twelve cafes i love a latte

If you’ve been reading my prior posts, or know me in general, I love coffeeshops.  My morning latte is a crucial start to my day, and I’ll sometimes get a second (decaf, of course) if I’m feeling it.

Living in Manhattan ignited this obsession – before moving here I was a brief coffee-addict, then tea-drinker, turned latte-lover when I went to my first small coffeeshop in Hamilton Heights (see chipped).

Here are twelve different coffeeshops scattered across New York City that pack a mean shot of espresso for all your caffinated needs —

Double Dutch Espresso | Harlem @ Fredrick Douglass Blvd

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Sister store of my personal fave, The Chipped Cup, is Double Dutch Coffee in Central Harlem.  It’s also related to Filtered Coffee on 141st and Amsterdam, and their newest location on 184th and Broadway.  All locations brew and serve (my favorite) Counter Culture Coffee.

Irving Farm Coffee Roasters | West 72nd Street & Broadway

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Irving Farm is an UWS favorite of mine.  Their coffee is amazing, which is a given, but they have multiple locations scattered across Manhattan (including a stand in the midst of Grand Central Station).  Their pastries and egg sandwiches are also to die for.

Stumptown Coffee Roasters | West 8th Street & Washington Square West

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I’ve already sang praises about Stumptown Coffee Roasters (see my landmarks), but this is my post-barre class go-to in the West Village.  This particular location is easily accessible to Washington Square Park and the various shops that welcome you into the heart of the village.  They also have a nifty nitro brew on tap.

Bibble & Sip | West 51st Street & 8th Avenue

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Known best by tourists for its cream puffs, Bibble & Sip also has the mom n’ pop coffeeshop taste while it sits in the heart of midtown.  This place saved me from drinking crappy Starbucks lattes during tech for CATS.  They too serve Counter Culture Coffee; bringing a little taste of The Chipped Cup around the corner from my home-away-from-home at the Neil Simon Theater.

The Monkey Cup | W 146th Street & Amsterdam Avenue

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This sweet little hold-in-the-wall has brought in many regulars in the two years since its opening back in 2015.  I vividly remember being intrigued by the signs for this new place on my way to the A train when I lived in this neighborhood.  It’s a little off the beaten path from the main-stream gentrified spots along Broadway in Hamilton Heights, but it’s great for a quick pit-stop if you find yourself in need of caffeine on your walk to the 145th A train.  The Monkey Cup serves Irving Farm Coffee Roasters and some sweet vegan treats on the weekends.

Birch Coffee | Columbus Avenue & 96th Street

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I fell very hard and fast for Birch Coffee in the Autumn of 2014 when I met a couple friends there and had a brilliantly sweet almond tea to stay.  I shamelessly walked out of there three hours later with a fresh bag of it to bring home and brew myself.  At the time, they also served a variety of fresh-pressed grilled cheeses, beer on tap, and, of course, great coffee and pastries.  The grilled cheese has since been taken off the menu, and while I can’t speak for everyone, it was a pretty deep blow to not have access to grilled cheese that good.  However, their Lenka granola bars and coffee keeps me coming back there.  They too have locations scattered across Manhattan, but their proximity to a shopping strip saturated with my favorite stores (TJMaxx, HomeGoods, Michaels, Bareburger, Whole Foods) on Columbus Avenue is what makes me a frequent customer.

Four & Twenty Blackbirds | Brooklyn @ Third Avenue

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I cannot lie, I have only ever been to Four & Twenty Blackbirds once in my life, as I do not find myself in Brooklyn very often.  It was a beautiful summer afternoon in 2015 and I was waiting for a friend to get out of a yoga class and stumbled upon this place.  They are best known for their pies (which I did, in fact, try), but their ambiance and lattes are also something to write home about.  If you find yourself in this neighborhood, definitely stop in.

Hamilton’s Bakery | Broadway & 146th Street

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Joining the ranks of the trendy restaurants along Broadway in the 140’s a little over a year ago was Hamilton’s Bakery & Coffee.  At the time, they were two blocks away from my apartment and admittedly took me away from the Chipped Cup for about a month.  The owners did a fantastic job at turning two run-down shops into a beautiful cafe.  It’s been a couple months since I’ve stopped in, but I believe they’ve expanded their menu to include more dining-in options, including Sunday Brunch (mimosas and all).

