Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Exploring Brooklyn and enjoying New York Salsa Congress 2007

I’ve just spent six nights dancing in New York City! :-) I took a week off from work to attend a salsa congress and visit my friend Duane in Brooklyn. Duane picked me up at the airport shuttle bus stop at Bryant Park after work and we had a drink and something to eat at the restaurant bar there which allowed us to catch up a bit.

That same night we went to dance at the pre-congress party at Caché. I was extremely tired so I didn’t dance much but it was good to see some old friends again like Marlon and Dave. Also Angel Ortiz was there and some people I had met at the Puerto Rico Salsa Congress (Gustavo, Michael, the guy with the broken toe whose name I can’t recall…).

Street corner and Duane’s apartment building in Brooklyn

The New York Salsa Congress was held at the Hilton on 6th Ave (between 53rd and 54th Streets). The congress started with a welcome party on Thursday night and I managed to get a cheap party pass for the weekend from one of the congress organizers whom Duane knows very well. The congress was a lot of fun. I met a lot of dancers that I’ve seen before at various congresses around the world, most recently in Puerto Rico, but also at congresses in France, UK, Switzerland and more. I had a fabulous time dancing with people like Angel Ortiz from NYC, Al “Liquid Silver” Espinoza from L.A., dancers from London and some local dancers from New York like Luis Guerrero whom I met in Puerto Rico. Mark-Anthony Sheppard from Toronto (Canada) is actually considering moving to Stockholm to be closer to his dance partner Elena and be able to travel to more congresses in Europe with her. I also met some of Duane’s close friends. I was happy to get acquainted with Alessia, a very nice Italian girl from Puglia (south of Italy) who lives in London and can give me pointers on the salsa scene there.

Cool cats getting ready for the congress party…

Alessia, Duane and me

Duane with Mark-Anthony from Toronto, Canada

Larry (opera singer from Ohio traveling around the world and engaged by the Met), Anna (from Köln, Germany), Duane and I at the congress party

Me and Michael (was DJ at the after party at Platos in Puerto Rico) from Washington DC, I believe

After having danced all night you tend to get very hungry… Duane and I went to eat breakfast on the lower East Side one morning after the congress. After the last salsa party we had breakfast with Anna from Köln in Germany and a Dominican dancer living in Brooklyn, Manuel, at the Dominican restaurant El Gran Mar de Plata in Brooklyn at 7am... This was a local nightclub and restaurant for Latinos, seemingly busy around the clock. I tried some local dish which I can’t remember the name of (think it was mashed plantain with fried egg).

The last night in New York I went to Session 73 on the East Side of Manhattan, which had a nice live band playing. I sat down at a table on the sidewalk and enjoyed a good salad and some wine before entering. Most people from the congress were on a post-congress salsa cruise that night, so there was a limited number of good dancers at Session 73. However, the first one I invited to dance was a tall, handsome, fabulous dancer from Spain. I danced with a couple of other congress visitors from Germany, an older Mambo gentleman as well as the singer in the band during one of their breaks. I also made friends with Jonathan, an On1 dancer from New York who recently started learning On2. All in all I had a good night at this bar and restaurant in the corner of 1st Avenue and 73rd Street. They had a surprisingly good wooden floor for being a bar.

However, I have not only been dancing on this trip… I have actually had time to do and see other things as well.

Brooklyn excursions
One day I decided to explore Brooklyn on my own and took the subway to 7th Street and walked up 9th Street to Park Slope. This is one of the nicer areas in Brooklyn apparently and is close to quaint little bars, bookshops and restaurants.

Prospect Park in Brooklyn is a big park – not as big as Central Park, but it apparently has the same architect. Prospect Park has big greens with baseball fields, various trails to walk with ponds and small waterfalls, a dog beach at a pond which looked more like a Louisiana swamp (not that I’ve ever been there but I’d imagine it’s quite muddy with a lot of wild vegetation), areas where people meet to barbeque, walk their dogs etc. You’ll find some photos from the park below.

Entrance to Prospect Park

Baseball fields in Prospect Park
Dog beach

Trails in Prospect Park

Later I met Duane and we went to have beer at T-Lounge in Brooklyn. This was a cool place. Many people seem to come here and use it as an Internet café. You could have lots of different beers from all over the world, and I tried a very good raspberry flavored one. They also served very strong and good Turkish coffee.

T-Lounge in Brooklyn

Monday this week was Labor Day in the US so I went to a Labor Day Parade on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. It was a sticky hot day and extremely crowded. I think all Caribbean people living in New York City were gathered here this day… There were lots of Jamaicans, people from Trinidad & Tobago and other Caribbean islands. I had some pork sticks from a food stand and tried eating amidst all the shuffling of people trying to pass by to watch the parade. I think I only saw a handful of Caucasians all day. I didn’t really think about it until a truck drove by in the parade with a sign saying “Chocolate City” and then I realized how fitting that statement was in this setting.

It was hard to see anything and to get anywhere due to all the people but nonetheless it was quite interesting for a few hours. I made my way through the crowds to see the passing trucks and processions of people from different Caribbean islands with flags and colorful costumes. The NYPD had a busy afternoon trying to pave the way for new processions along the blocked Eastern Parkway and keeping the peace among spectators, filtering people to the overcrowded subway trains etc. You'll find some photos from the Labor Day Parade below (click on them to enlarge).

Baseball at the Yankee Stadium
Duane had tickets to a Yankee game at the Yankee Stadium in the Bronx so he took me to see the New York Yankees play Tampa Bay (Florida). This was a great experience! Luckily the Yankees won (Yankee fans would probably exclaim “Of course they won – it would have been a disgrace otherwise!”) and people around us were happy and helpful in explaining some baseball history, background on some of the players (of course I don’t remember anything!), the Stadium etc. Apparently the Yankee Stadium seats 56,000 people and has been the home of the Yankees for 84 years. Now they have started building a new park to be completed in 2009, which will seat 51,000 people. There are lively debates on what to do with the current stadium, which bears so much baseball history. It’s been remodeled a few times and today only has one of its original sections left with a lovely white fence at the top. Some photos from the Yankee Stadium and the game below.

Yankee Stadium and the parking lot

Bridge between Queens and the Bronx

On our way home, Duane drove me through Harlem so I would see the famous Apollo Theater (check out or, where some famous singers like Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Ross, Gladys Night, Aretha Franklin and the Jackson 5 have been discovered during Afro American Amateur Nights or kick-started their artist careers.

Apollo Theater in Harlem

It’s been a great week in New York and shall miss the City beat, although I know I will be back before too long.

View all my photos from this NY trip on Flickr>>
(I have limited some photos in the set to my Flickr friends; if you’re one of the latter, you’ll be able to view all 180 photos.)

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