Posts tagged with Lifestyle

Moving Blog to WordPress

In spite of the fact that I have enjoyed blogging in these pages, I have decided that it would be better to move my weekly rant space to another website. The reasons for this have nothing to do with the quality of readership, traffic or anything like that.

I was recently informed by one of my editors in the area that I cannot contribute to two newspapers in the same market - even if it is simply a readers' blog. Since I do write for a living (sort of), I felt compelled to move the blog to a non-commercial server.

I will continue, however, to comment on the various articles that appear on this space, and I invite everyone to visit my new blog at, where you can see a piece in support of the campaign to remove Lou Dobbs from his chair at CNN

See you all soon



Philadelphia: It Really Loves You Back
Last weekend, my wife and I paid yet another visit to the City of Brotherly Love – being my fifth time since relocating to the United States almost nine years ago. Philadelphia is one of those towns that is always pleasurable to visit, not only because most of the local attractions are pretty much located just blocks from each other (The Philadelphia Museum, The Liberty Bell, Independence Hall), but also due to the fact that most of them are completely free of charge.

On our last stop there, we paid a visit to Franklin Court, which is located at the spot where Benjamin Franklin's house once stood (it was demolished in 1812). There you can visit an ancient, still-active post office an underground museum with information about the great Founding Father, inventor and diplomat, including three short films about his life, including the Academy Award-nominated “Ben and Me,” a 1953 Walt Disney fantasy about a Revolutionary War-era mouse who 'assisted' Franklin in many of his endeavours.

We also took a tour of Independence Hall, where we saw the very halls where both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were signed. Among the several items of furniture in the room is the very chair where George Washington sat as he presided over the Constitutional sessions.

It is specially thrilling to revisit this place, specially in the troubled times we are living now. Would the Forefathers – most of whom were slave owners – that one day we would have an African American President in the White House? Or that the nation would be so divided between red and blue states, white, black and Latino?

A few blocks down Chestnut street is the National Liberty Museum, a four-story structure dedicated to the history of the fight for freedom both here and abroad One of the sections dedicates an entire wing to unsung WW2 heroes who risked their lives by helping Jews hide from the Nazis. The section also honors those who fought against dictatorship, tyranny and cruelty.

We had most of our meals at Rotten Ralph's, an inexpensive dining spot on the Second Street Bar district. I discovered it quite by accident when I traveled to Philadelphia to get my passport (you can get it processed faster there) renewed before a trip to Brazil. In subsequent visits, I have always made sure to make a stop there for a bite or a drink.

There is so much to see in Philadelphia – every time I go there, I discover something new that I hadn't even known about before – make sure to check the travel guide before you go – they have various visit plans even for those of us on a budget. Now only if I could get their local editors to get me an assignment there...


Cleveland: A City Worth Visiting


By Ernest Barteldes

When I told friends that my wife and I had booked a trip to Cleveland for Labor Day weekend, most of our friends gave us a puzzled look. “What's in Cleveland? ” many asked. Others wondered why we hadn't booked a trip to say, Myrtle Beach or Las Vegas, where surely I would have more things to do than in the Ohio city by the shores of Lake Erie.

My response was easy – for the last few years, I have been contributing music articles to the city's local alternative newspaper, the Cleveland Scene (, and I wanted to get to know the people I had been exchanging e-mail messages with since I began writing for the paper. Also, I felt like I owed Cleveland a visit, even if it just meant checking out all the music venues whose shows I'd been previewing all this time.

We got up before the sunrise on Saturday morning and headed to LaGuardia airport, where we took an early flight that reached Cleveland at about 10:00 AM. We then headed to the local RTA train, which got us to the Downtown area in less than 30 minutes (why the NY subway does not reach either of the international airports here is beyond me), checked into our hotel and started planning our day.

The first thing we did was get some lunch, and the place we chose was the nearby Flannery's Pub located on the East Fourth St. restaurant district (, where they also have an outpost of the House of Blues). After satisfying ourselves with a tasty meal and a couple of local microbrews, we headed to Cleveland's best-known attraction, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame an Museum (

In spite of the high admission prices ($ 22 at the door, cheaper if you book with your trip), the Rockhall did not disappoint. There are plenty of memorabilia, movie screenings, multimedia and much more to see and hear. My personal favorites were the Woodstock 40th anniversary celebration, the R & R history chronology and the Elvis Presley display. I also liked the Les Paul tribute, the current exhibit on the life and work of Bruce Springsteen and of course the striking views of the lake, which can be seen from the glass panels of the building's pyramid-like setup. After visiting the Hall, we hung out at the neighboring park, where there a street fair going on.

