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If this is your first time here, you should start at NewYorkNotes.
On Being a New-Yorker
1. At my company lunch on Friday, I brought up an item I had read in the New York Times by saying, so I saw this piece in the Times yesterday.
Because, of course, if you live in NYC, there is only one Times. You can also refer to the Wall Street Journal as the Journal.
2. I was talking to a friend yesterday, and he was telling me about this great new girl he's been seeing. Nice personality, nice body, lots of fun. Oh, and she also has a huge apartment.
That is such a New Yorker thing to think and say. Would you go out with someone because they had a big apartment? Think about your priorities.
New term overheard at Rudy's, the Hell's Kitchen dive bar we frequent: knuckle up. As in, "hey buster, want to step outside and knuckle up?''
Coincidentally, my mom passed on a story today in which a character used the term chin music. Now I automatically thought that was in the same vein as knuckle up. Turns out it just means talking too much. I like my definition better.
Inheriting the Earth
It started a few months ago... When I opened the cabinet in my kitchen I would occasionally see a little bug running across the Frosted Flakes box.
Now every time I open the cupboard, I see a little bug or two. Tiny things, like an eight of an inch long (I believe that would be 2 millimeters if you were in Canada). I always try to grab them and flush 'em down the toliet. Sometimes I'm successful, but those suckers can really scurry.
Fast forward to today: I get up at my regular time of 6:45 am for work and turn on the light in the kitchen. OMG a 3/4 inch long roach runs across the counter and disappears into a crack. It was feasting on a bit of food that had fallen on the sink.
So you know what those litte bugs were? BABY COCKROACHES. Now every morning when I turn on the lights in the kitchen I will see larger and larger adult cockroaches. Eventually my life will turn in to Joe's Apartment.
General NYC Annoyance for Today
I really hate the term New York Minute for no specific reason. Also, I hear the movie wasn't very good.
Last night I had an extrememly vivid dream that I was walking along an urban street. It was sort of a utilitarian street, with perhaps five lanes of traffic one way and medium-tall buildings on either side, maybe 5-8 stories. Everything was sort of worn down, but in a everyday use sort of way, not due to neglect. Every building contained a series fo small businesses on the ground floor.
There were scaffoldings on various blocks, covering the wide sidewalks. The sun was out. For some reason, I was walking behind two men. I didn't know them, but I followed them into a restaurant.
The restaurant served some sort of south american food, with lots of beans and spices.
That's really the whole dream. There wasn't anything unusual about it, really, except the extreme detail and clarity of the surroundings. While I was in the dream I had no idea what city I was in or what the purpose of my walk was.
When I woke up, I thought of this dream and was struck by the alien feel of it all. For a few seconds, I felt I had never been to a place like the one in the dream. Then I realized that altough the specifics of the dream were all jumbled, I was walking down 8th Avenue in Hell's Kitchen. Everything was different, yet so many of the details were the same - the street, the sidewalk, the buildings were all of a type I experience every day here in New York.
That got me thinking about the familiarity of your environment. If I had had this dream a couple of years ago, I wouldn't have known where it came from. Maybe it's something my mind could have generated from pictures or movies. However, the dissociation I felt during the dream would have continued after I woke up, because it was not a place I had ever actually experienced.
Now, however, I immediately recognized the context of the dream. My mind was simply slicing and dicing my everyday experiences.
The question, I think, is could I have had that dream without living in this environment? Could my mind have created this extrememly detailed environment without my having been exposed to it daily?
Two conclusions: 1. The mind is a mystery. 2. The architecture of New York City is very distinctive.
Engrish in New York
As in any city with a large immigrant population, New York has a lot of creative signage. There are a number of low-rent gift shops on the 8th Avenue border between Hell's Kitchen and Times Square. These are the places you go to buy I <heart> NYC t-shirts for $2 each.
Usually you are walking right in front of these stores, so you don't look up at the canopies. I happened to do so in front of one of these stores yesterday as I was walking home from work. To my befuddlement, the store was named Back Star. What the hell does that mean?
I thought for a minute and figured it out. All the businesses in that area have some sort of "theater" motif too them. There's a Celebrity Diner across the street, and a Stage Door Gift Shop nearby.
