July 19, 2010

#6 Polaroids

Instant and magical, R's next pursuit of 8+ months was Polaroid. We went to the Flea weekly until we came across a Landmark camera and another camera that originally had bellows and fabric that flopped over your head. This model however, was more agile for reporters. R. retrofitted it with a Polaroid back and captured the daily and seasonal change of his backyard garden, even some disposed items of the previous tenants.


It hit me when a co-worker said congrats on the new city, new job, new home, and new life. My hobby monster and I are engaged! as of February 17th, which explains the brief hiatus in postings. We're moving from NYC to my hometown, Chicago at the end of July. We're exhausted from planning but excited to move into our first place together... a luxe apartment with amazing city views of Willis Tower and occasional delicious whiffs from the chocolate factory next door.

February 11, 2010

#5 Cleaning with Gusto

I'm blessed with R. who's turned cleaning into a hobby... almost an obsession. I'm a bit of a neat freak too, but R. takes cleaning to the next level daily wiping off the counters, burners, sweeping, and even dancing. Seen here putting away my dishes.

February 9, 2010

#4 Collecting Things

In Brooklyn people regularly abandon their “treasures on the curb," leaving them up for grabs. And hobby #4 dumpster diving was at odds with my prideful Asian upbringing, but R. persistently bee-lined it towards any free item left at the curb or at a stoop sale with me in tow on his arm.

Then came the Brooklyn Flea market. About a year ago, they set up their weekend stalls in R.’s neighborhood and every week like clockwork we were their first visitors. His point, making sure none of his treasures were taken.

Over the crowd he would say things like, “D, should we get it?! They said it's an African water jug.” He even discovered (on the Brooklyn flea blog) they had started a scavenger hunt. In the first week of their scavenger hunt we found all of their hidden prizes and opted to keep a vintage Sparklet seltzer bottle as seen in the picture. Items he's purchased at the Brooklyn flea include a snakeskin, an Audubon art print, a real dynamite box, a block and tackle, a Polaroid camera, several records, and a 2 inch blue bud vase.

February 8, 2010

#3 Blogging

Hobby #3 hands down was blogging. At the peak of his hobby, R. had an impressive 3 blogs, which he managed from his office cubicle. He even offered to blog for a green roofing business, keeping their blog up to date! So make that 4. He had these happy, hopeful looks at the end of each day of writing when he’d ask me what I thought about his posts.

Then he bought his own domain, which was his first and last name dot com. Now if you don't know R., he has one of those unique, New England blue blood names like Wutherford Forrest Gump IV. And all you have to do is Google his name and 15 or more relevant links pop up. When we first started dating, I googled him and read his resume. I could have gone so far as to read his master's thesis but held off because it was a lengthy read.

In any case when you google him, you'll learn things like he was a national-ranked butterfly swimmer, he grew up on Long Island, he's interested in buying an old timey camera, maybe even his shoe size. He absolutely loved posting on his site and used Google tools to move its search ranking to #1, so all of a sudden a search for R. would show his website with his info and workday written (time stamped) posts. 

After a little convincing, R. curbed his excessive blogging and just kept his science blog. Below, the busy blogger with a collard green from his garden. (Pardon the blurry photo).

February 6, 2010

#2 Craft beer brewing

A natural segway from gardening. Early on we discovered our mutual appreciation for beer… good beer. And I could tell R. was smitten by my taste buds. Our first date by his choice was the W. Village gastro pub, the Spotted Pig, and I could differentiate an IPA from an ale, a stout, an imperial stout, and a hefeweissen. Unfortunately, I didn’t know what a cask ale was and showing off I ordered a warm, flat beer.

In the early months of dating, one of our favorite games was to drink at pubs with hundreds of beers. Cupping my ears with my hands and keeping my eyes closed, R. would order my drink and we’d switch. At first other customers would think we were fighting but would soon catch on we were playing a guessing game.

So after toying with beer for a few months R.’s natural desire was to pursue hobby #2 to brew his own. At first he grandly suggested opening a microbrewery but I took it down a notch suggesting a smaller batch of home brew instead. In Chinatown, we bought a behemoth 15 gallon pot and made our way through Little Italy. Then R. ordered his brew kit and came the yeast, food grade buckets, and glass carboys.

The day long activities of brewing beer were rigorous, always messy, and stress-filled running from stove to ice-filled bathtub from hot to cold later followed by the slow filling of 60 bottles. The batches were delicious pale ales, stouts, and 2 more which I can’t recall but they had the unfortunate after effect of distending our stomachs with gas. This hobby had a shorter life span of 8 months, because we soon realized the pudge on our once slim waistlines unfortunately coincided with beer brewing. (See early label sketches) for "whale creek brew" named after a small canal in Brooklyn.

February 5, 2010

#1 Growing your own food

After one of my first dates with R. (fittingly to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden) I found myself standing in his Fort Greene backyard. On that fall evening, I was introduced to hobby #1 – gardening and his army of houseplants. He owned a surprising dozen or more plants, more than any other 26 year-old male I knew. But they weren’t your typical lush, bloom-filled kind; they were straggly spider plants, gigantic Christmas cactuses, and hybrid plants like pony tail palms (a funny combination of an onion with a pony tail).

Oh lovely NYC, as we stood in the trash-strewn backyard from the previous tenants R. unabashedly told me he had pictured a garden here. True enough after months of planning, my meticulous R. had every spreadsheet imaginable cataloging the degree of sunlight, the optimal soil depths, and the prime seed spacings for his veggie patch. Meet the rationale, careful scientist vs. the rash, spontaneous designer.

I finally became impatient and grabbed his sketchbook. A row of beans here, some leafy greens there, and together we mapped his garden for a Brooklyn salad. The ingredients: lettuce: (mustard greens, spinach, collard greens), tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumber, beets, carrots, jalapenos, peas, beans, watermelon, herbs: (cilantro, chives, and parsley).

The hobby became an all-consuming labor of love for more than a year. In the beginning not only did we clear the debris but we battled Japanese knotweed, a hardy weed that even grew through concrete. Determined to give his garden an edible chance R. convinced his landlord to drop off new top soil and a few 2x4's. We got started in March ‘07, planting seeds in egg cartons then made friends with a local greenhouse going out of business and picked up free planters. The true push came when he built bamboo trellises for the peas, tall masts for our morning glories, and hammered together raised planter beds where we watched our miniature greens grow. From this one successful hobby we fueled a hobby monster!

Dating a hobby monster

Last night as R. ported his newest baby, a missus Seagull S6 cedar top, I realized I had created a hobby monster. His latest hobby of 4 months... learning the guitar. With 3 guitars to his collection I shrugged. I used to joke and call him "the hobbyist" but last night when he asked me to sing I effortlessly sang a song about the hobby monster. 

I adore him AND find his backlog of hobbies amusing and of course endearing. Just a teaser of hobby stories to come - urban gardening, craft beer brewing, insect shadow box creating, flea-market record hunting, and Polaroid photography with one serious camera (see below)...