Fenway – Sacred Ground Since 1912

Pre-game view from standing room section. Craig Nelson, 2013.

Pre-game view from the standing room section. Craig Nelson, 2013.

“Fenway is the essence of baseball.”  -Tom Seaver, Hall of Fame Pitcher

After a long break, I finally got back to Fenway Park this season. During high school and college summers, it was practically a weekly religious experience for me. Jump on the T, walk through Kenmore Square, and grab a bag of peanuts on the way in. Fenway could get pretty wild back in those days, and tickets were cheap and plentiful. Front row bleacher seats to see Roger Clemens strike everyone out for $6? Yes, please. But slowly the experience grew distant for me, thanks to a new life away from Boston, combined with the scarcity and meteoric rise in ticket prices over the last ten years.

Not that I’m complaining, because Fenway was almost lost. Can you believe in the 1990s there was constant talk about tearing it down? It could have easily ended up like Comiskey Park in Chicago or Tiger Stadium in Detroit. Gone forever. At first I thought it was some sort of cosmic joke, but after seeing the old Boston Garden replaced with a soulless arena that could have plunked down in Anytown, USA, I was worried. Luckily, a group came along to help change the discussion–Save Fenway Park. This grassroots effort really helped get the ball rolling on changing the conversation, and I joined the cause with what was probably my first ever donation to a non-profit group. And thanks to new ownership that tapped into the enormous value of a preserved Fenway, and fans that never gave up the dream, you can still stroll up the concourse ramp and see the beautiful Green Monster in all its glory. Amen.

The famous Citgo sign. Craig Nelson, 2013.

The famous Citgo sign. Craig Nelson, 2013.

Yawkey Way. Craig Nelson, 2013.

Yawkey Way. Craig Nelson, 2013.

Behind the net. Craig Nelson, 2013.

Behind the net. Craig Nelson, 2013.

The right field bleachers. Craig Nelson, 2013.

The right field bleachers. Craig Nelson, 2013.

Ichiro at bat. Craig Nelson, 2013.

Ichiro at bat. Craig Nelson, 2013.

Green Monster up close. Craig Nelson, 2013.

Green Monster up close. Craig Nelson, 2013.

Back Bay. Craig Nelson, 2013.

Back Bay. Craig Nelson, 2013.

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Harlem Architecture, Inside and Out

C. Nelson, 2013.

C. Nelson, 2013.

Spending a sunny day walking through Harlem is hard to beat. There’s incredible architecture everywhere you look, the street life is thriving, and a sense of history hovers over it all. This summer we had the chance to get an even more intimate glimpse of one of our favorite neighborhoods thanks to the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association annual tour. From the immaculate interiors of beautiful brownstones to the sacred spaces of Owens Funeral Home, here are a few photos that capture the spirit of the day.

C. Nelson, 2013.

C. Nelson, 2013.

C. Nelson, 2013.

C. Nelson, 2013.

C. Nelson, 2013.

C. Nelson, 2013.

C. Nelson, 2013.

C. Nelson, 2013.

C. Nelson, 2013.

C. Nelson, 2013.

C. Nelson, 2013.

C. Nelson, 2013.

C. Nelson, 2013.

C. Nelson, 2013.

C. Nelson, 2013.

C. Nelson, 2013.

C. Nelson, 2013.

C. Nelson, 2013.

C. Nelson, 2013.

C. Nelson, 2013.

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Pizzeria Regina: Anchovy Pie with a Live Soundtrack

There's always a line on weekends.

There’s always a line on weekends.

Growing up just outside of Boston, one of the most memorable summer activities was venturing into the North End with my family for the Italian-American festivals that seem to take place almost every weekend during the hot summer days of August. Recently I got a potent shot of nostalgia sitting at the bar of Pizzeria Regina, an old-school joint dating back to 1926. Just as our Old World Style Anchovy and Margherita pizzas hit the table, a full marching band participating in the Fisherman’s Feast strolled in to bust out a jubilant Italian folk song. Even though that anchovy pizza is a top ten pie — think salty fishes, capers, spicy oil, pecorino romano, and capers cooked well done on a thin brick-oven crust — that blissful first bite could wait. I grabbed my Peroni beer to help cheer the guys on and joined the rest of the pizzeria in clapping and singing along. That’s how to kick off a meal!

Classic neon sign, a beacon since 1926.

Old-school neon sign.

Lining up to get inside Regina.

Lining up to get inside Regina.

The spicy goodness of the old world anchovy pizza.

The spicy goodness of the old world anchovy pizza.

Margherita pie.

Margherita pie.

Looking out from the bar.

Looking out from the bar.

Getting a quick drink in before the next stop. C. Nelson, 2013.

Getting a quick drink in before the next stop.

The Madonna procession. C. Nelson, 2013.

The Madonna procession.

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Lazy Days of Summer. On a Boat.

Lazy days off of Breezy Point along the Rockaway Peninsula. C. Nelson, 2013.

Lazy days off of Breezy Point along the Rockaway Peninsula. C. Nelson, 2013.

