Monday, October 31, 2016

The Edgar Allan Poe Cottage

Some time ago I received an email about an Edgar Allan Poe festival here in New York City but wasn't able to make it but it led me to finding out that Poe actually spent his last years living in New York City, more specifically, the Bronx, AND that the cottage he lived in still exists and is open for tours (there's also a small gift shop). 

While living in Philadelphia his wife, Virginia, she started showing signs of consumption (also known as tuberculosis), so he decided to relocate to New York with her and his mother-in-law, as he believed the fresh air and nature would be better for her health (keep in mind this was the mid-1800s when most of "the city" was still considered rural). They first moved to Turtle Bay before settling in the Bronx. The small cottage was originally located on Kingsbridge Road to the east of its intersection with Valentine Avenue before it was moved for preservation to its current spot in 1913. 

Virginia eventually succumbed to tuberculosis in the cottage's first floor bedroom (she originally stayed in the second floor bedroom with Poe but heat was not available up there so they moved her to the first floor) in 1847. Simply put, Poe was a mess after his wife's death; his drinking increased and he began to act erratic. Just a couple of years after his wife, Poe was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore, "in great distress, and... in need of immediate assistance", according to Joseph W. Walker who had found him. A few days later he passed away on October 7th, 1849. 

The cause of his death is still a mystery, particularly because they didn't keep medical records for more than just a few years during that time, but also because he never really became fully coherent again in those last few days to explain why his healthy was in such poor condition. Some speculated that he may have also contracted tuberculosis or another illness such a cholera or syphilis. He also had a few enemies so some think he may have been poisoned by a fellow writer or someone he owed a debt to. Another theory is that he may have even had a brain tumor (this theory comes for the odd shape of his head). There have been many essays and books looking into his death, but sadly we will never know the truth. 

Though the cottage isn't located in the original location, it was still a weird thing to be standing in the same house as Poe, seeing the original bed his wife died in. I also learned after Virginia's death he had a habit of walking back and forth on the (then) newly constructed High Bridge that goes over the Harlem River. Built in 1848, it was closed to traffic from the 1970s until just last year. I have yet to go to the bridge, but I hope to soon before the snow gets here. It's another weird, almost eerie thing, to know that you're walking along the same path as Poe did just a couple of centuries ago. 

Now onto some pictures:

[Glenn, the very enthusiastic and informational tour guide, in the front entrance of Poe Cottage]

The main living area. There are three original pieces of the cottage and the first is the gold framed mirror in the right corner. I know I took a closer picture but it seems to have

The second of three original cottage items: the rocking chair

The kitchen

A photograph of the Brooklyn Museum's 1959 exhibit of a room furnished according to Poe's "The Philosophy of Furniture"

Though not part of the original cottage, the Bronx Historical Society put up a hanging bookcase, one of the items listed in Poe's The Philosophy of Furniture

This was Virginia's death bed, located on the first floor and also the third of three original cottage pieces 

Glenn (tour guide) commented that this painting of Poe looks like if Bill Murray portrayed him. I have to agree

At the end of the tour you are welcome to sit and watch a short film about Poe and the cottage and luckily it is up on YouTube. (the painting mentioned at 10:33 is rather interesting)

One last thing: I decided to carve my pumpkin this year as Edgar. I printed out this stencil to help me out. Unlit, it doesn't look like much, but once you put in a candle and turn off the lights, it does eerily look like him...

Tour Information
2640 Grand Concourse at East Kingsbridge Road
The Bronx, NY 10458

Thursday and Friday: 10am-3pm
Saturday: 10am-4pm
Sunday: 1pm-5pm

Adults: $5
Students, Children, and Seniors: $3

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Best of Tom Hanks

This coming Saturday, Tom Hanks is hosting Saturday Night Live for the first time in 10 years; marking his 16th appearance on the show, his 9th as host.

Tom Hanks is many things: an actor, a comedian, a father, a husband, an Oscar winner and most importantly, he is America's sweetheart. Even if you don't care for his movies or think he's that talented, he is a Goddamn treasure, who most recently crashed a couple's wedding photoshoot.

With that, here is a sort of "Best of Hanks" to get you geared up for his latest hosting gig.

Carly Rae Jepsen - I Really Like You Music Video
In the music video we follow Hanx from the moment he wakes up to the end of the day where he meets with Carly and they dance their cares away. Did I mention he lip syncs in this? I'll admit, he didn't bring his best here, he more mumbles the lyrics and could have brought a bit more energy but the end dance sequence shows he's game for anything.

Plus, who wouldn't swipe right for Hanx?

