the proud owner of two pixie sticks.

Swing (3)

At some point, I also had some Airheads. It’s a sugary blur.

One of my most favorite sweet treats in all the land is marshmallows. I don’t eat them often because I usually want only one and no one sells singular marshmallows. I didn’t get to eat marshmallows at Candytopia but I did get to jump into a whole pit of them! They weren’t real so it wasn’t sticky. They looked very real, which is what counts.

And then? We got stuck in the pit. I did a pretty good job of staying above the surface, which I considered the day’s workout because my legs were on fire. But then I sunk in. And then I couldn’t exactly get out. Wanna see how the struggle is real? Click the link below.

S was drowning almost the whole time. She was in up to her shoulders for the long haul.

We were by a wall luckily so I pulled myself up. And then I sunk back in. And then I pulled myself up. And this went on until I got to the edge and very lady-like hoisted my ass up in to the air and flung myself out in a shower of fake marshmallowy goodness! How sweet! A bit later on, I found myself in the lobby of a building where a gentleman came in, exclaiming to the doormen, Fellas I brought you some cookies! He handed them cookies. Then I hear, Can’t leave you out! I look up and a variety of cookies appears in my face. How sweet! Again! PS: The next day I had to go to responsible adult stuff, but in the lobby, there was another sweet surprise!

Catacombs, Pudding, and Holland Taylor

Maybe rats and other creepy crawlies come to mind when thinking of the underground world of New York City. You take the subway? You’ve probably seen a rat. In fact, you take the subway, you’ve probably seen some things. Lots of things. Anyway, this is not about subways. This is about what’s underground in NYC, and if you go to the old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, you’ll find catacombs. You can tour them by candlelight, and you can keep the candle and keep lighting it as long as the battery has juice because it’s not a real candle because there was already a fire there once, so the non-fire candle is a safer way to take a tour.

Tommy of Tommy’s New York came into the air conditioned holding room across from the church to say hello and explain that the tour is so popular that he splits up the groups and has two guides go in opposite directions. It seems that everyone wants to see a catacomb by candlelight. What you may not be expecting is that in addition to catacombs, the tour goes through a church and through the cemetery grounds and you get a tour guide who has a tiny projector to show you neat pictures of people who were buried. You learn gossipy history. You learn stuff while underground holding a candle!

Things we learned (oh! “we” refers to my officemates and me):

  1. People used to bury their loved ones in the catacombs and then go into the catacombs to pray because the catacombs were kept open.
  2. People learned that open catacombs could start to smell, so the catacombs were sealed and reopened and sealed and reopened.
  3. Exit signs glow in the eeriest way underground.
  4. The Ancient Order of the Hibernians protected old St. Patrick’s so no one could set fire to it, and the wall surrounding the cemetery is a fortified wall.
  5. I cannot spell cemetery correctly on the first try. I keep writing cemetary. I’m a teacher.
  6. The Italian family that started Italian restaurants in NYC is buried there.
  7. There’s a crypt that was left unlocked which means it’s accessible and no one has come back to lock it and it’s got Edison light bulbs in it along with some very expensive marble and tile because, although you can’t take it with you, you can for dang sure come close.
  8. Boss Tweed came up, and it was super interesting, and I can’t remember any of it (grief fog!), but I do remember that two guys who didn’t like each other very much are buried next to each other.
  9. Getting buried there is way expensive.
  10. I would not want the job of cranking the wheel to make the Erben Organ make sound.
  11. Sheep need a vacation.

After the grand tour, we got coupons to places to eat nearby! Though we didn’t use the coupons, we did head over to Rice to Riches for rice pudding. The signage alone overwhelmed me. I had to order at a counter–one of my top non-favorite things to do in life–and there were vats of pudding to choose from and then more signs. Worth it. I finished almost all of my pudding before realizing that my insides might try to climb out from the effects of eating so far out of the  norm. However, a bowl of Be My Banana Coconut is simply irresistible and worth anything that could possibly happen as aftermath–and nothing happened so I clearly make good choices.

Rice

Like I joined Entertainment Weekly’s panel and got invited to the Crosby Hotel for a preview of the second season pilot of Mr. Mercedes. It’s a show on the Audience Network through AT&T Direct Now. That means I cannot watch the show at home, but it sure was thrilling. After the viewing, there was a Q&A with three main cast members and a producer: Brendon Gleeson, Holly Gibney, Holland Taylor, and Jack Bender. Thrilling again! I was especially gleeful to see Holland Taylor. Don’t ask me why. I simply got giddy. She’s so elegant!

Mr Mercedes 2

Let’s add this all up, okay? Three things in one day. This might go down in history as the day I did the most things ever. And also a day when I learned I can eat a vat of rice pudding, watch one episode of a show I’ll likely not see again, AND tour the underground of NYC without bumping into a rat. A good day, right there.