 

Le Cafe Coffee | West 14th Street & 5th Avenue

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Home of the first lavender latte I ever tried, Le Caffe Coffee is a great stop if you need a little pick-me-up amidst the shopping in Union Square.  It’s very small, so don’t expect to sit for a while (if at all), but you can also grab a great salad, sandwich or DOUGH doughnut.

Gossip Coffee | Astoria, Queens @ 30 Ave

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I was so mesmerized by Gossip Coffee when I went in there on January 1st this past year.  It was a beautiful new adventure in Astoria, Queens that I am excited to revisit on the warmer days when I can enjoy their beautiful back patio.

Aroma Espresso Bar | Church Street & Barclay

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Aroma Espresso Bar looks like your typical commercial coffee spot (and it is), but a sip of their coffee will make you quickly forget where you are for a moment.  They have pretty decent food, and also accompany every espresso drink with a small chocolate (kinda like a pillow mint, if you will).

Plowshares Coffee Roasters | Broadway @ West 105th Street

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I will go out of my way to get myself a latte at Plowshares Coffee on the Upper West Side. It is home to one of the best lattes I’ve ever had.  It doesn’t look like much on the outside, but it packs a punch in their espresso drinks.

 

 

before i dive right into you

Over the past few years, Ed Sheeran has wiggled his way into my top ten favorite artists (I may even be so bold as to throw him in my top five).

I recently took a liking to his newest album, Divide.  Following it’s release, I found myself putting off listening to Divide for a couple months because I didn’t want anything to break my addiction to his album X (I’m not as familiar with +, but if you haven’t figured out the trend by now, his next album will likely be called Subtract).

It got me thinking about my tactics of listening to new music by my favorite artists.  I’m always fearful that the newest album will never amount to the ones I already love.  Sometimes, I’m right.  Dave Matthews’ Away From The World will never touch any of his previous albums.  And Jason Mraz’s Yes was a bit of a let-down after playing We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things and his Live From Earth album on repeat for years.

I’ve started to realize that my feelings about music fluxuate with my affiliation of these albums to certain chapters of my life.  The nostalgic coorolation is what makes them so much more sacred and harder to listen to something new.  As cliche as it sounds, most of my favorite music changes with the seasons of my life.

This season’s anthem is Dive from Ed Sheeran’s Divide.  It stood out to me the first time I heard it last month, and rapidly became my favorite.  Give it a listen, or don’t – whatever suits your fancy.  Maybe you already know what your season’s anthem is; this one is mine.

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musical(s) I…

I’m jumping on the Facebook status bandwagon sweeping my News Feed, creating a laundry list of musicals we do/do not enjoy.   As with any social media trend, we’re always fascinated yet skeptical to actually join.  It got me wondering about my taste in musical theatre; so instead of a simple status update, I decided to turn it into a more fleshed out post:

Musical(s) I Hate:  Hello, Dolly!

Okay, hate is a very strong word. But I truly don’t understand the draw with Hello, Dolly! It was the spring musical my sophomore year of high school and it was so boring. I have many friends involved in this Broadway revival and I’m sure it is nothing short of phenomenally executed, but the show itself doesn’t tickle my fancy. I’m hoping that seeing so many loved ones in this revival will change my mind.

Musical(s) I think is overrated:
Sunday in the Park with George

So hear me out – I love Stephen Sondheim. He is my all-time favorite composer. But I was not as moved by Sunday in the Park… as I thought I would be. Maybe I need to check myself into the Bernadette/Mandy filmed version…

Musical I think is underrated:
The Bridges of Madison County

I don’t care what people say – I was in love with this musical. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine. But I went back to see it three different times (I tried for a fourth closing week, but it was sold out). It was brilliantly written and executed. Steven Pasquale has my heart.

Musical(s) I love:
The Bridges of Madison County
See above^

Dear Evan Hansen
Holy shit in a shit storm this show is phenomenal. I could see it over and over again and cry my heart out every single time and give Ben Platt a standing ovation every night.  Even if I’m standing on the street.

Waitress
The day I found out Sara Bareilles wrote a musical, I knew I would be in love. The album is on constant repeat.

Musical(s) I cherish:
Wicked
This show made me fall in love with musical theater. Plain and simple.

Into The Woods
I will always love this musical. It feels like home.

Memphis
This show should have never closed when it did. UGH. So damn good.

