Hooky for a Day

If thinking is the best way to travel, then reading must be the cheapest, smartest ticket of all. And what better place to do it than in that great outdoors and bazaar of the mind, the New York Public Library. Go in search of time past in the Manuscript and Archives Division, whose treasures include 700 cuneiform tablets and 160 medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts; ponder the snows of Kilimanjaro in the Maps Division, repository of 405,000 maps and 18,000 atlases and books; or hit the road with Kerouac, in the exhibition "Victorians, Moderns, and Beats." Dress comfortably for the journey. As for that pith helmet, you may need it for a stroll in adjacent Bryant Park, where the natives can get restless. Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, 930-0830. (Francia)

Throw me a line: go fish at Prospect Park lake.
Photographs by Kate Lacey
Throw me a line: go fish at Prospect Park lake.

Floyd Bennett Field hosts some of the city's fastest and most frenetic remote control car racing, pushing the small gizmos close to 100 miles per hour on empty parking lots. From the beltway, the cars look like a swarm of flies on Ritalin. Up close, they hiss and whine. It sounds like a real stock car race. The course has been marked by an old firehouse laid on the concrete in the form of a snake, but Brooklyn Hobbies (3842 Flatlands Avenue, Brooklyn) has recently constructed a wooden track where racers can compete on real planks. Flatbush Avenue, South Brooklyn; call Brooklyn Hobbies for race times, 718-238-9145. (Gray)

Once seen as a coyly exclusive caveat of suburban splendor, there is a Target in easy reach from Manhattan. It's 45 minutes by train (E to Woodhaven, G to Grand Avenue/Newtown) at Queens Place in Elmhurst, adjacent to the notoriously huge Queens Center Mall. My mission was to score cute summer gear. Fortunately, all clothing—mild, tasteful pieces literally heaped on top of racks—was on sale. I found Mossimo sequined flip flops ($7.99) with a matching sequinned L.L. Bean-esque tote ($9.99), utility camouflage board shorts ($14.99), bucket hats ($10), beach balls ($2.99), and oddly, an awful lot of Hawaiian shirts (cute though, $14.99). Philippe Starck is in the house (Stephen Sprouse hits in July, followed by Todd Oldham's back-to-school goods in September). Queens Place, Queens Boulevard and 55th Avenue, Queens, 718-760-5656. (Germosén)

If you're calling in sick because you need a quick fix of Brice Marden or Gregory Crewdson, head to that broad stretch west of Tenth Avenue where galleries have colonized nearly every street-level garage and acres of overhead office space. Unlike Soho, 57th Street, or Williamsburg, Chelsea serves up a concentrated dose of contemporary art virtually undiluted by any other sort of retail temptation. Start at Sean Kelly Gallery's massive space on 28th Street and, using one of the free pamphlet maps stacked at the front desks of the area's galleries, work your way down. Bring a sandwich from Bottino's take-out annex (246 Tenth Avenue, 206-6766) to the little park on 22nd Street, and return refreshed to resume your unsentimental education. You're likely to give out long before the galleries do—172 are listed in the Chelsea art guide—but you've got other sick days coming, right? 528 West 29th Street,239-1181. (Aletti)

You've got crabs! First of all, shame on you for what you're thinking. Get your mind out of the gutter and bring it to Canarsie Pier. There you will find an assortment of characters of all races, ages, sexes, and sizes doing everything from fishing to sun worshiping to my favorite—crabbing. All you need is a cage (available at fishing supply shops), bait (chicken, fish, or squid), and a pail for collecting your booty. Then you just sit right back, hear a tale, and wait to see if the seafood gods have rewarded you with a cage full of crabbies. Personally, I always give mine away; maybe I don't trust the waters or I just adore hearing folks say, "You gave me crabs!" The pier has free parking, rest rooms, and concession stands. 2200 Rockaway Parkway, Brooklyn. (Aber)

Easily the best destination for long, rhythmic hikes in the five boroughs, Greenbelt Conservancy, a 2800-acre chain of chlorophyll, was saved by locals who cherish Staten Island's ecological diversity and unique topography (attributes that are due, in part, to the relatively mild weather as well as the grand collision of Africa with North America). It's always worth pointing out that the Greenbelt took first prize in Wild New York's (Three Rivers Press, 1997) Forest Eco-Awards survey of the five boroughs. 200 Nevada Avenue, Staten Island; for access points and trail maps call 718-667-2165 or visit www.sigreenbelt.org. (Zimmerman)

Oh, city pigeons! Praise them please, these birds of the New York street, these precious rats with wings that flock and fly and shit small shits overhead. Don't call them a nuisance, for in a town where friends come expensive, the city pigeon can be your friend for pretty cheap. Loyal too! Please heed the following pigeon feeding guidelines: Do not feed the pigeons in Washington Square Park (West 4th Street and Macdougal Street) marijuana. True, they will ask but pretend to look away, walk fast, and never look back—they tend to be undercover. East Village pigeons should not be fed leftover macrobiotic foods or other edibles high in tofu content, especially in Tompkins Square Park (7th Street and Avenue A). For years these birds have been on a strict diet of cheeseburgers and heroin, and all things healthy will cause their stomachs to explode. On the Upper East Side, near the Central Park Reservoir (90th Street and Central Park West)—do not feed the pigeons bread, croissant, brioche, or other doughy substances. These birds tend to be on the Atkins diet. For best results, try baked, kosher chicken. And finally, under no circumstances should Battery Park (Broadway and Battery Place) pigeons be fed at all. Currently, these pheasants are receiving large economic subsidies from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. (Gray)

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