 

Seinclones

Seinclones 2018 (23)My brother took me to my first Brooklyn Cyclones game and it was Seinfeld night, so my brother wins Best Sibling Of The Year.

Also, we drove from Long Island to Coney Island on the Belt Parkway in 40-something minutes. I know, guys, I know. We won the Traveling The Belt Parkway Award, too.

Also, we got there so early that the gates weren’t open yet and there were lines. We got a Keith Hernandez Cyclones alarm clock. Across the face is Keith Hernandez’s face with Nice Game Pretty Boy written under it. They were already selling on Ebay before the game started.

When we got to our seats, we listened to the episodes of Seinfeld they were playing over the loud speakers. We laughed out loud a lot. Also laughable–the team was called the Seinclones for the evening.

The festivities included some of the usual games like the hot dog race (Relish won) and throwing a bean bag through the hole in a cardboard sign that said Dime. These I know are usual games because this is the kind of thing that happens at a lot of minor league games. I wish all baseball games were like this.

In addition, we witnessed some of the greatest Seinfeld-themed games like The .5K Inagural Mr. Bellavaqua Run. The games had the greatest names and I can’t remember them all, but the rest included: Mr. Pitt’s eating Snickers with a knife and fork contest; eating eclairs out of garbage pails; throwing golf balls into an inflatable whale’s blow hole; flip cup with Ovaltine; running the bases on a toy horse while scarfing down beefarino.

Before each contest, they showed a clip that inspired them. Also, Bania and Jean Paul Jean Paul were there. They threw out ceremonial pitches. Jean Paul Jean Paul set off the .5K run. Bania set off the Ovaltine contest. They both sang during the 7th Inning Stretch.

After the game was over, one more contest unfolded. It’s the one I would  have been in had I known how to enter and now I know for next year so I have to go again. It’s the Elaine Dancing Contest. About 8 women walked out onto the field and let their little kicks go.

Three of them were wearing the early-Elaine attire of long flowery frocks and glasses. One of those women also had the Elaine-bag and Elaine-hair. Her get up was impressive. I did make a comment to my brother, though, that Elaine wore a black outfit when she danced. Sure enough, she came on the screen in the outfit I described as they played the clip. Still, the flowery frocks were amusing.

The woman who went from head to toe Elaine also danced the Elaine dance with sheer abandon. Several of them did, throwing their heads back and kicking and flicking around. The woman with the Elaine-everything won. When the emcee handed her the trophy, she didn’t take it. Instead, she shoved him–Get Out!

As far as baseball games go, I’d say this is surely my top experience by far. Next year, I wear black and offer some little kicks of my own.

Forts!

My brother the history teacher/photographer and I the poet/all around geek set out on another tour of almost-edge-of-central New York. This time, it was all about artillery. The plan didn’t specify “see as many cannons as possible in one day,” but our touring led us to do just that. In addition to cannons, we also saw creepy things, maps, sweeping landscapes, and torrential downpours followed by walls of humidity that we felt and breathed in as well. Basically, it was your typical summer day of I Love NY frolicking.

We first stopped at Knox something or other. It’s not very memorable because we couldn’t go inside. It was a building. There was a sign covered in bugs I’d  never seen before. There was a guy with a parks shirt on who disappeared. So then we left. Fun times.

We made our way to the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor which is on the grounds of Washington’s final cantonment. Here is a word I cannot pronounce no matter how many times I hear it. It’s like a fancy word for camp. The Hall of Honor is one of the saddest places I’ve ever visited–and I’ve visited Dachau. The museum shows the history of the Purple Heart and houses the only known original patch from when Washington first created the honor. The entire history of its development is on display.  Many veterans were quoted as saying it’s the honor you don’t want to get (because you have to be injured in battle to earn it) but it’s the one that makes them most proud. We watched a film that documents veterans sharing stories of how they earned their Purple Heart, and some of them earned more than one. I sat there feeling pretty pathetic and sad. Anything I can do for a veteran, Purple Heart or not, I’m always up for because I know I couldn’t possibly be in the military ever.

We checked for our uncle in the roll call. He’s not listed so we got the information on how to get him on there. If you know someone who’s earned a Purple Heart, have them fill out this information and get listed. They deserve it.

The cantonment was a whole other kind of place but in the same place. I think it’s set up for kids because there were things to touch and lift and poke at. There was a whole lower level of artillery. Quite a few cannons. You think you’ve seen one and you’ve seen em all, but nope! The French decorated their cannons like dolphins!

The grounds sprawl more than they seem from the entrance. We found all kinds of structures, some that had original pieces like doors and battens. There was a hole in the floor in one building and we found out it was because of groundhogs. We didn’t see any animals, but after that, I was on high alert.