Godspell

What a beautiful and uplifting show to be a part of.  I felt emotionally connected to this show every night I performed with it.

Guilty pleasure musical(s):

Heathers
I’m not even guilty about it, I just love it.

Musical(s) to star in:
Realistically —

Waitress (duh)
Heathers (hi, hello)
Into The Woods (it’ll happen again…)

Unrealistically —

In The Heights (I loOove it. I’ll never be Nina)
Footloose (I’m past my prime for Rusty)

Musical(s) to Direct:
Spring Awakening
Heathers

Musical(s) you know like the back of your hand:

Into the Woods
Wicked
Heathers
Spring Awakening

beantown

I am a Manhattan gal, through and through.  I don’t think I’ve said it enough on this blog (sarcasm).  But holy crap, Beantown!  I did not think I would fall in love so hard and fast.

If you ordered a super-sized Williamsburg, you would get Boston on a silver platter.  It’s like Manhattan’s mild, laid-back, chilled-the-fuck-out cousin; lower buildings, less litter, and everyone is so friendly.  You don’t see a Starbucks on every corner, the bars are quaint and original, and I had some of the best brunch of my life.  After a short and sweet 48 hours, I quickly fell for Boston’s charm.
I only scratched the surface of this city, but below you’ll find the stand-out places I explored in my two days.
Jacob Wirth Co. – Stuart Street, Boston
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This place is very Jacob’s Pickles meets Rosy Tomorrow’s.  It’s charming and hospitable, cozy yet much larger on the inside than you would have guessed.  They make a slammin’ cosmopolitan and their burgers are out of this world.  I’m pretty confident our waitress couldn’t understand my New England accent, but she was sweet.  Her Boston accent was amazing.
Thinking Cup Gourmet Coffee & Espresso Bar – Tremont Street, Boston
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When I saw the small “Stumptown Coffee Roasters” sign outside, I knew we had to stop in this place.  Thinking Cup is massively likable and the baristas are exceptionally friendly.  They seem to be pretty popular for their Bourbon Latte.
Intermission Tavern – Tremont Street, Boston
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In the heart of the Theater District sits this very quaint tavern clad in theatrical memorabilia to satisfy every post-production drink desire.  After tirelessly searching for dessert our first night in town, we stopped inside this gem, where we struck out for the last time.  Our waitress was pretty honest with us when we asked if the city was void of all sweets; our walking radius was just a bit too small for what we needed.  They were fresh out of cookies n’ cream, so we settled for their tiramisu.  Their cosmopolitan was nothing compared to Jacob Wirth.  But the boys that came in were pretty fun to look at.
Masa Restaurant – Tremont Street, Boston
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I will never forget this place.  Ever.  Best brunch, best cocktails, best service.  My three friends and I came here on a whim and it was the highlight of our trip.  Our server, Antonio, immediately asked if we liked mimosas upon seating us and never let a moment pass without ensuring the bottles of complementary champagne on the table were full enough to accompany our fresh-squeezed OJ.  The food was incredible – I personally got the breakfast burrito and don’t think any burrito I eat again will ever compare.  Antonio then brought us free tequila shots, which he quietly took with us.  And at the end of it all, the manager knocked $20 off our bill because she liked us.  We would have paid full price for the experience. Nuff said.
Joe’s American Bar & Grill  – Newbury Street, Boston
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Wow.  Wow wow wow.  Joe’s was worth every compliment my friend Gerardo paid it when he insisted we have dinner there.  I am a freak about Spinach and Artichoke dip.  And despite the fact that the Whole30 has left my stomach in knots whenever I eat dairy, I took the chance for Joe’s Spin Dip.  Holy crap.  Either they lace it in crack, or it’s the best I’ve ever tasted (likely the latter, but hey, you never know).  The pineapple cosmopolitan couldn’t hold a candle to a classic, but it was a new experience.
The Pour House Bar & Grill – Boylston Street, Boston
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There’s a Ms PacMan machine in the back (score), but the treble on the sound system is way too high and massively distracting.  Their prices are fair and their cosmopolitan was my second favorite of the trip.  Cute pit-stop find.
The Beehive – Tremont Street, Boston
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Although not much could measure up to our brunch experience at Masa, The Beehive came highly recommended from many of our friends.  We were seated directly in front of the live jazz band as we enjoyed our Eggs Benedict and Waffles with homemade whipped cream and fresh fruit.  It was a bit more expensive than we anticipated, but something had to be as pricey as New York to bring us back to reality.
South End Buttery – Shawmut Ave, Boston
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As you know by now, my morning latte is very important.  When The Beehive didn’t carry non-dairy milk, we stopped in this place to settle my caffeine addiction.  Clean, cute, and addiction-friendly.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace – South Market Building, Boston
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Our last stop was towards the North End to Faneuil Hall Marketplace.  Filled with small shops, restaurants, bakeries, and live music, this place reminded me all to much of the streets in Edinburgh.  I have never found a place in The States that has reminded me of the UK as much as Boston did.  And maybe that’s why I loved my time here so much.
New York City is my home; but it’s the only city I’ve ever truly known.  I loved exploring another city that isn’t the city.  Boston truly dug its way into my heart this weekend, and I can’t wait to go back again someday.  Whether for a visit or maybe something long-term, I see Boston in my future.

