Monday, October 3, 2011

Harlem Restaurant Review - Jimbo's Hamburger Palace

So, I moved to central Harlem last week and from time to time will post about some of the things I experience here.


Jimbo's Hamburger Palace

Various Locations in Harlem - I visited the one at 535 Lenox Avenue (Lenox Avenue between 136th Street and 137th Street)

It was a rainy afternoon and I was in the mood for a good burger.  Jimbo's got decent reviews on Google and is located close to the apartment, so I decided to try it out.

Hmmm, the sign outside the door lists a lot more food options than burgers, which conspicuously shows up after eggs and omelets - not exactly a good sign for what is supposed to be a burger place.

Here's Jimbo's from the inside.  Jimbo's had an old diner feel to it, with a long bar table wrapping around the kitchen, which primarily consisted of a large griddle and a couple of fryers.  Opposite the bar table were a bunch of small dining tables and chairs.  A Latina waitress loitered near the end of the bar, and 3 Latino cooks were busy behind it.

The menu was lit up in white lettering on a red background with photos of some of the food showing.  It looks like they serve the full gamut of diner food that can be prepared with help of a griddle, from breakfast sandwiches (eggs), to omelets, to tossed salads, to hot and cold sandwiches (including a cold (not grilled) cheese sandwich), AND fried fish (I'll have to try that sometime).  And, of course, burgers.

The burger choices included the basics - hamburger, cheeseburger, bacon cheeseburger, and the like - and came in a 1/4 lb patty size.  For 60 cents more, you could get the 7 oz size.  You could also order the burgers "deluxe" (i.e., as a meal, with fries - drinks were extra).

I ordered a cheeseburger deluxe with the works, cooked medium, with a medium 7-Up (or in Jordanian Arabic, "Seven").  It cost $8.25.

The burger was cooked on the griddle and the bun (packaged) was toasted on same.  The cook did press down on the patty a few times (boo!).  The works included shredded lettuce, a few slices of tomato, ketchup, and mayo.  The fries were of the frozen variety, but straight out of the fryer and in a large quantity.

The burger was slightly overcooked, as the patty was rather thin, but it still tasted pretty good.  The only issue for me was that the bun top disintegrated some during eating.

The verdict?  Not In-n-Out or Burger Joint quality, but still pretty decent.  It did cost $8.25, which is a lot, but you get a lot of food.  I may try the grilled cheese sometime.

6.5 or 7 out of 10.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years - Remembrance and Renewal

Yesterday, I walked around Battery Park and the World Trade Center site to see what was there to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The day started off cloudy with a threat of rain, but cleared up by the time I got downtown.

What I saw was an interesting juxtaposition of remembrance and renewal.

An urban garden being planted in Battery Park

The commemoration in Battery Park was the "Remembrance Field of Honor",
a field where each flag represented a life of someone who died in the attacks.

The stripes of each flag consisted of the names of the deceased.

In the background is The Sphere
a sculpture that once stood in the plaza between the Twin Towers

Lady Liberty and tourists heading for the ferry to Liberty Island

After leaving Battery Park, I walked north towards the World Trade Center.  
In the distance is the skeleton of the new 1 WTC, the "Freedom Tower".

Just outside of Battery Park on the north sidewalk was a remembrance wall constructed by Manhattan Community Board 1, as part of their "Hand in Hand" remembrance.  Cards were left so visitors could post messages on the wall.

Freedom Tower, and hey, my old apartment building on the right!

Certain of the streets were already closed to traffic in preparation for 
the official ceremonies on the 11th

At the WTC site.  The Freedom Tower and Number 7 World Trade Center.  
The Freedom Tower sits atop what is essentially a block of concrete that is intended to protect against attacks to the base of the building.

A look through the "looking glass" (really a blue netting surrounding the construction site) 
at the pit that still remains, ten years later.
At least the rebuilding finally seems to be underway in earnest.

Behind the firehouse for FDNY Ladder Company 10, where a makeshift memorial to the firefighters who lost their lives that day is erected.  
To my knowledge, the official memorial will not pay special mention to the firefighters and police officers who dies in the rescue effort.  

Another of the new World Trade Center buildings (not sure which this is).

Remembrance - memorial on side of Ladder Company 10 firehouse

Here's a depiction of what the finished memorial will look like.  

I'm not a fan - it looks too empty, like a gaping scar, or a sign of defeat.
The original World Trade Center was a place of vitality and life, of the hustle and bustle of commerce and people trying to better their lives.  I wish the memorial design had paid more tribute to that.
Also, if we're just leaving the holes in the ground, why has it taken over ten whole years to finish?