“I’d rather be on a boat.” That’s my mantra for the summer of 2013, and my brilliant idea for a bumper sticker. For all of us New Yorkers jammed onto the subway, stuck on Broome Street getting into the Holland Tunnel, or walking through the eternal Midtown madness, having a tiny boat like this one would cure many of our daily urban annoyances that seem to worsen as the temperature rises. Out on the water it’s different–it’s just you, the seagulls, and an ocean breeze. Just remember to wave when you pass a boat of any size. It’s the unwritten rule of the high seas.

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Drinking Like Days of Old: The Brooklyn Inn

No bells or whistles...just booze. Craig Nelson, 2011

No bells or whistles…just booze. Craig Nelson, 2011

Some barrooms have ski ball or gigantic big screen TVs. Others might employ bearded bartenders whipping up (or even torching) super fancy cocktails. But some, like one of my all time favorites, the Brooklyn Inn, skip the flair and head straight for what counts — no-nonsense booze in an incredible old-world space with (almost) no attitude. It’s the perfect spot for drinking and conversations. Nothing else. It’s the way a great New York bar should be. Just make sure to bring a couple of twenties, because when you toss in perfect lighting and classy music (think jazz) on the sound system, there’s no way you can stay for just one beverage. It’s going to be a long, memorable evening.

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Dog Days of Summer

Apologies in advance for the cheesy title, but sometimes you just have to pull an old cliche out of your doggie bag of tricks — especially when you’re walking down 23rd Street in Chelsea and come across this guy:

Well hello there. Craig Nelson 2013.

Well, hello there. Craig Nelson, 2013.

Rush hour blues in Chelsea. Craig Nelson, 2013.

Rush hour blues in Chelsea. Craig Nelson, 2013.

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Peek Inside the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower

Breuckelen mosaic. Craig Nelson, 2012.

Breuckelen mosaic. Craig Nelson, 2012.

Have you ever looked up and seen that massive 1920’s skyscraper looming over Atlantic Avenue and the new Barclay’s Center? Yes, the really phallic one. Well, if you ever wondered what the inside looks like, I recently snapped a few shots. Before it became one of the coolest event rooms in the city  hosting the likes of the Brooklyn Flea and Brooklyn Pour (official name: Skylight One Hanson), it was a good old-fashioned bank lobby. But not like the boring lobbies of the modern era — this is a massive, breathtaking space complete with Romanesque columns, mosaics, and 63-foot tall vaulted ceilings. If all banks still had class and elegance like this, waiting in line for a roll of quarters to do the laundry wouldn’t be so bad.

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A Multi Cultural Family Party Center

Club SANM on 36th Ave in Astoria, Queens. C. Nelson, 2013.

Club SANM on 36th Ave in Astoria, Queens. C. Nelson, 2013.

Here it is: The most descriptive business awning in the beautiful borough of Queens–Club SANM. It looks a little run down from the street, but on the inside, it’s completely decked out as a local events center. Families? Come on down with the kids. Party people? Get your dance moves on. Multicultural shindig? Anybody is welcome to host a day or night of fun in one of the most diverse spots on the globe. When I originally stumbled upon this a few years back I posted a pic to twitter, and lo and behold, the talented comedian and actress Kim Wayans retweeted it. Now that’s what I call social media synergy!

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Afternoon Lunching on a Budget: Motorino

Soppressata Picante pie at Motorino. C. Nelson, 2013.

Soppressata Picante pie at Motorino. C. Nelson, 2013.

Have you ever imagined getting a free, gourmet lunch everyday in your office? Well, I lived that dream for 16 months at a little search engine company that doesn’t hold back when it comes to feeding their employees. Those days may be over for now, but I’m still on the lookout for good bargains around the city. One of my first lazy afternoon outings may have discovered the best weekday lunching deal in New York: Motorino. For twelve dollars (about the same price for a mediocre sandwich in Midtown) you can feast on a delicious Neapolitan pie AND a fresh salad doused in tasty balsamic vinegar dressing. I went for the Soppressata Picante with a perfectly charred crust that was covered with a large handful of thinly sliced salami, fresh garlic, and plenty of mozzarella, but diners can also choose the Brussels Sprout, Marinara, or Margherita pizzas. As an added bonus, the deal is good from 12 pm to 4 pm, so you can eat European-style in the mid-afternoon, lingering for a few hours over a glass of wine or cold beer still keeping the tab under $20.

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Cars in the Modern Metropolis

The ultimate urban car in the West Village. C. Nelson, 2012.

Cars in New York.  They come close to running you over on the city streets every three blocks, they’re expensive, they pollute the air, they’re really hard to park, and most models produced today are just plain ugly. Just compare these old Jaguars to the new ones that look like Camrys. OK, I admit the occasional road trip is a blast, and using a ZipCar to get around town can be efficient and fun for a change of pace, but nothing still beats the MTA, biking, or old-fashioned walking to get you around the grid.

The MTA can be messy, late, and annoying, but I always argue for around $1,300 bucks per year, a MetroCard gives you an all-access pass to one of the greatest places on Earth. You even get unlimited rides on the Roosevelt Island tram! All of that said, if I did have enough cash to keep a car insured, parked, and gassed up in Manhattan (ok, probably never gonna happen), the one above would do just nicely — small, classy, and classic. Anyone have a few thousand bucks I can borrow?

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