This store wanted something similar, so they probably aimed for Back Stage or Star Attraction. Unfortunately, their aim was a little off, so they went with Back Star. Makes perfect engrish sense.
See Engrish! for another take on the creative use of the English language.
Subway Candy Sales
A staple of the subway experience is the candy sales team. This consists of two teenagers selling candy to supposedly support some school or athletic team. They roam up and down the subway cars, giving a pitch and asking everyone to buy candy. The candy is always $1.00.
A curious thing I've noticed is that that they always have the same candy. Invariably, it will be peanut M&Ms and Starburst. Alternately, it might be Almond Joy and Starburst. Every time I've seen kids selling this stuff, its always one of these combinations. I would say it's Peanut M&Ms and Starbusrt 90% of the time.
So what gives here? The only explanation I have is there must be some way that these kids get this particular candy for cheap. Do distributors always have an overstock of these brands? Do peanut M&Ms expire more quickly than other types of candy, leaving a vast supply of candy that would otherwise be thrown away?
If anyone has an explanation for this, please leave it in the comments below.
Not Just an Episode of Will & Grace
Yes indeed, the Barney's Warehouse Sale does actually exist. Background: Barney's is a high-end clothing retailer in New York. For many years, they have had periodic warehouse sales where they throw all their extra stuff in a big room and mark it way down. This being New York, everyone goes to these sales for the big bargains on designer clothes (and real designer clothes, not that Nautica crap at TJ Max).
I went to the sale last week. It really is in a big warehose - mens in the basement, womens upstairs. The whole thing is pretty chaotic. I found this beautiful long cashmere men's dress coat that fit me perfectly. Oh, it was a dream, I tell you. Then I looked at the price: half off! What a deal. Except, of course, the original price was one thousand five hundred dollars. Well, it still fit awfully nicely.
I ended up buying a nice pair of Barney's house brand italian leather dress shoes (regular $220, sale $60). I did try a pair of Bruno Maglias on, but decided against purchasing them (based on the price, not the fact that OJ liked 'em).
After I made my purchase I made a quick run through the womens department to see if there was anything R might be interested in. That's where I came face to face with another amusing fact of the Barney's sale: no dressing rooms. Women just strip down right in the aisles to see if the clothes fit. After a couple eyefuls of middle-aged women down to their bras, I beat a hasty retreat.
And that is the no-hold-barred shopping frenzy of Barney's.
ITEM: Celebrity Gossip
Who did I just see tonight smoking in front of Restaurant Row eatery Joe Allen? Answer: CHRISTIAN SLATER. He's in a show on Broadway right now and you know what? He looked pretty good. Better than Sean Penn, that's for sure.
ITEM: More Celebrity Gossip
Seen on Restaurant Row on a fine May afternoon: Hank Azaria! That in itself isn't terribly exciting. What was interesting was his t-shirt: Hank was wearing a bright pink (but faded) Yo! MTV Raps shirt. Hey Hank: Ed Lover called and he wants you to stop that.
The Slowdown on this page, and Conan O'Brien is groovy
You may notice that I don't post much here any more. I suspected that would happen: the longer I live in New York, the fewer odd things there are for me to report on. That isn't to say there aren't tons of weird things goin on: I just don't notice them any more. All the peculiarities of NYC are now my daily routine. I imagine that if I were to move back to California, everything there would seem alien and strange now (my vacation to Santa Cruz earlier this year seems to bear that out).
Such is the nature of life - we focus on the extraordinary and fail to notice the small things that occur every day.
Having said that, I would like to recommend that if you happen to be in NYC, attend a taping of the Conan O'Brien Show. I did last week and thoroughly enjoyed it. One warning, though: you have to plan in advance. I originally called for tickets a year ago, and got them for a show six months in advance. That taping was cancelled so I had to request tickets again for another six months in advance.
Here's a list of shows in NYC that give out free tickets.
Wow, perhaps I totally lied about being out of observations. That would mean I'm just plain lazy. Anything's possible.
I was walking my dog at about 4am on Saturday, which is a common occurrence since bars stay open until 4 in New York. There are several dance clubs near my apartment so at 4am on the weekend there are many, many people on the streets. I was walking behind two girls all done up in their club outfits, short skirts, etc. On the other side of the street were a couple of guys. The guys noticed the girls and one of them starting yelling, as sometimes occurs. His comments were classic:
- Hey baby, I wanna drink yo bathwater!