Later that evening, we checked out a foodie event called A Taste of Cleveland and ended the evening by paying a visit to Wilbert's, where we caught a fiery performance by bassist Doug Johns, who played backed solely by a drummer.

It was a lucky break that the National Air Show was taking place that weekend. There we saw Air Force Thunderbirds and several acrobatic acts in addition to a collection of both civil and military aircraft. After that we met with a friend at Zocalo, an upscale Mexican-style restaurant. After resting for a few hours, it was time to head to the Waterloo Cafe , where we saw a great performance by banjoist Tony Furtado (review below). There we also met with one of my local editors, who after the show took us on a drive around town.

On our last day there, we went over to The Great Lakes Science Center, where they have many interesting attractions, such as flight simulators and other curiosities. We ended our visit by having lunch at a sports bar and restaurant called The Winking Lizard, where we enjoyed a wonderful meal accompanied by even more microbrews.

There is much more to see in Cleveland. I surely hope we get the opportunity to stay there again soon.

Our visit to Cleveland would not have been possible without the help of some local (new) friends we knew via emails but who we had never met in person before. I'd rather not mention their names on a public newsletter, but let me tell you that Renata and I owe you big – you know who you are.


Rio, The Happiest City? No Surprise There

“My Soul Sings/I See Rio de Janeiro I miss it so much/ Rio, your sea, endless beaches/Rio, you were made for me” Antonio Carlos Jobim,

I can't say that I was surprised when I heard that Rio de Janeiro was voted “the world's happiest city” by Forbes Magazine earlier this week (runner-ups including Sydney, Barcelona and San Francisco). From what I've seen from my various visits to the former Brazilian capital, there is a certain feeling of happiness that comes from that town. It is little wonder that Antonio Carlos Jobim wrote so fondly about it in songs like “Corcovado” and “Samba do Aviao.” Rio de Janeiro is really a wondrous city, not only because of its natural beauty, but also due to their friendly, amiable inhabitants.

Just last May, my wife and I took a two-week vacation to Brazil, and spent the first half of that in Rio. In addition to checking out the usual tourists spots, we were also able to check out some of the music spots there, and also made a few friends at a boteco (corner bar) close to our hotel , where between several glasses of beer we were able to chat with the locals about life there.

Through those conversations, we could feel that in spite of the crime, poverty and political corruption and other problems that afflict the nation, Cariocas (as we call the people from Rio) are really content with their lives in a way that is unimaginable to Americans.

The first thing you get there is the weather: temperatures are always mild, and unlike Florida, there are no hurricanes or any other natural disasters to speak of. And the city has a pretty reliable public transportation system. And of course there are the miles and miles of beautiful beaches. I remember that on our first day there, we went on a stroll after drinking cafezinho (espresso-like coffee) at a nearby food stand. We walked about half of the extension of Copacabana beach, stopping every now and then for a chopp (draft beer) at one of the many food kiosks located near the sand.

There is also the Carnaval, when for four days revelers throw their cares to the wind and enjoy the never-ending samba parties, lazy mornings and pretty much everything else the city has to offer.

Who wouldn't be happy with that?


New York Celebrates Brazil on Labor Day

The 25th Anniversary of Brazilian Day in New York

by Ernest Barteldes

Sunday, September 6 W 46th Street and 6th Ave. 12-6 PM

Ever since I moved to New York almost nine years ago (though it doesn't seem that long – time really flies), I have looked forward to Labor Day weekend, when the annual Brazilian Day Festival takes place. It is an opportunity to reconnect with the spirit of the country I left behind through its music, food and language.

Among the most memorable moments I can recall was Daniela Mercury (2001), who at the time was touring in support of her crossover pop album Sou de Qualquer Lugar, a disc that broke from the usual Axe music content she'd been doing until then. It was a rainy afternoon, and the crowd was not as numerous as it had been before, and it was great fun. Another was when Ivete Sangalo serenaded the crowd (2003) with a mix of dance-friendly songs and also some tunes that reminded all of us of lazy, sunny days by the beach.