leroy walton

The overwhelming motto of 2016 was in regards to how many monumental lives were taken from our world.  David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, Prince…to name a few.  My biggest celebrity loss came in the form of a 6′ 9″ vivacious man named Leroy Walton; whose beautiful soul was taken from our tangible world and brought to another one year ago today.

On April 7, 2016, I sat at St. Luke’s Hospital amongst my closest friends, former classmates, professors and strangers with my heart in my stomach, as we all collectively tried to cope with the fact that we were about to lose a friend.

I met Leroy in the fall of 2011 when he entered our theater program at Western Connecticut State University.  There was nobody like Leroy.  Standing at 6′ 9″ with the personality (and voice) to back it up, no one could dim that light.  He gave the best hugs.  I don’t think anyone could have drawn a bigger crowd that day at the hospital than Leroy.  He made a lasting impression on everyone he met.  I’ll say it again: there was nobody like Leroy Walton.

For a person whose life was filled with complications, Leroy made the most of every moment.  Nothing…and I mean nothing stopped him from pursuing his dreams.  He had so many obstacles and roadblocks that could have easily discouraged or inhibited him at every turn, and he never gave into them.  Leroy was a gracious and compassionate fighter.

I could go on and on about the countless times he made me laugh.   I could describe in detail the last time I saw him; and how I wish I could have stayed sitting across from him at brunch had I known it was the last time I would talk to him.  I could take you through the moment we all found out he had passed at Mel’s Burger Bar that night.

But I believe, today and every day, Leroy would never want us to dwell in his loss, but in his light.  He may no longer be tangible, but each day he lingers in beautiful reminders of his brief but brilliant time with us.  He is undoubtedly up in the clouds, drinking a margarita, cackling at every bad date we go on, crying with us when we’re down, and giving us standing ovations for our triumphs.

I miss you, my sweet friend.  April 7th will forever be my reminder to choose joy.

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www.leroywalton.net

whole again

In case you’ve been wondering, life post-Whole30 has been very eye-opening.  I’ve eaten three bagels, half a plate of nachos and have had a grand total of 9 drinks since Friday.  And I gotta tell ya…I feel like shit.

My skin doesn’t feel the same as it has for the past month, I have bloated like a blowfish, and spent most of yesterday feeling like I had heartburn in my tummy.

Moving forward, I’ve decided to continue on as “Whole30” as humanly possible.  I hate the way I feel when I over-indulge on foods that truly are not good for me.  I am doing myself a disservice by eating the way I used to.

So, yes, while the occasional drink will not ruin me, I am re-commiting myself to being kind to my body.  My weekend of trying to adapt to former cravings has come to an end, and I am so happy to see cleaner choices ahead.

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connecticut gems

For as much as I’ve grown into a Manhattanite, I love my roots.  Visiting Connecticut is much like snuggling into a warm bed after a long day – familiar, safe, and comforting.  I went to college ten minutes from home, and now get super nostalgic for places I fell in love with when I have the opportunity to visit home.  Over the past year, it has become a lot more difficult to find pockets of time to revel in my hometown, so I’m always trying to pack in as much activity as I can while I’m here.

Amongst the immediate five-mile radius, these are the places that feel like home.

Rosy Tomorrows | Danbury, Connecticut

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If there was a Chipped Cup equivalent to my home in Connecticut, it would be this place. It certainly isn’t a hole-in-the-wall coffeeshop, but if there’s one place I spend my time more than my house when I’m home, it’s Rosy Tomorrow’s.