- Yo, I'll lick yo feet!
The girls seemed amused.
I came up with a few more he might want to try next time:
- Baby, I'll pluck yo eyebrows! I'll clip yo toenails!
- Hey sweet thang, I'll vacuum yo apartment and then I'll floss yo teeth!
Now that's dedication.
As I was walking my dog this morning at 7am, I noticed a couple of the prostitutes down the street were out on their stoop. I don't mean to stereotype anyone, but I think if you are sitting on your stoop sporting a lime-green miniskirt, serious cleavage, and lots of makeup that early in the morning then you are probably a lady of the evening. I'm just sayin'.
Anyway, two of them were out there as I walked my dog by on the other side of the street. I looked over at them as I walked by and one of them gave me a little 'come over here' hand wave a couple times. I smiled back and enjoyed the New York moment. There's something so invigorating about the crazy mishmash of humanity in this city.
Unfortunately I was in a rush as I had to get to work, so I didn't go talk to her. Maybe that would have made a better story as I could have gotten a price list or engaged in some witty conversation.
But no, I went on my way but the following questins came to mind:
- I had my dog with me. Is the bordello full-service, i.e. do they offer a dog sitter?
- Is there an off-hours rate that early in the morning?
Then I realized I had really overanalyzed the whole situation, and I hurried my dog back home so I could get to work on time.
I saved an old man from being crushed to death by a subway train! For reals! I was exiting the 2 train at Wall Street the other morning on my way to work. This older gentleman in front of me stepped off the train and somehow missed the gap. His one foot went in and his leg followed, all the way to his crotch. So all of a sudden this guy was stuck between the platform and the train. I couldn't believe it. I just grabbed him by the armpits and hauled him back up before I even had time to really realize what was going on.
Now you would hope that the conductor would have seen him and not allowed the train to move until he was rescued, but it was definitely a scary situation.
The guy was all shook up. I asked if he was ok, he mumbled something, and I walked out of the station and on to work.
I just realized that it if you are super cheap you can travel up and down Manhattan for half price. The trick is you have to take the first trip on the subway and the second on the bus. You also have to take your trips within 2 hours of each other and use a metrocard.
The trick is that you get a free transfer from the subway to the bus. So, say you are on 50th street and want to go to the Old Navy on 34th. Take the C train down to 34th and go do your shopping. Then when you are done, ride the M20 bus up 8th Avenue back to 50th street. The bus trip counts as a transfer from the subway so it's free ride.
But like I said, you gotta be pretty cheap to plan your trips that way.
Last night (11/10/05) we were at the bar Deacon Brodie's at about 3am. There was this pretty drunk guy there kind of being obnoxious. At one point he went behind the bar and started handing bottles of booze out to patrons (the real bartended followed behind him putting the bottles back). Actually he seemed like an ok guy, just pretty drunk.
The bartender called the guy Frank and he was wearing a jacket that said Sin City Grips on the back. Plus the bartender was pretty lenient with him so I knew who he had to be - Frank Miller.
The guy Matt I was with nudged me and then said, "hey you know who that is? It's Frank Miller!". I guess Matt is a comics fanboy.
For those of you who don't know, Frank Miller is a really famous writer (in the comic book world). He wrote Daredevil, Elektra, and the 1986 Batman: Dark Knight that started the whole 'batman as a fallen hero' thing. Plus he wrote the RoboCop script.
Most recently Frank wrote the Sin City graphic novel and co-directed the movie with Robert Rodriguez.
Frank goes way back in Hell's Kitchen and that explains why so many of his stories take place in this neighborhood.
So I rented Sin City today and watched it. Pretty good movie.
Comment on NewYorkNotesThree:
Hey, enjoyed reading your insight on NYC. Still have no desire to live there! Thanks for taking an hour out of my boring workday! Pam
I love your pages.. I don't know about the "people are nicer here bit" especially if you're from Santa Cruz, but anyway.. I moved to SF from rural eastern Washington I guess NYC would be the next step. You give a pretty good perspective.