Not all the memories were that great, though. I recall cringing in 2003 when the US National Anthem was interrupted by an unruly crowd who screamed the Brazilian anthem over it – which prompted the event's organizer, Mr. Joao de Matos to take the microphone and admonish the audience, who had to be reminded that they were in American soil after all, and that they owed respect to the nation that had received them so well.

But such incidents were isolated. As I have written in numerous publications in the past, the Brazilians who come to the party are mostly well-behaved. Few arrests (if any) are ever made during the day, and everybody has lots of fun as the day goes on – and also during the various after-parties that take place all around Manhattan – which makes Brazilian Day a must-see festival for those who happen to be in New York that long weekend.

The lineup this time around - the 25th anniversary of the event – includes samba/soul diva Alcione, percussion innovator Carlinhos Brown (who has worked with various big names in the industry both in Brazil and abroad), controversial punk rocker Marcelo D2 and singer Elba Ramalho, one of the principal acts that helped northeastern music reach mainstream radio during the 1980s.

As for myself, I will be skipping Brazilian Day this year. Instead, I will be paying a visit to Cleveland, the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of fame. Their local alternative paper, the Cleveland Scene, has been continuously been publishing my work for quite a long time, and I think it's due time for me to get to know it...


My Beef with… Well, Beef

At a recent BBQ outing with my wife and a couple of friends, someone I was talking to was surprised by the fact that I don't eat beef. “How do you live?” she asked with a genuine tone of surprise in her voice. What I responded was the same thing I always tell everyone when this kind of topic comes up:

Growing up in Brazil, I frequently attended outdoor parties, and beef was always consumed in large quantities. Not only that, but my parents were very fond of rodizio churrascarias, the countr'ys traditional all-you-can eat restaurant, where countless servings of choice meat cuts are brought to your table until you are, well, bursting.

Just over a decade ago, I began to abstain from beef (later the same thing with pork), and started feeling much better. No longer did I feel that heavy feeling in my stomach that always came after having a meal. And also, I discovered that there were so many other options on the menu that included poultry, seafood or simply vegetables.

Not that it was easy for people to get it. I recall that ten years ago I made a stop to Sao Paulo, Brazil as I made my way back to Fortaleza after a few weeks in New York and Kansas (this was before I relocated here). I was with a girlfriend at the time who pretty much kept a diet similar to mine, and on the first night my mother invited us to have dinner at a local restaurant. Brazil's biggest city prides itself for being the capital of gastronomy there - in fact, you can find the best of international cuisine in the entire country.

I told my mother that we ate “everything but beef,” and she took us to Avenida Angelica Grill (Av. Angelica, 430 in the fancy neighborhood of Higienopolis), which is considered one of the best steak houses in the entire city. Not that I was complaining – their salad bar is as stupendous as their service is impeccable. But I thought it was a waste to sit there and watch all that beef glide by without even touching it.

When I met my wife Renata, she was a bit surprised about my diet, too. Having come from a culture where beef is part of everyday life (look at a Polish cookbook – how many recipes do NOT have beef in them?). But she got along with it fine – since I'm the cook of the house, I get to do the food shopping. But she does ask for kielbasa every now and then, and of course I oblige.

Today, I still stay away from beef (with the exception of an occasional summer hot dog at Nathan's whenever I go to Coney Island), even though some look at me like I'm crazy at times. I have no problem with other people eating beef in front of me. Just don't ask me to have a piece.


New York Culture Beat: The Brazilian Film Festival in NY

Not many Latin American films make it to US theaters these days, so it is always with great anticipation that I wait for the Brazilian Film Festival (, an ongoing circuit that makes an annual stop in New York, starting at Central Park Summerstage and then on to Lower Manhattan's Tribeca Cinemas.

The festival opens with a live concert by Rio de Janeiro-based Silvia Machete, an up-and-coming singer-songwriter who is yet to become a household name either in Brazil or abroad. In previous editions, the Festival showcased more “name” artists like Maria Rita and Margareth Menezes, but this year they apparently went for a change in musical direction.

Following the concert is a screening of “If I Were You 2,” a sequel to a highly successful comedy in which a couple (played by Tony Ramos and Gloria Pires) accidentally get their minds swapped after an electrical storm and as a result learn to understand each others' private worlds better.