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Name a cocktail – any cocktail, Pat the bartender will make it.  They’re home to the best spinach and artichoke dip in the Northeast, their long island iced tea will kick your ass, and sitting around the fire pit with my college buddies is still a tradition, no matter the distance or time that has passed.  I also had my first legal drink here (as well as a handful of illegal ones before I turned 21).

Bagelman | Brookfield, Connecticut

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I can maybe count on one hand the New York City bagels that possibly hold a candle to this place.  Even still, there is genuinely nothing like a Bagelman bagel.  My mother raised us on these bagels – it’s the only one worth shaking up my post-Whole30 diet.

Dubl Twister & Soho Pizza | Danbury, Connecticut

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Oh, this duo.  It was dangerously satisfying to have an amazing Pizza Joint steps away from campus with a homemade Ice Cream Shop to match right next door.

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Soho Pizza is still better than most I’ve had in New York, and there are very few memories fonder than trying Dubl Twister‘s Cookie Monster Ice Cream on my third day of college.  There is also no better comfort food than that of pizza and ice cream, so, bravo, White Street.  Bravo.

Molten Java | Bethel, Connecticut

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In the immediate five-mile radius, there are very few options to get a real good latte that will settle my caffeine fix at home (I am spoiled by Manhattan’s coffeeshops).  Luckily, Molten Java has been around since my high school years, serves a damn good latte, and is tucked away in one of the cutest surrounding towns, Bethel, Connecticut.  You’ll now find it amongst many shops and restaurants in the center of town close to the Danbury border.

Tarrywile Park & Mansion | Danbury, Connecticut

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Woof, I love this place.  Stating the obvious – it’s beautiful, it’s perfect for summertime picnics, and a great way to reconnect with nature.  Tarrywile Park was the go-to spot in my young-adult years for outdoor adventures and celebrations.

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I watched two of my friends get domestically partnered on the lake two summers ago (Yes, we threw them a ceremony.  Yes, they also got engaged in this exact spot eighteen months later.  Yes I hope their real wedding is here).  I discovered around this time last year that I can actually throw a frisbee in the center of their giant field.  I climbed the abandoned castle on the other end of the park and scraped my knee crawling down my senior year of college.  This place is super special; to many and also to me.

The Cheesecake Factory | Danbury, Connecticut

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This place is magical to most – basically if you like any sort of food, you enjoy The Cheesecake Factory.  But I was lucky enough to open the second Connecticut location and hold a job there as a hostess for almost three years before moving to Manhattan.  I made a lot of friends, took a lot of names, and got a pager thrown at my head once.  This place has a lot of fond memories (especially that lucky pager).  Also, the Red Velvet Cheesecake is the best.  No arguments.

Ives Concert Park | Danbury, Connecticut

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Tucked away behind the west side campus of Western Connecticut State University is a beautiful gazebo along a lake named after local composer Charles Edward Ives.  Ives Concert Park has hosted a laundry list of famous artists during their summer concert series, as well as countless theatrical productions from the university’s theater program.

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I have had the pleasure of performing there many times, seeing a few concerts on the lawn, and was even once taken there at midnight two summers ago to dance rom-com style in the center of the park.  My heart fills to the brim with joy and nostalgia when this place comes to mind.

Lake Lillinonah | Brookfield, Connecticut

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My mom used to take my brother and me here every year to use as a backdrop for our annual “Fall Photo” when we were younger.  Somewhere around my freshman year of high school, we stopped.  But I still love driving down here every fall to take in the beautiful view.

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Stew Leonards | Danbury, Connecticut

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Okay, it’s a grocery store.  Who has a fondness for a grocery store? This gal.

Stew Leonards is monumental – it has soft-serve ice cream, prepared food, free samples, hay rides in the fall, an ornament shop during the holidays, and an outdoor BBQ over the summer.  They also have a singing band of animatronic milk cartons every fifteen minutes.  I don’t think I need to explain any further.

Blue Jay Orchards | Bethel, Connecticut

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It was simply one of the best field trips that Huckleberry Hill Elementary School could offer in the early 2000’s.  Blue Jay Orchards is small, but mighty.  It’s stunningly equipped with two apple tree-lined orchards and a pumpkin patch across from its adorable market.  People flock there for their apple cider, donuts and home-made jams.

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And apparently travel from Manhattan just to sit in their wheelbarrows.