The memorial is opening?  
Maybe there was a typo on this sign and they meant to say "9/12/21".

St. Paul's Chapel, across the World Trade Center.

On September 11, 2001, this courtyard was filled with rubble, debris, ash, and smoke from the attacks.

Now, ten years later, it is filled with smoke from a different source - a cookout.


So it's been ten years.  

I still remember waking up that day, around ten to 9, and running into my roommate Paul in the kitchen.  He was on his way to class.  "Hey, you have a TV, right?  You should check out the news - some idiot crashed a small plane into the World Trade Center."  Hearing this, I took my bowl of raisin bran into my room and flicked on my 13" Hitachi to Fox 5.  

I munched on my cereal thinking about the day ahead, only half paying attention to the talking heads jabbering in the background.

Then the second plane hit.

That's when I knew.  I think that's when we all knew.

I quickly dialed my parents in Hawaii, thinking that the phone lines would soon be jammed.  I remember waking them and telling them to turn on the news.  I remember speaking to them for the next two hours, with my eyes glued to the TV and my fingers frantically changing from station to station.  

I remember Paul coming back to the apartment, shaken, saying that classes had been cancelled and that he saw the tower collapse.

I remember walking around the neighborhood.  I remember thinking it was like a post-apocalyptic movie, where people were walking around dazed, or huddled in small circles around TVs and radios, or telling each other the latest reports and rumors.

I remember the rumors - the White House was attacked, a bomb went off in front of the State Department, new rumors were born by the minute.

I remember that I had a job interview on the 86th floor of one of the towers scheduled for the next day.  I remember trying to see if that law firm made it out okay.  By a stroke of serendipity, I flipped onto a station at 3:30 pm that afternoon - they were interviewing an older gentlemen from that very law firm - he was in the tower for the 1993 bombing, and the second he heard that the first plane hit, he gathered everyone and evacuated the building.  They had made it out.

I remember seeing the fighter bombers flying overhead.  I had never seen one in flight before.

I remember us trying to donate blood at the nearest hospital, thinking at first that we had to do something to remove the feeling of helplessness, but then, as the feeling turned to one of duty and resolve, simply that we had to do something.  I remember the line being six blocks and four hours long.

I remember the candlelight vigils, the memorial Masses, the email listservs soliciting and organizing help for the relief effort, the bulletin board at the NYU gym where requests were posted for the students whose downtown dorms were evacuated.

I remember thinking about my brother Eric, who had finished basic training for the Marines but a week beforehand, and wondering what was to come for him.

I remember that for a few weeks, the city seemed subdued - dazed, in shock, saddened, and alert.  I remember wondering when that feeling would end.

...and I remember when I was on the subway in late October when a man was trying to hold the door open for a woman running towards the train.  As she got on board, she turned to the man and berated him, "stop holding the door!  The train won't move!"  His response?  "I was trying to be a gentleman, you MORON!" that point, I remember knowing that New York City would be fine.


P.S., God works in mysterious ways.

The Gospel at Mass today, September 11, happened to be where Jesus told Peter that he had to forgive, not just seven times, but 77 times.

Forgiving the petty slights we receive in our daily lives is tough enough - how do we forgive the most horrendous acts?  Why does God, who loves us unconditionally, allow them at all?  

Back in college, I gave a lot of thought to theodicy - the problem of evil and its existence - or why does bad things happen to good people in a world with a loving God?  The only thing in the Bible on the point, the Book of Job, is unsatisfying, basically God saying "who are you to question me?  You don't know what I do.  Here, let me give you a new wife and possessions."  Neither is the view that without evil and suffering, we wouldn't appreciate goodness or happiness - that's a crock and is refuted by observation.  Look at an infant who coos happily when receiving the loving attention of its parents - it knows it is happy.  Does it need to be beaten so it truly appreciates the good times?  After much thought, I came to the view that evil is allowed because we are afforded free will in our individual lives.  However, it does not mean that God abandoned the world.  We can choose good as well as evil.  And while God allows free will in our individual actions, the rules of the cosmic game are ultimately rigged to result in a final outcome that serves to glorify God and bring us closer to him.  Maybe forgiveness is a correcting mechanism that keeps the universe heading toward that outcome.