Another interesting feature is Budapest, an adaptation from the eponymous novel by Chico Buarque de Hollanda. The plot follows Jose Costa (Leonardo Medeiros) , a ghostwriter who accidentally lands in Hungary during an emergency landing while enroute from Istanbul. Fascinated with the language and culture, he later decides to spend some time there and learn how to speak Hungarian – the one language that – as the narrator explains, “the Devil respects.” Shot on location both in Rio and Budapest and spoken in Portuguese and Hungarian, it is one of the must-sees this time around.

Documentaries are also plentiful during the event. One that has sparked my curiosity is Wandering Heart (Errante Navegante), an account of Caetano Veloso's international tour in support of 2003's English-language CD A Foreign Sound, which received mixed reviews back then and much criticism from more purist Brazilian fans who considered the disc a sell-out.

There are countless shorts included this year (my personal pick being Cleansing of Bomfim from Bahia to New York, about the ritual cleansing of Manhattan's 46th St. before Brazilian Day) in addition to dramas, comedies and various other genres – which just might please the most avid movie fanatic.


New York Music Beat: The Siren Music Festival, Coney Island July 18

by Ernest Barteldes

Now that the Latin Alternative Music Conference is behind us, it is time to check out another New York music tradition, the Siren Music Festival in Coney Island, a sweaty music event that is currently on its ninth edition with a large day-long showcase of both independent and signed bands who are expected to be breaking through soon – examples of past participants include Baby Loves Disco, Guided By Voices The Donnas, Modest Mouse, The Stills, Death Cab For Cutie and also The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who played the festival shortly before their major-label debut turned them into the neo-punk darlings they went on to become later on. I've been attending this Village Voice-sponsored festival since its second edition (I only missed it in 2007, when I was traveling in Brazil), and for starters let me state that this is not for the faint of heart – you have to walk back and forth between the two stages to catch the different performances – the crowds are huge, bathrooms are hard to come by (the best being at Nathan's Famous facilities on Stillwell Avenue), and of course there is the unwavering heat to deal with. But the Siren Festival is great fun, and there is the opportunity to discover music before it hits the radio stations – call it finding diamonds in the rough. And there are also the countless freebies that you can score there, ranging from CD compilations, T-shirts, energy drinks and of course the ever-present New York City condoms – the mayor does want us to stay safe, I guess.

Another thing is the fact that you don't have to shell out six dollars for your beverage of choice. Delis sell beer for an average price of $ 2.50 (open containers are still illegal on in public, even if brown-bagged or poured into paper cups. The police usually looks the other way as long as revelers behave, but summonses have been given out), and food can be found at affordable prices there. You can also refresh yourself by going for a dip in the ocean – the water is fine at this time of the year, reaching an average temperature of about 60 degrees. The best way to get to the festival is using Public Transportation. You might want to drive, but remember that The Siren Music festival has become the second biggest day on Coney Island (after the Mermaid Parade), so parking can be a daunting task. Subway trains servicing the area are the N,Q,F and D trains. The B64 bus is also a relatively fast option, taking an average of 30 minutes from Bay Ridge – the best option for those coming in from areas like Staten Island. The Siren Music Festival begins at 12 noon, ending at about 9 PM. For information on schedules, band information and pretty much anything else you might want to need, visit their site at


The Coney Island Mermaid Parade

reprinted from The Brooklyn Paper

Saturday, June 20; Surf Avenue, Coney Island; 2-6 PM; Mermaid Ball in two sessions, 5:30-midnight;
For more information, visit

As uncertain as things seem to be about whatever the future holds for Coney Island as an amusement area neighborhood – especially with the current financial crisis - at least one thing seems to remain unchanged in the area: the annual Mermaid Parade, which takes place this Saturday – as it has been for almost three decades..

For those who have never attended, the parade (which celebrates its 28th anniversary this year), this festival of hand-made costumes and – well, very little clothing - marks the true beginning of summer- on a recent edition, a group of women used an intergalactic theme in plastic outfits that must have been scorching under 80-degree weather), assorted sea creatures and random political commentary.

“I love the people, I love being in the parade, waving to the kids, taking photo's with tourists, dancing at Ruby's at the end of the day,” says freelance illustrator Molly Crabapple. “Everyone is feeling fabulous, showing off their fins. People are there to have a good time and they do. It's a very positive day. The worst thing for me is the weird tan lines I end up with from my costume!”

