Upper West Side Insider: Kai-Ming Cha, Manga Expert

Name, Age, Occupation: Kai-Ming Cha, Old enough to know better, Writer and Manga (Japanese comics) expert

Neighborhood: Upper West Side

Abode: Two-bedroom apartment

How long have you lived there? More than 10 years. I moved here when I was pregnant because I wanted to be in this school district.

What do you love most about your neighborhood? It's so green in this area. Riverside Park is one of Manhattans gems, and its not necessarily a secret anymore, but it's really a nice place because it does attract a lot of nature. We have raccoons up here and I think its a family of hawks that have settled in the park which is cool. Nature in Manhattan!

There is this culture up here that ... if you are East of Broadway you go to Central Park and if you are west of Broadway you go to Riverside Park. It's one of those funny New Yorker-isms. In my neighborhood you see some people and they will only go to one certain park.

Best kept secret on the Upper West Side?
Yakitori Sun-Chan. It's a really great Japanese skewer place. You can get noodles and it's really down home, not fancy-schmancy. It's yummy Japanese home cooking, not an antiseptic sushi parlor that are all over the city. It's a hole-in-the-wall with no pretense and there's more a feeling of Asia there. You go in after work and sit at the bar and have some skewers and whiskey before you go home. And here instead of buying a glass every night you can buy your bottle of Jameson and every time you come in they get you your bottle. You save money and it's nice to be a regular and know the nice women that work there. It's a nice feel.

There is also this great hair place in the Columbia area, right next to the church, Scott Jays. You can get a great haircut there for $45 bucks. Shampoo, little head massage and you are good. I don't even have a stylist there, I just go in and whomever they give me I know it will be great. They use Aveda products. It's just a nice, clean, fun place that's super affordable and does a great job.

Favorite way to spend a Saturday night in your neighborhood? In the summers they have movies in certain areas of Riverside Park and those are really fun because you can set up your picnic and hang outside. And for me and my son he can run wild with friends and catch fireflies. This is New York so the people will order takeout and the pizza places will deliver your pies to you in the park!

So what exactly is a Manga expert?
It means I read a lot of comics and should probably read other things (laughing). Specifically they are from Japan so I'm familiar with the Japanese comics medium. They are far more cinematic and expressive that American comics. American comics are more illustrative and narrative. I can watch a movie or I can read a Japanese comic and I can see what they are doing. There is a vocabulary to it. I see a lot of intense and lovely art, and some not good, too.

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