Avoid the Clap
If you're a Hanks fan you probably thought, "oh, that scene from A League of Their Own" but no, I am referring to that time he was on Live with Regis and Kelly to promote Larry Crowne. During the interview, Regis and Kelly show Hanks a sketch that a young fan drew of him, but instead of keeping it, he personalized it with his autograph and the message "avoid the clap." He quickly reassured the audience that he meant he didn't want the kid to get a huge ego. It's a short but sweet (and funny) moment. You can watch the interview here, with the sketch bit starting at 6:15.

Tom Gets "wasted" with a Fan
The story is that a kid in North Dakota spotted Tom and his wife, Rita, out at a local diner and they proceeded to have fun, with the kid stealing Hanks' glasses and pretending to pass out while Hanks laughs at him.

I think the only thing better would be to actually get drunk with Hanks.

Saturday Night Live: Then and Now

Between his 16 appearances on the show, there are just too many great moments to choose as a "best" moment. The earliest sketch I can personally remember of his that still entertains me to this day was when he showed up on Wayne's World, during his fourth hosting gig, playing Garth's cousin who also happened to be a roadie for Aerosmith. The next time you have to test a microphone it will be hard not to say "sibilance."
Click here to view the sketch.

When Bruno Mars hosted in 2012 (one of the best episodes in recent years) they brought the Merryville Brothers sketch back for the third (and so far last) time, with a surprise appearance at the end by Hanks. You can view the sketch on Hulu, otherwise there is a not so high quality version on YouTube here.

Toddlers and Tiaras on Jimmy Kimmel
I have no words for this brilliant spoof. Just watch it.

He Runs His Own Lost and Found
He doesn't update his social media very often, but when he does, sometimes it is to help others find lost items. Below is just one example and he most famously reunited a Fordham University student with her ID. 

A photo posted by Tom Hanks (@tomhanks) on

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

On Location: Little Manhattan

Little Manhattan is an unbearably cute film about young love in New York City. It stars a pre-Peeta Bread/Lego Head, ridiculously adorable young Josh Hutcherson, Charlie Ray, Cynthia Nixon, Bradley Whitford and Willie Garson.

I first heard about the film via Entertainment Tonight (is that show still on?) because Sex and the City was coming to an end and they were covering a sort of "what's next for the girls" story, which included this film for Cynthia Nixon. After that I never heard about it again. That is until I was on a flight and this was one of the movies available to watch on the long haul. I had just gotten my "Italian-style" airplane food and settled in for two cute hours. 


Most of the film takes place where Gabe (Hutcherson) and Rosemary (Ray) live, the Upper West Side, but there are a few other locations that pop up such as The Carlyle or the Loeb Boathouse. I'm not exactly in the financial position to explore those locations, so I went a little more budget friendly.

My first stop was Faicco's Italian Specialties (not to be confused with Faicco's Pork Store in Brooklyn). In the film, Gabe is trying to find Rosemary's phone number in the phone book (is that another thing that still exists? Would kids, or even young adults, know how to use one?) and calls a few wrong numbers including Faicco's. I've been here a few times before (one of those visits was recapped in my Greenwich Village Food Tour post), but I couldn't pass up another opportunity to eat some delicious sandwiches. I went with one of the daily specials, which was basically a whole lotta meat, cheese and sun dried tomatoes. They are most famous for their rice balls and if you decide to get a sandwich, plan to share or have lots of leftovers. 

In the Film

In 2016

My second stop was the West Side Restaurant which was featured towards the end of the film. Because of where I live and work I travel through the Upper West Side a lot and am sort of embarrassed to admit that the first time I saw this place in real life I knew exactly where I had seen it before (another example). Just like Faicco's, I've been here a few times and it never disappoints. It's a little pricey for a diner, but the portions are huge and the service has always been great. This time around I got the tuna melt, but their patty melt is delicious as well. 

In the Film

In 2016

My last stop was Septuagesimo Uno (latin for 71, the street it is located on), a park just a few blocks away from the West Side Restaurant. In the film, on their way back from scouting out apartments and before being confronted by bullies, Gabe and Rosemarie stop by this tiny park.

In the Film

In 2016

Just a few months ago the park was pretty desolate, with broken benches and barely any plants with signs asking visitors to bring water whenever they can. A few weeks ago it was under construction and I actually took some pictures but they seemed to have disappeared from my camera. The next time I came here all traces of construction were gone, so between my missing pictures and supposedly quick construction, I questioned my sanity. What is now there is lots of greenery, plenty of benches and a few blossoming flowers that will soon be disappearing as winter approaches but will hopefully come back once Spring rolls around. 

I've made a handy dandy Google Map with the above locations along with a few more that were featured in the film such as The Carlyle, the Loeb Boathouse and the Intrepid. You can check it out by clicking the image below:

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

What I'm Watching

Hell or High Water

This is the most recent movie I've seen in theatres (twice...) and it has set the bar high for the rest of the year. The only thing I knew about this film before seeing it was the three leads (because of the movie poster) and that it had 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. I still take reviews with a grain of salt but when I see something that high I take it as a challenge rather than a suggestion. But man, it deserved that 99%.