Keeping with the theme of Washington, we headed towards his headquarters. Which was under construction with a new roof and some other things happening across the grounds. It didn’t exactly scream authentic from the outside with all the pick up trucks and equipment, but the inside was preserved as if Washington were still there. We got a personal tour because no one else was taking the tour at the time we arrived. We learned that people from that time period slept sitting up or grown men had to share beds that seemed to be children’s sized. All these beds folded for travel.

Also, at that time, if you wore glasses, you were thought to be disabled and weak and shunned. Washington wrote in really big handwriting, and only once did he put on his glasses in front of his men. They saw it as a sign that the war was taking its toll even on the great Washington. This is why I wear contacts.

Onto Fort Montgomery! Where the skies opened and rain basically plopped down all at once. This kind of rain was the kind that didn’t cool anything off and made the outdoors seem like invisible soup. From fog comes cool photos, though. Plus, my brother and I found the Appalachian trail, a trail we once tried to hike together several years ago but wound up on different mountains and never met up. We finally made it together at Fort Montgomery. We didn’t go very far, though, because mud.

After overhearing a very confusing conversation between my brother and me about geography and my lack of spatial understanding, a woman behind the counter offered to show a film to us. We watched and  learned a bit more about the attacks during the war. Out in the lobby, there were more firearms plus mannequin-like men in positions of being in battle that was off-putting for my tastes. See? This is why I can’t be in the military. I can’t even hack it with fake soldiers.

After that, we arrived at Stony Point State Park. We had an animal encounter but it was okay because we were in the car and it was in the woods. They have a lighthouse and a small museum. They also have an outdoor set up of what a military camp might look like. Plus, all the way at the top of the hill, there’s a lookout point. Plus plus, another cannon.

 

We traced many wins and losses that day. Spoiler alert: We won the war.

To celebrate, we found a diner and ate while the second round of torrential downpour spouted out of the skies. By the time we were done, the sun was shining again and we walked out into a wall of thick heat that made my brother’s glasses fog up. And that’s why I wear contacts.

All About The Benjamin. Franklin.

Art. Fitness. Drizzling. Parks. Sweets. History. Philadelphia has all this stuff in a very walkable way.

Side note: Every time I write Philadelphia, I can’t spell it right the first time. What vowel would you like to put after the L? I like every vowel that isn’t A first. Why is this happening? Anyway.

S and I have been attempting a day trip since February. Finally, we found a day in July. Then we had to move the date again because I pulled my neck out by taking out my ponytail holder and couldn’t drive for a few days. True story. This is what a grieving body feels like.

In a rather straight-shot-quick-drive, we got to Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, late morning. Very exciting! We parked in the space I reserved in a garage in the city’s hub. Very exciting! We walked out of the parking garage. Very exciting! We walked right into the middle of a protest that was toeing the line between super-activist and semi-hostile. Very terrifying!

Right down the street, however, were some lovely statues dedicated to some of our Founding Fathers! Very exciting!

Public art is one of my favorite things, so we found sculptures and statues (many of Benjamin Franklin) and seemingly permanent sidewalk art. I definitely wanted to see the Love sculpture to see what it was like compared to the one in NYC. We quickly found that there’s an additional love sculpture in translation! And we found a banner that I was convinced said love. And it did not.

Also, there are fountains. One in particular you can swim in even though the bottom of it has big black lettering that says No Swimming. Maybe only kids can swim in it. Maybe the lettering should say No Diving. On a super hot day, this is the place to be because there’s a really nice mist that comes off the jets, and it smells like chlorine, so I didn’t feel as if I were contracting malaria as I walked around.

Philadelphia has an art museum! We didn’t go into the art museum. I didn’t see a whole lot of people go inside. Instead, most people ran up the steps because that’s what Rocky did and everyone loves Rocky. The Rocky statue is not at the top as I thought it was. It’s on the sidewalk next to the museum, so if you want to meet Rocky and not climb the steps, you’re welcome. S ran up about four times in total and then a few more in just the top half. There are a lot of steps and a lot of landings and then a lot more steps. I ran up the second two sets once. Same Rocky vibe.

While we missed hearing the Wanamaker Organ, we saw it. It’s in Macy’s. Also in Macy’s is a gigantic eagle that’s so heavy that the floor under it is reinforced. That’s German artistry for ya.

We found our way to a bank of sweet shops and had at it. Franklin Fountain has a bunch of different ice creams and intriguing drinks that include phosphates. I don’t know what the heck that means, but I got a Hemingway’s Dream because, you know, Hemingway.

Shane’s Confectionery neighbors the fountain, so we went there and saw all the candy in the world. A few blocks away is Rocket Fizz that also sells candy in addition to toys and weird flavored soda–like Ranch Dressing flavored soda.