In the past, I prayed for peace for the victims and their families, and for justice for the perpetrators.  I think I'll start praying for mercy instead.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Credits - Family and Friends

This is a quick post thanking the people who made my trip to Jordan possible, and so worthwhile:

My Jordanian Host Family and Roommates:

From L-R: Me, Sittii (Host Grandma, aka "Mama"), Sahel (Host Brother), 
Matt (Roommate #2), and Hala (Host Mom)

Here's one with Hala, me, Sittii, and Chris (Roommate #1)

Here's Me, Anna (Our Family's Housekeeper), and Matt

My host family and roommates were great.  In the case of my host family, they were welcoming and went over and beyond what I had expected, and helped mightily in introducing me to Arab culture and food, and the Arabic language.
  • Hala - is my host mom.  She is gracious, outgoing, and worldly, with a bit of sass (the good kind).  She isn't afraid to say what she thinks, and always went the extra mile to accommodate Chris, Matt and I.  She is currently working part time as an office manager, and enjoys travelling and meeting people.  She has traveled to much of Europe, Australia, and all over the US.
  • Sittii, or as the family calls her, Mama - is Hala's and Sahel's mom, and is our host grandma.  She is extremely nice, a fantastic cook, expert Sheddeh (card game, similar to gin rummy) player, and is the matriarch of the part of the family that lives in Amman (the family's roots are in Karak, in southern Jordan).  
  • Sahel - is our host brother.  He enjoys talking about life and cars, and joking around with Chris, Matt, and I.  He is a fan of Bollywood and action movies (not mutually exclusive categories), and discovered a love of karaoke during the summer.  His background is in hotel management, but he currently works in marketing/inventory management at a high-end housewares company down the road.
  • Anna - is our housekeeper.  She is from Indonesia and has been living with the family for about two years.  She is trying to learn English and Arabic.
  • Abeer - is Hala's and Sahel's sister.  She is married to Khalil and is the mom of Sandra and Sara.  Abeer is also very nice, and took an interest in my studies and attempts to progress in my Arabic proficiency.  She also is the mom of 12 year-old Sandra and 7 year-old Sara, which led to one interesting conversation in particular about whether kids appreciate what their parents do for them (a conversation that I've certainly heard before in the US).  I think the answer is, yes, but they won't admit it to you (or themselves) until they are a lot older.  Khalil is a cool guy, and he taught me about feeling "zain" (although I still prefer Orange...).  Sandra is a champion swimmer, and an avid reader of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  Sara is a pretty typical cute 7-year old. 
From time to time, other friends and family would drop by to catch up and/or play some Sheddeh.  It was great meeting all of them.
  • Chris and Matt - were my roommates for the first and second months of the summer.  They were both cool and great to be around.  Known for his trademark "yaanii...heh heh" catchphrase, Chris lives in Brooklyn and worked at the Arab-American Association in NYC.  Therefore, he was probably the closest to fluent among the students in the program.  He is beginning doctoral studies on Arab reformist thinkers from the beginning of the 20th Century.  Matt is a rising sophomore at Northeastern University (go CAA), majoring in Chemistry with sub-specialties in Physics AND Arabic (ouch).  Matt threw himself into learning about the culture and language in Jordan and is a good kid (despite letting the cabbies get away with a few scams).

Aziz and His Family:

Me, Aziz, and the hubbly bubbly

  • Aziz - is my language exchange partner.  He is around the same age as I and is studying English at AMIDEAST, where he is at the top of his class.  He is an accountant, but is interested in studying abroad, either in the US or Australia, with the eventual goal of teaching.  Aziz is very gracious and family-oriented, and was nice enough to treat me as part of his family despite the fact we only met a few times.  He has a delightful young daughter, Huda.  He lives southeast of Abdali (I believe), near the Saqr Mosque.

AMIDEAST Instructors:

The instructors at AMIDEAST, on loan from the Qasid Institute, were top-notch.

Me, Brian, and Ustaadh Amer - 
matching outfits and matching thoughts of smoking chicken in Honolulu

Ustaadha Bayan and her class (minus Maddie) -
What's with the lighting?  I look like I'm part of a cult (the cult of Bad Shabaab)

  • Ustaadh Amer - was responsible for the grammar lectures in our MSA classes.  He knows his stuff and is very responsive to student requests.  He also liked to laugh a lot and found humor in many things, such as smoked chickens and the stampede scene in The Lion King, and he has a dream of visiting Honolulu someday.  I used to like to try to think of outrageous things to say to see if it would set him off.
  • Ustaadha Bayan - was primarily responsible for the language lab exercises in our MSA classes.  This summer was her first summer teaching American students and it took some time for she and us to find a rapport, but things worked out in the end.  I think the other students tended to identify with her the most as she was close to their ages.  We tried to make it a point to nurture the internal Gangsta' (or Bad Shabaab) she had locked inside of her conservative exterior.
  • Duktuur Ali - taught the Colloquial Arabic course during our second month.  His classroom style is to be very animated, and he was a walking Arabic iTunes library, given how often he'd break out a song lyric in class.


