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more about “East (Spanish) Harlem“, posted with vodpod. View in fullscreen for captions.

A mural of the Barrio's history on 104th St. & Lex. Click photo for a site with another version and a suggested walking tour route (not the one I chose).

On the very first day of my project, I made my roommate Anna choose a random neighborhood out of the jar where I keep each neighborhood. Horrible picker that she is, she chose East (Spanish) Harlem for me! 😡

Of course, it was actually not a horrible pick at all. Anna even pretended that another neighborhood had stuck to it, saying I could choose that one instead. But this was actually a great way to start off 13 Weeks of Shutter. There is so much culture up in Spanish Harlem and I was excited to get a faraway neighborhood out of the way early on.

Because I like formulas, I looked up the street boundaries of Spanish Harlem the night before I went, thinking I would walk the perimeter and then hang a diagonal to get back to the subway when I was ready to leave. This of course, was highly impractical, and it is a lucky thing that I don’t swear by formulas.

Click for the New York Times article this image came from.

Spanish Harlem is really big, and some neighborhoods are even bigger, so I probably won’t get to use my formula ever. It’s ok though. I ended up taking the 6 up to 125th St., walking over to 2nd Ave. on 128th St. and then meandering south on 2nd and 3rd Aves. until lunch down on 105th St. When I first arrived, though, I panicked briefly because I hadn’t even considered that I might be getting myself into some trouble in this neighborhood. It’s not the safest, and although it was actually fine, I momentarily wondered, “What if there is a DRIVE-BY??! I could DIE TODAY!!” Common sense got the better of this irrational fear and I headed promptly to one of the busier streets, snapping away.

I resisted giving in to my hunger at one of the sad little bodegas and fried chicken spots, and I was so glad I waited because I came across El Paso. It was very affordable (although I gorged myself on a huge entree and dessert, spending $24 including tip – you can avoid this by not being a fatty like me), and the service was wonderful. The hostess sat me by the window, where I could gaze out at the dreary Sunday afternoon, waiting for my chicken enchiladas with mole and, later, a tres leches cake with vanilla ice cream and a fried tortilla chip!!


I chatted with my friend Emma on the phone while I had lunch (she had some juicy stories :P), bubbling over with happiness at my great adventure. It had been raining when I’d stopped at El Paso but by the time I headed out again, the rain had stopped, so I made my way to the Museum of the City of New York.

Museums are the kinds of things that you are just supposed to do when you go to or live in New York. I think in any big city, that’s an implied necessity. I hadn’t been to many, because art museums are not really my favorite. But this type of cultural museum, oh! To give you an idea of how much I enjoyed it: I watched their documentary, Timescapes, about the history of the city, and got EXTREMELY misty-eyed! I was really on the verge of some uncalled-for tears there. But it was wonderful. I recommend the MCNY; admission is an amazing $6 for students ($10 for adults), and Timescapes is great.

The gift shop also had this awesome New York Soundtrack. It was a little expensive (of course), but I’m sure some of these songs will somehow make their way into my iTunes library…

I spent about three and a half hours in Spanish Harlem and still felt I only scratched the surface. I’m sure there are many more hidden gems to be found, but I was proud and satisfied at the end of the day. A great start to this exciting project! If you have suggestions for future neighborhoods or questions about what I’m doing, please comment!



July 2018
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