Ben Foster and Chris Pine play two brothers who have decided to rob the branches of the same bank that loaned their (now deceased) mother a reverse mortgage and basically screwed their family and if not paid in a few days, their ranch will be foreclosed (I hope I got all that terminology correct. The only loans I have are student and I rent, so, there you go). Oil was discovered on their property so Toby (the younger brother played by Pine) and Tanner (the ex-con brother played by Foster), are determined to pay off the mortgage before the bank can take their property. Soon, two rangers, played by Bridges and Gil Birmingham (he's one of those actors I just love randomly seeing, and his calm, rational demeanor as well as his sighs play wonderfully against Bridge's brash character), are on the trail and want to put an end to the robberies.

It's a fun, but at times intense, modern day western written by Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) and directed by David Mackenzie, the man who also directed my absolute favorite film from last year, Starred Up. Sheridan writes each of the roles, even the minor ones, with such detail but keeps them believable so as not to become caricatures. Sometimes I wondered if he wrote separate stories for them. Mackenzie keeps his shots long, moving the camera along to capture the action but he knows when to just let the camera sit to let his actors take over the scene. The real winner is cinematographer Gils Nuttgens, who captures the dessert landscape beautifully, I want to frame some of these shots and hang them on the wall.

There is quite a bit of humor in what is essentially a bleak story, but Foster's over the topness seems to fit (speaking of over the top, here is an eye roll worthy interview with him where you want to ask him if he's playing the role of "insufferable actor." Was that too much?) and it plays well against Pine's dryness.

If You Like This: You *may* like 600 Miles. It's another modern day western, but more subdued and Tim Roth is amazing as an unassuming Chuck Norris type of character.


It's been a while since I've seen this but I have to write about. For the past few years, most financial themed films seem to be about the housing crisis and luckily, this is not one of those. What is also refreshing is that we're not watching a cast of basic white dudes basically competing over who has the biggest metaphorical penis. That's not to say I don't love a good movie with basic white dudes (see previous review), but those Wall Street movies start to feel (and look) the same. It's also refreshing that this film passes the Bechdel-Wallace test; we get to see these women living their life and it does touch on what women deal with that men don't, particularly in the workplace, such as misogyny, becoming a mother, and relationships, because that is our life, but these characters are written so they could be played by anyone, and luckily not by the default: white, male. So yes, please see this movie to support a film with female leads (including one character who is in an interracial gay relationship), and is written by a woman and directed by Meera Menon, an Indian-American woman), because we not only need representation on screen, but behind the camera as well. Plus, it's just a fun, sleek movie with great performances particularly from Sarah Megan Thomas and Alysia Reiner.

Morris From America

Right away, the opening scene sets up the film for you - a father (Curtis played by Craig Robinson) and son (Morris played by Markees Christmas) discuss hip hop, but because of their generation gap they have very different ideas about what is good hip hop and in the end, the father uses his patriarch status and grounds his son for his shitty taste in music. Both are going through something - Curtis is a widow and former soccer pro who relocates to Germany, with Morris, for a soccer coach position; Morris is at that fantastic age (sarcasm) of 13, where you no longer feel like a kid but are far from being an adult, mix in being the only black kid in his area in a foreign country and it's even more difficult. Though this has plenty of chuckles, it's definitely an emotional rollercoaster. Craig, primarily a comedian, doesn't overdue it in those emotional scenes which makes it all the more realistic, especially in one of the last scenes when he tells Morris about when he fell in love with his mother. It's one of those stories that has you smiling and tearing up at the same time.

When the Bough Breaks

One of my not so guilty pleasures are recent B-thrillers (which happen to have mostly black casts. Yes to more diversity in films!) such as The Perfect Guy and No Good Deed, so when I saw the trailer for When the Bough Breaks I was excited. I don't expect much from these movies, the trailers give away most of the plot and they all follow the same structure, but it's mindless entertainment. With that, this was disappointing. It takes a while for the action to kick in and when it does, it's short lived (pun intended...also, spoiler alert?). Regina Hall is always fun to watch on screen, but there's not enough of her; meanwhile Morris Chestnut does what he does best: look pretty and confused, but it's Jaz Sinclair who excels, as confusing as her character and arc is. Though her character, Anna, is all over the place, she nails the innocent doe eyed young bride-to-be to abuse survivor to sexy seductress to murderer seamlessly, so at least she's got a great acting reel from one role. I hope to see her in something a little more challenging in the future. So for now, I say skip this one and just watch No Good Deed if you're looking for a fun thriller.