Wang Chen is a famous female table tennis player who moved to the United States from Shanghai in 2000. In 2008, she gave a splendid showing at the Summer Olympics before ending her professional career. As part of her retirement, she founded the Wang Chen Table Tennis Club. For $20 each month, members can play unlimited table tennis. The Club offers after-school programs for children, one-on-one coaching for all ages, tournaments, and birthday parties. Observing Chen play while teaching a student was a thrill. Her skill was immediately apparent as she casually hit the ball to a grown man who was sweating with the effort it took to return her swings. The Manhattan Sideways team then went to the lower level where we sat down on the steps overlooking several tables and became mesmerized as we watched both singles and doubles players hitting against one another. We all agreed that this was not the sport that we knew to be ping pong. These men and women took the game to a whole new level. Taking in my surroundings, I discovered photographs from Chen's professional matches covering the walls, as well as a paddle hanging that said: "To Wang Chen - thanks for kicking my... "
Tucked between just a few other small businesses on 97th I discovered a casual, yet festive restaurant. El Paso Taqueria - one of three of a small Upper East Side chain that began in the early 2000s - offers a variety of Mexican food and drinks, including tacos, enchiladas, huevos rancheros, and, of course, margaritas.
In an effort to cater to the growing Russian population in New York, St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral was founded as the Church of St. Nicholas in the early 1890's in rented rooms downtown. The congregation quickly grew and in 1902, the structure that currently sits on 97th Street was built. At the time, the location was in an inexpensive neighborhood, but the building itself was costly, erected thanks to funds from Czar Nicholas II, who was murdered sixteen years later.