Season of Rebirth: Burning Man Temple and Calatrava’s Oculus

On the the blessings of living in the megalopolis of the DC to NYC corridor is the possibility of visiting beautiful sites mere hours of days apart. On Christmas, the opportunity presented to visit Calatrava’s Oculuson the World Trade Center site and just days later, the Best’s Temple for Burning Man at the Renwick. While I didn’t seek out each site for any sort of spiritual experience, both left me with pause given we are working through the season of rebirth, renewal — and new beginnings.

The Temple as well as the Oculus honor those that we mourn and desire and the eyes are naturally drawn skyward — which for the Oculus brings a rush and multitude of layered memory. Calatrava’s soaring design is meant to embody just that — a bird flying from the hand of a child. The innocence of that image is felt — and the color in the evening, resembles the sky on that day most of us remember clearly — a day that started like most other fall days. The bird metaphor embodied in the design, one can hope is that the spirits of those lost are now free and while evil struck, a return to innocence is possible.

For the Temple, the fresh and fragrant smell of balsa wood also elludes to hope, while reverent lighting provides a moment of heavenly breath. Visitors’ messages to loved ones link the Temple to the site of the Oculus where messages were left for days and months after the fall of the Towers — perhaps it is the written word that provides a moment of renewal in our belief that those we love are not truly gone from our grasp — that memories are closer than we think.

While the Temple is set to come down on January 5, there are still a few days left to experience the installation but the Oculus offers a permanent destination for reflection.

Softball Muffins

img_20190421_080832When you think of signature morning rituals in New York, bagels are what most often come to mind. But within every bagel and coffee shop, there are the others — the softball sized muffins that can be found nowhere else I’ve traveled. While these muffins rival the Costco version — these bagel-shop muffins are most often right out of the oven and lack (for the good) the Costco mass-production taste and squishy feel.

This carrot raisin muffin from H & H Bagels on 2nd Avenue┬áis gloriously NY. It’s sturdy, carrots but not too many (as with the raisins), and a little bit spicy much like 2nd Avenue itself — a working muffin for a working avenue of uptown/downtown traffic that wakes slowly…then bam we’re off and running headlong into the day. If you get in early enough, you’ll find no lines and you can breeze in and out of H & H — much like just about any place in the City; wait too long and the line is out to the winter-weather vestibule or beyond.

The beauty of the NY muffin carries into the future — smart shoppers will pick up a weekend’s supply so that sleeping late on day two is possible. Never flat, and resistant to the deflation many baked goods suffer during a microwave spin, the NY muffin continues to stand tall like many beloved buildings that surround H & H. Perhaps this is due to the careful brown paper wrapping each muffin receives before heading out into all kinds of weather that the City dishes up, and perhaps it’s just resilience in a munchable form. Whatever the reason, the NY muffin offers a slightly sweet and textured way to start the day — while I love a hot bagel, the muffin is not just an “also there” of the bagel shop — it’s a full-fledged member of the bagel shop team.