Two history-related activities for us were seeing the Liberty Bell (Me: Did you want to see the Liberty Bell? S: Uh, sure) and seeing the Betsy Ross House from the outside (Us: Hey, there’s Betsy Ross’s house.) The Liberty Bell wasn’t crowded, but no one really felt the need to wait their turn to take a photo. My photo captures that essence perfectly, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Philadelphia shuts down pretty early. We criss-crossed the city all day and towards dusk, we found one more love statue. Then we headed home after a day of dabbling in almost every category a full vacation week might include. Much needed and a long time coming. Great day. Great friend.

 

 

Tesla, My Neon-Bright Love

IMG_1068Nikola Tesla invented. From his mind circa the 1880s came electricity. Okay, not exactly, but his inventions harnessed power and revolutionized technology. Also, he’s been popping up in my life in various ways. Remember that time my brother and I went daytripping in StonyBrook and stumbled across the Tesla exhibit? Remember that time I trounced around NYC and stumbled across the random street sign for Tesla? Remember that time I was on vacation and the hotel tv was playing a series about Tesla non-stop? Remember that time Tesla opened for Def Leppard at Jones Beach? Okay, different Tesla, but still. And but really? Is it different? Anyway, Tesla needs me. Maybe I need him.

In fact, if you’ve been at any of my recent poetry readings, you know I need him. I’ve been writing about him. If you know this, then you also know he’s the basis of my next collection. Poetry needs Tesla, too.

The best way to discover why our mutual affinity has been growing was to attend his birthday celebration. You might say, But wait, isn’t he, like, no longer among the living? To that I say, What’s your point? Wardenclyffe is still standing.

Out in Shoreham, Tesla did some things. His lab is there along with the remains of his tower of power–just the base squares in a circular pattern on the ground. The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe plans to reopen the grounds as a science center. Right now, it’s still kind of desolate, but it serves quite nicely as a place for a birthday celebration.

This year, they held the Neon Birthday Expo. The expo included tours of the grounds, robotics demonstrations, tables of local artists and science-related clubs and organizations, a neon tent dedicated to neon things, and a PSEG table from which I scored another new pair of free sunglasses. All my sunglasses are now sponsorships. Tesla cars lined up and showed off.

I was in my nerdy geeky techy love glory. Moseying along the nature path. Moseying around the perimeter of the grounds. Moseying through the neon tent and then moseying quickly out because it was about 1000 degrees inside. (All the moseying was due to the day being really hot and we were all in direct sunlight. Which is actually a good thing because it was a birthday celebration and birthday parties should be sunny. )

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Find Clayton Orehek for all your neon art needs.

The keynote speaker was Gregory Olsen. Um, you guys, he’s an astronaut.  This totally made up for my not being able to find the astronaut at BEA. 

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Kyle Driebeek played Happy Birthday on the theramin. If you don’t know what that means, click this link because the link is better than any way I might attempt to describe it.

Then, there was cake. I shit you not. They had two sheet cakes complete with Tesla’s face on them.

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I’m looking forward to the day when we can head out to Wardenclyffe when it’s all decked out as a science center. It’d be one step closer to meeting the man himself. In the meantime, there’s always Belgrade.

Oh, and this. Because I like to amuse myself.

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On Aviation

Aviation2018 (1)When the Cradle of Aviation Museum asks you to take a survey in exchange for two free passes, the answer should be Sure thing! You know that was my answer. That’s how I wound up taking my mom on a whirlwind tour of the history of aviation.

Fact: Museums in the summer see their fair share of camp kids.

Luckily, we got there right before camp kid lunch time, so we found ourselves amid hoards of same-shirt-wearing children for only one segment of our tour. The museum actually got pretty quiet even with the sounds of different planes and a myriad of short films throughout each period of time.

Then we met Joel. This guy knows his stuff. He operated the replica of a plane to show us how the propeller moves and how the tail comes down. More than that, though, he gave us tidbit after tale regarding planes, war, and technology. We parted ways somewhere between the world wars but then met up again in the space age. That’s when he and my mom exchanged Where We Were When stories about the moon landing and then Woodstock. We sat in a replica of what I’m going to call a space cockpit. It was tiny, even for me. I asked Joel about height and he was like, yes, there was a limit.

You know what’s not limited though? Dreams. Yeah, that’s right.

Speaking of, the museum is opening a new exhibit on space in September. Which means we’re most likely going back because even more space.

Before leaving, we got to chatting with Joel about my brother the history teacher and then about how I teach right next door. He was like, Hold on a minute. He went to his office and came back with a walking tour of campus. (Campus used to be military grounds). I’m really looking forward to seeing campus in a new way!

Outside, Joel showed us the plaque declaring the grounds a historic site. (We need to get one of those for campus, too.) I’ve gotta say, jiving with our own personal tour guide was such an unexpected delight. Go to the museum on a summer Friday afternoon, and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to get one, too.

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