The Annual Mermaid Parade will be followed by the Mermaid Ball, which this year takes place in two separate sessions at The Dreamland Roller Rink, which is located at the Childs Building - 3052 West 21st St at the boardwalk

The ball begins as the parade wraps – according to information on the parade's website, Thee Ball will run in 2 skating sessions 5:30pm-8:30pm and 9pm-Midnight - tickets go for $20 (skate rental $5 or bring your own). Weather allowing, it will surely bring large crowds in an event that is usually very crowded – here are some tips for first-time participants: - Access to the parade is simple enough, but mass transit is advisable on this case, since it is one of the busiest days on Coney Island, and parking might be a daunting task. Subway trains servicing the area are the N,Q,F and D trains. The B64 bus is also a relatively fast option, taking an average of 30 minutes from Bay Ridge to Coney. - While delis will be selling alcoholic beverages, it is also advisable to remind that open containers are still illegal on parade grounds, even if brown-bagged or poured into paper cups. The police usually looks the other way as long as revelers behave, but summonses have been given out. To stay out of potential trouble, you can patronize Nathan's Famous hot dog stand or other vendors in the area. - Timing is crucial for the best enjoyment. “I recommend they get there early to secure a good viewing spot, bring their camera, sun-block and water,” says Pontani. “I think it's great for a first- timer to watch the parade and participate the following year.” - “If you can afford it, be a judge (for a donation of $ 100 to Coney Island USA)and sit in the reviewing stands,” says local emcee Fred Kahl, AKA The Great Fredini. “You get a birds-eye view of the whole parade and get all the great bribes for participants wanting to win a prize. Molly Crabapple also suggests participating as a judge, but she says that “it's the most fun to perform.” - Bathrooms can be a problem. There are public restroom facilities at Nathan's and on the boardwalk. You can also use the facilities at Astroland and Deno's for a fee of 25 cents. “As America's largest Art parade, there's so many wonderful sights to see and its all created by independent artists for everyone to enjoy, says Kahl. “The only bad thing I can think of is the line for the bathroom” “A lot of things [in Coney] have changed over the years and with such changes going on, I imagine we are going to be looking at a lot more,” says Pontani. “The parade itself has changed a in the past decade alone, in terms of participants, the route, the crowds. I only hope it continues to grow, gain popularity and fans. I believe it will remain one of the staple events that people love and associate with Coney Island.”


The Joys of Summer Music

Zap Mama at Summerstage 2007

One thing I love about the warm months of summer is the abundance of free outdoor concerts and festivals that populate the streets and parks at this time. Since I relocated to New York almost nine years ago, I have had the opportunity to enjoy great music, theater and film --- without having to go broke in the process.

My first Summer concert in New York was in July 2001, which turned out to be Celia Cruz's final performance. Already ill with the cancer that would claim her life about a year later, Cruz came on stage with her traditional “Azucar!” scream as the band kicked off the first number. She was visibly frail, but her voice was intact. I also remember that halfway through the set, there was a hailstorm that fell upon us as we ran for cover.

The audience did not know about her illness back then – but it became clear that she was saying goodbye when halfway through “Bemba Colora,” she said: “As I prepare to leave, please, please God, remember my name... and If I die, hell, just bury me right here in Central Park and I want you all here with me. Remember my name: I am Celia Cruz.”

Fortunately for all of us, this statement was recorded and is available on the CD Central Park Summerstage: Live From The Heart of The City,” which came out a couple of years ago, including performances by Burning Spear, Ojos de Brujo, NRBQ and several more.

Mavis Staples, Central Park Summerstage 2008

There were countless shows I've seen over the years, including Daniela Mercury (at Brazilian Day and Summerstage), Lila Downs (Summerstage, Celebrate Brooklyn), Skank (Brazilian Day, Summerstage), Los Lobos (Summerstage), LadySmith Black Mambazo (World Financial Center), Lulu Santos (Brazilian Day), Thievery Corporation, Cassandra Wilson (Summerstage), Vieux Farka Toure (Summerstage), Chicha Libre (Celebrate Brooklyn)... the list goes on.

I have already begun to attend local concerts this year. For those with a lot of time in their hands, go ahead and look for all those reviews via Google – there are hundreds of those out there.