We had a terrific staff in Amman that made things flow quite smoothly for us.  Hala was our mother hen, always there for advice.  Subhi was the suavest jack-of-all-trades that you could find. Mohammed was the go-to fix-it guy, and did heroic duty trying to save my camera, which died on my second day in Jordan.  Nagwan was always there to lend a hand as well.  Thanks all for all you did.

AMIDEAST Students:

It was fun, y'all (even if none of you understood the true scope of my work).  Good luck in the future.  Don't be bad shabaab.


In no particular order, thanks as well to all of the people I met during the summer, including Ranim Elborai (I need to try that ice cream sometime); the cops at the Public Security Directorate down the road on Mukhabarat Street, for the time spent BS'ing; the crew at Titanic Tours, in particular our tour bus driver and tour guide on our Petra/Wadi Rum/Aqaba weekend; Ammun and the rest of the conflict resolution students; Samuel and my other friends from the Hash; John at the Cafe Paris karaoke nights, even if you never found a version of "Friday" that we could sing; the guys at Ward & Kebab and Lebnani Snack; Creepy Kwifiyyeh Guy; the people on the party buses; the guys at Tropical Desert Tours for a great time in Wadi Hasa; Saneh the barber for a great haircut; the security guards and rest of the staff at AMIDEAST; the lady at the school supply store off of Wakalat Street who kept breaking my 50 JD bills; the relatives and friends of my host family who were nice enough to try to converse with me despite my beginner-level Arabic; the vendors I met in Jabal Hussein; the rest of Aziz' family and the fruit vendor we visited; the cabbies; and last but not least, Iman Maiki and Marwa Elborai, who first pointed me in the direction of Jordan for my study abroad.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ramadan Drummer

Here's audio of al-misharaty, the drummer that wakes the neighborhood up before dawn so that they can eat the pre-fast meal of SuHuur during Ramadan.  It is a tradition that dates back to the Ottoman Empire.  The Syrian tradition is to blast a large cannon, but cities have grown too large for that.  Some would say that the cities also have outgrown the drummer, but I'm glad some of the old traditions still survive.

I believe he is saying the traditional chant of "Es ha ya nayem…Wahed el dayem...", or "awake, oh sleeper, and praise Allah".


This post concludes my regular blogging from Amman, up next, The Credits, a little thank you to those who made my two months in Jordan so enriching.


Here are some shots of graffiti that I took during my trip.  Most graffiti in Amman are advertisements, but some had more artistic content or social commentary.

The Hash

Here are some pictures from the Hashemite Hash House Harriers run from last Monday, which took place south of Amman around the YMCA.

Among the notable moments were a traffic accident at the beginning of our run (not pictured), and running through some beduin camps.

Last Night in Amman

Thursday was Matt's and my last day in Amman, and the evening was spent with family and friends.

We ate a special dinner that Sittii prepared for us, مقلوبة (maqluuba), or "upside-down" dish, a special casserole of chicken, eggplant, cauliflower, rice, and spices, that is cooked with the chicken at the bottom, so that it is served upside-down (with the chicken on top):

Then we took some pictures with the family, before scrambling off to Jabal Hussein.  I needed to buy an extra suitcase, and Matt was on a mission to find a bottle of mango juice.  We managed to find both, as well as some additional fireworks (small roman candles) and one last bottle of tamar hindi.

The fireworks were pretty cool.  Some of them made the car alarms go off in the neighborhood.  The last one, called "Super Blitz", or "Magic Blitz", was shaped like a large ground bloom flower.  It started by acting like one, until it suddenly zoomed 20 feet into the air and exploded into an aerial display.  Quite the finale.

Matt in action

Then it was time for packing.  At around 12:30, my language exchange partner Aziz and his brother Maen dropped by to present me with a kuffiyeh and say farewell.

Aziz and I

Maen and I

After they left, there wasn't too much time left for packing before Matt's airport taxi showed up at 3 am, the Ramadan drummer began waking people for SuHur at 3:30 am, and my taxi arrived around 6:30 am.