Tag Archives: Penelope

Mapping Out Houses of Worship in NYC

24 Mar

Remember the other day when I mentioned that cute little restaurant Penelope?  Well, last Friday Penelope happened to be the opening setting of a New York Times article by Mark Oppenheimer, entitled “Mapping Religious Life in the Five Boroughs, With Shoe Leather and a Web Site.”  The article is about a Texas native named Tony Carnes, who moved to New York to go to The New School, where incidentally I’m enrolled in the MFA program, and who is, according to his website, “exploring the postsecular city.”

He’s mapping out every house of worship in the five boroughs of New York.  My immediate thought was: there are so many churches that make use of school auditoriums, bars, and ballrooms — how will he find those churches, if he’s driving around looking for church signs?  Well, apparently Carnes hears about those by word of mouth.

But he isn’t just mapping the city out.  He and his colleagues are telling stories.  Stories such as:

“The youth of Bethany Baptist Church put together a modestware fashion show in Jamaica, Queens called ‘A World of Difference.’ They follow a long tradition of fashion shows in African American churches.” —Fashion in Church, Jamaica, Queens

“Under the searing sun and stench of roadside garbage, a teenage Hispanic girl carrying a baby boy comes out of a door next to a church. Her tousled hair looked like she’d been up all night. The baby’s unwashed face was smeared with dirt; a diaper was the only thing covering his bare skin.” — Girl Power in Flatbush

“What church would get rid of its pews to make more room for feeding the poor? Surely, wouldn’t the pastor resign, the elders stomp out in exasperation, and the members hastily decamp for a properly pewed church? All that didn’t happen at a Lower East Side church ten years ago when it did just that…” —East Village church threw out its pews to make room for the poor

If you want to know about Greek Orthodox churches and Greek Pentecostal, there’s also an article posted on the census the nonprofit took in Astoria.

I love the way Carnes and his nonprofit organization are uniting houses of worship.  In a way, it’s kind of a blend of the way Burnside Writers Collective gives community and voice to people of varied Christian background (head’s up: check out my church hopping column tomorrow!) and Asphalt Eden illustrates various New York church’s unique personalities by listing events.

In another way, it reminds me of the exciting and noble work the Endangered Language Alliance, headed up by Dan Kaufman, Bob Holman, and Juliette Blevins, is doing, mapping out endangered languages in New York and working to preserve them.

For more on Carnes’ “Journey thru NYC religions” visit http://www.nycreligion.info.


Penelope: NYC Restaurant Review and Mini Mythology Lesson

31 Jan

My sister treated me to lunch at Penelope on Friday, which was the perfect antidote to the snowy day.  The shabby chic look of the décor, in white and powder blue, reminded me of my Victorian dollhouse.  There were antique-looking light fixtures, salvaged wall art, and even a picket fence at the hostess desk.  Located in the Curry Hill area of New York, Penelope (159 Lexington Avenue, at 30th Street) is one of the cuter little restaurants in a neighborhood dominated by Indian buffets and grab-and-go bagel shops.

If you’re in the mood for a sophisticated take on comfort food, head over to Penelope.  The menu offered up so many vegetarian options, though there were also plenty of meat dishes.  There was Ellie’s Spinach Pie, which is described as “yia yia’s greek country recipe” [sic]; The John-Oliver, a goat cheese and olive tapenade sandwich on cranberry-pecan bread; and Grilled Three Cheese, which for a buck more you can add artichoke hearts to.

I ended up getting the Mac & Cheese.  It wasn’t quite as good as the one made at Chat’n’Chew, but I loved that they put tomato on it—just the way my mom serves it.

For dessert, my sister and I split a Peanut Butter Blondie, and I had a latte.  So good!

Next time, I’d like to come for brunch.  Their Nutella French Toast sounds amazing.

When Jennifer Potenza opened the restaurant in 2003, she named it after her pet turtle.

Fans of Greek literature, though, may remember that Penelope is also the name of Odysseus’ faithful wife in The Odyssey.  While much of the action in Homer’s epic poem revolves around the adventures of cunning Odysseus, who fends off the Cyclops and the sexy Sirens, it is also a story of profound love.  There’s no reason for Penelope to believe that her husband has survived when, days turn into years and still Odysseus has not returned from the Trojan War, and yet Penelope remains faithful to Odysseus by refusing to accept offers from any of the one hundred (108 to be exact) suitors that come into her life.

Twenty years later, Odysseus returns.  Penelope doesn’t believe it’s him at first, and it’s only after he tells the secret that only he and she knew about how part of their bed is made from an olive tree that she believes it is truly him.

One can pick out Penelope in artwork because artists depict her at a loom and with her legs crossed.