Guide to Doing Nothing: Chen

Words: Chen Chen
Images: Kaitlin Kobs & Jiyoon Cha

June 06 2016

As we began exploring the idea of “finding our calm,” we realized that sometimes the easiest way to relax is to simply do, well, nothing. In order to figure out the best and most therapeutic ways to do nothing, we reached out to friends in various corners of the country who are doin’ it right.

The pleasure of being alone in a crowd is one that seems singularly the purview of city dwellers. A meditation on a crowded train, a novel read in the corner of a crowded coffee shop, there is a comfort in a crowd. For those who don’t reside in densely packed metropolises such as New York City, there is an apparent loneliness in numbers that can be off putting. This isolation has been written about in novels and put to song for generations, it’s nothing new. What I think should be advocated for is the embracing the isolation and using this solitude as a way to escape and relax within the city limits.

For some, embarking on a journey alone conjures images of grand explorations often gone awry. I’d like to advocate for an alternative trip along the water, one that makes pit stops in day time dive bars as it criss crosses the east river. Having an agenda, even one as loose as this, allows to free your mind of planning and go – no need to check the map or train. The journey outlined below makes stops at some of my favorite public spaces and “old man bars,” that is to say open before noon and not likely to be the kind of place you unexpectedly run into the last person you went on a date with and decided you’d rather not see again.

Soccer Tavern

First, let’s get a buzz going at Soccer Tavern on 8th Avenue in Brooklyn Chinatown. This Irish Bar has been open since the early 1930’s, and over the course of nearly a century, it has stood witness to the growth of New York’s most authentically Chinese Chinatown around it. Tucked between the neighborhood’s new residents, the bar is a nondescript looking nod to a time long passed. Soccer Tavern opens at 9 in the morning, so duck out of the crisp morning air into the dark hole of the bar to enjoy a breakfast of Guinness.

Brooklyn Army Terminal Ferry Dock

Once breakfast is out of the way, begin your hike down 58th Street towards the water. After passing 8 Avenue blocks you will arrive at the Brooklyn Army Terminal Ferry Dock. You’ll be taking the Rockaway Ferry to Pier 11-Wall St. to get over to Manhattan. Of course, you could take the Subway, but it’s much easier to daydream on the water than it is underground. Make sure to walk out to the end of the pier – if you have a moment of course – and take a minute to enjoy the waves of pristine east river water as they flow on by.

Elevated Acre

Disembark from the ferry at Pier 11 in Manhattan, walk around the corner to 55 Water Street. You will be greeted by a set of mysterious escalators – keep your eyes peeled as this is where most people tend to get lost when looking for this hidden oasis. These escalators will lead you up to the Elevated Acre, a public park first built in the 1970’s in the shadow of skyscrapers and overlooking the waterway you’ve just traversed. A recent renovation of the space leaves behind a sort of secret meadow, and the hard to identify location makes it the less crowded cousin of the ever popular Highline across town. Take a minute to breath, perhaps lay on the grass and contemplate the scale of the city around you – or just take a nap.

Anable Basin

Once you’ve rested up, head back to Pier 11, jump on the East River Ferry and take it up the river to Hunter’s Point in Queens. To maintain your solitude, be discreet on this leg of the trip, your chances of running into you might know are much higher than before. Remember that your goal today is to explore the city alone. About twenty minutes north you’ll find Anable Basin Sailing Bar & Grill, a spot known for the un-ignorable view and Serbian sausages. Grab another beer, some food, and re up your buzz from this morning.

Juanita National Coffee Shop

Take the 7 train at Court Sq towards Flushing. The long train ride will give you some time to brace yourself but nothing can prepare you for what you’re about to see. Get off at Mets – Willets Point and walk up Willets Point Blvd. It’s all shutting down now because the city is buying out all the land owners but for 100 years this area has been a strange third world country in the middle of New York. If it’s rained in the last few days, the dirt craters that make up the streets will all be filled with water as this neighborhood isn’t hooked up to the sewer system. Your destination is Juanita National Coffee Shop, have a drink, you’ve traveled a long way.

Illustrations provided by Kaitlin Kobs and Jiyoon Cha of Studio Not for Sale

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